Restaurant Recommendations for Special Occasions in Shanghai: TMSK, Whampoa Club, Banana Leaf, More

Recently we had some virtually miraculous evenings with special guests where a visit to a restaurant was memorable, remarkable, and far beyond our expectations. Three of the most enjoyable of these events occurred at TMSK in Xintiandi, Banana Leaf at the Super Brands Mall at Lujiazui (floor 6 or 7), and Whampoa Club in Three on the Bund. Of these three, for our next special night out, TMSK is the one I’m most likely to return to.

The Whampoa Club has beautiful art-deco design inside with a great view of the Bund from the 5th floor of Three on the Bund (3 Guandong Street). Beautiful and fun just to be there. The menu is horrifically expensive, in my opinion, but the set menu on the Chef’s Sampling Menu is more affordable. That menu is 289 per person. But note: you must reserve this ahead of time. If you show up, even with reservations, and have not specifically reserved the sampling menu ahead of time (preferably 24 hours or more ahead), they may turn you down. In my case, I called on the same day to make reservations for the evening, and asked about their sampling menu. They said yes, it’s available, no problem. But when our party of four arrived, we were told that the sampling menu was not available and we’d have to order off the menu. I explained my situation and asked them to reconsider. The waiter had to check with management, and came back a few minutes later saying yes, we could. That was a relief. Otherwise we would have walked.

The food that came was highly impressive and tasty. My favorite may have been a large, succulent prawn in batter with a sauce over it. Really delicious and filling. The many samples that came left us full and surprised at the variety of flavors and textures available in this high-end Chinese place.

Banana Leaf at the Super Brands Mall surprised us with the quality of food but mostly with the beautiful private room we were able to walk into without reservations, while dozens were lined up waiting to get in. I had a group of 7 on a Saturday afternoon in Liujiazui. After walking tour of Lujiazui Park, we went to Super Brands Mall where we were planning to try Bellagio’s on the top floor. But one floor before we got there, I saw Banana Lead and, recalling a positive experience in the past, thought maybe my group might like this instead. While there were many people lined up outside waiting to get in, when we told them we had a group of 7 and asked how long the wait would be, they said there was no wait, just go on in, What? But there was a large, beautiful private room that was just waiting for a large group to come–I guess all the people waiting were couples or other small groups too small for the private room. So all 7 of us were seated immediately in luxury. We ordered and food was coming right away. Everything we ordered was delicious. We have a real feast for around 70 RMB per person.

TMSK is one of the most beautiful and interesting places to eat at. They have Chinese and Western items, but I think the Chinese dishes are most outstanding. The roast beef is so tender and delicious. Mama Yang’s noodles surprised us all with the flavor — so much so that we ordered a second helping. We had a lot of food and beverages, including wine for one of our guests, so the total bill was higher than normal, 790 RMB for 4, but it was worth it. TMSK is the one that I’m most anxious to try again in the near future. The fact that I really like the people there is part of the draw. And so beautiful.

 

By |July 17th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Slow Internet Connection in China? Tips for Service and How to Measure Local Speed

The most challenging aspect of life in China for many foreigners may be the Internet. In addition to many of our favorite sites being blocked by the Great Firewall of China, the Internet here can often be painfully slow. Here are some tips for dealing with both problems.

The Firewall can be overcome with VPN, allowing a direct port to a foreign server to be established with encrypted communication. I use ExpressVPN (https://www.expressvpn.mobi/). It costs money, but it’s worth it and I believe it to be the best service with the best technical support to help you deal with the challenges of connecting. It also adds some extra security since data to and from your computer is encrypted, so it’s good to use for online banking and other sensitive issues. It slows everything down, though.

The general problem of a slow Internet connection in China may be due in part to the heavy work of monitoring Internet usage and to rapidly expanding demand on existing infrastructure. There’s a lot of data requiring a lot of surveillance. But many times foreigners living in China don’t realize that the service they are getting in their apartment can be upgraded to faster service. The base local speed (China to China connections) may range from 10 Mps (10 megabytes/sec) to 100 Mps. If you need higher speed, contact your provider (often China Telecom, reachable by dialing 10000–and yes, they do have English speaking support) and check into an upgrade.

