My observations from Shanghai

As I am getting ready to leave the city that I lived in for the past 3 weeks, I began reminiscing some of my daily experiences during my stay here.

Approximately 25 million people live in this city. Regardless of where are, it is pretty crowded. I heard that life style in Shanghai is somewhat comparable to living in New York. I have only visited NY a few times, never have lived there for 3 weeks!

residential 2

Residential buildings

Check out these residential buildings

A local resident told me that a unit in these buildings (these are located right in the center of the city) costs about 2 Million US dollars. Living space could be anywhere in the range of 950 – 1200 sq. feet.

Traffic is very hectic between 7 and 10 am in the morning. Subway network connects most parts of the city and is a convenient mode of travel. Least expensive too!

Inside a subway

Inside a subway, it is rare to see a train that is not crowded

On a particular day, we worked late and could not get a taxi back to the hotel. We decided to walk to the nearest subway station. I was privileged to see some real crowds that evening.

People leaving work

People leaving work

Crowd 3

People waiting to cross the road to get to the subway station

A long line waiting outside the subway station

A long line waiting outside the subway station

If you buy a cup of coffee, it always comes with a bag. I wondered about the purpose of this bag. I quickly observed a lot of people travel by motor cycles, bikes etc. There is a hook in front where you can hang the bag and take a sip from the cup during the stop at traffic lights. How convenient! Really customer friendly!

Coffee bouquet?

Coffee bouquet?

As I travel by taxi in the morning, I notice some roadside shops selling various foods. It ranges from hot breakfast items to live chicken, meats, vegetables and fruits. People living in nearby apartments come out and buy these items. I have also seen some office goers stop and buy some breakfast before rushing through the traffic again. People walk and eat at the same time, it is a common sight here especially during the morning rush hour.

Street Markets

Street Markets

Roadside 1

Roadside Cafes

We had a fun experience with local breakfast as well. My team was scheduled for a field visit to Wuxi (pronounced as “Wushi”), a city that is 3 hours from Shanghai. We started the trip at 7 am in the morning. Around 9 am the driver stopped the car and gave us a restroom break. After a few minutes, he hands over to each one of us a local breakfast item that he purchased at a roadside cafe. It was a brownish (soy sauce) rice pudding with meat filling. Those of us that don’t eat meat were provided tea eggs. It was really delicious!

My team mates enjoying the local food

My team mates enjoying the local food

A close-up shot!

A close-up shot!

Restaurant that served our breakfast items

Restaurant that served our breakfast items

One thing that I have to come to appreciate about Shanghai is the safety factor, especially during night times. It is absolutely safe to walk on the streets even during mid-night. It is normal during these times to run into fellow strollers and even police men on their night rounds. Taxis are available in great numbers as well, if you need one in the wee hours of the morning.

Never leave Shanghai without experiencing the night lights. Almost all sky scrapers are adorned with colorful lights, some change patterns and colors as you gaze up and admire their beauty. This is probably the best I liked about this city!

 

Standing in front of the oriental pearl tower

Standing in front of the oriental pearl tower

 

Sky scrapers at night

Sky scrapers at night

Night 4 Night 3

Although it is hard for me to say good bye, I am ready to go to Columbus and connect with my family again. I had so many good experiences, some challenging ones of course, as expected. But overall, the whole experience was undeniably good for my growth – both intellectual and emotional. So, with a heavy heart and bitter sweet emotions I bid farewell to Shanghai, the city I called home for 3 weeks.

Zhujiajiao – Shanghai’s Venice

With our final presentation behind, we had 2 full days for shopping and sightseeing before getting on the plane to Columbus. Most of Thursday was spent on shopping. We walked around Nanjing road shopping mall purchasing sundry items such as purses, compact make up mirrors, sports jerseys, scarves etc.

Friday, the last day of our stay, we decided to do some last minute sightseeing. We took a bus to Zhujiajiao, an ancient water town that is about an hour away from Shanghai. The trip was well worth it, the view was scenic and breathtaking.

A view of the water town

A view of the water town

Water canal that runs through the middle of the town

Water canal that runs through the middle of the town

Zhujiajiao means “Zhu Settlement” or “Zhu Family Corner” in mandarin. This town also has another elegant name called “Pearl Stream”.  This little town is the best-preserved among the ancient towns in Shanghai. From the pictures posted, you can view unique old bridges, small rivers shaded by willow trees, gondolas gliding on the canal and houses with courtyards. The whole environment magically transported us to a new world full of antiquity, leisure and tranquility.

