Chinese Hot Pot: All You Can Eat

Chinese hot pot: where all you can eat, self-BBQ and food on a conveyor belt all come together!

Conveyor belts with all you can eat sushi are popular worldwide. But it’s done a little differently in China. The Hot Pot Store is a restaurant where you can eat as much as you want for just 39 RMB ($6). The conveyor belt is set up so that people can sit on either side and everyone has a small hot plate in front of them.

When you are seated you choose your preferred broth: it can be spicy, meaty or a veggie-flavored. They don’t always have an English menu but it’s easy to at least figure out if it is “la” (spicy) or “bu la” (not spicy). While the pot simmers, you can go to the ready-to-eat area and fill your plate with fruit, ice cream and plenty of mysterious but yummy finger food.

The conveyor belt is loaded with tofu, raw veggies, a wide variety of mushrooms and even lettuce leaves, to be used as a burrito shell for cooked foods, rotating on the belt. It’s not just food, but straws are also rotating in a cup on the belt – the drinks are located in a fridge and you can take them yourself and then pay for them afterwards. “Maidian” is the Chinese word for bill and it happens to be the name of the Ukrainian revolution, so I find it easy to remember.

Most people just take a bunch of different food, dump it in the pot and eat it all together once it’s ready. There is also a great choice of sauces: spicy, sour among others.

Hot pot restaurants are popular in China and they come in all shapes in sizes. In restaurants you can get up to three different broths in a divided pot. You can then buy a variety of raw foods to throw in the pot, including frozen vegetables.

If you are not accustomed to Chinese cuisine, you may have some stomach problems as the broth is boiled tap water which can contain chemicals and bacteria that Westerners aren’t used to. Water is often brought to the table free of charge, however it may also be tap water. If they don’t bring you water automatically, you can ask for it – but don’t be surprised if it’s hot. You have to ask for “bing shuǐ” (cold water). Shuǐ is the spelling in pinyin, it’s pronounced a bit like shway.

There are also street-food hot pots served on tiny mobile carts in the evenings. The raw foods including meat, fish and vegetables are sold on sticks – customers select what they want and the vendor takes the items off the stick into a to-go cup of hot broth. It’s a great snack: quick & cheap! The experience is unique to China so make sure not to miss out on it when you visit.

Please excuse the low quality phone pics:
Meats, fish, dumplings and more:
Fruit! And tomatoes… they are 100% classified as a fruit here.
Sauces and more to spice things up!
They kept refilling this, but we ate it too quickly…
These ice creams were basically frozen sodas. Some were corn-shaped!

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Beer Pong in a Grocery Store

Partying is a little different in China. The best place to play beer pong is in a grocery store!

Pub-crawls are not possible in small Chinese towns that only have one or two real pubs. But that doesn’t stop anyone from having a party. Small grocery stores make for the perfect location to relax, have a drink and even play some beer pong!

Not every grocery store has tables and chairs, but those that do have pretty lax rules. If there is a designated sitting area within the store it is normal to take whatever you want to eat or drink off the shelves and dig in!

The Chinese culture promotes honesty and trust, so they let you enjoy yourself and pay for your purchases at the end of the night!

If you take a bottle of wine from their shelves and you need a bottle opener, they don’t even mind you rummaging behind the counter if they’re not around.

They also allow you to bring drinks or food purchased elsewhere, as long as you or your friends are buying from the store too.

They are very accommodating and are open to just about anything. If you ask them for cups to play beer pong, they will be happy to give them to you. When you play wildly and spill drinks all over the floor, they will just laugh, hand you some tissues and will cheer you on.

Unfortunately, they don’t always have a bathroom, sometimes not even a squatting one. Generally, though, any businesses nearby will be happy to let you use their bathroom even if you’re not a customer. Sometimes they will even have regular sitting toilets with stocked toilet paper in the places where you least expect it!

