Random Thoughts from Shanghai
This week’s edition of ramblings is courtesy of Shanghai, China, which was our first destination after leaving Cambodia. With so much running through our heads this past week, we thought we’d bring you a hers and his take today. Enjoy!
The world’s universal word
I’ve noticed a trend during my international travel over the past few years that has been confirmed on this trip. For those of you who don’t have the time or struggle to learn a new language, I have great news for you. There is one word across every language that is the same. You already know it and probably use it often. I’ve heard it in Argentina, Greece and now all over Asia. The exchange often goes something like this:
Woman behind the store counter is talking to a customer about something in their language. The woman is puzzled by what the customer is asking her or wasn’t fully listening so needs something repeated. She yells, “HUH?”
Or, it can happen when you’re sitting next to someone who is talking on their cell phone who clearly isn’t listening to the other person. They subsequently say, “huh?” five times in a row.
I hear it everywhere. Listen for it.
Shanghai dating scene
As Dave has mentioned previously, there isn’t much of an official dating scene in Cambodia. Many marriages are still arranged and it’s pretty rare to see men and women showing public displays of affection. Imagine our surprise in on our first metro ride in Shanghai where every other group of passengers was a young couple hugging, cuddling or holding hands. The Shanghai youth are very into relationships with lots of lollipopping around the city (guy and girl holding onto each others hips while they walk).
China beer drinkers
We did very limited research on Shanghai before arriving, but the one search I did do was on the craft brewing scene in Shanghai. After months of light lagers, I was craving something with flavor. We found four microbreweries in the city, but also learned that China consumes 25% of the world’s beer. The U.S. comes in second at 12%. Chinese are drinking 38 liters per person compared with 78 liters per person in the U.S. (100-120 liters in places like Belgium and Australia). When those Chinese individually catch up to our beer guzzling selves, that’s going to be an even more massive market. Note to self – get into beer industry in China.
A dumpling dare
The idea came to me in the middle of the night. We had 72 hours in Shanghai, why not try to eat 72 Chinese dumplings in 72 hours? Dumplings are a specialty here, typically steamed and made with pork and a small amount of broth in the middle (called XiaoLongBao). The only problem — we were 48 hours into our trip. I told Jill about my idea when she woke up, and rather than dismiss my idea outright, she reached for her phone to add up how many dumplings we had already eaten in two days. It was a good sign that she actually liked the idea. But the number she came up with, 32, showed we had a lot of work to do in one day.
Nevertheless, we ventured out that day on a mission. Five minutes from our hostel and on our way to a planned dumpling restaurant, we came upon a dumpling stand and quickly put away 6 fried dumplings (ShengJianBao). 36 to go!!! At our breakfast stop we ate four more, also fried. After a little sightseeing we went to lunch at a place recommended by the New York Times and ate another 15 steamed dumplings, leaving us 17 short of our goal.
As we ventured out later that night, Jill said she wasn’t sure she could eat another dumpling and I didn’t push it. But on our way home later that night we passed a street vendor selling them, got an order and I polished off seven of the 10 vegetable dumplings and our total soared to 65. But alas, that was the final total. We looked for a restaurant at the Shanghai airport, but the combination of airport food and the early hour kept us from reaching our goal. Fortunately, Jill just found one of the dumpling restaurants we went to has an outpost in Tokyo so we could be starting all over again.
Cars in Asia
My first Tokyo joke: “Wouldn’t it be funny if everyone was driving American cars?” Jill didn’t laugh. And I think I’ve seen one Jeep in the day we’ve been in Japan so U.S. autos are not making many inroads here. However, I did see a lot of Cadillac Escalades in Shanghai, more than I’ve ever seen in the States.
One of many high speed trains to come
Also on a transportation-related note, I got to experience my first high-speed train on the way to Pudong Airport in Shanghai. The Maglev (for magnetic levitation) train reached a top speed of 301 kilometers per hour during our 7-minute ride, or roughly 186 miles per hour. Looking forward to many more high-speed trains while we’re in Japan and Europe.