Unbrave Girl Takes on Beijing & Shanghai (and takes a lot of photos to prove it)

May 2, 2011

You might have noticed things have been a bit quiet here on the old blog.

What’s that? You hadn’t noticed?

Well, umm…

Now, I feel awkward.

I understand.  I’m sure you’ve been busy. Maybe you’ve had a lot of stuff at work or have some family things going on right now or have one of those social lives that everyone’s talking about — you know, one that involves actual real-live people that you’ve met in person… and not just people you’ve met on Twitter.

Or maybe you’ve been filling your time with other blogs. Yeah, I get it. I see how things are with you — I stop blogging for a measly couple weeks and you find someone else to take my place. Well, fine. Go. Hang out with your new blog friends. (Wait. Stop. I didn’t mean it. Please, don’t go! Please! )

Or maybe you have noticed — you just didn’t want to say anything for fear of sounding like an Internet stalker. (It’s okay. We all do it. Internet stalking is like Pants Optional Alone Time – something we all do, just not something we all admit to everyone… unless you’re like me and have a tendency to over-share.)

I didn’t mean to be so neglectful.

You see, the thing is, I’ve been too busy traveling over the past couple weeks to update my blog. I spent all of last weekend in Beijing and all of this weekend in Shanghai.

Yes, yes, I know, some people are capable of traveling and blogging, like, at the same time — this is what we in the travel blog business call “travel blogging”.

But, honestly, do I strike you as someone who’s capable of such a feat? Heck, I can barely walk and, ummm, walk at the same time. (What? Did you think I was going to say “walk and chew gum at the same time”? Do you think I’m on some kind of suicide mission? Seriously, I can’t even keep my shoes on while I’m walking. Just last week, I lost my shoes twice. Twice! Lordy, with sandal-season just around the bend, I’m definitely a goner.)

You see, my artistic process is such that I require a lot of time and space in order to write. And, yes, by “artistic process”, I’m talking about writing this blog. And, yes, when I say “time and space,” I am referring to my couch. (This is what we in the travel blog business call “armchair blogging.” It’s kind of like “armchair traveling” just without the traveling… or the armchair.) Therefore, it’s really hard for me to keep up with my blogging while I’m on the go.

Not only have I been spending great chunks of time away from my muse (yes, I’m referring to my couch again), I’ve been doing lots of stuff while I’ve been traveling. I mean, I had to leave my hotel room and everything! While in Beijing, I participated and performed in the Beijing Improv Festival with the Tokyo branch of the comedy group I used to perform with in Osaka. And, while in Shanghai, I spent the weekend sight-seeing, shopping and shoveling dumplings into my mouth with a Japanese friend who was in town.

Oh yeah, and between my weekend in Beijing and my weekend in Shanghai, I had to go to work… like every single day for four whole days. Sheez. It’s like the universe wants to kill me or something.

So, yeah, I’ve been busy, people.

And I would love to tell you all about it.

But, truthfully, I’m exhausted.

As much as I’d love to blather on about all the fabulous travely things I did and saw and ate and drank during my two fabulous travely weekends, I’m simply too tired. (Yes, I am too tired to blather! Not to alarm anyone, but I’m pretty sure this is a sign of the Apocalypse. Next thing we know, there will be a frog plague and the Unicorns of Hell will show up breathing Sparkles of Death. What? Aren’t those signs of the Apocalypse, too?)

So instead of blathering with words, I’ve decided to blather with photos.

This is what we in the travel blogging business call a “photo essay.” Should you not be familiar with the term “photo essay,” don’t be alarmed. You will not need to think very hard, and there won’t be any reading comprehension questions afterwards. In fact, a “photo essay” is not an essay at all but a collection of pictures with some words attached… you know, kind of like a photo album but with a fancier name that makes you feel smarter.

Granted most photo essays on other travel blogs feature really nice pictures —  the kind of photos that speak a thousand words with a single image. Unfortunately, most of my photos speak about three or four words — usually something along the lines of “I ate this” or “Look at that” or “This made me laugh” or “Wow, I drank way too many gin and tonics. I think I’ll just start taking random pictures of people’s shoes until I pass out on the pool table.” (Yes, I realize that was more than three or four words, but the gin makes me chatty.)

So, here goes, I present to you photos from my past two weekends of being travely in Beijing and Shanghai. (Okay, so I did include some words with the photos. It’s not like I can totally give up on words. I love words! Words are like gin and tonics. You really can’t have too many of them!)

I ate this.

While in Beijing, of course, I had to try Peking Duck. Every bit of the duck is served to you — from the crispy, delicious skin (which you roll in sweet sauce and sugar and wrap in a small pancake) to the head (which is… um… okay, I have no idea how you go about eating that thing… and I was too full from all the duck skin covered in sugar to even attempt to chomp on the duck head).

Move over, popcorn! While watching the Peking Opera in Beijing, you get to munch on nuts, seeds, cakes and other goodies during the show.

Grilled seahorse on a stick for sale at a street-side stand in Beijing. (Okay, so I didn’t actually eat this. I mean, can you blame me? Just look at those sad little seahorses. Somewhere, a mermaid is crying for them.)

Steamed dumplings for breakfast at Yuyuan Tourist Mart, a large temple market, in Shanghai — because every day in China should start with dumplings… or end with dumplings. Or, you know, involve dumplings in some way.

Hot pot fixings in Shanghai — cooked right at the table by yours truly… and I didn’t even set myself on fire or anything!