Understand your connection speed by doing speed tests. A good test that might not load for you in China (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t) is SpeedTest.net. This service can use servers in China to test your latency (ping delay), download speed, and upload speed. If your download speed is limited to around 10 Mps, using the Internet is going to be painful. Upgrade. In Shanghai, you can use a China Telecom service at http://sh.189.cn/support/netreport/ to test you download speed with local servers to see what your maximum speed is likely to be. It’s in Chinese, but you don’t need to understand Chinese to use it. Click on the green button that says “开始测速” (begin testing speed). The numerical result is in Mps. You can also use other speed tests that measure data transfer involving US servers. Numbers will be lower than using Asian servers, of course. ATT has a speed test and so does Comcast (Xfinity).

For best speed, make sure you have background processes off (things like software updates, online backup, etc. can slow you down) and don’t have too many browser windows open. For best speed, bypass the slight delay of a wireless router and plug directly into the Ethernet output jack on the back of your cable modem or router — but the gains will often be minor. Also beware of prime times when everybody else is trying to download movies or play games: the Internet can really bog down in China from about 7 PM to 11 PM. And weekends, lunchtime, and so on.

Food Poisoning: Beware of Hamburgers and Other High Risk Items

food poisoning shanghai burgers hospital preparation

Was it the meat? The mayo? the lettuce? Or maybe the shake? It’s hard to know with food poisoning.

I had a call at 2:15 AM this morning from a victim of food poisoning, a friend who had just been taken to one of Shanghai’s many hospitals with quaint names. This one was the Armed Police Hospital of Shanghai on Hongxu Road near Yan An Road in Hongqiao, not far from where we live. He had been out with some friends eating at Munchies, a popular joint serving basic Western food like hamburgers, shakes, and fries. I ate there once a few months ago and thought it was OK but not interesting, and avoided the hamburgers due to my concerns about the risks of food poisoning. Hamburgers are already a common source of food poisoning in the States, and I think the risks will be higher here.

My friend had eaten a hamburger, shake, and fries. He guessed that his food poisoning came from bad oil in the fries or bad cream in the shake. My guess is the hamburger was the culprit. Hamburger is so often contaminated with bacteria and is too easy to undercook or recontaminate with sloppy handling. But who knows, it could have been bacteria on dirty lettuce in the burger. I doubt that bad oil would give the violent food poisoning reaction he had, with hours of pain and loss of everything in his digestive tract.

He eventually became so dehydrated and weak and in so much pain that he realized he was in medical trouble, so he called for help and soon was being carried away in an ambulance. In his weakened state, he forget to bring a wad of cash with him. Mistake! Bring lots of cash when you go to the hospital. Bringing an ATM card can work, but if there is trouble, then what? He was so weak when he got to the hospital that his fingers kept slipping as he tried to enter the long password code for his bank card, and after 3 tries, his card was locked and unable to be used at all. He called the bank to clear it, but was told he had to come in personally when the bank opened again later. Not good at 2 AM when you need to pay now for urgent help.

In China, if you don’t pay upfront or have proof of adequate insurance (that may not work in many cases), you aren’t going to get treatment, as far as I know. Understand that and be prepared. The hospital staff suggested he call a friend. I normally put my phone in silent mode when I go to sleep to prevent unwanted calls in the middle of the night. Last night was an unusual exception, and I’m glad I didn’t. I was able to rush over and help out, handling the payment. 650 RMB is all it cost for him to get a lot of good attention (once payment was made), an IV with several bags of fluid, medication, etc. The kit of supplies I received for him after payment was really impressive. Treatment was good, the place was clean, and the staff were efficient and friendly. Pretty good for a public hospital in the middle of the night. Remarkably low cost. Not bad.

What is bad is food poisoning. It can really hurt and make life miserable. Staying hydrated when you are hit with it is a real challenge. Drink lots and lots of fluids, even though you might lost them swiftly. Gets some salts also. Gatorade might be a good beverage to keep on hand for such cases. But do your own research to prepare. Keep some cash in your wallet or in a handy place at home to take with you to the hospital, along with one or two bank cards, your cell phone, and a cell phone charger, etc. Be ready. And especially be careful about what you eat. It’s a key to surviving in Shanghai, China.

