Being Vegan in China - Shanghai Vegetarian Article - In Chinese

Jul 2, 2012

瑞秋•K 跟我们分享她2010年的上海之旅

当我们规划去中国旅行参观2010年世博会的时候,我以为我将会在找寻素食这件事上,度过一段很艰难的日子。我不确定是否有素食食品在中国,如果有,我不确定能否翻译我的饮食需求。关于中国素食的英文报道非常少,但也有几个被看好的选项让我很兴奋地想试一试。通过Happycow.com我发现了爱家、枣子树、新素代, 尔苑咖啡厅,而且在我们离开上海之前能试遍每家餐厅。

首先,我们去了爱家。能在上海看到爱家我非常兴奋,因为在加利福尼亚我们也去爱家吃饭,它让我们觉得像在家一样。这里的食物跟我们那的爱家提供的菜单完全不一样,不过我超喜欢这里的自制饺子。这样品质的食物价格却平价的令人难以置信,我们发现每个工作人员都是志愿者,这让食物更为便宜。我们与餐厅老板许先生聊了聊。他向我们解释中国人是怎样定义他们称之为“纯素食者”的“Vegan”。他解释说:许多佛教徒吃素,仍食用牛奶,因为这不像动物或鸡蛋是一个生命。这意味着,一些“纯素食者”餐厅可能仍然有牛奶的选项,所以我们必须明确说明我们不希望我们的菜里含牛奶。

在尔苑咖啡厅,我们遇见了Kazu——这家的店主,还吃到上海最新鲜的食物。她的食谱都是新鲜的、独特的、更类似于我们的口味。芥末南瓜沙拉非常好,新鲜的蔬菜使得口感清爽,因为我们吃的其他几餐全是煮熟的或油炸的。



枣子树(素生活)是我们在中国最爱的餐厅,也是我试过最好的素食餐厅之一。这个餐厅供应的美食,很干净,气氛超好,独特的食物造型,还有新鲜食品和果汁。我们品尝了很棒的饺子、膨化“鸡”球、“蟹”汤粉丝、“小排”、和茄子。我们太爱这家餐厅了,以至于我们在三天内去吃了三顿!

总的来说,作为一个来上海旅行的纯素者,我的体验很棒。依靠一点点的中文短句,我们能找到让人惊奇的食物,遇见很好的人,不用吃肉也能一探中国美食。大部分中国餐馆的素食菜肴中更常见是各种各样的菌菇、豆腐和蔬菜。素食餐馆不会太难找,而且我们甚至在世博园里发现了一家(天哪)。在中国有素食佛教徒和更多的蔬菜。这使得,我们在中国,有时比我们在美国反而更容易吃素。



Being Vegan in China - Shanghai Vegetarian Article

Feb 25, 2012

When we formulated our plans to travel to China for the World Fair in 2010 I thought I would have a tough time finding vegan food. I was not sure if there was vegan food in China, and if there was, I wasn't sure if I could translate my dietary needs. There are very few English reviews of vegan food in China, but there were a couple promising options I was excited to try. Through Happycow.com I found Loving Hut, JuJuBe Tree, New Age Veggie, and Annamaya and we were able to try every restaurant before we left Shanghai.

First, we traveled to Loving Hut. I was very excited to see Loving Hut in China since we eat at Loving Hut in California and it made us feel at home. The food was completely different than the menu they serve at our local Loving Hut, but I absolutely loved the home-made dumplings. The prices were incredible for the quality of food and we discovered every worker was a volunteer which made the food cheaper. We spoke with the owner, Xu, who explained how the Chinese define vegan which they call "pure vegetarian". He explained that many Buddhists who eat vegan, still consume milk because it is not a life like an animal or an egg. That meant that some "pure vegetarian" restaurants may still have milk options, so we had to clearly state that we did not want milk with our dishes.

At Annamaya, we met Kazu, the owner, and were able to eat the freshest food in Shanghai. Her recipes were fresh, unique, and more akin to our tastes. The mustard pumpkin salad was extremely good and it was refreshing to have fresh vegetables since all the other meals we had were cooked or fried.

JuJuBe Tree (Vegetarian Lifestyle) was our absolute favorite restaurants in China, and still one of the best vegan restaurants I've ever tried. This restaurant serves gourmet meals, is very clean, has a great atmosphere, fancy food presentation, and fresh food and juices. We had amazing dumplings, puffed "chicken" balls, "crab" soup with glass noodles, "short ribs", and eggplant. We loved it so much we ate hear three times in three days!

Overall, my experience as a traveling vegan in Shanghai was a great one. With a few Chinese phrases we were able to find some amazing meals, meet great people, and explore Chinese cuisine without eating animals. Vegetarian dishes are more common in basic Chinese restaurants with the variety of mushrooms, tofu, and vegetable dishes. Vegan restaurants were not too hard to come by and we even found one in the World Expo (Godly). Having vegan Buddhists and more vegetable main dishes made it sometimes easier to eat vegan than in America.



Great Wall Video

May 14, 2011

Thoughts on China..

