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Chinese Spaghetti in Wuhan, Have you tried?

Wuhan, China

"Morning. Which place to go today? We haven't been to that one beside the Machine Tools Factory for a long time. How about that? Alright, I'll meet you there". It is 6:30 in the morning. Lao Wang, a middle-aged man is making a call to an old friend to discuss the breakfast café they are going to meet at.

He runs a China Hotel in Wuhan, a city in central China dubbed as the stove city for its hot weather in summer. Their breakfast get-together (can be literally translated as Guo Zao: to spend the morning) has a history of 10 years since Wang was laid off. So are many other people of this city. Thanks to the rich variety of snacks in Wuhan, a leisurely taken breakfast with friends has long been a necessary start for hundreds and thousands of locals.

The most popular snack for breakfast is undoubtedly Re Gan Mian (Hot noodles with sesame paste mixture). To make it, you need spaghetti, sesame paste, soy sauce, salt, black pepper and green onion. If you can find some, the flavored chopped dry radish (Luo Bo Gan) would be a great icing on the cake. The spaghetti should be prepared the prior night, boiled and dried --- but not too dry in case the spaghetti get stuck together --- and processed with some kind of alkali. When making the noodle, immerse the spaghetti into boiled water for a while and dry it out. Then put the put the premade sesame paste, soy sauce, salt, green onion and black pepper in and mix them up. The taste is probably a bit strange for most first-timers --- think of the noodle with very little water but rich flavour --- but nearly all who takes another try will love it at once. The phrase Re Gan Mian is probably the most written word in the home letters of Wuhaners in foreign places. It has become a symbol of the city, like hamburger is to the Americans.

Like milk is for bread, soymilk is the best companion to Re Gan Mian. It is the rich creamy milk made from whole soybeans. To make it, the soybeans are soaked for a few hours before grinded with water. The fluid which results after straining is soymilk. In different places, soymilk can be made from a variety of beans, ranging from black soy beans to mung beans. In Wuhan however, most if not all soymilk peddled are made from soya beans.

Other popular breakfast snacks include rice wine (Mi Jiu), a lite wine made from rice and tastes like Japanese sake; Dou Pi, steamed rice covered by a thin skin of egg-bean powder mixture; and Zha Ci Ba (fried glutinous rice cake), a rectangular fried cake made of glutinous rice.

Most people take their breakfast at little roadside stalls or small restaurants near home or office. The usually one-hour long breakfast is unthinkable in western cities. However, besides the delicious snacks, conversation at breakfast is probably another reason for people to stick to it. It is a major circumstance of social communication. Very often a breakfast can start with two people and end with five --- more new friends are made thereafter. Topics can range from family trivial to international relationship. Right or wrong is not a major concern here. Even children can join in at times, if they are bold enough to challenge their fathers. That is partly how tradition is formed, I guess.

7: 50. Lao Wang has taken his last drop and is saying goodbye to his friend. You will probably see him again tomorrow morning at another stall, with an old friend. Or a new one?

permalink written by  vincy on October 29, 2008 from Wuhan, China
from the travel blog: My Travel
tagged RestgoWuhanTravelChinaHotels

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Shanghai Impression

Shanghai, China

We take the train from Beijing to Shanghai overnight, leaving at 7pm and arriving at 7am the next day. The train is a brand new European-built leviathan, with about 40 coaches and two engines. Each pair of coaches has its own attendant and there is a bar and restaurant on board. Within the coaches there are cabins, each one having 4 beds with crisp bedding, plenty storage space, and bright airy decor. There are 4 such trains, all leaving within a few minutes of each other, bound for Shanghai, and each one is fully occupied.

The train rolls into Shanghai station precisely on time and we grab our bags and head for the ticket office to buy train tickets out of Shanghai. We find that there are no so called 'soft sleeper' seats left so we opt for the 'hard sleeper' alternative.

We take a taxi to our hotel in the Bund area of Shanghai, and after showering and breakfasting; we head out to visit Unilever Research in the Caohejin Hi-Tech Park. My friend wanted to meet some previous colleagues there, and visited the well-known high-tech Industry area, by the way.

That evening we stroll from our hotel which booked by restgo.com, out on to the riverside walkway to see the neon lit skyline of Shanghai. Across the Huangpu River in Pudong we see the enormous sky scrapers including the Pearl Tower. Over its surface red lights flash and then a rainbow of colored lights on the spheres flash in mesmerizing patterns.

On our side of the River, older colonial buildings, banks, and department stores are underlet in a conventional European style. Behind the old, loom modern architectures, edge-lit like obelisks against the night sky.

Dinner is taken in a random restaurant and turns out to be a good selection. The seafood dishes are tasty.

Next day we take an underground train beneath the River to reach Pudong. The driverless pods speed through a neon lit tunnel in what can only be described as a 'trip that you would only ever take once' since it costs 10 times as more than the underground
On the other side we buy Y50 tickets to the 88th floor of the 4th highest building in the world (488m). The elevator accelerates to 10 meters per second so my ears feel like they are about to burst. The top reveals the view that confirms Shanghai's pre-eminence as the biggest business city in China.

Back on the west of the city the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall shows how the city will develop in the future. We see a huge model of the city taking up the space of a 5-a-side football pitch and have fun spotting our hotel and also some new buildings. We stand in a 360 degree cinema and watch a dizzying computer-generated animation film about how the airport will be developed within just a few years. I see a young lady driving a virtual truck to the new container-port which needs a bridge of over 35km in length to be constructed.

The scale of development in Shanghai is all too much to take in and we collapse exhausted back at the hotel room. Neon lights glisten outside the Victorian sash windows.

Next day, a short taxi ride away is Zhou Enlai's house. Set in a leafy suburb, the house is a lovely example of '20s English architecture with its dark flooring, spacious rooms, and large windows overlooking the garden.

Out of time in Shanghai, we head back to the railway station.

permalink written by  vincy on October 21, 2008 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: My Travel
tagged Shanghai, Travel and Reservation

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