By |July 6th, 2014|Categories: Consumers, Food, Health, Shanghai, Surviving|Tags: , , , |Comments Off

More Tips on Moving in China: Trucks, Boxes, Etc.

When you are moving in China, there are several things to do to prepare.

First, review your current rental contract and make sure you give adequate notice and comply with other terms needed to ensure you have a good chance of getting your rental deposit back. It’s often two months of rent, so you don’t want to lose this money. Be a good tenant, give adequate notice before the end of the contract so they have time to find a new tenant (if leaving mid-year, you may not be able to get your deposit back at all). Make sure you leave the place clean and handle outstanding bills for utilities (this may include leaving enough money in the hands of the landlord to cover estimated costs, or taking other steps).

Second, prepare well in advance with the supplies you will need such as boxes, tape, bubble wrap, scissors, string, etc. If you move, you may want to get a lot of boxes. These can be hard to find on sale, but you can get them at B&Q for about 15 RMB each. Cheaper is to track down a recycler carrying loads of boxes and boxboard down the street. He’ll sell you boxes for maybe 2 RMB each. Cheaper still is to go to department stores or other places discarding boxes and take away used boxes for free. Keep some boxes around the house–they often come in handy and can be a pain to find when you need them. Also prepare by getting bubble wrap, newspaper or wrapping paper, and lots of good packaging tape, which isn’t always easy to find. When you see it, get some well in advance. You can also order boxes and tape online at Taobao.

Third, arrange for help such as a moving service to get you and your stuff to your new place. This often involves using a local moving service. Order a truck that is bigger than what you think you need so you can avoid two trips. A medium truck going across town might cost you 700 RMB if just one or two people are needed. Since we were moving a piano, we had a large truck and a crew of four, which costs us more than we expected: 1700 RMB. But it was a solid half-day of work for four people, and the extra-large truck had a 500 RMB surcharge. But had we negotiated ahead of time as we should have, I think we might have only paid 1300 RMB or maybe 1400. Lesson learned, maybe. While arranging for moving muscle, it’s also wise to hire an ayi or two (maids) to provide cleaning muscle for your new place and your old.

Fourth, pack early. Don’t wait until the night before the move. Your stuff is important and you don’t want to lose it or misplace it through careless packing. Mark boxes so you know what is where. Wrap delicate things carefully and be prepared for rough treatment. Make sure you don’t take things that are part of the apartment, either. Spend a few hours every night for a week to get prepared, if you can.

My experiences in moving in China have been limited to Shanghai, but the principles should apply to other large cities as well.

Related posts:  Tips on Finding an Apartment in Shanghai, Renting in Shanghai

Related pages: Surviving in China

By |July 1st, 2014|Categories: China, Consumers, Housing, Shanghai|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Prepare For Your Trip to China With Scam-Prep 101: Beware the Karaoke Scam, the Tea Ceremony Scam, and Other Scams in China

I’ve written before about the dangers of the “Tea Ceremony Scam” in China where attractive girls or other friendly young people invite foreigners to join them as they attend a nearby traditional Chinese tea ceremony. After a few tiny samples of tea, you’ll be billed for hundreds of dollars, and there might be some tough muscular guy there to enforce payment. This scam is actually dangerous, and if you fall for it, you’ll literally be in a den of criminals. It’s one of the most common scams in China.

It is important to know that there can be several variations of this scam. An important variation has come to my attention with the recent news story in the Shanghai Daily, “15 members of karaoke crime gang detained” (June 24, 2014). In this scam, friendly people invited victims to join them in karaoke. After some entertainment, a bill was presented for something like 30,000 RMB (US $5,000). In the case in the story, the man paid $1,000, everything he had, but this was not enough, and they were forcibly taking him back to his hotel to get the rest of his money. He managed to escape on the way and get help from the police, who eventually captured the gang. But there are probably many similar gangs in operation.

