Monday, September 24, 2007

Technical Difficulties

I am having a few technical issues. I can access the tool to post this blog, for instance, but I can’t view it, or post photos to it. I also can’t delete comments. Some guy has been posting spam , but I can’t get rid of it until I’m home. So I’m sorry about the time-share junk messages that have been appearing in the comments section. Finally, I can’t view my photos on Flickr, either, so I’m labeling them blind. I know I’ve made a few mistakes. Not too many, I hope.

Technical issues aside, today was a good sightseeing day, and an even greater eating day. First, we went to my favorite street corner for breakfast. Chinese street food is some of the best food you’re going to find here, especially at breakfast time. There is a corner two blocks from our hotel that has about a dozen vendors out in the morning. Most of them sell variations on two things: Egg pancakes, and what the Chinese call youtiao, or “oil twists.” They’re essentially doughnuts, or crullers, really, but not that sweet. (I confess to swiping a sugar packet from Starbucks and sprinkling a little on mine this morning.)

The egg pancakes are either a crepe or a piece of bread like nan that is cooked on a large griddle. The batter usually has a lot of green onion in it. As the bread cooks, an egg is cracked on top and the whole thing is brushed with lots of oil, flipped over, and fried. Then it’s rolled up with a little salty sauce and some optional hot pepper. It’s a salty, oily, eggy, starchy treat and hot off the grill it’s one of the best things ever.

After breakfast, we went to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. This is one of the only big tourist sights we hadn’t seen yet. It’s an enormous space needle-like tower, but more garish than those you see in places like Toronto or Seattle. It looks a little like a neon hypodermic needle sticking up into the sky. Subtle is isn’t, but it’s on the east side of the Huangpu River in an area known as Pudong, where it somehow fits. Pudong is a region that has been declared Shanghai’s new financial and business district. This was farmland when I visited in 1992, but since then skyscrapers have popped up like mushrooms with almost no restraint or aesthetic consideration. It’s sort of like an urban planning theme park. A lot of the buildings are actually very creative and attractive. It’s not an ugly area. It’s just that like a lot of new-money situations, no one ever stopped to ask, “Is this too much?”

We took the elevator 263 meters up to get a look at Shanghai from above. It was a good day for this. It finally stopped raining, and got about as clear as a polluted city ever gets. The view was stupendous. I knew Shanghai was big and built-up, but the sight of a skyscraper forest poking up to the horizon was shocking.

For lunch we went to a restaurant specializing dumplings in a posh new mall called Xin Tian Di (New Heaven and Earth). We had soup dumplings, which are a Shanghai specialty and are almost my favorite thing in the world to eat. We decided to quit while we were ahead and came back to the hotel to nap. (I actually tried to see one other sight, a mansion-turned-hotel we can see from our room, but I got rudely shoed away from it. Whatever it is, it clearly isn’t a hotel anymore.)

Tonight, we’re seeing a dance performance. I don’t know what we’re doing for dinner; it can’t top the first two meals of the day. Tomorrow morning we catch a train to Hangzhou. I will try to blog from there.

Food photos and more here.

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