Nov 1, 2010

My final thoughts on China are that I appreciate everything I have here in America. I couldn't imagine living in China for any amount of time where there is no freedom of speech, women are a lower class, and organization and common courtesy are thrown into the wind. The people I met and the experiences I had while there were life changing, but I really didn't know it until my last day. I missed home desperately even though I can usually never think of anything but how much I want to leave. I felt almost pro-America for a bit even though I disagree with many decisions from the way of life and government. But I appreciate everything I am allowed to hate and love about where I live and what I do. I appreciate that it's my decision to fail if I want to. I also missed the culture I didn't know I was so keenly apart of without completely realizing it. The way people live their lives in other countries have always fascinated me, but I love the way I live here. I wrote a list of things I will miss and not miss about China below.

All I am saying is, I could never be away from the amazing food quality and variety I have here, the quality of air, the quality of life and the freedoms that are usually numb to my brain but I feel strongly for anyway. A place that is ridden with traditions, yet is throwing themselves into the largest economy is pretty amazingly unorganized and behind the times. China feels like the 1900's with too many people, technologies and money to know what to do with itself. The great facade that is China will soon go through a cultural revolution once again, but this time I hope for the better. I do not believe the people will stand for what they are given once the truths and better lives are known, and once they have the power to make world decisions.

Things I will miss and like about China:

Seeing the Great Wall and it's grandeur

The gourmet vegan food of JuJuBe

The cheapness of food and taxis

Haibao!

The foreigners we met while in Shanghai

The 100 varieties of mushrooms and dumplings always at my disposal

Things I will NOT miss about China:

The toilets, lack of toilet paper and soap.

The polluted, gray bubble of death (the sky)

the people who jabbed at me to get to front of any line, anywhere

The butt-less pants of Chinese babies

The 900 mile train ride of death

The Japanese Pavilion line with poop smells from who-knows-where

Chinese government blocking my gmail and facebook account

Great Wall of China

Oct 26, 2010

The Great Wall of China is one of the seven wonders of the world, it is over 4,000 miles of an ancient barrier to keep out Mongolian warriors from invading China. The wall was built for many years and many people died making the wall and are buried inside. All of these facts made me want to see the genuine wall instead of the restored "Disneyland of the Great Wall" Badaling. I chose to travel 70 miles out of Beijing for a day trip to Jinshanling. This is a portion of the wall that has some unrestored "wild wall" from 700 years ago, as well as some restored portions from the late 1980's. I heard  great reviews of the walk from Simatai to Jinshanling, but Simatai is now being restored. Many parts of the wall are falling apart and will most likely never be seen in the original state by many people.

We started out at 9am outside of downtown Beijing and traveled 150km to our site. Lucas' two sisters joined us for their first time seeing the unrestored wall (that they can remember). It was pouring rain that day and Chinese traffic was as fun as ever, but we made it to Jinshanling around noon nonetheless. The way out through the mountain villages was beautiful. We took a sort of long way, but we were able to see the mountains and trees sprawling on both sides of the street for miles. The leaves were changing colors so the bright reds, yellows and greens were bursting out everywhere.

There were only about 10 cars in the parking lot when we arrived and basically nobody outside at all except for the vendors to sell souvenirs. We paid our 150 quai for four and we started our jouney up to the first tower in our sight. We were followed by old people who lived in the village and wanted to sell us bags, but after that small stretch of human activity we were completely isolated.

The wall was spectacular and zig-zagged through the land as far as we could see. We first walked through the restored part of the wall that seemed old and crumbled to us at first, but was easy to maneuver. Up and down steep stairs, and through dark halls in the towers, we reached the places where the battling would occur, where the Chinese warriors would set up obstacles for their opponents and where they could shoot arrows from about anywhere on the wall through small holes at arm level.

We met a man that claimed to be the best Great Wall photographer, and he was. We bought his book and had him sign it for us. The pictures were stunning and I knew why everyone goes to Jinshanling to photograph now. We took some photos of our own and hiked for an hour or two before we reached the wild wall. The unrestored wall from the 1300's was now before us and it was completely obvious at our first glance. There was a two story tower that had completely collapsed and was in ruins. Parts of the wall had been completely crushed and had fallen down the mountain to reveal a large cliff that we could easily fall down. This part of the wall was more of a reddish/brown color and reminded me of the rocks and mountains that held up the entire wall. You could see the craftsmanship of 700 years ago and imagine what material they had and what they would have seen so long ago (minus the highway in the back). Some people were walking through the forest and had a donkey with them. It seemed like we were back in the old days when the wall was being built.

Our only way down was a muddy path that took 30 minutes to hike down. There was donkey manuer and no sign of where we were going except for the dirt path that we had to trust. Small farms of corn and lettuce lay down in the valley with small cottages for the villagers. It didn't seem like we were in the 21st century by far now. We reached the small parking lot and headed out of Jinshanling. The sun came out for the first time in 2 weeks for me, and the sky had beautiful clouds surrounding the fall leaves on the forest of trees around us.

[caption id="attachment_314" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Robotos at the Great Wall"][/caption]

October 20th through 22nd – Beijing, China

Oct 26, 2010

Arriving in Beijing was sort of a shock when I realized the rumors were true about the pollution. I couldn't believe my eyes were seeing this stark, gray bubble of a city before me. My eyes could see a couple buildings past me in every direction and there was no sky or sun shining down. The city was just as dirty to Shanghai, but we drove through downtown so we go to see the big buildings rise above us. Many of the buildings, I was told, were new and many of the old buildings that Lucas saw six years ago were now gone and replaced. Rapid growth was imminent due to the population and of over a billion. It was sad after a few days of seeing the old city to find out that the old had been crushed down after hundreds of years. Buildings that stood next to the forbidden city for centuries were being replaced with clubs or random convenient stores. The new way of life was parading in and stomping out the old, but the culture seemed to loom in the past. I felt like I was living years before with peasants in the streets, dirty bathrooms with Eastern toilets and lack of common courtesy. Besides all the odd and old points of the city, there was much to do and see that was spectacular.