Whether you are in Shanghai, Beijing, or any other place that gets significant tourism, you have to be wary of friendly strangers who want to invite you somewhere. Don’t go with them. Don’t let merchants or others lead you down isolated alleys or remote floors of buildings to see their mystery shop. Don’t let them lead you into a room where they can lock the door to prevent you from escaping–something that happened to someone I know well. Fortunately for her, they were just keeping the police away from their fake goods operation, and the woman was able to get out unharmed. But don’t take those risks. Avoid the scams in China, but recognize that the scammers can be very polished, alluring, and highly trained–they are part of a well-oiled scam machine run by real professionals who have mastered effective systems that keep duping foreigner after foreigner, making loads of money for the scamlords.

Be alert. Make sure he change people give you is real Chinese money. Make sure the expensive product you buy is actually put int he package. Make sure the cab you get into you is a real cab using a real meter. If the meter is off and they quote you a price to get to your destination, don’t accept that unless you know what the real price is and it is close enough to be acceptable to you, otherwise you can many times the real price. Don’t prepay for rides because you might get dumped off for some other low bidder to take you, only to find additional fees on the way (yeah, I experienced that).

When you’ve been robbed by falling for a scam, you’ll feel really stupid and pained by how you were used and cheated. That’s a lot of stress that you can avoid in many cases by being alert and reducing your risks.

The Chinese people are generally honest, friendly, and decent, but the handful of exceptions are the ones who will be watching for you. They are organized and know you are coming. Be ready and stay safe.

 

 

By |June 27th, 2014|Categories: China, Scams, Shanghai||Comments Off

Finding an Apartment or Moving to a New Apartment in Shanghai

After 3 great years in the Lao Xi Men area of Shanghai (West Gate Apartments on Xizang South Road a little south of Fuxing Road), we have moved close to the Yili Road subway station on Line 10, which puts us in the Gubei area. It’s quieter, cleaner, and with a surprisingly high concentration of fun restaurants and beautiful spots such as the marvelous New Hongqiao Park. We moved because my wife already has too long a commute, and I just found out that my office will be moving to a location closer to where she works, so, as our previous contract was coming to a close, it made sense to move rather than renew. We were delighted with what we found, and it even saves us money.

Finding an apartment in Shanghai begins with finding a good real estate agent. Quality varies wildly. Some are inexperienced and not very helpful, while others go the extra mile to get your the right place at a good price and make your move a success.

Our move to a new place was greatly assisted by one of the best real estate agents I’ve ever worked with, David at Oriental Realty. He speaks terrific English and goes the extra mile to help, not just before the deal is closed but especially after. After the deal was signed and his fee pay, he continues helping us. He has helped us set up our Internet service, he made the calls to get our budget TV subscription turned on, he helped us solve some other minor problems, he told me today which office to go to and what to bring to register with the police after our move, he picked up and delivered our fapiaos, and he even came over to show us how to change the combination on our door. He’s extremely kind and really committed to serving his clients. He can help clients anywhere in Shanghai. You can reach him by sending a note to davidsjchen at gmail, or I can give you his cell (email me at jeff at jefflindsay d0t com). Be sure to let him know I sent you.

When you are looking for an apartment, start with the region you are interested in and find an agent that serves that area. A good company like David’s can access broad listings and work local connections to help you find candidates where you want. Some just have listing for fixed regions, but they can he helpful, too. Your agent will take you to view available places. A lot depends on whether you want furnished or unfurnished. Then you need to set a budget (ouch, they are expensive here!) and determine what total area you want to consider (e.g., around 50, 100, or 150 square meters) and how many rooms you want and what other features you want. The more places you look at, the more you can recognize what features are important.

For us, having a big kitchen with either an over or a space where we could install one was important because we do a lot of entertaining and a lot of cooking, and our style of cooking often requires an over, something most apartments in China do not have. China is a nation of stove-top cooking. Ovens in apartments are rare. But you often can take out the ubiquitous and worthless “sterilizer” unit in many kitchens and replace it with an over, though electrical connections will have to change and the landlord must be on board (and make it clear what happens with the unit when you move away). In our last place, we agreed to a higher rent in return for the landlord buying an over that would stay with the apartment–good deal for him. We’re buying the oven in the new place. Will cost about 4800 RMB.