This is definitely a unique way to party and enjoy a night out!
Why go on a bar crawl when you can hop from one grocery store to another?

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Chicken Feet and Century Eggs

Chicken feet (bones and all) are a Chinese delicacy. So are rotten smelling black eggs! Read more…

Before moving to China I believed in trying everything at least once! In the past few years I’ve gone out of my way to try unusual foods and I was excited to try as much new food as possible in my new home.

It wasn’t too hard to find exciting foods in Huaqiao! I sampled silkworm larva, jellyfish and all sorts of unusual looking mushrooms – or at least I thought they were mushrooms.

At least half of what I tried was impossible to identify. Despite my adventurous nature, I spent several weeks avoiding two famous Chinese delicacies: chicken feet and century eggs.

Century eggs seemed a little less intimidating so I bought half a dozen. The photo of a black egg on the cover made them easy to distinguish from regular eggs. I hadn’t done much prior research so I just casually peeled the egg and bit into the gelatinous black egg ‘white’. Unimpressed, I tried a bit of the foul smelling yolk which was only a little better.

After reading up about proper century eggs preparation I discovered that they should be diced and eaten with rice pudding. This is a popular breakfast in several provinces in China.

Since the preparation time is over 3 hours, I haven’t tried it just yet. I did give century eggs a second chance though, soya sauce made them much more bearable as did the chaser: Ukrainian vodka.

Chicken feet were a much greater challenge. It wasn’t possible to just close my eyes, put them in my mouth and potentially swallow them whole if I didn’t like them. Chicken feet include bones, nails, skin and surprisingly little flesh. Once again I did no research so I wasn’t quite sure how to approach them.

One Friday night after drinking some wine, beer and shots I was craving snacks. I got chocolate sticks, salted seaweed and one chicken foot that only cost 2RMB (7 CZK or 0.25 USD). Luckily, there was someone braver than me who took the slimy foot out of the airtight bag and he even took the first bite. Bravery is contagious so I followed his lead and nibbled around the ankle.

Surprise surprise… it tasted like chicken! I was quickly told that fresh chicken feet are much better, plus the cheap snacks are full of preservatives. Unfortunately, the freshly cooked chicken feet covered in garlic and chili pepper were way too spicy and impossibly chewy – but at least I tried!

There are various ways to eat chicken feet: in soup, fried and on a stick just to mention a few. If I happen to come across non-spicy freshly fried chicken feet on a stick, I may give them one last try.

There are many ethical reasons to avoid chicken feet of course, especially since the chickens they were once attached to were likely tortured. However, I believe in using as much of a killed animal as possible and eating chicken feet does just that!

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Drawing the Line Between Pet and Dinner

China treats their cattle badly but their pets like royalty. Why and how does this work?

China is well-known for animal cruelty and it only takes a few days living here to see it in person. Markets and grocery stores sell miserable looking animals: fish floating belly up in murky water, live shrimp wrapped up in cellophane and turtles with damaged or even missing shells. But just like in the West, pets are treated very differently than livestock.

My first week in China I saw a large white rabbit hopping between stalls in the market. I took a quick picture and walked off, not wanting to draw attention to in. I assumed that it had escaped from one of the many cages selling live animals as food.

 The very next day I found a chicken near my apartment. It was sitting in a hole in the dirt flapping its wings looking dirty. I was considering taking it home to save it but an elderly woman came over to claim it. I felt bad for days thinking about the horrible things that could have happened to the poor animals.

While the animals written off as food suffer greatly, I see spoiled dogs on a daily basis. Poodles especially are popular in China and they are all well-groomed, some even well dressed and they don’t have those embarrassing haircuts like they often do in Europe.

It had me thinking about how humans treat some animals like children while others get brutally slaughtered. It would be hypocritical of me to criticize anyone because I eat meat almost every day. Two weeks after spotting that bunny I realized that I wasn’t only a hypocrite but I also made a racist assumption based purely on prejudice.

