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Everything posted by chengb02

  1. On my first trip to Guangzhou, I was a bit worried about being in the south and what I would eat when a friend recommended a dongbei (northeast) restaurant to me. I was very skeptical, but took his advise and was extremely glad I did. It is part of a chain throughout Guangzhou (and Shenzhen I think) that was opened by real Dongbei ren and all the waitstaff are real dongbei ren (there is no faking their dongbei hua). It is a fun place which captures the (stereotypical) Dongbei home, complete with kangs and occassionally the staff breaks out into song using Dongbei hua. The restaurant is aptly named "Dongbei Ren." The food was on par with any Dongbei restaurant in Harbin or Shenyang. It may seem atypical to go to Guangzhou and eat this sort of food, but since a stop in the northeast doesn't seem to be part of your itinerary, it may be worth checking out for one meal.
  2. There are a lot of these streets all around the city and a number in the area you described which would be around Workers Stadium-GongTi. The crawfish would be mala xiaolong xia and are a staple night food anywhere in China, but far more common in Shanghai (at least I would say so). Beijing's night food are those kebabs you are talking about, with the most popular being lamb. The reason the food was the same inside the restaurants is that the vendors on the street were more than likely Muslims from Xinjiang and probably had a connection to the restaurant they were selling their kebabs in front of (or nearby).
  3. There are 2 "food streets" at Wangfujing. One is an all day variety that is located on the walking part of Wangfujing, about halfway down. Its very touristy and overpriced, but there are some decent offerings (okay, okay...I often have to be in the area and if I'm really starving I will buy a yangrou chuanr or 2 and a nan and have an impromptu "sandwich"). The other one only opens at night and is located on the same street ast the Novotel hotel, kitty corner to XinDongAn. Its a little better, but still touristy (come on, its Wangfujing, what do you expect?). Beijing night "stands" are best found in the hutong areas of Houhai or around the university. The one thing I DO like about Shanghai over Beijing is the number of places that after dark will just set up some tables and chairs on the street and serve food and beer all night. Beijing lacks this, perhaps it is due to the cold winters or something else (lack of space?).
  4. That area is where much of the (few) remaning hutongs are. It is also near to the popular qianhai/houhai/xihai area where there are a number of different restaurants (at the top of my list would be Gu Ma Cha Dao, an excellent Yunnan restaurant, and Xi Hai Yu Sheng for seafood). For the most part, even for the most popular restaurants (with the big exception of QuanJuDe) reservations can be made a day or two ahead without any problem, maybe a few days more if you want to go on the weekend.
  5. Ye Shanghai, like most of the things in Xintiandi, is very upscale and definitely not worth the price...
  6. Internet cafes, for the most part, are a thing of the past in Beijing. They do exist, here and there (mostly around the universities), but since the fire a few years ago, the Beijing city government has cracked down on all internet cafes. The unlicensed ones, which were the most common, are gone and getting a license (even for those that were previously licensed) was made very difficult. The new thing is offering a wireless connection at cafes/coffeeshops a la Starbucks, but this is admittedly not within the price range of most people and is clearly designed for the affluent and foreigners (there are 2 or 3 of these places in Soho New City alone). Starbucks offers wireless, but not for free, and being able to use it requires an unbelievable amount of patience with CNC.
  7. I agree with everything you said, except this point, as firm and fast rules. For the most part, it is true, but there are some hotels (mostly the upscale ones) that are doing some interesting things. I try to avoid eating in hotels, but I dropped that principle for a meal at Made in China in the Grand Hyatt Beijing and was very impressed with the food. Sure, the prices were far more than what they would be anywhere else, but the food had some elements (for the most part) that made it worth the price, it was clean, and a very nice dining room. I also remember a meal a few years ago at the Shangri-La Wuhan where they were doing an all you can eat dim sum for a moderate price that was terrific. However, these are just exceptions to the rule, as my meal at Jing confirmed, hotel dining is typically very uninspired and the prices are jacked up.
