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Beijing, Shanghai and Surrounding Areas


amyknyc
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[...]

Singapore is a very unique place.  Yes it certainly is a model showcase when it comes to tideness and cleanness.  But bear in mind that this comes at a price.  It's a "fine" city.  Thousands of inspectors are hired for the purpose of catching people stepping their feet on the crosswalk before the pedestrian traffic light turns green.

Right. That's why I found the cleanliness offputting.

I haven't been to Tokyo in over 29 years (time for a return trip!) and have yet to visit London (upcoming this summer) or Toronto, but no way would I call the streets of New York "clean." However, the cleanliness or otherwise of the streets isn't necessarily a major health issue, as long as we're not talking about large amounts of actual shit or old, rotting garbage on the street or something.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Are there any safeguards being taken on "imports" to Hong Kong that would really make a salad of Chinese vegetables safe for visitors from abroad?

I have talked about this in some other threads. Chinese eating habits are different from Westerners/Americans. In most Chinese restaurants, you won't find "salads" as you know them in American -- with raw lettuce, raw carrots, raw mushrooms, raw celeries, raw everything and a drizzle of dressing. Chinese in general don't like to eat raw vegetables, with the exception of lettuce for wrapping (e.g. minced squab in lettuce) or for garnishing (e.g. chopped green onions and cilantros).[...]

You're right of course; poor choice of words on my part. But some of the dishes in dumpling houses in Beijing, for example, had large quantities of raw cucumber in them, for example, as more than a garnish but a major part of the dish. As I said, I operated under the conceit that pickled dishes should be safe but that fresh raw vegetables over which had been drizzled some vinegar/water mixture were not. And the latter were certainly easily available, but fortunately, so were the former (though often garnished with fresh cilantro).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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In March are there any (seasonal) specialties to be had in either HK or Shanghai?

Sorry about the late reply. Unfortunately March is not a particular good month for visiting Hong Kong. Reasons: The Chinese New Year (usually in late January to mid/late February) is just over. All the festivities just quiet down. Money is all spent (in buying gift, giving out red-pockets, travel, new cloths, whatever)... people just get back to work. March is usually quiet. Weatherwise, it's still a bit cold and damp. At times it can be quite foggy, but perhaps more so in April than in March.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

November is the best month to visit in terms of mild and sunny weather.

December if you would like to see how a vibrant place celebrates Christmas.

January/February if you want to experience the Chinese New Year.

March/April: foggy and damp, a bit uncomfortable

May-August: okay, but summer days are hot and humid (but hey, it's just like Hawaii). Also it's typhoon (hurricane) season.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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First things first. Here's a good web site that I found for freighter trips. It looks like an extremely honest website. Even has pictures of the cabins - and some really postage stamp size swimming pools :smile: . A freighter trip is definitely not my cup of tea (I am too old and always like to be pampered) - but it might be yours. I am thinking more along the lines of a luxury cruise line.

You're all giving me great general ideas of the contours of a trip like this. Like most people with no knowledge of the area - well I just think "Asia" - without even giving a thought to the fact that Tokyo is probably very different than Shanghai. When I spoke with my travel agent today - he confirmed this. He said one could travel in Japan the way one could travel in western Europe - but that any trip involving China would be more like our trip to Egypt (about 1 1/2 weeks - 4 days in Cairo - week long cruise up the Nile - only cruise we've ever taken in all our years of traveling except for a 1 night Cruise to Nowhere charity cruise out of Miami).

I remember that trip. It was great in some ways (fantastic things to see - many years before things like overpopulation of tourist sites - too many people breathing carbon dioxide in tombs - and terrorism were issues). Bad in some ways. My husband and I love to eat - and we are not particularly good about food precautions in second world countries (we've never been to a third world country). My husband got dysentery in Cairo - eating the most delicious looking tomatoes in an upper class restaurant in Cairo - and I got dysentery a little later after a street food indiscretion somewhere up the Nile (although I didn't get as sick as my husband). I didn't think I'd get my husband to the cruise (only time we've had to use those bags on an airplane) - but I was glad that we had a cruise. Because he was totally out of it for almost 2 days in the cabin while I could go sightseeing. And - by paying "baksheesh" (tips) to large numbers of people - I could get him things like primitive medical care and copious amounts of rehydrating fluids like soup. If we had been "on the road" - I don't know what I would have done. As it was - I gave him 48 hours to get better. If he hadn't gotten better - we would have been on a plane to a first world country.