On my way out of the house I ran into the chicken near it’s hole with a large bowl of water and some grains that it was pecking it. The woman I had seen with it was watching over it lovingly. A few days later I went to buy some grapes and saw the fat white bunny lying in the shade getting fed by three young girls.

I have since seen the pet chicken and bunny on several occasions, living happily with their owners as part of their family. I have also seen sad water frogs sitting in bone-dry aquariums waiting to be put out of their misery. Then there’s the geese drugged into standing completely still in a tiny cage together with chickens.

Unfortunately, this double standard exists across the globe and we are far from making the world a better place for all animals – not just cats and dogs.

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

WOMEN’S HEALTH 101

Prague has a great healthcare system and it is important for women to understand how to take advantage of it. Finding a gynecologist is the first step to staying healthy and there are plenty to choose from. Most English speaking gynecology clinics aren’t covered by insurance so it is important to know your options.

Read the full article on Prague.TV’s website. The best place to discover Prague, like a local!

http://prague.tv/en/s72/Directory/c202-Health-Wellness/n6715-Women-s-Health-101

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

WHERE TO FIX YOUR PHONE, LAPTOP OR NOTEBOOK IN PRAGUE

Do not panic about a cracked phone display or an overheating laptop. Prague is littered with repair shops that will take care of your exact needs. Where to go and how much it will cost depends on the severity of the problem, where you originally bought the device and whether you still have insurance.

Read the full article on Prague.TV’s website. The best place to discover Prague, like a local!

http://prague.tv/en/s72/Directory/c218-Technology/n6692-Where-to-Fix-your-Phone-Laptop-or-Notebook-in-Prague

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

The Tallest Building in Shanghai – America’s Next Top Model Style

Shanghai is home to the second tallest building in the world and many other fascinating sky scrapers!

The famous Shanghai skyline teems with skyscrapers – each trying to outdo the other. An architect would explain how there is different terminology for skyscrapers (continuously habitable buildings over 10 floors tall) and how a supertall skyscraper (over 300 meters/984 feet) is NOT the same as a megatall skyscraper (over 600 meters/1,969 feet).

          Did I put you to sleep yet? Let me try this again…

Three beautiful buildings loom over my head but I only have one picture in my gift bag. The photo in the bag represents the tallest building in Shanghai. I will only call one name and the names that I do not call must immediately stop pretending to be the tallest building in Shanghai.

          Contestant Number One: Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Oriental Pearl Tower was disqualified in 2007 when a new tower surpassed it in height. But your high social media score brought you back! Fans will never forget how you took China by storm in 1994. After just 3 years of construction you made it to the top. Every hallway may be a runway but you make every night fashion week. Your fierce façade lights up the city every night!

Fans flock from all over the world and can’t get enough of your boom boom WOW. They don’t care that you’re not the tallest anymore or that it can take up to 4 hours to see the view from your observatory deck. Your beauty has even built bridges, allowing tourists to photograph you safely above the busy traffic. Shine on as a role model for every tower that doesn’t think it’s tall enough to be beautiful.

           Contestant Number Two: Shanghai World Financial Center

In 2007 you shocked China and rose as the second tallest building in the entire world! Your flawesome design offers the best view of the city and of the Oriental Pearl Tower. Your modestly only attracts those visitors who are worthy of your beauty which is why the line to the observatory only takes a mere 30 minutes.

At night you light up in a simple blue hue, your very own white tank and jeans, the perfect go-see outfit. From your 100-floor-high glass walkway to the impressive miniature of Shanghai on the ground floor – you portray elegance and poise H-2-H (head to toe). If we were doing Ty-Overs, I wouldn’t change a single LED light bulb.

          Contestant Number Three: Shanghai Tower

The youngest contestant of them all! Shanghai Tower took center stage in 2015 and gained instant fame for being the tallest of the only three adjacent supertall skyscrapers in the world. Your iconic twisted pose shows off all your best features. You know how to give just enough with your smize and your true nature* still remains a mystery to the world.

