Saturday, August 11, 2007


One more spicy meal under our belts (why wouldn’t the deciding factor in where to have breakfast be that the only English words on the outside of the restaurant were “Pig Intestine Powder”?), we headed off to the Chengdu airport for our flight to Shanghai. This flight was on Shanghai airlines which brings our combined total Chinese airlines to 4, including China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan airlines and Shanghai airlines. It’s a tough call to say which was our favorite, though diverting us (EB and Josh) and forcing us to spend a night in Shijiazhuang, the Detroit of China, may shoot China Southern into the lead.

Post arrival in Shanghai, we boarded the world’s fastest train once again, the mag lev from the airport, and at 431 km/hr, we were at the subway in no time. With a bit of wandering and bag dragging, we took the subway to our hotel, the Old House Inn in the French Concession, and discovered a lovely inn waiting for us with cute little rooms and a funky restaurant. We cleaned up, changed, and headed out for a Friday night on the town, Shanghai-style.

For our first truly authentic Shanghai experience, we took the subway to People’s Square and walked along Nanjing Lu to the Bund. To say the subway was crowded is to understate it massively. You think the 4/5/6 train is tough in the morning? Try the red line in Shanghai at 6:30 on a Friday night. Trying to get off the train, with the sea of bodies pushing out and in at the same time roughly recreated the experience of what it must have been like to be born. Once we were off the train, it was like breathing oxygen for the very first time.

We walked along the glitz and flashing lights of Nanjing Lu and saw many a Shanghai-er and tourist out for a Friday night stroll, then headed to the Bund for the amazing light show that is Pudong. Even for the second time, it was pretty incredible. We returned to the spot we visited our first night, the New Heights bar, for some cocktails overlooking the show (including, of course, a bride and groom taking photos on the waterfront surrounded by a massive crowd. Gotta love Asia.) Our first “fancy” night underway—at a bar at the top of the Bund somehow feels a long way away from yak meat in Xiahe—we hopped into a cab and headed back to the French Concession for dinner at Bao Luo, a giant place with raucous patrons and bustling wait staff.

We went to this restaurant on the recommendation of Time Out and also the author Nicole Mones, who has to get a special shout out here. Ms. Mones wrote the book “The Last Chinese Chef” that I (EB) read before the trip to get excited about our upcoming adventures and the culinary excitement of China. In addition to a lovely book, Ms. Mones also maintains a website with food recommendations in Shanghai and Beijing. We have tried almost every restaurant Ms. Mones recommends and her food and location choices have been amazing. True to form, the suggestions for Bao Luo were no less great.

So back to our meal, after a Tsing Tao – Budweiser taste test (everyone in the restaurant but us seemed to prefer the American classic), we tucked into a series of incredible dishes. First came veggies prepared for monks (some yummy mushroom concoction), then pig hoof (scary sounding but unforgettably delicious), eggplant (definitely one of the top 5 dishes of the trip), river fish (which arrived first at our table flopping around alive in its bucket, yup alive), swiss steak and pork dumplings. It was a feast and a fabulous way to kick off Shanghai.

We strolled home through the French Concession, spotting some trendy bars and restaurants on the way, and even found a string of bars where there were many lovely Asian women happy to make Josh’s and Jon’s acquaintance. Good luck there, ladies.

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