Ancient bridge

Ancient bridge

My friends standing over a covered archway

My friends standing over a covered archway

backyards

Backyards

with trees

Scenic view of houses

water town (2)

Boat docking station

While we were in the town, we visited another local tourist attraction –                             The City God temple.

The Main hall of the City God Temple

The main hall of the City God temple

CGT3

A closer view of the main entrance

Pictures below are from the interior portion of the temple –

The City Gods

The City Gods

Inside CGTCGT4 CTG5

Another portion of the temple was dedicated to Buddha

Buddha temple

Buddha temple

My friends were very happy with the trip and we all returned to Shanghai well satisfied. I sensed the trip to Zhujiajiao appeased my thirsts for sightseeing and I was ready to pack my bags to come back home.

 

 

A Weekend in Beijing

Last week was a busy one for our team. With our final presentation coming up in just a few days, we had a lot to do. Still somewhere between preparing PowerPoint slides, gathering final information, and polishing our work, we managed to steal some time and head to Beijing for a great sightseeing trip.

Our plan was to catch the fast-speed train from Shanghai to Beijing on Friday evening and take the 5 hour trip North.. Since there were trains leaving every half an hour, we thought buying a ticket on the spot at the train station would not be an issue.  This just shows that even after 2 whole weeks here, we managed to underestimate the size of Chinese population… After spending four hours traveling to the station and waiting in huge lines, we got a mocking laughter from the salesman at the ticket desk once he heard we’re trying to buy tickets for the same day…

With our hopes crushed, we decided to venture out again early next morning and not give up until we set foot in Beijing.

Thus, Saturday morning started at 4am and looked more like an episode of “The Amazing Race” than a regular sightseeing trip. In just 36 hours we managed to see Beijing’s city center, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, spent 10 hours in a train, and catch up with the other Shanghai team, who was also on a weekend trip there. Needless to say there was not a lot of sleeping involved and time for meals was nonexistent. But it was absolutely worth it!

Here are some pictures of our experience:

The Gate Tower at Tiananmen Square

The Gate Tower at Tiananmen Square

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City
Inside the Forbidden City

The Great Wall
The Great Wall

The Great Wall
The Great Wall

 

 

 

Want to relax? Visit Suzhou gardens!

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As you know, my team has been in Shanghai for about a couple of weeks now and we wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. A couple of Shanghai locals advised us to visit Suzhou. It is a city in Jiangsu province and is famous for beautiful gardens and traditional waterside architecture.

The day of our visit however started out to be disappointing! We were denied train tickets to Suzhou because we did not have passports with us. So, we ended up taking an hour and half long bus ride to get to Suzhou. When we were struggling with directions with a map (Chinese version) in our hands, a Suzhou local came to our rescue. He directed us to take a stroll along this waterside street, supposedly a very popular tourist attraction, which eventually led us to the Humble Administrator’s Garden.

I have captured some interesting moments encountered along the way…

Dim Sum assortment – 2 Yuan each

Dim Sum1

Dim Sum 2 Dim Sum 3

 

The waterfront houses

waterfront houses

The Gondola ride

Gondola 1Gondoal 2

 

Have a cup of Jasmine Tea

Jasmine TeaTea

 

Rickshaws

Rickshaws

Gift store

Gift Store

All this fun just on the way to the gardens. Once inside the gardens, I was astounded by the peace and serenity of the place. It was a great spiritual experience!

Here are a few jewels of traditional Chinese architecture

bridge gaden 4 garden 2 garden 3 garden 4 garden gazebo 3 Tradtional Arch 1

 

With my friends Melissa and Dilyana

 With Melissawith Dilyana

We ended up reaching Shanghai around 10 pm after a great day in Suzhou.

 

Top Chef Shanghai

I don’t particularly care for the local cuisine, but one chef has definitely caught my attention–and not just because we sleep in the same room.

Ryan “Eggs Over China” Dotson has been keeping our stomachs full and our spirits high these past few weeks. Although his menu is only a few items long, the line outside our door just keeps getting longer.

