Careful what you eat in the land of the Nine Dragons

  You might think your biggest culinary concern in China would be your hosts serving you a still-alive animal or foul-smelling fungus. Not so much. Perhaps you think that by avoiding street vendors in favor of established restaurants you’re more likely to find foods that won’t make you sick. Uh-uh. Though China works hard to suppress news damaging to its image, do a little research and you’ll learn that the biggest health threat in Chinese eateries is “gutter oil,” which, believe it or not, is even fouler than it sounds. Cooking oil is like gold in China, where virtually every recipe requires a wok full of it, and goes for a ... [Read More]

So what’s so great about Shanghai?

I wondered this on more than one occasion last year as Adam regaled me with tales of what was obviously one of his favorite cities on earth. Adam's business took him to Asia a half-dozen times in 2010, and Shanghai was clearly his favorite spot. (I always kind of assumed it was because it was the one place on earth where he towered over everyone else!) But after reading his blogs about the strange exotic foods he ate, the glistening new skyscrapers rising to the stratosphere and the culture with which he was so clearly enamored, I was more than a little curious about why, of ... [Read More]

From Auckland to Shanghai

You’ve heard the old adage “going around your ass to reach your elbow?” Apparently I view this as the most direct route. When my colleague Sia heard I was going to be in New Zealand he asked if I’d pop over to Shanghai for a couple of days of meetings. “Sure,” I said, “that sounds perfectly reasonable!” I don’t recall being drunk during this conversation, or having suffered a concussion recently, so I’m left struggling to explain this decision. I like to think I’m fairly well-versed in world geography, and moderately informed when it comes to travel times between countries. For some reason I still can’t quite fathom I ... [Read More]

Floating cities and fuzzy oatmeal

Jet lag’s a funny thing. It affects different people in different ways; some people walk around for days in a zombie-like stupor; some have seemingly boundless energy before hitting the proverbial wall and passing out for 15 hours; others it makes queasy. For Soo, jet-lag occasionally severs her ability to form complete sentences. Today was one such day. After the afternoon’s meetings I returned to our hotel to find Soo passed out in bed. I gently woke her, and as she slowly swam to consciousness she asked about how my meeting had gone. At least that’s what she thinks she asked. All I heard was “Hmrf, huhmney. Fuzzy oatmeal?” When I ... [Read More]

Bye bye, Shanghai

For the first time in a very long time I leave Shanghai having no idea when I’ll be back. As anyone who’s read many of these blogs knows, Shanghai enchanted me long ago. I’ve spent so much time here, feel so at home in this city, that her absence will surely be felt. Thinking on this I find myself rather melancholy as I cram 2-week’s worth of clothing, various business materials, and shopping requests for 12 friends into my one solitary suitcase (and not just because it doesn’t all fit!) So tonight, instead of prattling on about the trivial details of my day I’ve decided to simply post ... [Read More]

Shanghai surprises

I’ve been to Shanghai enough that I’m quite sure I’ve boasted that I "know the city like the back of my hand," and would have assured anyone that I could direct them to anything in the city they might want. So you can imagine my surprise and annoyance when, after being here a mere 48 hours, Dirk told me about the “Copy Market," and volunteered to lead me there since I’d never heard of it. The Copy Market is an area off Nanjing road where they have copies of everything you could possibly want. I’ve found replica watches, purses, sunglasses, etc. in other areas, but this place ... [Read More]

Catching the train to Changzhou

At a perfectly ungodly hour I met Sia this morning and headed off to catch a high-speed train to Changzhou for a day of meetings. China’s high-speed rail network is remarkable. Already the world’s largest, in little more than a year China is expected to have more miles of high-speed lines than the rest of the world put together. The miles of track constantly spitting trains out in every direction from Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station are like arteries of the heart tirelessly pumping blood. It’s a sight to see. Being able to travel by train at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour reduces a 3-hour trek ... [Read More]

Shanghai – my home away from home

Walking into the lobby of the Westin Bund Center in Shanghai is, for me, like coming home. I’ve been here so often I swear I could find my way around blind-folded. My home away from home is teeming with people this week. It’s been invaded by hordes of tourists eager to see the spectacle of the 2010 World Expo before its draws to a close next month. The Westin, like so many hotels in Shanghai right now, is completely booked, forcing you to wade through throngs of people when entering or exiting the hotel. I don’t like these interlopers being in my normally peaceful 2nd home. Before leaving ... [Read More]

Wal-Mart and fat foreigners in Shanghai

I hadn’t intended to post another blog from Shanghai, preferring instead to let the Expo blog be my last this trip. But two fascinating events today inspired me to write one more before I board my flight. The first of these was my visit today to a Shanghai Wal-Mart. It was magnificent; four floors of often hysterical weirdness. I didn’t tour the full store, but I did give the food section a thorough examination. Among my favorite culinary offerings were live sea-snakes, huge eels, 20 lb catfish, ducks hanging by their heads, chicken feet (recently severed or spiced 5 different ways), and an assortment of fungus I ... [Read More]

The World Expo 2010

A friend in Shanghai surprised me today with tickets to the 2010 World Expo, which I’ve been dying to see. Much as I hate mornings, my eagerness to see the Expo, and beat the reportedly huge crowds, were enough to inspire me to set off early this morning to explore the largest and most expensive World Expo in history. The World Expo, which began more than 150 years ago in Hyde Park, London, is a global event where individual countries showcase their respective cultures and histories. Shanghai’s Expo attracted exhibitors from more than 200 nations, making it by far the largest Expo in history. It also seems to have ... [Read More]