The first day out in Beijing we went to the Forbidden City. After watching the movie of The Last Emperor, I had a newfound respect for the centuries old traditions, but especially the final days of Pu Yi. As a three year old boy he was taken to the Forbidden City to never see the outside walls until the crown was taken away by warlords when he was a young teenager, he eventually became a gardener at the Forbidden City until his death, and fun other facts in between.

The city was much bigger than I expected, it seemed to go on forever, with many barrier walls and living quarters for the workers and servants of the emperor in those days. We got to see the lavish life that the emperors lived with the basic food utensils, plates and bowls they used. The outdoor courtyards were beautiful, but also were covered in stone so there was a lack of green and barely any gardens to speak of except for one in the far back. This trip was cut short by me getting sick from our lunch at Loving Hut. Some sort of bug got me bad and I had a fun tour of the bathrooms of Beijing from the Forbidden City to hutongs nearby. After that experience we were feeling weary and tried to find some clean food, but I was hesitant to eat that whole night.

Instead, we walked the streets and ventured into one of the nearby hutongs, or the very old living quarters for the poorer Chinese. Winding through dark alleys inside their streets, we saw a man peeing on a wall who pretended to try to pee on us. The next sight was a large door with the character "Condemned"  on the front. I peeked through the crack in the door to see a vacant lot with broken bricks. I wondered if the rest of the hutong would be destroyed next.

We walked the streets in front of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The new large Opera House was located around there as well as a humongous shopping area that literally went forever in every direction and sold the usual Chinese souvenirs and food. We headed home tired and feeling a bit sick for the next day.

The next day we woke up an went to the Temple of Heaven. This spot was much more beautiful than the Forbidden City, and had rich history for the country as well. The emperor would pray to god for rain, a good harvest and would sacrifice animals to make sure that the country was given enough food for the season. The place was jam packed with tourists, and most of the place was redone as the Forbidden City had been redone, but it was still beautiful and the the blessing quarters were on display.

[caption id="attachment_310" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Temple of Heaven Gardens"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_306" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Us at the Forbidden City"][/caption]

Loving Hut – Shanghai Review

Oct 26, 2010

Loving Hut in Shanghai was amazingly cheap and good food. We frequent the Loving Hut in Orange, CA at least three times a week so we traveled out to see how this restaurant compared. The menu, of course, was completely different. Everything was made Chinese style including what we ordered: fake fish, faux meat dumplings, fresh fruit juice and sweet and sour chick'n. The dumplings were a hit, at only about $1 for the whole plate of around 15 dumplings, this was a steal. They are hand made and they have fake meat and vegetables. The juice was really good, but like at most Chinese restaurants they usually cost more than a whole plate of food. The fake fish was done really well, but was not our style. It tasted too much like fish and I was never a big fish person in the past, but I would still recommend this dish to fish lovers. The sweet and sour chicken was more sour with a vinegar taste. It came with free white rice and a soup with seaweed.

The best thing about this restaurant was the employee we met. He spoke perfect English and talked about their food, their philosophy, the location and other restaurants to try (he recommended JuJuBe Tree because it is about the only restaurant except their's that is actually vegan, thanks Xu!)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Sweet and Sour Chick'n"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Faux Meat Dumplings"][/caption]

JuJuBe Tree (Vegetarian Lifestyle)

Oct 26, 2010

Our favorite vegan restaurant in Shanghai, and probably the best vegan food we have ever had, was at JuJuBe Tree (or the English name - Vegetarian Lifestyle). This place has gourmet Chinese vegan dishes that will bl0w your mind! There is no milk, eggs or meat here and everything is super clean. The person who hands you your food even has a mask! We ate here 3 times in about a weekend, so we were obsessed at the end. Our first meal included: spicy, rice puffed covered fake chicken balls, dumplings, fake crab, potato balls, and some fresh dragon fruit and pear juice to top it off. Our absolute favorites were the spicy chicken balls that had a very crispy exterior with puffed rice and a powered spice on it. They were small enough to pop in your mouth and had a great flavor. The dumplings were only a 3 star (Loving Hut, Shanghai has the 5 star dumplings), but the fake crab was the gourmet vegan food of the whole trip. They severed it in a tiny bowl with a cover and the crab sat in a yellow soup with tofu and glass noodles, they topped it with some steamed broccoli and we went to town. The flavor and texture was spot on, the presentation was top notch and the whole experience made us want to bring home the chef for a wedding/full time chef at our house. This place is a must go.

