Send Flowers to Iran AND Persian Carpets to Japan

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The 4-worst foreign restaurants in Shanghai

One of the great things about living in Shanghai is being able to experience authentic Chinese cuisine for incredibly low price. However, there are times when your palates simply need a break from the oil and spice. The good news is that Shanghai is a very international cosmopolitan - the bad news is that not only are they overpriced, they can also be disappointing. Here are top 4 worst foreign restaurants that you should shun away in Shanghai:

1) Watami - One of my ultimate cravings is Japanese food and I thought since there are so many Japanese in Shanghai then finding a decent restaurant would be easy. I was wrong. In Shanghai, sushi and sashimi is twice the price as in Japan and regular rice is substituted for Japanese rice. We have ventured a couple of places and we were never satisfied. But the biggest disappointment for me is Watami.

Location: Superbrand Mall, Luijiazui

2) TGIFridays - There is no need to thank God with the size of the servings nor the service. When I was a student in Tokyo I usually eat in TGIF once-a-week and order the appetizer for my lunch. In Shanghai, the appetizer is really good for only a few bites. Plus the taste is worst than my own cooking-slash-frying.

Location: Diplomatic Circle, #10 Hengshan Road

3. Greek Taverna (O Milos)- The first time I have ever tried Greek food in my life and I could not have been more disappointed. Carbs and flour without flavor (hey that rhymes!). The worst part is that the lamb meat tastes like goat.

Location: The Thumb Plaza, #199 Fangdian Lu

4. Baan Thai - One day, Mos was searching for the Iran consulate when he accidentally saw this restaurant and got intrigued with its ambience and architecture looking from the outside. Hence, a month after, he invited me for dinner and taste Thai food in Shanghai for the first time. We ordered Tom Ka Gai, Green Curry, Crab Cake, and two fruit shakes. The verdict - BAD!! The servings are small, the taste is not spicy enough, and the crab cakes does not taste like crab. Worst, the service is terrible, 5 women chattering while we were eating and gave us boiled tap water.

Location: 1479 Fuxing Zhong Lu

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Which is more difficult: Japanese or Chinese?

I’m interested in both Japanese and Chinese and I can speak and understand both to some level.

After 3 years of living in Japan without formal Japanese courses, and a year of living in China, I realized that Japanese is harder to sound natural and native than Chinese. I still sound like a retard when I speak in Japanese. For Chinese, there are many instances when I talk to the locals and they don't get my tones so get flustered but when I found my bearing I can converse much more fluidly.

The most difficult thing I encouter when learning Japanese is that the lessons on textbooks and schools are retarded compared to what is actually spoken. Have you ever heard anyone say the following?

私はあなたにえんぴつをあげる。(Watashi ha anata ni empitsu wo ageru)

I swear that you will never, ever hear this sentence in your entire life. In fact, 90% of the time 私 (Watashi) and (あなた)Anata are not used. Compared this to Chinese where 我 (wo) and 你 (Ni) are commonly heard from a regular conversation. The lack of subjects usage in Japanese is a hurdle which until now I find difficult to overcome.

Some people have the wrong idea that since Mandarin uses 4 tones (+ 1 neutral tone) then it is much harder than Japanese which is mostly flat. But the truth is, the tonal foundation is an advantage in the long run. I believe that languages are better learned through the ears than through the eyes (a proof of which is that deaf people cannot make themselves understood), and hence devoting a long time in learning the tones and the music of Chinese produces the long-term result.

My last complain on Japanese is that there are so many readings for a certain character compared to Chinese which has at most 2 readings for some of its characters. Take for example:

行 - Could be read as kou, kyou, gyou, an, i..ku, yu..ku, okona..u/i in Japanese

行 - Only Xing2 and Hang2 in Chinese

Anyway, I still hope that one day I can speak both languages fluently and even be able to translate from Japanese to Chinese and vice versa.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beijing vs. Shanghai

I may not be the most qualified person to write about this topic but I'll give it a shot. I have been living in Shanghai for almost a year whereas I've only stayed a mere 48 hours in Beijing. Whenever I go to a new city, I always evaluate how "livable" the place is.

Instead of focusing on the tourist spots, I focus my attention on the transport system, convenience, infrastructures, cleanliness, "foreigner-friendliness", and overall safety. (In fact, with these factors considered I have Zurich, Tokyo, and Toronto topping the list out of the cities I've been to.)
Here's how Shanghai and Beijing fare out against each other:

  • Transport System - Because of last year's Olympics, Beijing has renovated their subway system by adding new lines from the downtown to tourists spots of the city. You pay a standard fare of 2RMB compared to Shanghai's fare which ranges from 3-5RMB, however this price difference probably is the reason why all of the transfer points are 2 km away and platforms are at the center of the world. (RESULT: Shanghai)
  • Convenience - By convenience, I mean availability of stores and restaurants in a given neighborhood. We are lucky to stay in a hotel near Tiananmen Square and hence we were fortunate to find a restaurant at 9:30pm. In Pudong, Shanghai it would be quite difficult to find an open place at that time. (RESULT: Not enough info)
  • Infrastructures - Ok, a bit of tourist guide here. The Bird's Nest is quite bedazzling but Shanghai also prides itself of SWFC and the Pudong Tower, and let's not forget the EXPO is still coming next year. (RESULT: Shanghai)

  • Cleanliness - This is one of the aspects that Beijing gets hands-down. (RESULT: Beijing)
  • Foreigner-Friendliness - The only foreigners in Beijing are either tourists or language students. Hence, 2 words (RESULT: Shanghai)
  • Safety - In downtown Beijing, there are uniformed guards roaming all over the place. (Unfortunately, when I approached one of them for directions, he said that he's also new in town) Anyway, after my electronic dictionary was stolen from me while commuting in Shanghai, I guess I have no choice but to hand it to Beijing. (RESULT: Beijing)
Final Score:
Beijing - 2 Shanghai - 3

So, I guess it's SHANGHAI after all.