Well - we're 20 years older now - and no more careful when it comes to our food habits (old habits are hard to break :wink:). So I'm beginning to think of this trip as more of a sightseeing and relaxation than culinary adventure. And whatever culinary adventures there are will be very very careful. In fact - I had our travel agent quote us not only the cruise from Alaska to Tokyo - but the leg of the cruise from Tokyo to Hong Kong. There is something very intruiging about only unpacking once on a month long trip. If I win the lottery - the entire 93 day cruise around the Pacific might be in my future :biggrin: . Robyn

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  • 5 months later...

Hi everybody!

I'm getting married in January and my partner and I have decided to go to Hong Kong for our honeymoon..

As a surprise I am organising a dinner at either Aqua Tokyo or Hu Tong on the night of the fireworks [we'll be there over chinese new year]..

Is this a good idea, and if so, which would you suggest?

My partner eats seafood but no other meats [i know!], and loves Japanese, so I'm leaning towards Aqua at this stage, as well as there being the bar to hang out in after..

Any other places that you think would be good?

thanks~! this thread had been very helpful..;)

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Hi everybody!

I'm getting married in January and my partner and I have decided to go to Hong Kong for our honeymoon..

As a surprise I am organizing a dinner at either Aqua Tokyo or Hu Tong on the night of the fireworks [we'll be there over chinese new year]..

Is this a good idea, and if so, which would you suggest?

My partner eats seafood but no other meats [i know!], and loves Japanese, so I'm leaning towards Aqua at this stage, as well as there being the bar to hang out in after..

Any other places that you think would be good?

thanks~! this thread had been very helpful..;)

Be "VERY" sure that anyplace you try making reservations during the "Chinese New Year" Holiday will be open or serving for the time you anticipate going.

Almost every business is traditionally closed, even Hotel's may not be providing full service as regularly available.

It's possible that for 2006 it may be different, but I would suggest making sure that wherever your making reservations this far in advance it would be prudent to advise them that it's during the New Year Holiday.

Good luck,

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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definitely, that was one of my concerns, but i've been corresponding with someone from aqua and they've assured me that they're open on fireworks night.. [will have to properly book a bit later though, they only take reservations 3 months in advance]

otherwise we'll just enjoy it from the ground along with everybody else :), either way, it'll be great!

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  • 1 month later...

My 15yo son is heading to China tomorrow with a student group. He will be visiting these cities as well as Xian. While most of his meals will be planned out for him, what should he be looking out for in these areas? What food items are particularly notable for an adventurous 15yo diner? I know that this is inexcusably last minute, but I appreciate your insights even if they don't get to him in time. I hope that he wil be posting about his experience upon his return. :unsure:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Hong Kong:

I really like Spring Deer over in Kowloon. It's known for great Peking duck.

What I enjoy most in Hong Kong is the street food. I highly recommend the waffle. Hot waffles filled with condense milk, butter, peanut butter and sugar. When we visit, my husband has to have one everyday. My other favorites include curry fish balls, fried tofu, chestnuts, and eggettes (little sweet egg puffs).