The second time we went, we went for Lucas' birthday dinner so we invited a couple friends who are all omnivores. They all enjoyed it very much too because of the flavor and mock meats. On top of our first favorite dishes we ordered some sort ribs, spicy potatoes, magic mushrooms, stacked eggplant, stuffed cucumbers and spinach soup. The crab and chicken still were our top contenders, but this time the eggplant stole the night. The plate was filled with thinly sliced eggplant covered in a sweet barbecue type sauce and chunks of tofu. This had a great flavor and was something I have never tried before. The third and final trip here (at the other location near NanJing Lu) we ordered some friend lotus root stuffed with faux meat and a side of bruchetta, fried seaweed rolls, sushi, faux chicken skewers, and a cold faux meat with a brown sauce. The lotus roots were unique and interesting with the stuffing and the sides of tomatoes in the bruchetta, but the meal got a little greasy for us by the end. Many Chinese dishes are not raw and this place is no different.

On top of all this they have a side shop that sells organic and healthy foods including brown rice (hard to find in China), organic beans, tasty pumpkin nut clusters, books and bags and gifts made by underprivileged people in China.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Vegan Crab"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Chicken Balls with Puffed Rice"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="256" caption="Eggplant Stacks"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Chicken Skewers"][/caption]




[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Vegan Sushi"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Veggie Dumplings"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Stuffed Lotus Root"][/caption]

Train Ride to Beijing

Oct 22, 2010

Getting the tickets for the train to Beijing was a bigger pain than I thought it would be, but the train was even more of an experience. We got the $26 bargain tickets for a reason, I guess. We got to the train rushed as usual, nervous we would miss the train at 10pm.  We arrived just in time to see the mess of a "line" that was really a mob of crazy people that reminded me of the expo lines again. We found our train and we got in the cabin to see there was almost not enough room for our huge luggage. Lucas had to use his monkey climbing skills to jump on the seats and throw our luggage in the last remaining spots above people's heads before it was too late.

We found out our seats were not together, but Lucas got a person to move so we could squeeze in together in two seats facing two other seats that face each other. The seats were made of wood with a small fabric covering and the leg room was non-existent. The first thing we smelled was a man smoking right next to the no-smoking sign. The rest of the trip was smells of noodle bowls, smoke and sounds of loud people speaking on their phones and constant random ring-tones.

We slept tossing and turning as our legs and butts fell asleep and we were woken up by the randomness as I said above. We arrived in Beijing 12 hours later to see more mayhem and more pollution than I thought was possible. Beijing beat Shanghai on pollution 10-fold. The crowds in front were full of smoking, loud people that only wanted to push each other over. I pushed through with my suitcase as I saw our ride and knocked a lady's luggage everywhere. I am so used to being the native Shanghainese that I pushed on with all common courtesy behind me.

We drove to Lucas' dad's house which is about 30 minutes out of the city. The city locked us in a gray bubble that wouldn't let the sky bust through. I felt like the whole world was left behind and only 1/2 a mile in every direction existed for the moment.

We stopped at an Indian restaurant for a moment due to our starvation from the train. We were tricked into eating some paneer from a man at the restaurant who said it was all "pure vegetarian" without milk or eggs, I guess cheese isn't made of milk now? We got Jason from school and went to the house to watch him and help him study some English.

Friday through Monday, Shanghai China

Oct 18, 2010

It's been a while since I've blogged about our trip, so I'll sum it up in one post for four days. Friday we slept in and then went to the expo at night. It was a lot busier than we expected and we couldn't see the pavilions we were looking forward to because of the 3 hour lines. We ended up seeing the Shanghai Corporate Pavilion which did not have the robot restaurant as they posted on the website, it was pretty lame and just talked about butterflies and dreams.

Saturday, we went shopping and then to our new favorite vegan restaurant Vegetarian Lifestyle/Ju Ju Be! It was gourmet vegan food Chinese style and it was so good that we wanted to bring the chef home with us. I will post a review after this. Next, we went to a party at The Apartment which is a club in Shanghai. It was majorly crowded and the whole place was a giant smoke ball and there were way too many obnoxious foreigners there. We did meet some interesting friends of Ali's though. They were mostly all different foreigner travelers who lived and worked in Shanghai now. They all have a different story of how they arrived in China and why they stayed. I would definitely not be able to stay here longer than the two weeks, but they were chasing careers, a different life or girlfriends to come here and decided to make it long term.

We celebrated Lucas' birthday with our 10 vegan cakes from New Age Veggie. They were pretty amazing and a big hit at the party. People we didn't even know were grabbing spoons and jumping in on the black forest cake or chocolate mousse. We left there around 12 and got to bed for another day at the expo..

Sunday I cooked vegan stir fry for a bbq at Ali and Lucas' friend Deter. We had tons of food that was not Chinese but had lots of veggies. We had hummus and bread, fruit, Chinese coke and beer and coffee. We headed next door to Deter's house for a relaxing sit in the backyard and then headed to the expo.

This day, we saw the Broad pavilion which is the most sustainable building in the world. It was built in one day and is extremely efficient. The building had a room with the cleanest air in the world, but of course no one was allowed in because we all would ruin that title. We looked at simple devices that created a better household including triple paned glass, air purifiers, and styrofoam insulation.

Monday, we got to the train station to buy our tickets and after a confusing time finding the ticket machine, everything was sold out. Lucas went looking for other options like China Easter Air, but only scalpers were offering train tickets and harassing us for most likely fake tickets. We went to the ticket counter for a billion people in line and finally got to the window to find that the self-ticketing was wrong and they had a train the next night - but they didn't take credit card as the information center advised earlier. We immediately jumped out of line to get some cash before the train ticket was gone again! We ran around the city trying to find the Plus symbol for our card. After many attempts and running into crazy traffic we found a bank and got back to the front and finally retrieved our night train pass (about $26 each for a hard chair). The only bad thing is it will be 13 hours on a hard seat, with smoking rural people that smell a little funky.

