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The best vegetarian restaurant in Shanghai

BEST OF SHANGHAI: ‘One man’s opinion’

My girlfriend is a vegetarian. Actually, no she’s not. Well … kind of. Really, she’s a pescetarian, but no one knows what the hell that means. So, she usually just tells people that she’s a vegetarian who eats fish — a label that likely infuriates hardcore vegetarians. But at least it’s not as bad as those “I am a vegetarian … but I eat chicken” posers. (I actually know a girl who is a “vegetarian” … but eats barbecued lamb skewers. That amuses me.)

My girlfriend, by the way, is now very close to dropping her pesce- prefix altogether. Why? Because a fish recently attacked her … in our kitchen. Earlier on the day in question, I had heard some strange noises coming from that part of the apartment. A crashing. A rattling. I couldn’t place the sound. I checked it out, saw nothing out of the ordinary, and assumed the sound came from some sort of construction project in my building — people are always drilling, hammering, scraping, sawing, etc., in this place (this place meaning China) … and sound travels all too well in uninsulated apartment buildings … especially when I am trying to sleep. So, I thought nothing of the noise — until my girlfriend screamed.

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03.30.2005, 1:28 AM · Best of Shanghai, Featured, Food, Observations · Comments (8)

Guest Diary: Eleven airplanes and one bottle of bai jiu

I’ve known Brian Dominguez since the late 1970s, when we both were very tiny people. Since then, I have grown to be a normal-sized human being, and Brian … well … let’s just say that my girlfriend Bliss — 5-foot-2 and petite — outweighs him. Despite his stature, I still consider Brian one of my best friends in the world.

Brian and his wife Jill — actually two inches shorter than Bliss — spent 14 days in China starting on February 20. I traveled with them … and we went all over the damn place. Starting and finishing in Shanghai, we hit Beijing, The Great Wall, Kunming, Lijiang and Xishuangbanna. Brian and Jill brought some amazing weather with them. They also brought an amazingly huge medicine bag. Jill is somewhat of a hypo … a hypo … Jill is very careful when it comes to health. (My favorite items from the medicine bag: two sterile syringes and two sets of “sterile” chopsticks. Yes, they brought chopsticks to China. They didn’t use the chopsticks — but I ended up using one of the syringes. Thanks to a poor choice of socks, I had to pop some nasty blisters after a two-day hike in ‘Banna.)

Anyway, the purpose of this post was to welcome you to read Brian’s journal from the trip. Brian’s mom has described his collection of entries as “voluminous.” I’d say that’s accurate. There are also plenty of photos on that page, several of which were “borrowed” from yours truly. If you’d like to comment on anything in Brian’s Guest Diary, you can do so as a comment to this post. Brian’s site is not a blog.

03.24.2005, 7:45 PM · Guest Diaries, Photos · Comments (3)

Flavored condoms: Ice Cream, Green Tea and … Ordinary?

While Bliss paid our bills recently during a trip to a typically unfriendly neighborhood KEDI market — many bills get paid at 24-hour shops here in Shanghai — I perused the condom display rack, always good for a laugh. Always, indeed. Flavored condoms. Ice Cream. Green Tea. And, my personal favorite, Ordinary.

I find the concept of flavored condoms humorous to begin with, but I’ve also never had to taste a condom. So I guess they serve their purpose. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right? (Or, in this case, it actually prevents it from going down.) Ice cream? OK, I guess I can undertand this one. But there are many flavors of ice cream out there. Let’s hope it’s not Mississippi Mud Pie or Moose Tracks or Brownie Batter or anything that ends in “nut crunch.” Something like Karamel Sutra seems appropriate. But, hell, it’s probably Green Tea Ice Cream.

