Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mom & Mrs. Schreck visit!

My mom and Mrs. Schreck finally made it to Shanghai last Thursday, and we have been on the go since they got here!  Wiped out, but excited to have finally made it we treated them to dinner at one of our favorites, The Blue Frog.  We got started early friday after dropping Lily off at school.  Our first stop, Shanghai's iconic, Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai History Museum.  After we finished the tower and surprisingly large museum we headed across the street for lunch at Southern Beauty and enjoyed a wonderful Sichuan lunch while taking in the Huangpu river.  With rain forecasted for Saturday we decided to absorb some culture and visit the Shanghai Museum.  Having had our fill of culture we headed home to drop the kids off with Lucas and indulge in some retail therapy!  Both mom and Mrs. Schreck had a grand time bargaining for the best price and spending their "Monopoly money".
With clear sunny skies on Sunday, we decided to enjoy a day in Puxi, starting with Nanjing Pedestrian Street.  Filled with shops and restaurants, this street is a must see, and I don't think mom or Mrs. Schreck were disappointed.  We even took a short detour down a few side streets and got to watch a man make noodles for the days lunch. We made our way up the Nanjing Street to the Bund.  Known for its beautiful, and eclectic architecture, we took our time strolling along the river walk and even peeked inside the Peace Hotel to check out its marble lobby.   Not wanting to get lost on our way to the Yu Yuan Garden and Market, like we did when mom and dad visited, we had our driver drop us off instead of walking it.  With the kids complaining of empty bellies we made a pit stop at McD's for some Happy Meals before heading to the famous Nanxiang Steamed Buns for xiao long bao.  Reenergized, we headed off for the walled gardens, which Lucas and I had never had the pleasure of seeing.  It certainly lived up to its hype.  With tons of ponds, rock gardens, and traditional Chinese buildings throughout it was peaceful and you could almost forget you are in the middle of a city of 23 million people.
Monday we got to enjoy Lucas's company since he had an afternoon plane to catch to Tokyo and wasn't planning on going to the office that morning.  We started the day at the Jing'an Buddhist Temple which was originally built in 247AD!  We switched gears and left the peace and tranquility of the temple behind, and headed to trendy Xintiandi.  Originally a neighborhood filled with the Chinese version of brownstones, it had been neglected and was restored and turned into a busy and popular spot for shopping and grabbing a tasty meal.  It was after our tasty meal that we headed to the small museum  which brings you back in time to see what life was like in old Xintiandi for a typical family.   Unfortunately, we had to head home after so Lucas could make his flight, the kids were wiped out from all the walking too.  However, it was not the end of our day!  Mom, Mrs. Schreck and I enjoyed an amazing dinner at The Peninsula Hotel where we had not only a fabulous dinner, but and equally fabulous view of the Bund and downtown Pudong all lit up for the night.  Thank you mom, and Mrs. Schreck for the wonderful dinner!

With time flying by and more rain forecasted, we decided to press our luck and see the remains of Shanghai's old city wall.  Unfortunately most of it was torn down for construction but a small 50 meter section remains.  It was a nice piece of history that until today I was not even aware of.  With Mrs. Schreck love of small out of the way streets we wondered a bit and came across a plant and pet market where you could by crickets for competing.  The Chinese LOVE to gamble and will gamble on almost anything, even crickets.  We also found a local produce market which was filled with meats and veggies for sale.  Not surprisingly there was no poultry around.  After calling my driver we headed back to the Bund to check out a local shoe maker, and although we were a bit disappointed by the shoes, they did have beautiful silk purses, which Mrs. Schreck bought for me as a totally unnecessary thank you.  With a bit of time, we decided to poke our heads into the one of the banks along the Bund to see the amazing marble foyer and breathtaking ceilings.  We grabbed lunch on Nanjing Street and headed home for Charlie's nap.  Tomorrow we head to Tongli a local water town!  

Monday, April 15, 2013

To eat or not to eat...

With the recent cases of H7N9, or bird flu in the news it makes me stop and wonder just how safe the chicken I buy really is.  Although, it is considered safe to eat chicken so long as it is properly cooked according to WHO and the CDC.  Now, with the thousands of pigs found in the Huangpu River, pork is coming into question.  As an American, I am used to being able to count on both local, and national news to keep me informed on food safety.  In China however, it is very different.  The government does their best to cover up or play down any negative news  While I find that to be a huge disservice most Chinese will just shrug their shoulders and just go on about their day, considering it just a part of life.