When you rent, you will normally be asked to pay a deposit of two months’ rent in addition to one or two months rent up front, so you really need a wad of cash to get started. Foreigners coming to work in China often don’t know this. In addition, the renter will typically pay the commission to the agent, which is normally 1/3 of a month’s rent, sometimes a little higher. Before you rent, make sure you negotiate any significant changes that are needed like painting the walls, repairing things, replacing or adding furniture, etc. Make sure you know how to handle utilities, how to get Internet and TV, how to register with the police, etc. If you need a fapiao, this costs 5% of the month’s rent, so make sure you know who is paying for that (it is normally included in the monthly rent).

Everything can be negotiated, so perhaps you can close a deal for less (typically around 10% less) than the asking price. Ask for too low, though, and the landlord will throw you out and not negotiate further.

Landlords in China might often own just one rental apartment that they rent out. It’s a precious piece of property to them and they may be evaluating you as much as you are evaluating the unit. If you seem too demanding, slovenly, or irresponsible or do anything to create a negative emotional reaction, they might not rent to you, even if you accept the asking price. I know two Chinese guys who were planning to rent an apartment together and had agreed on the price, but the landlord got nervous about how clean two men would be and decided at the last minute to turn them down. End of story. For best results, dress nicely and radiate “clean, responsible, friendly” if you can.

When you close the deal, you’ll sign a contract, typically in Chinese and English, and it’s almost always for a year. Have someone you trust review it. In this case, the contract was standard from Oriental Real Estate which we already trusted, and it worked out fine.

If you move, you may want to get a lot of boxes. These can be hard to find on sale, but you can get them at B&Q for about 15 RMB each. Cheaper is to track down a recycler carrying loads of boxes and boxboard down the street. He’ll sell you boxes for maybe 2 RMB each. Cheaper still is to go to department stores or other places discarding boxes and take away used boxes for free. Keep some boxes around the house–they often come in handy and can be a pain to find when you need them. Also prepare by getting bubble wrap, newspaper or wrapping paper, and lots of good packaging tape, which isn’t always easy to find. When you see it, get some well in advance. You can also order boxes and tape online at Taobao.

I also recommend hiring an ayi (local maid) to come in and clean your new place before you move and also to clean out your old place after you move out, leaving it in good condition to keep a landlord and the next tenants happy.

By |June 24th, 2014|Categories: Consumers, Housing, Shanghai|Tags: |Comments Off

Kakadu Australian Restaurant at Bridge 8 on Jiaguo Zhong Lu: Great Food

My wife and I took a friend from Namibia to my latest restaurant discovery, Kakadu, an Australian restaurant with interesting imported items, top-notch ingredients and great flavors. This place is hidden away in the Bridge 8 complex at 8 Jianguo Zhong Lu, just a few yards west of Chongqing Road (below the elevated ring road), on the north side of Jianguo Zhong Lu (middle Jianguo road). We were there on a Friday night. As we walked into the bar area, we saw that this is a popular place for foreigners. The bar was packed and there was a lot of good food being served there to the patrons. The restaurant area, though, still had seating for us though it was pretty busy also. We went there at 6:45 PM without reservations–dangerous, given its popularity, but we were lucky to get in and be seated quickly.

The menu has a good mix of meat dishes such as Australian steak, hamburgers including Austrialian beef, crododile, kangaraoo, and emu, salads, and so forth. I had the emu burger (98 RMB), while the others had spicy chicken salad (nicely barbecued chicken) and smoked salmon salad. My emu burger was delightful. Thick, flavorful with a touch of cumin, and pretty healthy. The burger was creative with a beetroot paste and interesting flavorings. Good bun also. I tasted the salads and like them as well. Also tried the pumpkin soup–perfect and creamy. The berry smoothie was also good, with a bit of ice cream in there, the way I like it.

My favorite item was the scallops that we ordered as an appetizer. Three succulent scallops came on a surprising bed of flavorful mashed green peas with a little maple syrup poured over it. Really a creative surprise and it was delicious and beautiful.