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Oh, in terms of specific food items, you'd get most information from people like chengb02 who actually lives part of the year in Beijing, and of course our Hong Kong contigent (aprilmei et al.). But I really enjoyed the pickles wherever I was in China. Raw vegetables may be dangerous, but I rationalized that if it was even lightly pickled, that offered some protection. Perhaps false, but I thought it was worth the risk to eat the pickles. In Beijing, spicy, tasty pickles can be ordered in dumpling houses, along with your dumplings and such (very good dumplings in Beijing, among many other places). I also enjoyed the variety of pastries available at the back of the ground floor of the Beijing Shopping Centre on Wangfujing. If your son has the opportunity to visit a market or multifarious food/medicine stores of any kind, they're well worth visiting. In Changchun, there was a sleepy (at the time I was there) indoor market with everything from people cooking flatbread with various toppings to order to a hardware store. In Shanghai, it's interesting just to walk up Nanjing Road and walk into the food/medicine stores that open onto the street. The variety of jerky, dried foodstuffs, preserved foodstuffs, medicines, sausages, etc. is amazing. Back to the flatbread, something like Indian nan -- that seems to be a Northern and Northeastern specialty. Vendors sell it on side streets and -- if there are any left -- hutong in Beijing. You can get it with lamb, for example. It's very inexpensive and tasty and they cook it up to order while you wait. Of course, he'll also have Beijing Ka Ya (Beijing Roasted Duck, aka Beijing Duck). It's available in many places, and the best place we found for it was in no guidebook and had no Roman lettering on its outdoor sign, from what I remember. I'm really sorry that I don't have the pictures from one of our two trips there, because I can't remember the address or the name of the major street it was on, but the way we chose the restaurant is that it seemed to be -- and was -- filled with happy local or at least Chinese people. Your son can use that technique, too.

Shanghai is famous for having good food in general. One of the things it's famous for is its dumplings and noodle soups, and places serving things like that for breakfast and lunch are all over the city, from what I could tell (every few blocks). Once again, they're cheap and good. Shanghai is also famous for its cold dishes; are you familiar with some of those? Spicy cabbage, kaufu (wheat gluten in sesame paste with mushrooms and bamboo shoots), mock duck, etc., etc. I had cold dishes in Shanghai that are unavailable in New York Shanghai restaurants, the best of which are totally blown away by a merely average-to-good restaurant in Shanghai. Of course, the hot dishes are also delicious there.

Your son should go for dim sum in Hong Kong. If he picks well (look through some of those threads I linked above), he'll have a memorable experience. I still remember my lunch at the Star House 18 years ago! No, I don't remember all the specific things I ate, but I do remember I pigged out and paid very little (Hong Kong is much more expensive now) and that it was all wonderful!

I haven't been to Xian, but there are many Muslims there, and I understand that it's known for lamb dishes.

Your son will have a great time, and any amount of Mandarin he picks up will be helpful. If he didn't pack a dictionary, phrase book and such-like, he should have little trouble finding them in bookstores when he arrives.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Anna and Michael, Thank you for the specific suggestions. I'm not sure how much of an opportunity he will have to eat independently, but I wanted to give him a better idea of specific things to look to try should he have the opportunity. We'll see.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Anna and Michael, Thank you for the specific suggestions. I'm not sure how much of an opportunity he will have to eat independently, but I wanted to give him a better idea of specific things to look to try should he have the opportunity. We'll see.

I think it also depends on how much friends he can convince to go with him and eat because in most of the Chinese restaurants, you can't try out that many food without lots of friends. The easiest thing that he can enjoy is the street food because it is everywhere and available in manageable portion.

Shanghai

Ask him to wake up as early as possible and wander into the residential area (It seems like Shanghai's hotels and residential area is really close together so it should not be a problem) for breakfast. Try the salty soya milk(it has shrimp drimp, fried dough, green onion, and lots of other stuff in it), the huge varieties of buns and fried dough, egg crepe, noodles, and other breakfast items. I also had some of the most amazing grilled lamb skewers and bread(they are kind of like naan) in the street of Shanghai. Do not be afraid to poke into places because I got a bowl of freshly made noodles with some amazing chili paste for US$0.50 in a small place beside the bus station. You don't need a guide book for street food in Shanghai but just like everywhere, when there is a line up, just stand in the line even before you know what they are selling. :wink:

Hong Kong

I don't want to sound bad but I don't like most of Hong Kong street food due to the quality decline. It used to be that everything is fresh but now they would fried large batch of food at once....... Of course it is still worth it to try the food if he sees that the food is freshly prepared. Curried Fish balls, Fried Vegetables stuffed with fish paste, waffle, crepe, meat balls, bubble tea, cream puff, and anything the Hong Kongers can come up with. Most of the street food is concentrated in Mong Kok but you would be able to find it everywhere in Hong Kong. Also don't forget to get some fresh egg tarts, pineapple buns, and milk tea at tea time.