  8. This is definitely the way to go, but I prefer Guangzhou over Shenzhen. A friend needed to go from Beijing to HK, but direct tix were in upwards of $300, so I got her tickets to Guangzhou for around $100 and then take a train into HK (less than an hour). I would advise you to find a domestic flight to either Guangzhou or Shenzhen and go by train into HK, much cheaper!
  9. Haha, this post reminds me of my first year at college, far away from my parents and even farther from my girlfirend. I, stupidly, bought my own from a local store (in small town Indiana that meant they were originally from Chicago, who knows how many days they had been sitting there)and forced myself to eat at least one while freezing outside, sitting on the porch, looking at the moon and making myself incredibly sad, how pitiful i was, hehe! as to the tea, in my opinion the only way mooncakes can be rendered edible is by having a good cup of tea at hand.
  10. I recently brought back some of the peppercorns and, fortunately, had no problem getting through customs. I had them in 2 bags (not including the bag they came in) and there was still a faint scent. I also brought back some of the McCormicks ground sichuan peppercorns which I really like to use sometimes because it adds a good kick without the incredible numbness when biting the real thing.
  11. I'm not a fan of moon cakes, but I recently received an order form in the mail from Shengkee Bakery in San Francisco (I ordered moon cakes from them last year for friends and they turned out alright and they do have a website). I typically will only eat moon cakes during Mid Autumn Festival and then a maximum of 1 but usually more like a half for tradition's sake. I also don't really like the yolk ones and typically only eat the ones with paste. Starbucks in Beijing began offering moon cakes 2 years ago I think and around this time they usually have a special brochure where you can order some of their very untraditional moon cakes. I also rememeber seeing moon cake ads at one of the ice cream chains before I left Beijing, but can't remember which one (I think it was TCBY). Since KFC's sales of their "Macau" egg tarts seems to be doing pretty well, I wonder if they'll come out with moon cakes this year as well.
  12. In my experience in the Northeast, you will see far more Korean restaurants than you will see in other parts of China, especially anywhere south of Beijing, but that is about it. Cities on or close to the border, like Dandong, will have a large number of Korean or Korean-Chinese food restaurants and will have a lot more people that speak Korean, but the city is still a very Chinese city. In Jilin Province there the Yanbian Korean Minority Autonomous Prefecture (Koreans are 1 of China's 56 ethnic groups) where it is easier getting around speaking Korean than Chinese. While it is a part of China, going into the markets you will definitely see that these people still keep closely to their Korean heritage. However, this isn't really an "influence" as these people are ethnically Korean. I think the greatest influence you will see is culturally (as in pop culture), but that has nothing to do with North Korea. Actually, if you are looking for Korean influence, I think you're most likely to find it in the Wudaokou "neighborhood" of Beijing where, over the past few years, a sort of Korea town with a very large Korean expat and student population (in upwards of 35,000 I think was the figure) has begun to pop up.
  13. Forget authenticity! If it tastes good, eat it...China is a huge country and if you eat food from another region in any big city, there will surely be people who are from that other region who will tell you the food isn't "authentic," but it doesn't matter if it tastes good (back to that). The same thing with "neo-Chinese" or innovative Chinese dishes. I agree there isn't really one definition of "authentic," its more of a personal standard. In fact, the idea of "authenticity" is one that annoys me almost as much as that of "fluency" in a language, but thats a different matter entirely...
  14. Check out some of the expat magazines (i would suggest www.thatsbeijing.com), they should offer info on language courses and their classifieds will have a number of people looking to take part in language exchanges. When in Beijing, I would head straight to the Foreign Language College (or whatever it is calling itself this week) as mentioned by another poster (actually I think the current name is the Beijing Language University) and they should be able to help you.
  15. Language classes would be the easiest to find, but you would need to be in one place for an extended period of time for them to have any real benefit. It seems like you are a very seasoned traveler so I don't think there are any tips that I could offer that would be of any benefit. I know the feeling of being overwhelmed about where to eat in China, I live in Beijing for a few months each year and every time I go back, its always a difficult decision where to eat that night as there are so many options and so much not to miss...Just be adventurous, poke your head into some restaurants and enjoy!