*A lot of the interior including the higher observatory deck are still closed. The building only opened to the public this summer.

The time has come. It’s time to announce who is the tallest building in Shanghai…

Wait… what is this?!? This photograph appears to be cropped! Give me another one…

Well that’s pretty. Pretty inaccurate! Was this ALSO purchased in the Shanghai World Financial Center observatory gift store? Where’s the tallest building in Shanghai? Why is everyone shrugging? Isn’t it supposed to be right next to the Shanghai World Financial Center? Are you seriously pretending that it doesn’t exist? *sigh* This is getting embarrassing… and by the way, you looks like a giant bottle opener!

This post is based on a true story. Most of the souvenirs we bought had conveniently left out the Shanghai Tower, the true tallest building in Shanghai. The staff refused to comment and just shrugged when we joked about the photos being cropped.

Some facts about the three buildings:

  • The Shanghai Tower is currently the second tallest building in the world. It is 632 meters (2,073 feet) tall, 196 meters (643 feet) shorter than the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
  • The Shanghai World Financial Center is currently the fifth tallest building in the world. It is 492 meters (1,614 feet) tall. They claim that their observatory deck is the highest in the world but even this statement seems to ignore the neighboring megatall skyscraper and it’s 119 floor viewing deck
  • The Oriental Pearl TV Tower’s antenna reaches 467.9 meters (1,535 feet) but the top floor sits at 350 meters (1,148 feet). At 7PM the tower lights up in a colorful array of lights that can be viewed from the Shanghai World Financial Center – but make sure to grab a spot early on as it gets pretty packed.
Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

REGISTERING AT THE FOREIGN POLICE

Registering at the foreign police is obligatory for anyone who is staying in the Czech Republic for more than 30 days. Non-EU citizens are supposed to register within three days within arrival. EU citizens on the other hand have 30 days but still need to register.

Read the full article on Prague.TV’s website. The best place to discover Prague, like a local!

http://prague.tv/en/s72/Directory/c212-Relocation/n6690-Registering-at-the-Foreign-Police

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Chinese Valentine’s Day: Tough Love or True Love?

China has it’s own Valentine’s day and plenty of other ways for singles to meet!

In a country where men outnumber women by over 33 million, finding love is not easy. The problem goes beyond numbers. According to Wang Yu, the owner of TanTan (the Chinese version of Tinder), globalization and China’s one-child policy are the main reasons for China’s single men problem.

Yu explains in an interview with Vice that shows like Sex in the City result in the naturally picky Chinese women becoming more modern, leaving millions of Chinese men forever alone.

This is great news for women who no longer feel the pressure of settling down by 27, the age when unmarried women become considered flawed spinsters. However, it passes on the unfair label “shengnu” (meaning left over) to men.

While Chinese men desperately fight the friend zone and the 10+ other men who also want the same woman, Chinese women are too busy enjoying single life to bat an eyelash. Could China be in danger of becoming the next Japan where 50% of adults are no longer having sex?

Do not fear, Qixi is here!
(I’m not even kidding, it’s actually today…)

Celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th Chinese lunar month, Qixi is the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. It’s been China’s most romantic holiday since the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and was traditionally celebrated by women demonstrating their needle threading skills under the moonlight and carving intricate designs on the skins of unsuspecting melons.

Traditionally there was also worshiping of the Vega star and children hanging wild flowers on the horns of oxen. The holiday is based on the legend of Niúláng and Zhínǚ, the ox-herd married a fairy who became a weaver girl to be with him. Zhínǚ’s mother, who happened to be a powerful goddess, was unimpressed with her daughter’s decision and banished her to heaven. The goddess created a river of stars (the Milky Way) to separate the (literally) star-crossed lovers and only allowed them to meet once a year on Qixi!

You can read more cool stories about China on China Highlights – my main source for this article!  Check out a few other romantic Chinese legends here.