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Better late then never

(bloody good all these food board all use the same software; means I can cut and paste old posts and the formatting all stays the same... :biggrin: )

But lets face it... 15? likely to be straight down to McD's for the aircon and flush loos, then off down the nearest bar for a quick beer. Chinese beer is cheap and good - the one good by-product of C19 German imperialism...

ta

J

--------

JT's BJ EATS LIST

NB I haven't been there for a couple of years so this tends to list old classic joints rather than the latest new thing. And don't blame me if the establishment in question has been bulldozed to make way for a six-lane highway.

Practical details via the usual method (ie google)

MUST VISIT: Quanjude roast duck, Wangfujing night market, Fangshan (though not necesarily for the food!)

HIDDEN GEMS: Kaoyouji, Sichuan Fandian, Gongdelin, Bai Yun

"WE'VE BEEN DOING IT THIS WAY FOR THE LAST TWO HUNDRED YEARS AND SO WE AIN'T CHANGING IT NOW" PLACES

Roast lamb (kaoyangrou) - Kaorouji Roast Lamb Restaurant (does what it says on the tin). Right by the side of one of the Houhai (back lakes) behind the Forbidden City. Famous for roast lamb - get a terrace in time for sunset.

Mongolian Hot Pot: Donglaishan Restaurant. By the south end of Tiananmen Square (there are other branches too, I think) - classic BJ steamboat - best in Winter; not sure about the wisdom of trying on blazing hot summer day...

Veggie: Gongedelin Restaurant. A couple of hundred yards south of Qianmen gate on the left. Famous veggie restaurant - renowned for its mock-meat dishes made with gluten etc. Some stunningly almost convincing stuff you never see in the West (you'll never eat Quorn again!) Tofu also good.

Goubuli Baozi Restaurant Actually the original is in Tianjin but there are some branches in BJ (think there is one in Wangfujing near the Sick Duck. Famous for its baozi (steamed buns). Called Goubuli (dogs wont touch it) cuz the original owner was that ugly...

FOR THE ATMOSPHERE AS MUCH AS THE FOOD

The Sichuan Restaurant (Sichuan Fandian) - legendary old crate which has a fantastic location in the garden of an old princes mansion tucked away in the Hutongs alleys behind the Forbidden City. Actually worth it just for the garden - this is a slice of princely old BJ you don't really see. Food is OK - lots of sichuanese specialies to road-test.

Fangshan Restaurant: Place for authentic Imperial Court style food (think Escoffier but with more camel feet). Food is so-so at best but its a must-visit for the ambience and the history. Only place you'll get authentic imperial-style banquets. Pricy. Nice location in Beihai Park too. If the guards tell you the park is closed in the evening jsut tell them you're going to the restaurant and they will let you through. Tingliguan in the Summer Palace grounds also does similar stuff. Have to book.

Li Jia Cai Restaurant: Supposedly another place for Imperial Food. Small family run joint which gets good write ups in the western guides though I've never been. Look up on egullet for more. Looks touristy to me and you generally need a big table but could be worth a try

Bai Yun Japanese Restaurant was the first Jap place in town. Its up in the residential district North of the Forbidden City (I think). It's also interesting because its in a mansion which used to be Chiang Kai-Shek's residence before the Second World War. History and sushi - what else do you need?

QUACK QUACK

Qianmen Quanjude - Original and biggest branch in BJ. Best port of call for top notch duck. Bit of a factory production line but quality is excellet. Arrive early, sit downstairs. There's a whole carte of other duck dishes to choose from too. Get the most expensive duck - by western standards its cheap!

Wangfujing Quanjude: Another branch of the same. Called the "Sick Duck" cos its close to the Peking Union Hospital

Bianyifang - another duck place. Different owners. Also good and historical. Not as big/busy and Quanjude

STREET EATS

Yangrouchhuanr - Lamb kebabs bbq'ed on the street. Very addictive + cheap. The nicest ones have crispy bits of lamb fat threaded in between. If you're worried about cleanliness booths also do deep-fried versions which aren't quite as yummy

Night Market - Big night market full of food stalls runs every night on the road heading out East from the EAST gate of the Forbidden City to Wangfujing street. Lots and lots of hawker food, street food, insects on a stick etc. DON'T MISS.