  16. To come to the rescue, tipping is not done ANYWHERE, period. There may be some places, like a hotel restaurant or a high end restaurant, that will include a service charge in the check, but that is it. Potentially, you could tip the bell man when they bring your luggage to your room in a hotel, but they don't exactly expect it. Anywhere else, tipping is not expected, nor is it required, but if offered, it would probably be accepted. An interesting experience, during a recent stop in Shanghai, in the ash tray in my room was a bunch of small bills that the couple before me (foreigners) had left, but the maids never took the money until I explained to them it was left for them to have. Susan G's strategy is very much along the lines of how it is in the US, but I think its overdone. Most of those people will already be doing whatever they can to get extra money from you (a few drivers will try to short change you a bit, giving you a 5 or 10, but not the singles, unless you demand them). Private taxis? As in not using the meter? In those situations, like pedicabs, they typically set their own prices and will try to rip off westerners, trust me, they will find a way to get a fair price, tipping is definitely unnecessary. If you are willing to give tips, they will rarely be turned down, unless the people don't understand why you are giving them the money (which could happen in some places), because its free money. It is not required, nor is it expected, so it just depends on your own thinking. Perhaps I'm a bit harder because I am Chinese. Okay, I just thought of one place where tipping is acceptable. If you are on a english tour, the tour guide will go through a little speech at the end of it encouraging you to tip the driver (and indirectly the tour guide as well). In this situation you don't need to tip (I've been on Chinese tours and never has the guide brought it up, but the English guides will always bring it up because they know the foreigners will throw them some money), but you may end up looking like a cheap bastard, because all the others will tip.
  17. you mean you don't enjoy them for the riveting content like the traditional first 10 minutes about how Chinese government officials met with their counterparts from nations nobody has ever heard of before? okay, sorry for that...actually watching CCTV is great as I love hearing the very standard pronounciations in rapid fire...but for my money, I'd much prefer the slang and destruction of the language in the hands of your average Beijing taxi driver.
  18. This is one of the great things about China (well, Beijing and Shanghai at least), you can get unbelievable food, typically at really good prices, from around the world. The Bund is a great example of that, with many hotels offering really good breakfeasts, M on the Bund, and the (now not so) newly opened 3 on the Bund, which includes a Jean Georges. At the same time, it is interesting how high the standard is for "authentic" Chinese food. So much so that for the most part, the only way you can get truly "authentic" Sichuan food for example, is by traveling to Sichuan Province.
  19. first off, while 48 hours is never enough in any major city in the world, it should be enough to hit the main sights in Shanghai, as many of them are outdoors (ie buildings or the Bund). I would definitely recommend hitting the Shanghai Museum and seeing the Bund. For a first timer to the city, I would recommend a trip up the Pearl TV Tower (or alternatively a drink in the bar of the Grand Hyatt, which is only open at night). Outside of that, I would leave restaurant recommendations to those who know more about Shanghai than I do. However, if you decide to go to the Yu Gardens in your short time (which is a popular tourist stop), I would definitely make sure to grab some Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao, some of the best in the city. Hopefully you won't be there on a weekend, or else you may spend more time waiting for a table than you do actually seeing the gardens. Another thing about restaurant recommendations in China is that places pop up and change very fast, so asking now for Febuarary is very early. Sorry I can't really help on travel books, but I would advise to grab one of the city magazines or visit them online (for example www.thatsshanghai.com), but beware, much like Where? magazine in the states, their reviews are not always reliable. As an aside, Gary, do you know anything about Shanghai's contemporary art museum?
  20. I will make sure to give you the Chinese names, but for now, to answer your question, it is located outside of Tiantan, near to the Hongqiao market, a popular place for foreign tourists to buy the same stuff as at Xiushui (Silk Alley), but with lots of jewelry as well. By the time you arrive in Beijing, the very well known Silk Alley may already be closed down...
