I apologize to you, my faithful reader, but as I previously mentioned, I could not get to the Dashboard of my wordpress.com website during my Shanghai trip so posting to this blog was, well, difficult.
The traditional Thursday night going away dinner with my colleagues was in a famous Chinese food chain called South Beauty (appparently the owner’s son Wang Xiaofei
is married to the beautiful Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu in the Chinese people pages) and so, ironically enough, it was my first real Chinese meal during this trip. There was, however, another more painful tradition that was followed, affectionately called one-by-one. The participants are served a glass of beer, a glass of red wine and a glass of Chinese yellow wine (52% alcohol). Each participant of the party comes individually to the person being feted(me in this case) witha drink of his choice and performs a toast (kampé!) during which it is required to down the drink being offered but in one shot. So, there were 13 people drinking (two were not drinking alcohol) so in the space of about an hour, I had to slam about 4 beers, 1 red wine and 8 shots of the hard stuff. Let’s just say that I survived both the protocol and the physical pounding from the alcohol. Not easy…but when in Shanghai. So, traveler, beware of smiles and leers when you are with Chinese colleagues and be smart about one-by-one. I think that the trick – particularly in groups of more than 20 – yes! yes! I have heard horror stories! – let the alcohol miss you mouth and spill on your shirt because they will not relent until each has had his toast.
As for food, South Beauty is extraordinary. Everything from the peanut-sauce covered sprouts to the barbecue ribs and spicy chicken was perfect. The restaurant is ubiquitous in Shanghai but the one in the Super Brand Mall next to the Pearl Tower is their flagship restaurant with only private banquet rooms. More than worth the recommendation for your next trip.
Somehow this week, I never got the chance to hang out with the Chinese contingent in my class until after this dinner at South Beauty. As their budget was relatively small, their hotel was further away (than even mine) and actually near a small grouping of bars and prostitute hang-outs deep in the Pudong. We decided to go there for live music and beer – not the other seedier activities – and so we all took taxis out there. The Chinese took one look at the bar we found (which actually had a half-decent Chinese band covering various Western rock and pop hits) and went back outside…to play cards. The Chinese are mad about card and dice games. At one point, the music got a bit too poppy for my taste and I stepped out to see what they were up to. The card game was really complicated to explain especially since their English was OK but not up to rules-explaining level, I opted for dice with a few other guys. We played for what seemed to be at least an hour or so a cool dice game for which I cannot remember the name – in which 6’s are wild cards. You roll 5 dice and then guess how many of a certain number were collectively rolled – each person has to increase the count. So say, 3 threes then four 5’s and so forth until someone calls and we all show our dice. Usually the loser has to drink. This was not a very alcoholic group so the drinking bit was, thankfully, dropped. Anyway, we had a great time and basically closed the bar.