We headed off to the expo for a couple hours, and since this was Lucas' birthday we got to see some more green buildings and the pavilion of future. After some amazing animated videos of future life living in space or under water with awesome electronic dance music and ideologies, we headed to Ju Ju Be again for a birthday dinner. We met up with Ali, Kelly and Pierre for a huge dinner of fake crab cakes, spare ribs, eggplant stacks, cucumber tuna appetizers and more. We ended the night with an expensive bottle of Champagne and three Frenchies in one restaurant together.

Now, it is Tuesday, our official last day and we will see the Yu Gardens, the Bund and finish the expo. See you in Beijing!

New Age Veggie Review

Oct 15, 2010

New Age Veggie is a nicer restaurant north of the French Concession in downtown Shanghai near a trendy shopping area. It is super hard to find because it is on the 5th floor and I got lost about 5 times circling the place so beware! Once we were inside I was impressed with the decor. It is a nice and fancy restaurant with soft cushions and a huge windows to see the city. This place says vegan on Happy Cow, but that is incorrect. It is vegan sometimes but they use milk in some of their deserts and coffees..and possibly in some dishes just ask. Some Chinese don't think of milk as an animal product because it is not life, so just watch out if you are avoid that. The cheese cake and pizza's have real cheese, so watch for that as well.

The staff was really nice but did not speak much English. This was only troublesome when we wanted to make sure that the dishes didn't have certain ingredients. They do not serve soy milk like many places in China, so that is not an option if you are coffee drink BTW. We ordered a mushroom dish with King Mushrooms, it was delicately displayed and was just ok, kind of squishy..not like the other mushroom dish I had at the Shanghainese restaurant. We also ordered these friend long spring rolls with mushrooms inside and fake shrimp dumplings, both of these were really good and really cheap (there was a lunch special and the prices were even cheaper, check with the waitress). We ordered the pumpkin curry rice dish that was pretty good but but was regular fried rice inside so it was so-so. The last meal was veggie lettuce wraps which was my favorite part. It had fake meat cubes and diced fruit with a sweet sauce. It was really good and I will definitely get that again when we go back tonight! We drank the bitter fruit drink and a rose iced tea. Both were pretty tasty and everything was displayed really fancy.

We were stuffed but kept looking at the vegan deserts. Some of the cakes have no cheese or milk and that is what I will be going back for. I think they are popular because people were running in and buying all of them up as we ate. They look like professional cakes and delicate. Tiramisu, opera cake, strawberry cake etc. were there..I will update when I taste them for our birthday party tonight.

All together I rate this place a 4 star. It is vegetarian, fancy, close to all the shopping, clean and friendly. You can try a huge array of traditional Chinese dishes in the fake form some looked weird like fake goose liver or pork fist, but some looked great like veggie burgers, hot pot, fried rice and regular fake chicken, pork or beef with a sauce.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Mushroom Rolls"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Faux Shrimp Dumplings"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="King Mushroom Dish"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="256" caption="Bitter Fruit Juice"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Lettuce Wraps"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Vegan Chocolate Brownie"]
[/caption]

Pumpkin with Curry Rice

Thursday, October 14th, Shanghai China – Expo Day

Oct 15, 2010

Thursday morning, October 14th...we woke up at 3am and decided to try our luck with the Chinese Pavilion. We heard from the guys we met at the cafe that a reservation was needed, but was worth the wait (which is not always the case!) so we researched it a bit and found that we needed to be in line at 6am for the 9am entry to try our luck at getting a reservation. We got ready and headed to the madhouse. People were running all over the place to get in line for the next line into the expo. It started to rain and we were fine because we were saradined into the line with hundreds of people with umbrellas. The vendors pestered us for baby chairs to sit on and ponchos and we watched people eat bao tsu and soy milk, as we stood hungry and impatient. We met a woman who was a Chinese woman who lived in Switzerland in line, there is always someone who speaks English somewhere, right when I'm talking about the stinky guy in front of me thinking no one understands me! But she was nice and was surprised with my height, she asked in every American was that tall. I noticed I had to represent all Americans in China basically. I also noticed that the expo/Chinese government had to be lying about the 5% foreigner rate at the Expo. It was about 99.9% Chinese to .1% foreigners.

We waited 3 hours and finally got the reservation! It said we had to go to the Chinese pavilion at 8:30pm and we got up a 3am...hmmm, tiring day ahead. Since we could not get into China, we headed to the theme pavilion next to it called Life Sunshine Pavilion (great names here). We figured out that these theme pavilions were usually a lot better than the country pavilions and were less about propaganda and more about great technologies and felt more like a museum.

