Lunch (Thoughts of Shanghai)


Late lunch was xiaolongbao from the original spot on Wudong Lu.

Still didn’t take a picture — ate them all with dark rice vinegar (the Zhenjiang variety of legendary origin) before I could even pull out my smartphone.

Later that day I would take a taxi to Pudong with several large bags and check in for a red-eye flight direct to LAX. First, I’d eat these eight dumplings — minced pork mixed with spring onion and aspic set inside circular unleavened dough wrappers then folded and pinched shut — directly from the bamboo steamer. These were the same ones I tried after arriving in Shanghai last year: the ones with vinegar poured in the same saucers, red chili sauce served with the same tiny spoons.

Exactly eight dumplings; no more, no less.

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Hohhot, Inner Mongolia in Parcels


I bought 8 pairs of chopsticks for like 3 bucks at the market kinda near the Temple and kinda far from the Mosque. Stored them loosely in my back pocket and thought for a second that, while I had my back turned when paying for my entrance ticket, the beggars would swipe them from me if I didn’t placate them with cash.

This thought was foolish, I admit. Here in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, the rules had changed on me, and I was taken off-guard. People spoke dialects that I didn’t understand, and Mongolian was on signs and in the streets. People consumed dairy products here?

In a land of jade, Inner Mongolia was crystallized amber.

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Seven Treasures of Qibao, Shanghai


Where do I even start with this one?

The aptly named 七宝镇//Qi1bao3 Zhen4 (lit. Seven Treasures Town) is an absolute must-see. Shanghai’s closest water town isn’t just that. It’s a snack food paradise and a barbecue lover’s fantasy, a photographer’s dream, an architectural wonder, a relic of ancient China.

Qibao is by far Shanghai’s coolest water town. Wandering through the Old Street will take you the day if you plan it right, but I strongly suggest throwing out those plans. Most likely, you’ll be enticed by every other storefront selling Chinese-style sweets. Don’t stress about it too much. The sooner you accept the fact that you’ll have to make multiple trips to Qibao to truly be “done,” the sooner you get try that curious-looking meat on a stick.

Speaking of which…

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Xi’an, Shaanxi Province


Xi’an: ancient capital, bustling city of industry and education, and voted Central China’s most liveable city by the Erik Fruth Opinion Council.

I fully admit that I was swayed in Xi’an’s favor by the incredible food. The most incredible bing on the planet, saozi mian//臊子面 [cool video link!], endless street food stalls selling cakes and warm plum juice, ubiquitous and unfailingly delicious roujiamo//肉夹馍, enormous mantou//馒头, heavy use of cumin, chive, and garlic… the list goes on.

It goes without saying that I was well-fed in this city. I would like to point out, however, that I was well-fed out of the necessity to try every street vendor’s culinary offerings (describing their edible creations as anything less than cuisine is plainly insulting to their craft).

All this is not to say that Xi’an is dull in other aspects.

The largely Hui Muslim community in Xi’an is distinct in their dress and diet, and the beautifully eclectic mosques in which they worship. The three tiles below were all taken inside two mosques in Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter. The latter two were taken inside the spectacular Great Mosque, the largest and best preserved of China’s early mosques,¹ built in Chinese architectural style and thus lacking traditional domes or minarets. The mosque hearkens all the way back to 742 CE, though the building that stands now was constructed in the early Ming Dynasty.² More information about the mosque’s history and some incredible photos of its grounds can be found at the links above.

The Bell and Drum Towers [below, respectively] were constructed during the Ming Dynasty and are now symbols of the city of Xi’an.

In June, 2014, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Silk Road Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor.

Lastly, the city is home to the world-famous Terracotta Warriors. Three pits dug as part of Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum contain thousands of clay soldiers — complete in rank and file — as well as hundreds of chariots, horses, and court officials. For the man who united the warring states of China in 221 BCE to become ruler of the dynasty that would later bear his name,³ this mind-bogglingly grand burial was a matter of course.

Fly South to Nanxiang


Shanghai’s even got a TIME MACHINE.

It’s located specifically in one of Shanghai’s copious satellite towns: Nanxiang (南翔). Here, in this otherwise sleepy suburb, you’ll travel through time and space to the birthplace of xiaolongbao (also known as God’s gift to man). Here, where they celebrate the myriad genius of our ancestors by cooking dumplings in a bamboo steamer, you’ll be transported to the China of story.

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10 Key Lessons Learned in Shanghai


Within the span of two months, I’ve transformed into a local.

The only differences being the shock of blonde hair, physical stature taller than the norm, and curious habit of speaking in English interspersed with mispronounced Mandarin.

Alright, so maybe I’m not a local. But I like to think that I’ve adapted relatively well! At any rate, I’ve experienced quite a bit since my wide-eyed arrival.

Here are 10 lessons learned in Shanghai:

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The Post-Drink Meal that China Does So Right


Beer and fried food are a match made in heaven.

No one in their right mind questions that statement. However, deciding which fried food to grub on after a long night of Tsingtao interspersed with shots of dubious Chinese rice wine can be difficult.

Luckily, drunken hedonists all across Shanghai agree that bing is the kingpin of trashy, late-night snacks.

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