  21. I thought I included this in an earlier post, but I guess not. Guilin is an excellent city, worth a visit and while most of the scenic spots are some distance outside of the city (offering the opportunity to either visit them by boat, car, bike or a mixture of them), it is definitely the place I would use as a base before heading off to Yangshuo. There are more foreign speakers in Guilin/Yangshuo area than one would expect, and all are looking to acoust foreign tourists, some are honest and decent and some are the exact opposite. When I've had friends who have come to see me in Harbin, I've typically put them up at the Songhuajiang Gloria Inn, which is right on the main strip in Harbin (its equivalent of Wangfujing) and near to the river. Harbin also has an extremely famous dumplings restaurant, which is on the main shopping street, called Dongfang Jiaozi Wang (Eastern Dumpling King), a must stop place on each visit to the city. Beyond that, I typically just eat a lot of home cooking, but can ask for some more good recommendations. I am surprised to hear your mother's friend praised the city, as there really isn't much to it, but the church is impressive and the tigers are great (typically visiting the tigers is done by first crossing the river and stopping at Taiyang Dao (Sun Island) where you can roam around the park, see an indoor, year round mini version of the famous Harbin ice festival, and bargain with the taxi/mian bao che drivers to take you to the tiger park. Beijing is a vast city with a lot to see, but 9 days is a long time in the city, I would advise a side trip to Chengde or Tianjin (if only to eat real Gou Bu Li bao zi). Some more food recommendations (or seconding ones I previously made) would be two old fashioned Beijing places: Lao Beijing JiaZhangMian Wang (kitty corner to Hongqiao Market ("Pearl Market") and between the North and East gates of Tiantan) for traditional beijing noodles. Hun Dun Hou is the other, a wonton restaurant (with other dishes available on the second floor), located on the same side of the street as your hotel, a 5 minute walk west (towards Tiananmen). After my experiences taking guests to Qianmen's QuanJuDe, I would advise: 1. book early (for any of the QuanJuDe's), or go the cheap route and eat it off of paper plates (there will be a line but it moves fast). There are also a number of good alternatives, including Xiao Wang Fu on Gongti Bei Lu, on the same block as the Chengshi Binguan (City Hotel). Xiao Wang Fu not only serves duck, but also other traditional Beijing foods. I recommended S'Silk Road at Shichahai's He Hua Shi Chang (Lotus Lane) (again book a few days in advance), but there is also a great seafood restaurant with mostly outdoor seating on the lake (maybe not the best thing in Beijing in August) called Xi He Yu Pian, which serves an amazing sashimi dish. You have a lot of time in BJ, the main places to hit are all pretty obvious (but I could go through them). If you have any interest in art or just want to see what once was an extremely secret military factory and is now a run down factory area/artist's colony that includes a number of art galleries, some restaurants, and other shops, check out the 798 Art Community in the Da Shanzi area of Beijing, on jiushan qiao lu. It is a bit difficult to find, but is worth it. Eating wise, there is a mediocre french restaurant called BaShi ZuoWei (Sit) and a really interestin creperie opened by a guy from Brittany who has great crepes and a wonderful cider on offer at reasonable prices. Not sure how much earlier the Beijing breakfeast page is from, but what surprises me is that with all the changes to the city and price raises and everything, Jian Bing are still only 2 RMB, I've never had the you tiao variety before though...I typically ate shao bing for breakfeast, haha, and they were cheaper too, i got 3 for 1.50 RMB
  22. the dish you mentioned is called "tu dou xie" and is an excellent and simple dish made of very thinly sliced potato (julienned?) and usually also some equally thin slices of green and/or red pepper. It then typically includes some soy sauce or Chinese vinegar and sometimes some Sichuan peppercorns, an excellent, simple Northern dish. As for recipes, I can't really help, I myself need to learn a lot more...