The experience was excellent, in spite of little slip in service that resulted in my burger coming about 30 minutes too late, having obviously sat on a counter cooling off the whole time. I pointed out that it was cold when it came and the management kindly and quickly brought me a new one that was fresh and sizzling hot. All is forgiven, and the experience overall was great.

Service gaps are a common problem in China or anywhere, probably: food you order might get overlooked or the order might never get placed, so it can sit or disappear. You need to check with the staff repeatedly sometimes to find out what’s happening with your food. Sigh. I checked with our waiter 3 times and he assured me it was coming, but had he checked more carefully, I think he would have found that it was there and waiting to be brought to the table. Or something.

For 3 of us, the bull was 395 RMB. Definitely plan to return.

By |May 18th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: |Comments Off

Best Value for Italian Food Near the Bund: Marissa (Marisa) Italian Below Henderson Metropolitan

Directly accessible from the East Nanjing subway station and hidden beneath the Henderson Metropolitan Mall on the lowest level (the same level as the subway foot traffic between lines 10 and 2) is my new favorite place for inexpensive Italian food, Marisa Italian (though I would prefer the spelling Marissa). This new Italian restaurant has really excellent Italian food at budget prices. It is run by a Chinese man from Milan, Italy, who has brought real Italian cuisine to Shanghai with great imported ingredients. My first meal there introduced me to outstanding seafood risotto, my favorite Italian food, for around 50 RMB. Later I tried an inexpensive set meal for about 30 RMB featuring perfect pesto and a good salad. Last night I took my wife there on a date where we had a great meal for 151 RMB. I had the rack of lamb and was really impressed. Perfectly grilled with a flavorful outside featuring a lot of fresh rosemary, and very tasty grilled vegetables. My wife’s lasagna was hearty and good. We shared a large bowl of mushroom soup which is made from a lot of fresh mushrooms without being too fatty, just the way I like it. The fresh apple-carrot juice was also good.

The owner pays attention to service, and service is quite good.

You can get there directly from the East Nanjing subway station by taking the Henderson Mall exit opposite from Exit 2. Or enter the Apple Store on East Nanjing Street and go through it into the mall, then down two levels via the escalator.

The Bund offers several good places with Italian food, and Shanghai has many great Italian choices, but for value and flavor, Marissa Italian is hard to beat. You’ll get twice as much for your buck there as in many other places.

Update, May 21, 2014: I took an Italian friend to Marisa Italian for lunch and he loved it. We had pizza, pasta, and mushroom risotto. Earlier this week, I took a group of 12 people there for dinner. What fun they had! We had several great pizzas that we shared, plus pasta and risotto dishes, and some deserts. The panecotta was remarkably good! The bill for 12 people was 669 RMB, which is amazing.

By |May 8th, 2014|Categories: Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , |Comments Off

Shanghai Dining: Recent Restaurant Experiences in Puxi

Puxi, the west side of Shangai, is my favorite place to dine (and to live). Incredible variety and typically more convenient than the new city of Pudong. Here are some recent restaurant recommendations and suggestions from dining experiences on the west side.

Top Chef Jacky: A leading Italian restaurant in Shanghai with the best pizza I’ve tasted here, plus the best mushroom soup. Their seafood risotto was excellent (though nothing will beat the seafood risotto I had in Florence, Italy earlier this year!). Top Chef is at 169 Mengzi Road, about 2 blocks south of LuJiaBang / XuJiaHui Road. I get there by taking line 9 to the MaDang Road Station, and then from Exit 3 (Mengzi Road) walking south 2 blocks. Mengzi Road begins where MaDang ends (a name change, it appears) at LuJiaBang Road. Service is excellent. Top Chef has opened an additional location just around the corner from the main site on Mengzi, so if they are full at the latter, they will walk you around the corner to their “secret” additional place. We’ve tried both and both are outstanding.

Sawadeeka Thai: A great new Thai place at the West Nanjing Road subway station. They also have a restaurant on the 4th floor of the SML Center, 618 XuJiaHui Road. This is on the walking street on the south side of East Nanjing Road, just across the road from Sephora’s. It’s at the very end of the building hosting three floors of restaurants, on the ground level. Very good curries. Not too busy yet but they will grow once the word gets out, I think. Just opened in April 2014. Elegant setting, very pleasant, with reasonable prices.