“A special thanks goes out to Century Mart. Without the colorful Reebok knock-offs I bought there last week, there’s no way I’d have made it back with all this food,” said Dotson. “And thank God for Family Mart.”

“Ryan’s food keeps me going. Eggs, something that tastes like bacon, and potatoes–it’s just like home, if I lived in a hotel room,” said Wisconsin native Brad Dobson.

“In Bulgaria, eggs over easy you,” said Dilyana Miteva, an expert on the North American automotive LED market. “I realize that I’m not from Russia, but I seriously doubt anyone knows the difference. It’s very much a Cold War atmosphere in this kitchen.”

“Ryan may have gotten us lost trying to meet up with the OSU Gateway team, but he’s found the key to my heart with his cooking. It’s tremendous,” said Mehdi Mirsana, originally from Iran, among 37 other countries. Mirsana later commented that he’s “glad Dotson got the Muppets in China* team lost, because it was a great bonding experience for the team.” What relevance that comment has to an article about cooking is uncertain, but Mirsana insisted that I publish it.

“Please don’t tell Jiminy Cricket*, but Ryan’s breakfast beats the hell out of all the fancy restaurants Mr. Cricket’s taken us to. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Thai restaurant and the western bar we went to after, but I ain’t rollin’ out of bed for Thai with stud city cooking up a storm one room down,” said an ecstatic Vanitha Zacharias. “Damn.”

The members of team Muppets in China may be hungry for adventure, but they certainly aren’t going hungry with Shanghai’s newest culinary master around.

 

*Some names have been changed. Articles are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data (actually, they are), or illustrations of effective or ineffective kitchen management.

 

Street Meats in China

So my fellow travelers have found considerable amusement in my gastro-tourism. What part of deep-fried squid on a stick is funny? When your lips and tongue tingle and feel a little numb, that’s how you know it’s good. 😉

Gushan-Ferry-squid-on-stick

 

What you may see as an invitation for gastrointestinal parasites, I (and Brad, my equally “brave” compatriot) have used as a chance to experience Chinese culture more closely than the Mega Malls filled with Forever XX (yes, a knockoff of Forever XXI) and common western brands. The best food I’ve had by far in Shanghai has come off the back of a bicycle.

tofu-cart-china

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There’s satisfaction in walking up to a window adorned with completely incomprehensible signs, exchanging points and grunts,  dropping a whopping 1.5RMB for two baseball sized dumplings filled with… let’s call it pork?

800px-Dimsum-shanghai-crop

They go even better with a 3RMB Tsingtao from Family Mart (with 23k stores, 2-5/block in Shanghai… not kidding)

208531_original 2538.P1030247-w600-h600

We certainly haven’t been without western sustenance though. Last night, we met a Fisher alum, Jerry Han, and two prospectives joining the class of 2016 at California Pizza Kitchen.

[Insert picture of smiling Future, Current, Former Fisher leaning over pizza here]

And my teammates have been treated to eggs, hash browns, and a bacon-like substance almost every morning cooked by yours truly.

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Western breakfast is not easily found and paofan, a traditional Shanghai breakfast of rice in water with pickles and salty duck egg, probably wouldn’t cut it for the less adventurous eaters in the group

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If anybody knows how to get a hold of Anthony Bourdain, tell him I’ll meet him over at the Fish, Bird, & Insect Market on Xizang Nan Rd for lunch.

失陪了等待著啤酒

*disclaimer – these pictures are not my own. I had to take them from Google Images, but they convey my story well enough. My iPhone, which had served solely as a camera considering my carrier wants $60/100MB data and $2.50/min phone calls, is now a brick. I guess someone in the Chinese secret service didn’t like what I was taking pictures of and hit the kill switch.

The Tian Zi Fang – A Serendipitous Find!

The Tian Zi Fang is an arts and crafts center located in the French Concession area of Shanghai.

In this post I want to tell you the story of how we happened to find this place. It was our very first weekend in Shanghai. On that rainy Sunday morning, my team got ready to meet the OSU shanghai gateway office director for lunch. The gateway office is located in Taicang road. After a long subway ride, we arrived at Taikang road and started to roam around the street trying to locate the office.

About 45 minutes into the search, we realized that we were on Taikang road as opposed to Taicang road. It was too late to make the lunch appointment, and we were all famished as it was well past the lunch time. We started looking for a place to eat and turned into a side street. And there it was –  Tian Zi Fang…what a beautiful thing!