One of our favorite places in the Life Sunshine pavilion was a story of six families all over the world and their different lives in the city. One from Shanghai, Netherlands, Australia, America, Africa and South America. Their different cultures and ways of living were videoed and statistics of life in those cities were shown. Numbers on fresh water, working hours and if they lock their door plus a ton more were shown. Very interesting for us indeed. They had wax figures of all the families and in front of the white family from Arizona a Chinese woman grabbed me and took a picture..I was now apart of this exhibit. Of course people stared, but now people were looking at me like I was apart of the American family and they learned more about me as I learned about the Shanghai family. Another woman asked for a picture with me and spoke in Chinese about my height (Lucas told me later) and gave me her 2 year old to hold. A bunch of people took pictures as I held this little boy with a bald head and bangs. Weird and hilarious feeling.

After, we went straight to Zone C, the European zone to try our luck at cutting lines. With a passport from the country you can go in VIP, so we got to get into France with Lucas. France was extremely disappointing, maybe one of the worst big pavilions. It was a bunch of projected images of France like I was watching a tv show about historical sites in Paris. The theme was about the senses (even though it was supposed to be a green theme like the rest of the expo). You got to smell coffee and pastries in one part, touch tiles from France in another (lame), see pictures of the Eiffel Tower (super lame), go past a random Louis Vitton ad campaign and you could play these video games where you popped bubbles, which was fun but gave France a grade of FAIL. They also had a cafe that served meaty meat dishes and wine. A glass of wine was over $100!, which would be probably a month on a Chinese salary.

We met a guy on our first night that was a German working at the German pavilion. He let us go VIP into Germany and that was very much appreciated because the line was horrendous here too. Germany was one of our favorite pavilions because it stuck to the green theme and was interactive. They showcased world changing green technologies from Germany while also having fun and letting people look like a gnome, play with snow-globes and play a puzzle game with augmented reality. The main attractions was this massive hanging ball in a three story room. It used the energy of people's voices to swing around in circles and side to side, definitely pre-programmed but the idea and show were amazing.

Since we were master line avoiders we tried our luck at the foreigner card. I headed to the Norway pavilion and told them I was Norweign (one quarter Norweign counts!) and they let me in without a passport! Not too interesting of a pavilion, but we skipped another wait..

We tried that at Ireland (about 1/4 Irish works too!) but the evil Chinese man in the green jacket pretended to look Irish wanted my Irish passport. This didn't work at Canada either! I was trying the white girl card - that I could look like most of these countries, but it wasn't working anymore! Sri Lanka worked for Lucas so we got a couple, so far so good.

Next was the USA pavilion. I got VIP for my passport and it was another terrible line. This place was one huge corporate ad campaign. Freaky American propaganda, ad campaigns (brought to you by Pepsi, Chevron, Johnson & Johnson, P&G etc.) and was pretty bare. We found out later from a staff member that America almost didn't even come to the expo, and couldn't ask the government for 100 million dollars for a temp building standing for 6 months with no profit in China, and that made perfect sense. They decided to come to the expo last minute and were completely funded by corporations..good for the American economy, bad for the expo. The staff member was really knowledgable and helped us pick a couple other pavilions to go to in the next few days...

By now it was about 6pm and we were pooped. Being shoved around by the Chinese, smelling dirty trash and hearing the spitting sound throughout the whole speech from Obama in the US pavilion was a bit tiring for me. We met another local Chinese and found out more about the Chinese pavilion. We did not have to wait for our time at 8pm and the line is usually 2 hours with the reservation! We ran down there for our first peak at our favorite pavilion. The outside is so beautiful and enormous. The bright red exterior and inverted shape fascinates me still and we continued to photograph it from every angle.

The Chinese pavilion was pretty amazing, the biggest attraction was this massive scroll of ancient Kaifeng showing the Qing Ming Festival (the Chinese Mona Lisa) but it was animated on a large screen hundreds of feet long, twisting through this room. It was really amazing and seemed real. There was also a weird ride that was completely over my head because they didn't translate it. It seemed like a winter-wonderland in the clouds and I cannot understand what the hell that had to do with anything about China or the green theme, but it was entertaining and scary - rolling backwards towards the other cars is not fun.

We headed down stairs viewing painting from young Chinese children that looked like masterpieces and the last part was a waterfall that spelled out Chinese characters. The scroll was the main attraction and very cool to look at and I'm glad I got to see this exhibit from the inside. Tired and feeling dead, we headed home by taxi and knocked out like every other night!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="533" caption="China Pavilion!"][/caption]

Wednesday, October 13th, Shanghai China

Oct 15, 2010

Since my last post we have been super busy. We have walked 20 miles a day and have seen a lot more of the expo and the local people. We met up with a girl I met online through the Shanghai Veggie Club who is opening her own vegetarian cafe in downtown Shanghai. It was amazing to see the hardships of life in Shanghai, being vegan in China, food and healthy options, and being a women entrepreneur here too.

We met up at Annamaya, a vegan restaurant walking distance from Ali's place on Fuxing Lu (review below). We met another women entrepreneur, Kazu, and we learned a ton about what is not available here when it concerns items I cook with everyday. Vegan and healthy foods need to purchased on Chinese ebay or in Kazu's case when she travels back to Japan! This is something China needs to think about desperately. We found that it is also really hard to find brown rice when they harvest it in China too. They export a lot of their products to western countries like the US and they forget about their own people and only allow them to purchase brown rice if it is re-imported!