Jian Bing - Trad breakfast pancake cooked at little stands in the street. A crispy dough wrapped in a crepe and cooked with an egg on top. Again, addictive

Toffee Hawthorns - Don't know if they've started up yet (sort of Autumn thing). Haw fruit on a stick, dipped in caramel. Popular street snack, esp. with kids though the stones are a bit of a pain

Northern Breakfast - from street cafes. Deep friend youtiao (dough ticks), bowls of jou jiang (soybean milk). Have to be up early (6-ish) to catch this

Baozi - Steamed buns stuffed with pork, sold from cartsi n teh street in the mornings. One of these will fill you up for about 2c. If you're lucky you might find muslims selling lamb-versions (even jucier)

OTHER RANDOM STUFF

McDonalds is plentiful, cheap and has 1) aircon and 2) clean loos with toilet roll

Justine's Restaurant (French) in the Jianguo hotel sometimes has dishes with Chinese truffles

The Courtyard is supposed to be the poshest fusion joint in town. Near the Forbidden City

There used to be a branch of Maxims in BJ. Haven't a clue if its still there.

Uygurville: Uygurs are the Moslem chaps (and chapesses) from far West China whose main occupations appear to be 1) setting off sepratist bus bombs 2) providing useful examples for the National Spelling Bee 3) cooking very nice kebabs (see yangrouchuanr above) and flatbreads. Now there are (or were) two clusters of Uygur restaurants round 1) Weigongcun and 2) Ganjiakou districts in Beijing where you could wander around troughing on dead sheep. Most likely bulldozed by now; maybe your local guides will be able to pick up the scent...

Finally Xiao Wangs Restaurant (there are several branches) is a good jack of all trades for varied Chinese food in nice surroundings. Peking Duck and salt and pepper ribs are notable.

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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But lets face it... 15? likely to be straight down to McD's for the aircon and flush loos, then off down the nearest bar for a quick beer. Chinese beer is cheap and good - the one good by-product of C19 German imperialism...

That's my feeling exactly too. A 15-year old would more likely look for McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut! There are plenty of these outlets in China/Hong Kong now... (Except Taco Bell...)

Having said that... besides dim sum and dan tart/pineapple bao... I think a couple of things definitely worth having while in Hong Kong are: Jook (rice portridge), cheung fun (steamed rice noodles) and wonton noodles. It's extremely hard to find Chinese restaurants who make these items well in the US/Canada - unless you live in cities highly populated with Hong Konger immigrants such as San Gabriel Valley, Vancouver and such. Those items are available everywhere in Hong Kong. And most of them would not disappoint.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Pan! Reading this, I just realised/remembered that you had asked, and I had promised, to post my take on dinner at Li Family restaurant! One year ago now. Really sorry about that... I filed my photos and notes and never got it together. I still can, if you're interested, back on the thread, but the initial impressions would have seriously faded by now. Suffice it to say it was both fantastic and memorable.

Interestingly, the Li "Family" has apparently branched out into the wider world, and a lucky coincidence (for me) is that a daughter has opened a "Li Family/Imperial Cuisine" restaurant here in Melbourne.

LiLi's

Have yet to try it but looks pretty much like exactly the same concept.

Docsconz, back to topic, if your 15 yr old is the kind who would prefer a bit more Westerny 'flash' with his travels, maybe the area in Beijing around Beihei Lake would be interesting. There is plenty of street food and 'authentic Beijing' (to my tourist' eye) but heaps of bars, cafes, and general buzz as well. I can look back on my stuff and find specifics if you think he would be interested.

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kangarool, I imagine your photos are different from mine, so even though your memories have faded, I would think that a post on the Li Family thread would be interesting.

The restaurant in Melbourne looks way fancier and more formal than the rather nondescript surroundings in the Li compound in Beijing, no doubt with prices to match.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Thanks again for all the input. He is a member of eGullet although he hasn't posted yet. The trip has actually scheduled a visit to McDonald's. He doesn't generally eat fast food here. He really is more interested in experiencing the local cuisine. A friend of his just got back from the same trip (People to People) and said he enjoyed the food except for that cooked during the two night home stay near Xian.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Thanks again for all the input. He is a member of eGullet although he hasn't posted yet. The trip has actually scheduled a visit to McDonald's.