Tian Zi Fang Arts & Crafts Center

Tian Zi Fang Arts & Crafts Center

The street view
The street view

We found restaurants from around the world…Ireland, Spain, India, New York

 

Irish Restaurant

Irish Restaurant

NewYork Pizza
New York Pizza

Spanish Restaurant

Spanish Restaurant

Variety of collections were on display… portraits, jewelry, tea mugs, tea and flowers

Handmade Jewelry A portrait Fresh Food Market Hanging Flower Garden Tea Cups Collection TeaHouse

Finally, we settled on an exotic Chinese & Thai restaurant for lunch. The settings reminded me of a rain forest. We were seated upstairs, the walls and the roof were made of glass and was surrounded by lush greenery. It was raining, of course.

Seated for lunch, finally!!

Seated for lunch, finally!!

Lunch 2

Rice in a Pineapple shell

Rice in a Pineapple shell

After a few more rounds of sightseeing and shopping, we decided to call it a day.

Good Bye!

Good Bye Tian Zi Fang!

 

 

First day in action

Today is the 3rd day of our stay in China. We were told that we would need to be at the client’s site a bit later (at 10 am) than normal time. Thus, we set off at around 9 am and arrived there at around 9:30 am, showing our MBA enthusiasm to our client. The first day passed really quickly. We had a good conversation within the team to start our 3-week program as consultants.

Team in action; the picture is purposely blurred to protect the identity of the team members!

Team in action; the picture is purposely blurred to protect the identity of the team members!

For the first day our client invited us for dinner. This was an excellent opportunity for us to taste authentic Chinese food (of course apart from pork dumplings sold by street vendors which Brad and Ryan, in spite of numerous warnings, enthusiastically explored in the last couple of days!).

We were invited to Tang Dynasty Restaurant, A luxury (and of course expensive) restaurant in a plaza called Thumb Plaza! The plaza has taken its name from a statue located at the entrance; a giant human-like object with its thumbs pointing upwards (shown in the below picture). The plaza also houses several western/international cafes, bars and restaurants including Papa John Pizza, the Irishman Pub with live music, Lapis Thai, Blue Marlin etc.

Thumb Plaza in Shanghai

Thumb Plaza in Shanghai

Although the restaurant is located on the second floor, you need to ask to be seated at the entrance of the block on the ground floor before taking the elevator to the second floor.

The entrance to the Tang Dynasty Restaurant

The entrance to the Tang Dynasty Restaurant

The food was exquisite.  A variety of dishes were placed on a large rotating glass top to assist the guests share and enjoy the food.

A part view of dishes

A part view of dishes

So overall, it was an exciting kick off day for our project in Shanghai. Tune in for further exciting stories….

Shanghai Skyline

New York City. Hong Kong. London. Sydney. Shanghai. What do all these cities have in common? They all have iconic skylines. However, you wouldn’t have found Shanghai on this list as recently as 20 years ago. This is illustrated by the photo below, which captures Shanghai’s skyline (or lack thereof) in 1990.

1990 Skyline

The above photo is breathtaking when compared to what occupies the identical space today (see below):

2010 Skyline

However, the Chinese are not the type to rest on their laurels. In fact, a favorite Chinese saying is “jia you”, which, roughly, translates to “add gas”. At present, “gas” is being added to the Shanghai skyline in the form of the yet-to-be-completed Shanghai Tower. The Shanghai Tower, at 632 meters (2,073 feet) high will be China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper. A rendering of the Shanghai Tower, which is projected to be completed by the end of 2014, can be found directly below.

Shanghai Tower

Hello Shanghai!

First day adventure in Shanghai streets…Morning Breakfast

Our team arrived in Shanghai on May 2nd. We were all so tired from a straight 15 hours flight travel and the jet lag from 12 hours time difference (It is a day and night difference, seriously!). The following day refreshed from a long sleep, my team was ready to explore the city on foot. Itinerary for the day – spontaneity is the word. First stop – fresh dim sum buns for breakfast at a local dim sum shop.

Next stop: A local fresh fruit market that sold exotic fruits like Durian and Dragon that are rare in United States…

Durian

Durian

 

Dragon Fruits

Dragon Fruits

Stay tuned for more of street adventures in Shanghai!