Memory Restaurant: This is a popular chain. I’ve tried a couple of their locations and both were great and very inexpensive. My favorite place is on Shandong Road between East Nanjing Road and Fuzhou Road, a little south of Hankou Road. Shandong Road is a fun street loaded with little restaurants. One of the best is Memory Restaurant which opened there in March. One of my favorites for value and fun. The setting is similar to that of YunSe Restaurant on Fangxie Road (another of my favorites), with fun knick-knacks and lots of wood. It’s busy but efficient. Seems very clean. The menu has no pictures but is in both Chinese and English, with some fun Chinglish for some items. The paper menu is a great souvenir for visiting Westerners. I took a group of six there and ate a lot of food for 300 RMB total, and that included some fruit juice drinks, soups, and lots of main dishes. Great prices!

DaiFuKuya Japanese in the XinTianDi Style Mall, northwest end of the building, also on Ma Dang Road: Fast, fun Japanese place with a good mix of grilled and noodle dishes. We had some good Japanese dumplings and grilled items there. Fast and pleasant with good service. Less expensive than typical XinTianDi restaurants.

TMSK in XinTianDi: One of our favorites for the setting, food, and service. Only had a few minutes in our last visit but they were able to get food to us quickly and it was inspiring. A delicious variation on soup and salad, Asia style. Nice mix of Asian, Western, and fusion items on the menu.

 

By |April 24th, 2014|Categories: Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off

If You Ride the Maglev from the Pudong Airport, Beware the Cabbies at Longyang Station

Many foreigners visiting of living in Shanghai have learned about the Maglev, the rapid train that connects the PuDong International Airport with a location closer to the center of Pudong. The 50-RBM ride (40 RMB if you use a metro card) from the airport to the Maglev’s other end at Longyang Station takes only about 8 minutes reaching a brisk speed of 300 km/hr, whereas it would take about 40 or so minutes on the metro (Line 2) and would take over 30 minutes by taxi, depending on traffic, and would cost over 100 RMB. So a great way to get to downtown Shanghai is to take the Maglev to Longyang Station, and then take line 2 or line 7 from Longyang to get to other parts of Shanghai. If you are brave and perhaps foolhardy, you can take a cab from Longyang. In my experience, it’s the worse place in town to take a cab.

The problem is not that cabs are hard to get–there are a lot of them anxiously waiting for foreigners. The problem is that it’s hard to find honest cabs, the ones that use the meter and charge you fairly. Cabs almost everywhere else in town can be expected to use the meter and comply with the law, but not at Longyang. You tell them where you want to go and then they act like illegal black cabs, telling you the price they will charge without using a meter. A ride that normally would be 35 RMB, for example, will be quoted at 100 RMB, and almost always at least twice what the real rate ought to be. And you probably won’t get a receipt for the ride, either. The taxi is a “black cab” for that ride. It’s illegal, but they do it at Longyang as their standard operating procedure, mainly to prey upon gullible tourists getting off the Maglev.

Do not get into a cab that isn’t going to use the meter. If you can’t speak Chinese, say “meter” and point to it and make sure they will use it. If it’s not on when you get in, stop and get out. I think “dabiao” is the Chinese way to indicate the ride will use the meter.

You can find cabs willing to use the meter there, though you may have to walk past the line of snakes waiting to prey upon you and go beyond the taxi stand area out toward the main street and wave one down there.

Don’t encourage the snakes to keep preying on foreigners by giving in and paying double to triple fare to a cabbie in a normal cab illegally acting as a black cab. Better to take an unmarked black cab than a marked cab where the cabbie has dishonestly turned off the meter. When you let a dishonest person take you for a ride, it can turn out poorly in several ways. The excessive 100 RMB fare he quoted you might become 100 RMB per person. You might get taken to the wrong place. Why take further risk?

Don’t be in a rush. Plan on taking at least 10 extra minutes to find an honest cab, or take the subway instead of the Maglev, if only to get to a new location where the cabbies are more honest.

