Saturday, July 31, 2010

Traveling with my family and parents: by the overnights

8 nights: my friends' beautiful home in Shanghai (the family was, unfortunately, traveling, except 2 nights when the hubby was there):
Iain and Anita's beautiful house in Shanghai
1 night: home:
our house, Ysa's birthday part
1 night: peaceful temple at the bottom of a mountain (Emei Shan):
Baoguo Si - I LOVE spending the night in temples!
1 night: sad motel on a parking lot near the top of a mountain (Emei Shan) (May all future travelers know that the cable car to the top of the mountain - with a peaceful temple to spend the night in - closes at 6:30 p.m.  May all my friends know that when my last child turns 18, for that next year they may find me in said temple at top of mountain.)
the cable car we missed taking that night - oh well! ok, so the parking-lot motel isn't as dumpy in the picture as it felt in real life
2 nights: home:
our house, puzzle making
1 night: peaceful valley in a low-mountains area 2 hours away from our home (Hongkou):
Linda enjoying the view
Hotel at Hongkou, Sichuan
4 nights: home
1 night: beautiful hotel in Jianshui, Yunnan province, on our way to a huge cave, Swallow's Nest Cave
Beautiful hotel in Jianshui Wrap-around porch, Jianshui, Yunnan Beautiful woodwork and miniature tea set
1 night: Yuan Yang Rice Terraces, middle of nowhere:
The middle open-air space of where we stayedThe view from where we stayed
1 night: Kunming, arrived at 9:00 p.m., left at 6:30 a.m.  Don't have a photo of the place.
1 night: beautiful hotel in Shangri-La/Zhongdian/Gyalthian:
Detailed woodwork and Harley-Davidson banners
1 night: Tibetan family home stay:
Front wall/doorBig living room, drank lots of teaOur bedroom at the homestayThe lane in front
2 nights: same beautiful hotel in Shangri-La/Zhongdian/Gyalthian:
Fancy wardrobe in Shangri-LaKid-friendly room in Shangri-La
1 night: Kunming (well, you can see the floor and the water cooler, which we used a lot for hot water for amazing tea):
Julian, also stayed at the youth hostel in Kunming
1 night: Yibin, on our way to my student's house:
Bathroom in Yibin hotelHotel in Yibin
2 nights: my student's house really in the middle of nowhere:
The view from Jave'sJave's courtyardOur hosts, Jave and his "nai nai," grandmotherThe bathroomOur bedroom/the living room
1 night: Bamboo Sea:
Bamboo Sea in Sichuan

= 30 nights, the first month of our summer vacation

Shanghai, part 2

Did I happen to mention anytime that Jane and I like to eat? And people watch? And that we tend, on the whole, to travel cheap? And what is the perfect combination of these three? Why, street food, of course.

Now, before talking about street food in China, a long slow pan out to the whole globe and then back to North America is in order. Specifically to the United States, where, as a whole, street food is, well, kinda sad. Yes, I've had great knishes in New York, fish tacos in LA, elotes in Chicago, and I suppose the celestial homemade donuts at the farmer's market in my previous hometown of Oak Park even qualify as street food of sorts, but in the grand scheme of things, my home country rates about as high in the category of street food as we do in high speed rail. That is, somewhere on par with Bulgaria, except that I am positive that Bulgaria could kick our street food butts. And no, State Fair fans, deep-fried anything on a stick doesn't qualify as street food. Not even close.

(Note: if you are asking yourself "What are knishes and elotes?" right now, you are only proving my point. Go Google it already. Oh, and the last time I was in NYC, the street vendors didn't even sell knishes. Something about health code thisorthat. Point double proved. And for those of you who are saying, "Hey, elotes and fish tacos are Mexican!", well, point triple proved. Jinx!)

So what makes great street food truly great? I really don't know - something about the mix of several hundred smells in the air at any given time, lots of people milling about, the knowledge that even if you get something truly awful you've only wasted 50 cents or so, and maybe even the old camping truism that, yes indeed, food really does taste better when you're in the great outdoors. Oh, and then there's the added subconscious thrill that there's an extremely small chance that you'll come up with some gut-clenching intestinal parasite that will send you and your family to the nearest ill-equipped hospital, where nobody will speak English and you will writhe in undiscovered agony for the next several weeks. What's not to like?

Unfortunately for us, Shanghai decided to get all dressed up in its Western-Style duds for the Expo, and sent most of its street vendors packing back to the countryside in the last year or so. However, that didn't stop our fearless research team (okay, Jane did most of the work on this one) from scouring the world of Shanghai expat foodie web sites to find a couple of streets where Shanghai cheap eats were alive and well. I provided, um, advice. And found a couple of places on the map. And gave directions to the cab driver because my Chinese is slightly better.

We started out on South Yunnan Road, which I guess is the breakfast mecca of the central business district. Of course, with three kids, we got there at 9:45 instead of the recommended quarter to seven, so the action was winding down a bit. We did manage to score a few Shanghai versions of treats we know here in Chengdu-land, and they were fairly tasty, if a little bit on the oily and sweet side.

South Yunnan Road, Shanghai South Yunnan Road, Shanghai South Yunnan Road, Shanghai South Yunnan Road, Shanghai South Yunnan Road, Shanghai

(Okay, the last shot of Jane's stepdad Terry isn't exactly flattering, but that sticky rice thingie with dried plums and red beans that he's holding was totally yummy)

Equipped and fortified, we headed off to the Oriental Pearl Tower, where we braved another line of people to go up and - well, that's another posting down the road a bit. Suffice it to say that we were all ready for a late lunch, which was when we hit the seafood jackpot.

Photos will have to suffice for this small stretch of road that we found scrunched in between skyscrapers on one side and a small park on the other. Photos, and a few words. Fresh crayfish. Ghost shrimp. Grilled oysters, clams, and scallops, with tangy garlic sauce.

Crayfish and Ghost Shrimp, Shanghai IMG_4415 IMG_4403 IMG_4427 IMG_4398 IMG_4416 IMG_4423 IMG_4418

Ahh, a whole post about gluttony - sigh. (Or sharing in the bounties of creation - take your pick...)

Friday, July 30, 2010

365 Days Ago

Normally, I'm not too big on annual commemorations, but we realized that today marks one year since we've been in China. Since I seem to be commemorating the our arrival (and subsequent jetlag) with a bit of 4 am insomnia anyway, here's a quick photo montage of some of the last pictures we took in North America and the first pictures we took in China...

Toronto, ayearago En route, ayearago
En route, ayearago Beijing, ayearago Beijing, ayearago Beijing, ayearago
IMG_2890 Onlookers, Tian'anmen Square

Father and son with flag, camera, and empty drink bottle, Tian'anmen Square

family portrait with tired grumpy kids, Tian'anmen Square

From the top: us with Jane's Grandmother in Toronto right before leaving; a couple of shots on the plane, arrival discombobulation and paperwork; Xander grabbing for the last dumpling at our first dinner in Beijing; and a few tourists in Tian'anmen Square.

And for comparison...

The last bus ride of the trip

Time flies, don't it? Happy anniversary of whatever you were doing a year ago!