Which brings us to our next condom flavor … Green Tea. You know that awful bitter aftertaste that green tea leaves in your mouth sometimes? I can’t imagine spunk tastes much worse than that. But this is China, so we have condoms flavored to taste like Green Tea. Now, the Sex Herald tells us that “the right cup of tea will turn us on.” But I would imagine that if a Green Tea Condom is already inserted in your mouth, getting turned on is not really the issue. Finally, we have the Ordinary flavored condom, which I think is the wild card here. Ordinary what? An ordinary condom? Latex flavor? If so, does that really count as a flavored condom? Or perhaps Ordinary means what we all really hope it means. Maybe the Ordinary Condom is flavored to taste like a penis.

03.24.2005, 4:35 PM · Featured, Humor, Observations · Comments (5)

I’ll be the guy in the tux

I’m considering making the tuxedo the main item in my wardrobe. I’m going to start doing my grocery shopping in one. I’m going to wear one while I work on my computer during the day. I may even start wearing one to the gym. People simply treat you better when you’re wearing a tuxedo. They assume you’re someone important, full of mystery, coming or going from someplace spectacular — not an unemployed writer who seems to spend more time traveling than actually writing. (And in China — if you look like a foreigner, at least — no one will ever assume you are a waiter or a valet.)

I found myself in a tuxedo Wednesday night. The occasion was Shanghai Talk magazine’s annual party (photos). It was at La Fabrique, an uberchic restaurant/club, the regular clientele of which is likely very familiar with the latest international DJ rankings. (I’m not kidding. People really rank DJs. Seriously.) The theme of the party was “art deco,” which clothing-wise left me clueless. The invitation said “think Josephine Baker/Noel Coward.” I Googled both Baker and Coward and, and after looking at several images of both, concluded that most men would arrive wearing ascots — and the women would be topless.

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03.19.2005, 8:10 PM · Bars, Music, Observations · Comments (9)

I think I have found my bar … finally

If I had owned my own label, I would have signed the dude to a record deal on the spot. A Chinese guy who can handle indie rock and reggae? Not to mention the fact that he had more stage presence than there was stage. Not to mention the fact that he went toe-to-toe with the police in between sets. Not to mention the fact that he always appeared to be stoned or drunk — or both — until he opened his mouth to sing. This guy had rock star written all over him. And he was performing for a crowd of a few dozen in an unassuming watering hole tucked away on a lonesome residential Shanghai street, far away from where the city’s pretty people play on Saturday nights.

It was exactly where I wanted to be.

The bar is called Tang Hui Pub and it is located at 13 Xingfu Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu. On my city map, it’s about five inches northwest of Xujiahui. It was a 16 kuai cab ride from my apartment on Madang Lu. I first learned of Tang Hui from a Swedish journalist named Ola Wong who plays electric bass for the country band Shanghai Cowboys and used to play in a punk band back in Sweden. Then, after I posted my Top 25 Albums of 2004 a reader commented that I should DJ at Tang Hui. And then at brunch on Saturday with Cecil and Bliss at Zentral, Bliss stumbled upon an article about Tang Hui in one of Shanghai’s 107 English-language magazines. We decided to finally check the place out. (Cecil couldn’t go, having purchased an RMB 700 (!) ticket to attend the black-tie St. Patrick’s Day Ball at the Pudong Shangri-La. Tickets included dinner and “free” flow of Jameson and Guinness — but they also reportedly included river dancing and Bee Gees covers by one of Shanghai’s 107 Filipino bands.)

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03.14.2005, 1:10 AM · Audio, Bars, Music, Observations, Video · Comments (8)

Great Wall hike leaves me at a loss for words

A little more than two weeks ago, I hiked a five-mile stretch of the Great Wall, from Jinshanling to Simatai, with my friends Brian and Jill. And boy, it sure was great. It was rather cold and had been snowing and, in fact, our trip had been canceled twice by the friendly people at the Beijing Downtown Backpackers Accomodation due to inclement weather conditions. But after I explained to them that Brian and Jill traveled all the way from a small southern town called Atlanta just to see the Great Wall — and I think at that moment cute little Jill mustered up a tear or two — they relented and agreed to take us on a private trip … for the same price we would have paid had we gone with a group. I thought that was great of them. We paid 155 yuan per person, which included one entry ticket and round-trip transportation for the journey, which was 2.5 hours each way. I thought it was a great deal.