By |April 9th, 2014|Categories: China, Shanghai, Travel tips|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off

Tailored Clothing in Shanghai: Great Deals, But Be Cautious About Leather

One of the great things about Shanghai for foreigners is being able to have tailored made clothing at prices much lower than is possible in many other nations. Here you can have a suit made for around 800 RMB, around US$140. Lower-end off-the-shelf suits in the US often cost $300 to $500, and custom-made suits are even more, so it’s an attractive option to have them made here. If you are going to be in China for 3 days or more, consider ordering a suit. It usually takes 3 days to get them back. There are many shops in Shanghai that can do this, but the most popular areas with a big concentration of competing tailors are the South Bund Fabric Market and the Science and Technology Museum.

The South Bund Fabric Market is 南外滩轻纺面料市场. Address is 399 Lujiabang Lu, near Nancang Jie. Chinese: 南外滩轻纺面料市场, 陆家浜路399号, 近南仓街. It’s probably enough to just tell the cabby “Qing Fang Shichang” (轻纺市场, meaning light wovens market). This is not far from the Nanpu Bridge subway stop on Line 4, about 5 minutes, and you can walk through old-city chaos from Xiaonanmen station on Line 9, maybe 10 minutes. The Science and Technology Market is very easy to reach. It’s right on line 2 at a station of the same name. You don’t even leave the station. It’s there, underground, with dozens and dozens of shops. But not always the best prices.

It’s good to get the advice of long-timers or frequent customers to get a recommendation for a place that can be trusted. But I’ve tried a couple selected rather randomly and still had fairly good results.

Of the two major centers, I think I prefer the South Bund Fabric Market. The prices may be a little lower. I suggest going to the second or third floors for the best deals. I think the first-floor shops get more business and may charge a slight premium. Not really sure on that.

For men, you can have a custom suit for 800 RMB. I suggest getting two pairs of pants with the suit, which will cost another 150 RMB or maybe 200. Add a shirt for about 100 RMB.

Based on reviews I’ve read, I would suggest that you avoid having leather goods made there unless you have a recommendation and have seen what was made. Make sure it’s real leather. The shop may show you nice high-quality leather, but what you receive from their tailor might be fake leather and poorly made. With suits and dresses, they are at least probably going to use the same material you selected. Be sure to try it and make sure it fits. The shops don’t have changing rooms for the most part, but can put up or in some cases have one or two people hold up a screen for you to change behind. Don’t be shocked to see some people changing without any privacy barrier, but don’t do that yourself.

For leather belts (or fake leather belts) with the new ratchet mechanism, go to the accessories and crafts market at 399 Renmin Road, across from the main gate leading to Yu Garden. In this five-story complex, you will find hundreds of shops with all sorts of too-dads and crafts, but on the 3rd or 4th floors to the right of the escalator as you come up is a shop selling belts at an asking price way below what you will negotiate at the popular fake goods shops or clothing complexes. 35-50 RMB versus 150 to 250 RMB. Give it a try.

By |April 6th, 2014|Categories: China, Products, Shanghai, Shopping|Tags: , , , , , , |Comments Off

Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) Thai Restaurant Opens at Hongyi Plaza Above East Nanjing Subway Station

Today I had lunch at the new Thai restaurant, Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) above the East Nanjing subway station on the 6th floor of the Hongyi Plaza, directly above Exit 3 of the station. Wonderful place with good prices and service, plus delicious food. I ordered a shrimp curry set meal for just 32 RMB. A large serving of a delicious mild yellow curry dish with large shrimps and a good mix of veggies with a little pineapple, too. One of the best curries I’ve had in China, for my tastes. There was also some pretty good fried fish, a lilttle bowl of some limp greens, and a little serving of fruit. The bowl of rice that came with it looked more like Basmati rice or a real Thai rice and was quite good. A pleasant surprise overall.

The only disappointment was an herbal tea I ordered for 18 RMB. They served it in a regular glass and it was much too hot to handle. Needed a handle on a cup to drink this. Also didn’t have much flavor. This was a Chinese data and rose mix that didn’t have enough of the dates to contribute noticeably to the flavor. But it was certainly pretty.

Will definitely go back for dinner sometime, and certainly for lunch.

By |March 31st, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , , |Comments Off