  23. Not sure where exactly the Marco Polo Hotel is, but the "bustling" area on the other side of Tiananmen (a bit further than Wangfujing) would be Xidan. The Novotel is a pretty good hotel in a very good location, facing the Peninsula Palace hotel. It is just a bit down the street from Xin Dong An, the shopping mall that ancors one end of the Wangfujing pedestrian area. In Shenyang, the main tourist sights are (in no particular order): the 9/18 Memorial Museum (the date Japan invaded Manchuria), the Shenyang Forbidden City, the Zhang family mansion, and the 2 Shenyang Qing Tombs (Bei Ling-North Tomb: the most popular), and (Dong Ling-East Tomb). There are two marginal tourist sights, one being Shi Fu Guang Chang (City Government Square) and the other being the giant Mao statute. These all could be done in 2-3 days. The air in Shenyang isn't quite as bad anymore, but it isn't great either. The nicer western hotels can be had at around 400-500 RMB a night or less. A recommendation would be the Trader's Hotel which is relatively well located in the city center. A must hit is Laobian Dumplings as well as some of the little places around the Shenyang Forbidden City. I have a few more recommendations if interested. One possibility might be instead of doing Shenyang, go four hours (by train) further east and hit Dalian. It is a lovely city with unbelievably clean air (a true rarity) and good beaches. It also has a great golf course (if you are so inclined). Harbin is where my family is from and I wish I could say its a happening town where weeks could be spent, but thats not the case. However, there are some really interesting sites in the city (namely the old cathedral, the NE tiger park, and the old architecture in the city center). There were some questions that I didn't get to (and some other comments I wish to add), but I just returned from Beijing tonight(well last night now) (the reason I haven't been online much lately) and have many things on my mind. If you haven't left yet, I would be glad to offer any more help I could, I am a "lao beijing ren" who was away for awhile, but over the past few years, have spent about half the year in Beijing.
  24. Okay, haven't written much, but here goes... Guilin: lots of big time hotels, I would say stay in Guilin and branch out to Yangshuo (because you'll be with your parents and Yangshuo won't be as comfortable). Have stayed in the Sheraton there, as I remember the price was relatively low and the location was good. Was only there for a little while, but remember hitting a bit of a "restaurant row" near to the river where we had some good seafood. There was an area not far from the hotel where there was a lot of shops and restaurants, all priced pretty well and with good food. Xian: Actually, western hotels outside of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are all pretty low priced. You can probably get prices under US$75 for a 4 or 5 star hotel in Guilin, Xian, and Changchun. The main dish of Xian is the Yang rou Pao mo, which I really enjoy, but opinions differ. It is a lamb based soup with a bread (something like naan) that you break up into the bowl, then they take it back to the kitchen and add the meat, noodles, and soup stock. Changchun: I ate mostly at friends and relatives places, so not much I can help with. Though I do remember a pretty good seafood restaurant that is a big chain across Dongbei called Da Ke Yi. Now to Beijing (perhaps I should have put this at the top)... The recommendation for Made in China in the Grand Hyatt is a good one if you are willing to pay around US$50 or more for the meal. It is a beautiful dining room with excellent food, but it is very expensive. There are two restaurants I would highly recommend that have become very popular here. One is called S'Silk Road (which Conde Nast put among its top 50 new restaurants around the world) with outlets at Lotus Lane (Shichahai) and Jianwai Soho. It serves up some very good Yunnan food with reasonable prices. The other place, a Sichuan restaurant called South Beauty, has many locations around the city now, the best is in Dongfang Guangchang at Wangfujing. Of course there is QuanJuDe for Peking Duck, that recommendation will never change, and any other recommendations I made in those posts are still current. I will continue to think of some other places in BJ...
  25. airline meals are similar to those in the US, bad! Well, thats my personal opinion, but they should be able to tide you over until you'll be able to eat again. I was just thinking that in my earlier post when talking about airlines I should have also talked about food, at least then I could have offered a somewhat food related post ! One thing to definitely avoid at all costs, is eating at the airport, the costs are astronomical. I remember 2 years ago the papers did a few stories on the costs and that caused the airport to lower prices a bit (a cup of coffee was around 80 RMB!!!). I am with Jon all the way, one of my first stops after getting to the hotel was hitting a sanlitun bar with friends and having a few yangrou chuanr!
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