Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chinese bakeries

A Chinese bakery in Jimei

The easiest way for a foreigner to get breakfast in China is to go to a Chinese bakery. Everything is laid out in discrete packages; all you have to do is select what you want and bring it to the register--no Chinese needed. It's a little exciting too, because you never what the items will taste like or have inside.


I found it best to avoid boxed drinks, they always tasted too sweet, and frankly, too weird to finish. But the pastries were good, although I hesitate to call them pastries, since they were often something between bread and a croissant. They tended to be less sweet than I expected and often had some sort of whipped-butter filling (usually paired with raisins).

Chinese pastries

Once I thought I had purchased something made with chocolate which I found tasted like carrot cake. And once I lucked out and bought a pastry stuffed with ham and cheese. It's kind of like playing the lottery, but it's always tasty, so you always win.

From the Sunmile bakery

They also open around 7am, so you can always grab something before you have to go to work.

Ausland Bakery

Body paint

Cafe Mozart

Cafe Mozart

Blueberry danish

Something amazing

Six-grain bread

A bakery with a drive thru

A German bakery with all sorts of amazing things to eat, plus a drive-thru window.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The worst coffee in the world

I'm willing to bet China has the worst coffee in the world.

Chains, like KFC or McDonald's, serve their coffee with cream and lots of sugar (one Chinese sugar packet being the equivalent of about five American ones) which should always be used, as the coffee will taste bitter and bland.

From what I've heard, most of their coffee comes from a powder, and you can often see clumps of the residue at the bottom of your cup.

At one point I was served something made with actual coffee grounds, but it was served with the grounds still in the cup, contained in a rather large tea bag. Needless to say, it was strong:


Also, the Chinese have no idea their coffee isn't good and love serving it to Westerners. Be firm in wanting to try some of their "amazing tea" or bottled water.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Zhongshan (中山) by day

A Zhongshan intersection

Note the garbage

Three well dressed young women

Two beautifully attired older women

Waiting for her ride

A place to burn incense

Bicycle riders in Zhongshan


A Chinese dashboard

Chinese Dogs

Puppies playing in front of a store

A Chinese dog, sitting in a busy intersection

Guard dog

Chinese dogs look less inbred than American ones, and most of them are working dogs. They sleep in front of buildings and seem to be minding their own business, but stop or come too close and they'll start barking at you. Outside of tourist cities they also roam the streets, generally being given the right of way by drivers.

The wandering dogs are the friendly ones, and if you let them sniff you they'll be your friends. The Chinese seemed rather shocked that I let a dog lick me, and immediately gave me a napkin to wipe my hand with. The dogs probably eat a lot of garbage, now that I think about it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The best noodle shop in China

The best noodle shop in China

Twice we went to a Chinese halal restaurant. Halal restaurants are Muslim run and known for following Muslim dietary guidelines. They are also known for their noodles and their cleanliness.

This one was a family affair. The father and son wore little white caps, the father taking orders, the son delivering them. Every once in awhile the mother, head covered but wearing makeup and a smile, would pop out of the kitchen to shout words of encouragement.

The walls were covered with a picture-menu of the food. However, the pictures weren't necessarily of the food available; if you tried ordering something from the wall it may or may not be available. And it might contain slightly different ingredients, which they felt obligated to tell you about. This made ordering a lot harder for someone with a limited Chinese vocabulary than it needed to be; fortunately we had a translator.

Our translator was great. Not only did she tell us she thought the food was "so-so", when she saw my co-worker picking at the food she asked why he was so fat since he ate so little. She was hilarious.

This was a soup they served as an appetizer. It consisted of chicken stock with bits of beef, a few mushrooms, and a few bits of Napa cabbage. Floating on top was a sprinkling of cilantro and green onion:


An individual meal. Some beef over noodles, with red onions and green pepper. Seasoned with cumin and hot pepper:

An individual meal

A group meal (we all ate from the same platter). Chicken (with bones) served with potatoes, carrots, and celery over thick noodles. Seasoned with coriander and star anise:

A group meal

It was all delicious!

Of street art and prostitutes

Street art in China seems non-existent to poor. Much of the graffiti I saw was rather dull, at most a single word or hastily made design on a vendor's roll-up door. Part of the problem is that there aren't a lot of "blank canvases" in China, almost every surface is covered with commercial art already.



There is also what I would call “official” street art. Certain places have murals in the street art style, sometimes for advertising or propaganda purposes:

Street art style advertisement in a Jimei stairwell

I did see one place where students had been allowed to create murals to decorate a wall around a basketball court:

The green fairy

I want to turn~

Stickers here almost universally contain a series of numbers. I'm assuming they are advertisements for prostitutes, but I can't say for sure.

As to the prostitutes--when checking out of my hotel in Zhongshan (a lovely place where the toilet is in the shower) a well dressed woman was standing at the counter:


I took her for another guest, or maybe the manager. She seemed rather brash (loud) and I thought she might be drunk. She offered me cigarettes, something to drink (a boxed drink) and felt the material of my shirt. At this point, my limited vocabulary in Chinese was to my benefit, because in trying to get across what she wanted she showed me her license (a plastic card with her picture on it) and a bill from the hotel (they rent rooms by the hour on the first floor called “spread the grass” rooms).

In Xiamen the prostitutes have a little more class. They team up and hire meek men to hand out clumps of “business cards” showing them in various states of undress, along with their phone numbers. “Please call” the men say in English as they hand out the cards.

Massage parlor introduction cards

Chinese Condoms

Some Chinese condoms from my hotel room (for sale)

Beilesi Condoms

A box of female condoms

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wild Cajun Blue Crab & Shrimp

Wild Cajun Blue Crab & Shrimp

The sides menu at Wild Cajun Blue Crab & Shrimp

Fried crabs with a bag of potatoes

Crab is hard to eat, and it's messy too, but picking through the pieces looking for meat is kind of fun. The boiled potatoes come as a side and are handed out in sandwich bags, as shown. The crab is a little spicy, but the potatoes are spicy enough to be called "hot". Along with the crab you get a bit of corn on the cob which is thoroughly cooked, almost gelatinous, Southern-style. Also included is a small container of garlic butter.