The next day, we went shopping and cooking with our new friend. We went to the City Shop and got to see the only store that imports products from around the world so the Chinese have a chance at some higher quality or vegetarian/organic options. The prices were about 5x what they are in the states and they still did not have things I purchase at Mother's market or Whole Foods by far. It was mostly looking like foods you would find in a Cost Plus World Market food section but overpriced. After City Shop we headed to the open market which was across the street from the future cafe. There was piles of homemade tofu and seitan which was nice and there were tons of vegetables that looked like we were in a farmer's market.

We decided to make Babycakes' vegan pumpkin muffins together because most of the items were attainable, and I had brought agave with me. We cooked in the cafe that is soon to be opened. The Chinese don't usually have full sized ovens in their homes so we worked with two different toaster ovens, but it worked well and they came out tasty, and made me feel at home again.

Two friends of the girl came by and we got to talk to more locals about the expo and life in Shanghai. Their English was also excellent and everyone we have met is like them and super nice and better at English than I would think.

That night we planned on heading to the expo, but we were exhausted again and passed out at 5pm!

First days in China

Oct 11, 2010

After staying up all Friday, taking a plane 16 hours and watching 5 movies we arrived in China. Our first experience on the outside was hundreds of Chinese on both sides of an aisle holding signs and looking for arrivals. It looked more like paparazzi or a disco dance line with tons of people on both sides. It seemed like we could never get out but we jumped through and met Ali, the other foreigner that would be taking us in. He drove us to his house in the French Concession and I got to see the dreary but large skyline with massive apartments that never seemed to end. The drivers were another thing completely. People don't use brakes here, but instead sound their horn and swerve around you in a flash. The smells in the air ranged from trash, smoke or other random pollutants. However, the houses and freeways looked very similar to Europe. Driving through Pudong, Shanghai was like driving through a polluted Ireland for the first time. After passing the houses, we were in the city and we only saw massive apartments and skyscrapers lining the sky. We saw the famous skyline of the pearl tower and the world fair buildings of the China pavilion and the Japanese purple silkworm.

Tired from no sleep, we kept going and went to the prettier streets of the French Concession. The streets are lined with trees like they would be in France, but with no French people and instead hoards of Chinese on bikes and scooters. They filled the streets more than the cars most of the time. Whole families were on one scooter, or loads of baggage, trees and other randomness were carried somehow on the small motor bikes.

We reached the apartment, which was comfy and modern. We then headed out to the unique alley a short way from the apartment. Each place was as big as a closet but unique and cute anyway. There were multiple stories that didn't make sense at some times, like a closet size dining table at a restaurant 3 stories up? A teddy bear place that sold food too, but other nice clothing and art stores that we will visit again.

We ate inside a mall that had true Shanghaiese food. We basically ordered everything on the menu that was vegetarian, which was a lot. I have never had anything like any of these dishes. We ate an amazing mixed mushroom and brown sauce that was to die for, bite sized rolls with spinach, rice balls in sugar water (surprisingly good), sweet gluten, sticky rice, cold bean curd with a sauce, lotus root and spinach (very good too), fried yam and taro, and red bean rice for desert. The place was packed full of families with round tables. The service was great and the food was unique to us and really tasty. The only bad thing was they were out of cai bao (veggie bao tsu) and I had a craving for them! The search was on.

We then headed out to a coffee place and then off to a cigar bar. We drank Moscow Mule's in gold tin cups (ginger ale, vodka and lime). The place was nice, quaint and dark. The waiters wore tuxedos and the place was mainly foreigners. We met tons of different parties here, some visiting from abroad as we were. Germans, Hong Kongnese, Americans, Japanese and a Swiss. Most were going to the Expo and they all had a different take on the place.

After a long night of drinking and socializing, we headed home and knocked out. We woke up hours later to go to the fair! The tickets were in a far off hotel looking place that was completely preposterous. 70 million people go to this fair, and they put this building in the completely opposite area, in a room that was about 300 square feet, on the 26th floor, with a person who deals with tons of foreigners and doesn't speak any English. Nonetheless, we grabbed our 7 day pass ticket with Haibao on the front (of course) and headed out. I spotted cai bao on the street and grabbed two for 100 yuan (.50 cents each). They were awesome and the people watched us shove them in our mouths excitedly.

We went through tons of subways and finally reached the fair (take line 9 to line 13 for the best way in there and avoid any ferry or other transportation that takes you past the river). The place was huge! I couldn't believe that I was seeing the pavilions in person when I saw them online for so many months. Out of the 400K people there, we were just about the only foreigners there. I would spot a person once in a while, but it was packed full of Chinese everywhere. They stared and filmed me once I think, but I think there were many rural people that have never been out of their village before this. The Chinese pavilion was spectacular, huge, red and perfect hanging in the sky above us. The upside down looking building rose high above every other building in grandeur and people took pictures all around it. We found out they were doing a reservation to get to the top portion that sells out in 10 minutes so we need to get a plan to get that now.

We saw bottom of the Chinese pavilion that was huge and amazing at first, but turned out to be not so cool and we headed out. We checked out the Sri Lanka pavilion next door and met the real Sri Lankans that were working inside. We ate at a vegetarian buffet next to that pavilion called Godly. It was pretty good and had all you can eat cai bao!

Next, we headed to the Japanese pavilion (purple silkworm) that is a "living breathing organism" building that moves and sucks in rain water and spits it back out to cool itself. After a 3 hour wait in the stinkiest line I have ever been in, shoved next to 8 billion loud, smelly Chinese looking at me and having their children poop in trash can (wtf?) we got in. Old ladies elbowed me to get to the front and they even needed the military to be crowd control.