If they take him to KFC (hugely popular there), if the Lao Beijing is still on the menu, it's fried chicken with hoisin sauce and shredded green onion, wrapped in a thin pancake (kinda like Peking Duck. sorta).

You gonna eat that?

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It's also worth mentioning that in Hong Kong, the Cantonese BBQ items are top-ranked.

Siu Ngap (Roast Duck)

Siu Yuk (Roast Pork)

Char Siu (BBQ Pork)

Some shops/restaurants are better than others but most of them would not disappoint. The freshest BBQ items usually come up around 4:00 pm or so (people buy them on the way home off work). It's local custom that these ducks, chicken, porks, ribs are hung at the front of the store. It's hard to miss them.

If you son is really adventurous, try some dry duck feet and roast chicken liver! :laugh:

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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  • 8 months later...
However, I strongly recommend tourists to STAY AWAY from the Chung King Mansions.  It is dirty, and is a notorious high-crime black spot.  This building houses a few super low cost hostels (bunker beds only type), and is frequent by visitors primarily from India and the middle East regions.  European and American tourists stand out like a sore thumb.  You go in there, do your tourist thing, you are just inviting the pick-pockets and con men to prey on you.  There are plenty of eateries in modern commercial buildings in Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui East.  There really is no reason to visit anything inside this unsightly  Chung King Mansions.

I saw some comments today by various people on Chungking Mansions, and though they went up a long time ago, I'm a bit appalled by some of the things that were said. Especially the above. I can read between the lines. For a much more accurate picture, there's good information from Wikipedia. What it says in the sections about "Security" and "Food" are spot on. The list of businesses looks to be incomplete, though, even for A and B blocks.

Chungking Mansions is interesting in its own right both for the feeling of the place and the number of restaurants - usually termed "mess clubs". I've made frequent trips to Chungking Mansions for dinner, or to buy Indian ingredients for cooking, and stayed there around ten times over the years. I've never felt remotely threatened, and I've walked around the shopping area, as well as the upper floors and staircases in all the blocks.

Sure it's dirty, but if that bothers you, you can give the most of Hong Kong a wide berth - that's one city that ain't going to win any prizes for cleanliness.

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I have searched and searched, this and other websites and consulted Zagat's, and I must tell you, its all a bit overwhelming. The myriad of restaurants (especially in Shanghai), and because the names are spelled phonetically, what I see listed in one place isn't necessarily spelled the same in Zagat, for instance.

So here are my three questions:

1) If you were to go for the best peking duck in Beijing, what would be the "don't miss" place for this for one night.

2) Aside from roast duck, any "if you had only one night in Beijing you should go HERE" type restaurants? Seeking great Chinese cuisine.

3) How about one night in Shanghai? I don't want western type food--no Jean Georges, we have that in NYC where I live. Rather, I'm seeking a somewhat upscale Shanghai- or Hunan type restaurant for this one night.

Anyone care to help me narrow my choices? I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the wearching with endless names upon names of places.

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Travel in almost all the major cities in China changes from month to month, due to the tremendous and accelerated growth of these cities. Some restaurants that were great 6 months ago may have been surpassed by many others. My best advice is not to have any preconceived plans as plans only tie you down. When you check into your hotel, ask the concierge, the travel advisor, business contacts, local tourism offices, read local reports, and generally listen to the "buzz".

I have found in travelling abroad that the locals almost always know better, as far as good food and restaurants are concerned, than some tourist writer or a foreign reviewer trying to relate the local food to his own "foreign" preferences.

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I agree with Ben Hong. I also know that having a plan one can deviate from can be a comfort.

The Quan Ju De on the west side of Tiananmen Square is considered the "the place" for Peking Duck.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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All makes sense; and we'll be staying at the Pennensula Hotels in both of these cities. Question--do you think it will be a problem to do this via the hotel concierge on the day we arrive for that night, or should I ask my travel agent to be in contact with the hotel concierge beforehand?

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