We pretty much had the wall to ourselves, which was great. The sky was great, clear and a perfect blue, which meant visibility, too, was great — we could see snow-covered mountains for miles. Just great. The locals who live near the wall are great. They’re willing to walk the wall with you, and they’ll even offer to sell you things — books, postcards, T-shirts and the like — along the way. They ensured us that their prices were great. (Actually, given the slippery conditions on the wall that day, it really was great to have some people familiar with the route along for the hike — someone had to catch Jill when she fell. If she would have gotten injured, it wouldn’t have been great.)

So, here they are. My 41 photos from the Jinshanling to Simatai hike of the Great Wall. I think that they are … um … hmmmm, what word could I use to describe these photos? … uh … I think these photos are OK.

Also, Brian and Jill will likely be using one of these Great Wall photos — one of the ones featuring them — as their 2005 Christmas card. If you could help them make their choice by commenting on the photo you like best … um yeah, that would be great.

03.13.2005, 9:49 PM · Diary, Observations, Photos, Travel · Comments (1)

It’s the Great Pumpkin (head), Chairman Mao

The first batch of Beijing photos is in the Gallery.

I generally don’t go out of my way to see dead bodies. In fact, over the course of my life, I have tried to limit my encounters with corpses as much as possible. I don’t attend viewings. And if a funeral happens to be open casket, I try my best not to look. So, I haven’t seen many dead bodies in my life. In fact, I only distinctly remember two — and they were both spied, on separate occasions, through windows of Shanghai taxi cabs. Unlucky bicyclists. Heavy heaps on black streets, glowing red and blue from the lights of a nearby police car. Dead bodies. Or at least very, very sleepy ones.

Thus, I have a hard time explaining my eagerness to see a dead Chairman Mao. Perhaps the impulse is fueled by the same deep down demons that, each and every day, lure me to read the latest developments in the Michael Jackson case. (He licked the kid’s head!) Regardless, on my second day in Beijing last month, I made a B-line for Mao’s big mausoleum in the middle of Tiananmen Square. Brian, Jill and I checked our bags and cameras and froze in line with dozens of others, followers and freak-show enthusiasts alike. And let me tell you, it was worth the price of admission.

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03.11.2005, 10:10 PM · Diary, Observations, Photos, Travel · Comments (2)

Traveling in China makes me sick

And, How do you do Shanghai in just two days?

I have a cold. Again. Pretty sure it’s the same one that joins me on all my travels through China. I’ve started saving him seats on buses and trains.

But I’m back in Shanghai now … for the forseeable future … finally. Since last July, I have spent a total of 60 days in Shanghai, the city that I’m supposed to call home. First there was The Trip. Then Hawaii. Then, and most recently, there was a manic two-week, seven airplane sprint through China with friends Brian and Jill, visiting from Atlanta.

I guess I’m still recovering from that one. But it was worth it. It was a rather spectacular two weeks, beginning with a snow-covered hike over a remote five-mile stretch of the Great Wall and ending with a dusty stroll through tiny villages and pineapple fields in sub-tropical Xishuangbanna. Brian and Jill saw more of China in two weeks than many China residents see in a year. Granted, it was the Cliff’s Notes version — but hey, Cliff’s Notes got me through college.

Over the next several days, I’ll take you on the trip via the comfort of your computer. No China germs. Just photos. I plan to upload a new batch every day until they’re all gone. I took more than 700 photos on the trip. Don’t worry — I’ll edit them down.

First, before things get really exciting, we start in Shanghai. A couple dozen pics that take you to the airport, my favorite old neighborhood and the usual places tourists go when they visit Shanghai and only have a day and a half: People’s Square, The Bund, Jin Mao Tower, Oriental Pearl Tower, Yu Yuan, Xiangyang Market … and a hell of a lot of shopping locales.

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03.09.2005, 12:35 AM · Diary, Observations, Photos · Comments (3)