Today has been a great day, and it's nowhere near over. At 8am, our group, some Japanese, some Vietnamese, and some Koreans met one of our staff helpers, Allen, to hop a charter bus to Zhu Jia Jiao.
It's hard to explain the town well. Parts of it seem ancient, with very narrow streets, post offices that date to the Tang Dynasty, and small junks. Through the ancient-ness, however, is a thriving market scene, with lots of souveniers, foods, snacks, toys, etc. to sell. The shopowners are shameless about calling you into their shops, and we all bought some nice things. The first part of our tour went through the ancient gardens of a rich family:
After wandering through the gardens, we got to hit the market for a while before lunch. Here's a shot of the river that runs through town, from atop a bridge.
After the market, we were treated to an amazing lunch. Our group dined with Allen and the Koreans, and the meal was basically an endless parade of tasty dishes. I tried everything. Here are some photos of the table after the meal:
This dish was pork and pork fat barbecued and wrapped in a heavy leaf. You don't eat the leaf, but the pork was amazing:
Here's a plate of teeny shrimp. They were just longer than an inch. Too small to peel, so yes, we ate them whole:
Here's our lazy susan at the end of the meal. Dishes, clockwise from the bottom: white rice, greens in vinegar, egg drop soup with tomato, chicken with peanuts, stinky tofu, a tabouli-like greens dish, thin rice noodles in sauce, whole river fish, boiled chicken, some other yummy greens, stewed eggplant (behind the coke bottle), dumplings, shrimps, sweet starchy tomatoes, beef in a red pepper sauce, scambled eggs with baby shrimps, and the final dish was stewed sticky pumpkin. Yum!
After lunch, our group piled into six boats and caravanned down the river back to our starting point and the bus back to Shanghai.
Back in Shanghai, we hit Yu Gardens, which is less of a gardens and more a ridiculous shopping experience. Hawkers were hollering at us to buy their wares from stalls, Starbucks was readily available, there was a McDonalds AND a Burger King.
We did some shopping at the Yu Gardens and then came back to the hotel for a little rest before our night on the town. We're heading back to Yu Gardens, then to the Bund!
Before I left the states, I downloaded the Shanghai and Beijing episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. In the Shanghai episode, Tony talks about the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant and Stinky Tofu. Well, today, I had stinky tofu, and we're going to Nanxiang for dinner! Mmmmmmmm.