The Japanese pavilion was amazing with two different robots, a pink one that talked about saving energy and a white one that played the violin. They had the most advanced technologies in the green industry and boasted their efforts of saving the planet and this endangered bird.

We finally got home and passed out again, and are ready for another day.

Leaving Tonight!

Oct 9, 2010

This trip has been thought about since the first day that Lucas and I started dating 2.5 years ago. He asked me to go to the world fair with him in 2010 and I thought it sounded wild, but I loved the idea because I dreamed of traveling to Asia most of my life and craved an adventure. Well, today that idea is happening and we are leaving to fly to Shanghai in a couple hours! We have our bags packed and have researched the best restaurants, shopping, sights and pavilions to see.

I have contacted the Shanghai Veggie Club and actually got 3 ladies responding on vegan Shanghai advice and Lucas and I will actually be able to meet one of the girls when we are there! She has a restaurant opening in November called Annie's Cafe which is a vegan restaurant in downtown Shanghai. We will be cooking together with some American products I'm bringing (blue agave, garbanzo bean flour and carob chips) and some trusted cookbooks: Native Foods, Babycakes & Viva Vegan! I can't wait to bring Latin and American vegan food to China!

I will tell more and send pics when we finally meet and get to explore Chinese cooking and new Shanghai friends! Talk to you in China!

5 days till China..

Oct 2, 2010

There are 5 days until China and the vegan food hunt continues. There are very few resources for finding reviews for vegan/vegetarian restaurants in China (like a Yelp! alternative). Happy Cow is there, but not many reviews exist and it scares me a little because their restaurants do not show up on Google Maps. I've decided to write extensive reviews on all the food adventures we have along with our regular travel blog. The only good resources are from people's personal blogs, so I will explain my vegan experiences with language barriers, restaurants, grocery stores and hidden gems inside the massive cities of Shanghai, Beijing, and Huangshan.

So far, I'm going to check out Godly. Godly is an 80 year old vegan restaurant with fake meats mimicking Chinese staple foods. The best thing about this place is that it is also located in the World Fair Expo so we can spend all day at the expo and not only survive off of granola bars and water.

I have a list of other restaurants that are in our price range. They include Vegetarian Lifestyle, Loving Hut!, Gongdelin, Elaines, Annamaya and more...I haven't found any health food stores or places where they would carry any specialty products like almond milk, vital wheat gluten, flaxmeal etc.. I'm sure they do, but I have no idea where yet and I will hopefully be able to translate the ingredients somehow?

The good news is that I read that Buddhist vegetarian restaurants are totally vegan, so we can do our sightseeing and support the monks and their food without guilt. I am looking to find a meditation or yoga place to relax or exercise. Maybe some Tai Chi in the early morning streets too. With the 600,000 people at the fair and millions more in the streets, we will be looking for a quiet retreat and somewhere to see the real China.

1 Month to Go…

Sep 6, 2010

So we're still in the final planning stages of our trip to China. I've picked the which countries to hit up at the world fair on which days, found more vegan restaurants, some clubs, and compiled a huge list of what to buy (Kimono, art, clothes, luggage, jewelry, shoes, Mao memorabilia obviously). We practiced more Chinese with Jacob's new girlfriend yesterday, which is great for us to practice so soon to our departure. I finally have my Chinese name that she translated for me too: Rui qui! (pronounced: Ruee Choo). Wo Jiao Rui Qui! I got down my only phrase to tell the waiter: Wo shi chi su de ren (I am a vegetarian). I even got some uber walking shoes for the hundreds of miles we will inevitably walk.

New ideas for China: Pictures of awesome English phrases like on Engrish.com are always fun, Have a terrible conversation with every Chinese consisting of probably "Ni Hao" to everyone and clubbin for Lucas' birthday.

China Updates…

Aug 29, 2010

The trip is coming closers now, only 1 month and 10 days! Our planning continues and I think the final plan is official on Trip It. We will spend more time in Shanghai (October 10th to October 18th) to get the full World Fair experience as well as the Shanghai culture, food, sights etc.. We will head to Beijing on October 18th on a night train and arrive at 11am - just enough time to catch a few hours of the countryside, something I wanted to see on the way there instead of passing by on a plane.

I've also learned a lot more about what Beijing has to offer including the rich history of the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall and the old and new Beijing that we will undoubtedly see while riding bikes or electric scooters around town. Another major attraction for me is the various Buddhist temples, some from the 14th century. I want to see how they live, eat their veggie food, and experience their peace, meditation and spiritualization. I absolutely want to see the real Beijingnese and Shanghainese while were there as well. I don't want to feel so touristy that I'm whisked away to popular tourist events all day - so I found some small towns where they still live in the same living conditions of the Song era and the houses are the same too -amazing. I will miss a lot out of China too, of course,  the Yellow River, Huangshou mountains (Avatar!) and most of the small villages around that will be too far to venture out to just for a day. Since our time is limited, we will leave that for another trip...

There is more to learn, especially Mandarin, and I'm still thinking about picking a Chinese name (the travel show we watched today had a guy named Plum Blossom), so if there are any recommendations, I would appreciate it!