Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Crumpet's Excellent Adventure in China

May. 2007. Baby Crumpet takes me, Big A, Collins, Gracie, Mr & Mrs Wood to China. Here is our tale.

Selected Photos Here

SEATTLE - I accidentally leave a bag in the concourse, almost shuts down airport. Off to a good start. Gracie & my TV screens don't work. Long flight.

HONG KONG

Meet up with my brother & his family for dim sum. The baskets just keeps coming, setting the tone for the entire trip - we would eat well, and we would eat too much. People try everything, but pause when my brother brings out the ''fat from the neck of snow frogs''. It does not help when my bro helpfully add that ''the frog is really, really ugly''.

Travel to the coast to an area called ''carp's mouth''. Here you haggle fresh seafood from vendors then bring the merchandise to a restaurant for the finish. We overpay for prawns, lobster, red snapper & crab. The group proclaim the clams with black bean to be Best Ever.

SHENZHEN

The group travels to Shenzhen for a meal with my mother before splitting up. Gracie & the Woods go off to Gulin and Collins jets to Shanghai. The Liang family stays to visit grandma & great-grandma. My brother & sister-in-law join us for a humongous feast. I can never eat again.

Crumpet enjoys 2 days of non-stop love, attention & devotion from grandma & great-grandma. For the first time no one talks to me. I tease great-grandma that she is 97 years older than Crumpet. Big A jets off to a business meeting. I get a massage and lots and lots of street food.

SHANGHAI

Group re-groups in China's glitziest city. Shanghai is capitalism on steroids. Massive skyline meets ridiculous drivers and traffic. Manhattan feels like a stroll in the country. Crossing the street meant certain death.

But hey! We came here for the dumplings and it does not disappoint. We would eat dumplings everyday while we're here, sometimes for every meal.

Meet up with my cousin Sam & his family. Sam is a famous fortune-teller from Taiwan with 4 published books and many TV appearances. He recently launched a website and already has 4 million subscribers. Sam takes us to the best of Shanghai, highlights: (1) a stupendous upscale meal where every morsel was divine & delicious. The restaurant's courtyard is bigger than my high school. (2) Ferry ride & walk through the Bund - the priceless Shanghai skyline with million dollar (US) condos and more shopping than Paris Hilton can handle. (3) Our best meal - yet - at a Taiwanese restaurant that was recently named Top Ten in the WORLD. We're not worthy. (4) Field trip to Souzhou - China's most famous garden city (emperor's of the past built the garden and a canal to connect it to the capital. Nice to have slaves). Had awesome local food & visited I.M Pei's new museum (he lives here)

Took another field trip to, well, I'm not sure well. It's a town 3 hours outside of Shanghai that Sam and virtually everyone else recommends but it's not listed in any of the US travel guides so as far as we're concerned it does not exist, like Brigadoon. It is a restored old town with canals running through it. Best thing is the local delicacie - ham hock roasted to carmalized perfection.

Buys Crumpet a panda plush on the street for 50 cents, she loves it to this day. Also bought her a walking & signing dog. She crieed everytime she sees it, we leave it for the hotel staff.

BEIJING

After the ridiculousness of Shanghai, Beijing feels like the mature bigger brother. Everything here is calmer and prettier. The people seem more relaxed and enjoying themselves, I suppose that can only come from knowing you are the capital - the seat of power - to the biggest nation on earth. The Middle Kingdom is here.

We LOVE Beijing. The monuments does not disappoint. Tiannanmen Square. The Forbidden City (with the Starbucks that we were dying to find - after walking for 3 hours in humidity & heat - you are sending love letters to Starbucks). The Summer Palace. The Great Wall. Temple of Heaven.

The Great Wall was ridiculous the first time I went, and it was ridiculous this time. We took the ''fun ride'' up to the middle section, the ride turns out to be these little plastic two seater that runs on tracks as you careem towards the top in high speed whie passing signs in Chinese that says ''No Racing''. What did that mean? The climb is hard but exhilirating. The view rewarding. My favorite part is always seeing the different ethnic Chinese from all over China on the Wall. I'm sure some were the very people the Wall was meant to keep out.

Meet up with my friend Chen for some lovely local dish, especially awesome was the ''slow cooked pork'' and the fermented rice wine that tasted like honey.

Meet up with my friend Wei who takes us to THE SINGLE MOST AMAZING MEAL - The Peking Duck. Now, not just any Peking Duck, but THE Peking Duck. It's a new restaurant by the chef from the most famous duck restaurant. His name is Dong. The name of the restaurant? The Great Dong. The place where they roast the duck is this huge circular room with 2 giant wood burning stove in the middle (kinda like pizza oven) enclosed by glass. The chef stands in the middle with the tall hat while his acolytes flank out with a wall of chart keeping track each duck as apprentices take the duck in & out of the oven on long wooden sticks. The apprentic must do this for 2 years before they're even allowed to touch the duck. Then an expert takes out the ''inner parts'' for later use. The main duck is carted out to the table where a cook with stripes on his sleeve (we guess it's like the military) carves tableside with incredible focus & precision. Each piece of skin is perfect, exact and just the right amount of fat. Later we get the ''inner parts'' - duck liver sauteed, duck bone soup and so on. The entire meal is a study in perfection. A simple duck transformed into art. We're stunned into silence. I may never eat duck again outside of Beijing.

The Temple of Heaven is another mavel. The temple itself is magnificent but that's not the real story. This is as close to a ''people's park'' as I have ever seen. Every nook & crannie is filled with locals doing, well, local things. Here are 4 adults playing hackey-sac, which is coins wrapped with a rainbow feather. Over there 2 students are practicing music. Over here a group of elderly musicians are doing their thing, when a lady joins them and starts signing, then more people join to dance. Over there is a kung-fu master demonstrating to his students, and so on and so on.

The Summer Palace is ridiculous. It's basically China's Versaille, built by the emperor for his wife to ''escape the heat''. Er, OK. We go there thinking it will be a nice park but arrive to find a place the size of France. I kid you not, it may take 10 years to see this place. Nice to have the space, and, slaves.

We finish our 2 weeks in China with a final blow-out - Seafood Hot Pot. This is primal. Raw seafood. Hot stove in the middle of the table. 7 people with chopsticks. Cook, hijinks ensue. Repeat.

FINAL THOUGHT

Europe is communst, China is capitalism run amok.

2 Comments:

Blogger Bug said...

Great photos! The temple looks beautiful! Glad you had a fun trip. (This is Gracie's friend from Boston, who came to your house last May...)

7:56 AM  
Blogger Jean said...

Dude...your travelogs never fail to amaze me...and make me terribly hungry, even at 9:42AM.

---Jean
iloveupstate.com

6:43 AM  

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