Category Archives: Shanghai

Pudong’s Way Station

When you are an expat living in places like Changzhou, Wuxi, Zhenjiang, and some of the smaller satellite cities around those prefectures, getting to Pudong International can be a bit of a drama sometimes. This is more the case when you are on a university teacher’s salary and need to travel on budget. You don’t have the deep pockets of an engineer or a business man, and there is no hiring a private driver; you basically have to take a combination of train, subway, and coaches just to get to the airport — and that is just the beginning of a longer journey back to the west. And, sometimes, even logical plans and preparations can go awry.

I know this because I am writing this in New Jersey. It’s that time of year when I go back to America to see my family. Part of my plan involved going to Pudong a night early and staying at the hotel there. Only, no rooms were available once I arrived, and when that happens, one of the airport employees / ushers points you at an booking office that will help you find lodging elsewhere. 

I eventually ended up in a shuttle bus to a nearby hotel. By close, I mean 7 kilometers and in a village near a highway’s on and off ramps.  If you are not careful, you could end up in a “super bargain” of a hotel. Of course, “super bargain” could be a euphemism for something like this…

I ended up here because I thought a representative standing near the Korea Air help desk was some how affiliated with that airline. He wasn’t. This bit of lodging was located on a back street next to a decrepit canal.

Because of a flight scheduling mishap, I ended up staying here for two days. Before anybody suspects that this is the beginning of a horror story, let me just say it isn’t. I have very low standards for hotels — all I need is a clean room, a clean bathroom, a functional shower, wifi, and a desk. If I have that and a cheap lodging price, I am extremely happy. Pools? A weight room? A swanky bar? A fancy restaurant? All that is pretty much useless to me. I am also a guy that doesn’t mind wandering places unfamiliar to me, and I certainly spent a lot time doing that.

At first, Jiangzhen — the town I was in — seemed like a dusty little backwater of Shaghai’s Pudong New District. The major industry here are solely hotels serving overflow passengers needing a temporary accommodation.  I chose to try hard to not look at it that way, and I tried to wander to get a sense of the landscape. I felt watched, quite frankly. Especially by this guy …

Clearly, one of the most epic mustaches in Shanghai.

This all sounds bad, but the entire area has some basic amenities for international travelers that may end up here a night or two.

Starbucks, a Burger King, a KFC, and a few other things. Those are not reasons to come here. Most international travelers do not choose to visit a place like Jiangzhen. None-the-less, they end up here, and time seems to slow down as if you have no other place to go.

Either way, the Jiangzhen area was better than a similar area I stayed in last year while traveling to the USA. That was Hongqiao — their hotel overflow area had nothing, the ATMs were all out of money, and the whole area was a construction site with people staying in it. To that end, Jiangzhen seems a bit cozy.

Great Pastrami at Tock’s Montreal Deli

When I raised the sandwich to my mouth,  it fell apart into a disgusting pile of steak, mayonnaise, corn kernels, and more. I glared at the mess on my plate.  I tried to quell my mounting rage, because — well — sane people don’t lose their minds over hoagies. Also, I shouldn’t have gotten so excited that a new sandwich place opened at Xinbei Wanda Plaza. I set myself up for disappointment.  In the end, I told myself that this is normal for a Chinese city like Changzhou.  The Dragon City is not Manhattan, Brooklyn, or New Jersey. Jewish delis do not exist here.

One does, however, exist in Shanghai, and to say it’s awesome is an understatement. They smoke their own meat and make their own pastrami. In Canada, this would be called “Montreal smoked meat,” but it’s essentially the same thing as pastrami. Montreal does have a legacy of Jewish immigration that also brought kosher deli traditions, and that’s what gives Tock’s — on the other side of the world in China — unique character.

Obviously, the pastrami is the signature menu item, here. It’s featured a few different sandwiches and platters. There are three versions of this cured and brined beef, too, and the differences depend on how much fat you are willing to consume. So, there is a lean, a medium, and a fatty version that you can specify. The times I have eaten there, the waitstaff have always recommended “medium” as the most popular among regular customers. That’s what I had, and it was just perfect, and pastrami really is my favorite lunch meat of all time.  It’s one of the few thing I actually miss about living in New Jersey. I guess you can say that’s also why this deli really was “love at first bite” for me.