Today, the holiday is celebrated just like Valentine’s Day with flowers, chocolate and romantic dinner dates. It is also a popular time to organize mass blind dates for anyone still looking for their special someone. Large public dating events do happen all year long, so not falling in love on Qixi is not the end of the world. Plus, the Chinese celebrate Western Valentine’s Day too which means more flowers, chocolate and opportunities to meet “the one”.

Almost every country has their own version of Valentine’s Day. Leave a comment with your favorite V-Day alternative or feel free to tell me just how much you hate commercialized holidays 😉

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0

Four Health Benefits of Moving to China

Squat toilets, dangerous traffic, hard mattresses and sweating all summer long has it’s health benefits!

1. Improved Bowel Movement: Squat Toilets!

I admit that squatting over a hole in the ground is extremely weird if you’ve never done it before. However studies show that the squatting position is not only more hygienic but also healthier than sitting. Humans were “designed” to squat! Sitting actually stops the flows and tenses muscles that should be relaxed for everything to go smoothly. Don’t believe me? Here’s one of countless articles on the topic.

Just imagine how much better the world would be if everyone squatted. There are even social benefits like not arguing about leaving the toilet seat up. In fact, no one would ever have to touch a toilet seat again! Not sure how to do it without making a mess? Read an article with tips on how to do it right!

2. Staying Young Forever with Adrenaline Rushes: Crossing the Road is an Adventure!

This may not be true for every city in China, but Huaqiao has some pretty unique driving norms. On my very first day here I was told to do the following:

•    Ignore traffic lights – no one respects them so relying on them is dangerous
•    Look both ways when crossing the road even if it’s one way
•    Practice constant vigilance near cars, e-bikes or tuk tuks

In just one week I’ve witnessed a car accident involving a tuk tuk and seen dozens of e-bikes driving fearlessly in the wrong direction on busy roads full of fast cars. It’s pretty easy to get that daily dose of adrenaline every time I leave the apartment, so I’m excited to discover that it can protect my body and mind from the effects of aging. I’ll just have to avoid getting run over long enough to test the theory…

3. Achieving Perfect Spine Alignment – Hard Mattresses

The health benefits of sleeping on a firm mattress have been circulating media for years now. It can be extremely uncomfortable at first but anyone can get used to sleeping on a hard surface. Plus the benefits make the adjustment period worth it. To maximize health benefits, Chinese mattresses are made extra hard. To an inexperienced foreigner like myself, lying on one can be compared to lying on the floor – and not the soft carpeted kind.

Here are some Chinese mattresses tips for fellow newbies:
•    Do your best to give sleep on a hard mattress a change, it can only make you healthier
•    Expect a few sleepless nights and grumpy mornings
•    Don’t panic if you can’t sleep on a hard mattress, you can buy a soft one in IKEA
•    Don’t jump onto a hard mattress unless you live near the ER
•    Don’t expect to find a soft mattress in a Chinese furniture store*

* If someone allegedly knows a Chinese furniture store that sells soft mattresses, don’t get overly excited and make sure to knock on some wood (or your stone-hard mattress) to avoid jinxing your good fortune.

4. Daily Toxin Cleansing – Unlimited Sweating in 40°C Weather

It may be a myth that sweating helps eliminate toxins but there are plenty of other health benefits including an endorphin boost, cold prevention and decreased risk of kidney stones just to mention a few. This year has apparently been one of the hottest summers ever and my first week had a consistent temperature of high 30s & low 40s (100+°F) that felt like 50°C (122°F). It’s great to know that I’ll be very healthy until about early October!

There is also no regular Western deodorant in my city! So I don’t have worry about potentially cancerogenic substances found in most types of deodorants. This doesn’t mean I go around smelling bad, there are plenty of natural ways to keep from smelling bad – dabbing some baking soda on your armpits works wonders!

Follow The Travel Bug Bite at:
0