After talking with both my Ayi and Eric, I've decided to continue to buy chicken from Carrefour, a large French chain in Shanghai, and for the time to pass on the pork.

On a lighter note, my little girl lost her first tooth!  She told us about her loose tooth a couple of weeks ago and has been diligently working it loose.  This weekend she could wiggle it so much that it would actually lay horizontal.  With a bit of coaxing I managed to convince her that letting me pull it out would not only hurt, but was a good idea.  So, with a tissue and a little tug, her first tooth came out.  She was super excited to put it under her pillow so the tooth fairy could come and take it.  Unfortunately, her tooth pillow won't get here until the end of the week so we made due with a tissue.  But, when the tooth fairy went to remove the tissue the tooth fell out, which made for a tense moment until the errant tooth was found.  Can't have a visit from the tooth fairy and leave the tooth! For her first tooth she got 20RMB, or about $3.  We explained that her first tooth was special so she got a bit more than usual and that her other teeth would only get her 10RMB.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Vietnam is an amazing country that is filled with a difficult and violent past, but is a big part of what makes their culture so rich.  I think my favorite part of our trip was a cruise on the Mekong.  The highlight of which was a trip through the Can Tho floating market where locals buy most of their produce and even a meal if they want.  We met a Norwegian family with kids the same age as our two and for the cruise they had playmates which was great.  We also got a guided tour through a local village where we got to see the local flora and fauna and even sample some at a local cafe run out of a woman's home.

Back in Ho Chi Minh City we got a whirlwind tour of Notre Dame Cathedral, a reminder of the French occupation, the War Remnants Museum, where we got a skewed version of the facts of the Vietnam War, a local market where we picked up some souvenirs, learned about traditional Vietnamese medicine, and saw the Reunification Palace, which was the equivalent of the White House when it was in use.  Whew!  Plus it was unseasonably hot and muggy which left everyone a bit tired and crabby.  We did manage to fit in some much needed pool time to cool down.

After saying goodbye to the heat of Ho Chi Minh City we took a short 45 min flight to Nha Trang, a beach town on the cost of Vietnam.  We had an amazing view of the water from our hotel and a nice breeze, something that was missing in HCMC.  We spent a day out on the water going from one stop to the next by boat.  Our first stop was the aquarium, which the kids loved, especially feeding the turtles. Then it was on to a local beach where we took a short glass bottom boat ride so we could see the coral reef before taking a dip in the crystal clear waters.  We had such a good time swimming and were sorry to leave but lunch was calling.  Back on our boat we took a 45 min cruise to a resort for a very tasty and absurdly huge lunch over looking the water.  Hot sticky and tired we headed back to the hotel for a shower and nap. We ended our day with a nice dinner at a local restaurant and a stroll through the town's night market, which is a great place to work on your negotiation skills and shop for souvenirs.  The kids and I came home with traditional Vietnamese hats and Lucas picked up a Vietnamese unicorn, a mythical beast made up of many animals.

From Nha Trang we headed up into the mountains to Dalat.  The three and half hour drive was amazing.  The views were breathtaking and with all the pines, if I ignored all the motorbikes, it was almost like driving through the White Mountains in NH.  The best thing about Dalat though was the comfortable temperatures and low humidity.  The resort we stayed at didn't even have AC, and with a ceiling fan running our room was quiet comfy.  In our tour through Dalat we saw a beautiful cathedral, although most of the Vietnamese practice Confucianism, the French influence has left behind a healthy Catholic population.  We also saw the local train station, Charlie's favorite part of the trip hands down, and a Chinese pagoda.  We also learned how they make rice paper and rice noodles, something that can only be done during the dry seasons since it takes about 3 weeks for the rice paper to dry in the sun.  We ended our day with a late lunch and then some fun in the pool.  From Dalat we took a 30 min flight back to HCMC and spent the rest of our day relaxing at the hotel before our 7:45 am flight to Shanghai the next morning.  It was an amazing week and I think despite the heat and a few meltdowns, we all had a good time.   The only souvenir I wish we could take back is Charlie's ear infection.  Poor guy never complained, but after taking him to the doctor Monday morning she confirmed that he had a pretty bad ear infection.  I can only guess its from all the time we spent in the water in Vietnam.  Ear plugs next time!