2015 China Trip Day 5/26: Shanghai To Datong

Our morning started with a trip to the 7 Eleven next door. The night before when I reached out to grab what I thought was a cold drink was actually hot, not lukewarm but the temperature of a heat pack. I bought the the HK Style Mike Tea for G. Another surprise in that it ended costing 12RMB($1.90USD) when the freshly made version is between 6RMB-10RMB in most reputable drink shops in Shanghai.

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G’s breakfast, the drink I bought from 7Eleven is on the left. Cute bottle, I think most of the money went in the packaging. Tastes pretty good identical to the freshly made versions from reputable drink shops.

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My breakfast was the leftovers from the night before. I actually like the taste of vegetables since my mom fed me a diet that was 80% vegetables growing up. And vegetables in Shanghai are especially tasty since the vegetables are picked fresh as in farm to table within 24 hours. Read this blogger’s visit to the Shanghai Vegetable Wholesale Market.

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After breakfast, I slept until it was time for lunch. The past six days of sleeping less than three hours a day finally caught up to me. I NEED a 8 hours a day. If not I become a brain-dead zombie who constantly bumps into everyone and everything.

Lunch was at 煲宫(人民广场店), a restaurant that specializes in pepper chicken and pig stomach hotpot. I never ate pig stomach before but was willing to stretch my taste palate at a restaurant that has survived the Shanghai food scene and is one of the top 10 hotpot restaurants in the city.

It turned out to be a good choice. The soup is extremely flavorful with no funky smells or odors, I had been worried about that due to the pig stomach. FYI a good hotpot restaurant in Shanghai in which you cook the food yourself costs more than many restaurants that serve you already cooked food. A large part of the reason is because of the broth which each restaurant claims needs hours upon hours of stewing and they use 26 herbs and so on. The vegetables and tofu in the picture below was ordered separately from the base hotpot which is just chicken and pig stomach. 

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We also ordered a dish of uncooked freshly chopped shrimp paste which is essentially just fresh chopped shrimp. This is one of my favorite things to order at hotpot because though it tastes like shrimp, the texture is completely different. Juicer and bouncier.

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After lunch we headed to the airport in a taxi even though I wrote in my detailed planned itinerary to take the subway because I know how awful traffic can get in Shanghai. You know where this is heading don’t you? G and I almost missed our flight to Datong even though I allocated 3 hours to travel to the airport despite the fact that we had no luggage to check in and that it was only a 40 minute taxi ride or an 70 minute Metro ride and that it was a domestic flight.

And that dear readers is how brain-dead I can be if I don’t get eight hours of sleep a day. So out of it that I cannot follow my own written instructions. But lucky for us we made the flight even though it was nerve racking experience as this is the first time I did not show up 2 hours early for my flight.

Onto Datong where I expected nothing but a dreary, downtrodden, 4th tier city that was once the most polluted city in China in the early 2000’s due to it being the coal capital of China. My relatives and G’s relatives thought we were off our rockers to travel to Datong even though I told them we needed to visit for our book because part of it is based in Datong.

How wrong they and the media were. We arrived at 7pm where I had pre-booked a driver(I am not the type of person that lands at night in an unfamiliar city without secure transportation).

My initial impression of Datong Airport was not good despite it being very clean and new because the airport bathrooms stunk of sewage despite it’s immaculate appearance. They need to not cut corners and put in P-traps. Many department stores even the high end ones in Shanghai had that problem back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s but all that has been fixed.

But as our driver drove towards the city center a magnificent sight greeted me. The entire city center of Datong is encased in a rebuilt ancient city wall. Tastefully lit up, it was as if I was brought back to the old glory days of the Ming Dynasty. FYI The Datong City Wall is nothing like the tacky lit up Xi’an City Wall. I was too busy enjoying the scenery to take pictures so if you are curious take a these photos, which does not begin to capture the charm of a properly lit city wall.

I choose to stay at The Garden Hotel which is the best rated hotel inside the city walls. There are newer and fancier hotels that are cheaper but none with The Garden Hotel’s superb location and staff. These hotel workers from front desk to the cleaning crew were genuinely nice and helpful without the overly subservient attitudes like those of The Park Hyatt’s. And they never took the tip I left them. One thing to note is that even though your non-smoking room is located on non-smoking floor it may be filled with smoke. We had to air out our room because it reeked of cigarettes.

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Dinner that night was McDonald’s where G tried out their latest offering which was a grilled chicken with a wannabe strip of limp bacon between two pieces of Chinese mantou made to look like bread. It tasted okay but nothing I would purchase again.

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McDonald’s green tea jasmine soft-serve though was delicious. G and I enjoyed this treat 5 times during our 26 day stay. Almost as good as TSUJIRI but only 1/4 the price.

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