As for the two other specialties available, there is smoked duck and smoked chicken. The smoked duck is just glorious. The resulting sandwich was just meat and bread, but the flavor of the meat, piled high and served warm, could give Tock’s pastrami a run for it’s money. While very good, the duck here will always come in second, however.

The smoked chicken is in a distant third. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good, but it just does not have the strong, distinctive flavor of pastrami or duck. Tock’s has a menu option where you can have two different meats within one sandwich. It would be best to pair the chicken with the pastrami or the duck. Pairing the duck and the pastrami would be a bad idea, since you would have two unique, complex flavors clashing with each other.

Tock’s also has poutine. This is a food nearly all my Canadian friends are passionate about. In other English languages cultures, we would call these “wet fries” — fried potatoes smothered with a topping. In that regard, I guess you could argue that “chili fries” would be an American version of poutine. In Canada, this delicious bit of junk food has gravy and cheese curds as basic toppings that could be built upon. Tock’s provides this, but they also have versions that include chopped smoked meat. You can either order a large portion of whatever poutine preference, or you can pay extra and have your side of fries jazzed up beside your sandwich.

I have always left Tock’s stuffed and satisfied. Every time I go there, or some of the other great food places in Shanghai, it gives me the patience to persevere through some of the more blundering attempts you might find in Changzhou start-up sandwich places. That’s not to say Changzhou is bad; I live here and it’s my point of reference. You can find similar experiences in other smaller-sized Chinese cities. In short, Tock’s is absolutely worth a stop while you are visiting  Shanghai and conducting other business.

Tock’s Montreal Deli can be found in The Bund. It is walking distance from the East Nanjing Road subway station, which services Line 2 and Line 11.  It can be found on Henan Road.

Baolong Homelike Hotel: Convenient But Boring Hotel Location

 

Recently, I was on my to Shanghai’s Pudong International for a flight back to New Jersey. I went a day in advance with the idea that I would stay overnight and not have to rush. I eventually missed that flight, but that is another story for another time.  At the time,  I didn’t have a reservation, and lugging a bulky suitcase around Shanghai while looking for a vacancy didn’t seem like a good idea. You could classify that as poor planning on my part, actually.  So, once I got off the train at Hongqiao, I figured I would try the Tourist Information Service desk.  I quickly learned that they could hook me up with a hotel that would send a driver to pick me up. The total one night room charge was 420 RMB, so I thought to give it a try.

 

Baolong Homelike Hotel was about a five minute drive away. From the exterior, it looked nice. The inside looked nice too.

The room itself seemed comfy and cozy.

However, my visit started to go a little downhill quickly. I need to quit smoking, and had I brought my vaporizer, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

Baolong is a completely smoke free hotel. There are bilingual notices everywhere — specifically where public ashtrays used to be. People still use some of them as ashtrays, though.  Another issue was this.

This was the view from my window. The clanking and banging of construction actually went through the night. Then there is the area around the hotel itself.

There really is nothing in this area but construction and other hotels servicing travelers from Hongqiao’s airport and train station. The shopping options around here were extremely limited.

There was a small shopping center with a grocery store. The “pizza and Chinese” place didn’t actually have pizza on their menu. The other strange thing about this place was all of the people sitting around on their cell phones, bored. Did I say this area of Shanghai really doesn’t not have much of anything to do? The other, more annoying problem was this.

The area is filled with broken, non-functional ATMs. The only one that did work had no cash in it. The more bizarre thing were doors that promised access to a cash machine, but that was until you opened them.

And saw nothing but an empty wall and your own shadow. So, the final judgement on Boalong Homelike Hotel goes like this, and I would say this for all the hotels in this area. The only reason to book a room here is if you have a layover and need to kill time while being conveniently not that far away from Hongqiao’s airport and train station.  It’s not a suitable midway point if you are trying to break up getting to Pudong International while traveling in from out of town.