Pan-fried dumplings in Shanghai — covered in sesame seeds, spring onions and awesomeness.

Look at that.

A tower in Beijing… possibly the Drum Tower… or maybe the Bell Tower. (Sorry, I don’t have a good memory for these things… and my memory tends to get worse when addled by lack of sleep and a weekend’s worth of gin and tonics.)

Rickshaws on the street of Beijing.

Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in Beijing. As I only had an hour free before my flight, all I could do was wander around the square for a bit and take some pictures. I didn’t get a chance to check out the Forbidden City. (Which, frankly, is not very “forbidden” at all judging from the huge line of people waiting in line for tickets. Sheez, with a name like that you’d think it would be a bit more exclusive!)

View from the Bund, a popular waterfront area and tourist destination in Shanghai, during the day.

View from the Bund at night.

Yuyuan Garden — also a very popular tourist destination in Shanghai. It was especially popular this past weekend as it was a long holiday weekend. The entire garden was packed full of large tour groups, which made taking photos difficult as it required a lot of, what we in the travel blogging business call, “waiting around for people to get out of my photo, already.”

A female drumming troupe performing in Xin Tian Di area in Shanghai.

Storefronts in the hip, artsy Tianzifang District.

Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s busiest shopping street — made even busier with the holiday-weekend crowds.

This made me laugh.

A warning sign at the hostel in Beijing.

The Great Wall of KFC. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time while in Beijing to go check out the actual Wall,  but the mural at this KFC was almost as good as the real deal… and if I crop out all the chairs and tables I can just pretend all the photos I took at the KFC are from the Great Wall. This is what we in the travel blogging business call “lying.” It’s a technical term.)

Sign at the airport in Beijing. (Well, that clears things up.)

People watching people in Shanghai.

Communist pigs for sale at a shop in Shanghai.

Wow, I drank way too many gin and tonics. I think I’ll just start taking random pictures of people’s shoes until I pass out on the pool table.

 Okay, so it turns out that I never did take any pictures of people’s shoes. But I did drink my fair share of gin and tonics and had a great time catching up with old friends and making a few new ones (real ones! not just Facebook ones!)… before, you know, passing out on a pool table or two.

It’s been an exhausting couple weeks… and, I’m sure I’ll get around to blathering on and on about it once I’ve recovered and allowed myself a little more time to channel my inspiration. (And, yes, by “channel my inspiration” I am talking about my couch.)


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On May 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm Andrew said:

    Gin and Tonic glow in black-light, and are quite tasty.

    Did you get a communist pig to put with your couch? Every couch needs a stuffed animal to guard it.

    How do you pronounce fu#k? Is it a tonal world in Chinese?

    I notice the lack of pictures of cookies.
    Andrew recently posted..Having Baggage while Traveling

    • On May 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm Sally said:

      Oddly, I haven’t had any cookies lately — cookies are kind of a “couch” food and since I’ve been away from my couch… Alas, I think this situation needs to be remedied!

  2. On May 2, 2011 at 8:01 pm Michi said:

    I noticed you were gone! Err, in a non-stalker-y sort of way. 🙂 I LOVE Peking duck and all sort of dumplings and oh my God I have a gigantic craving for Chinese food right now (and everyday actually). And I don’t blame you for not blogging while traveling – we should enjoy traveling to the max whenever we get the chance to travel!
    Michi recently posted..Berenjenas con Miel

  3. On May 2, 2011 at 8:10 pm Stephanie said:

    Love the hostel sign.
    Stephanie recently posted..5 Things I Have Learned About Living Simpler

    • On May 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm Sally said:

      Yes, it was great. I just wish I could have gotten a picture large enough to fit in all the warnings & helpful tips… there were some real doozies.

  4. On May 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm Ken C. said:

    We wondered what you were up to…now we [faithful readers] know that you were honing your skills as an photo-blogger in exotic, bucket-list locales like Beijing & Shanghai…

    Excellent pictures! You could also have a career as a food-photo-blogger.

    I think those Shanghai drum girls had read your previous post on embracing your freak, as they definitely have something going on. And, I’m happy to say that I’m always cautious when using the word “fu#k” in public, as I’m not sure whether to pronounce it with a “pound sign” or “number sign,” and I wouldn’t want to offend anyone from Beijing…

  5. On May 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm Katherina said:

    haha I love that sign warning you that old chinese men may spit for health reasons. That’s good to know!
    And now I got hungry seeing those steamed dumplings….
    Katherina recently posted..Picture This- Spring in Vevey

    • On May 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm Sally said:

      Yes, and here all this time I thought the old Chinese men were spitting at me for fun! (Just like I like to swear for fun… ahh, cultural differences!)

  6. On May 3, 2011 at 12:41 am Juno said:

    Sorry mermaid and Sally. Seahorse on a stick? crossed off my list few years ago from Wang-fu-jing street. It doesn’t mean that I have a list of ‘things to eat-weird version’. It sort of happened, so I added it on my list and crossed off. Oh the thrill!
    But you know, I didn’t really pleasant while I ate it, just for the record.
    Juno recently posted..Runaway Photo of the week 1st May 2011

    • On May 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm Sally said:

      You know, I had a feeling those seahorses wouldn’t be very pleasant-tasting. They look very dry and brittle & like there wouldn’t be much meat on them. (And, I forgive you… but I’m not so sure about the mermaid.)

  7. On May 3, 2011 at 1:16 am MaryAnne said:

    Should I have reminded you to take a picture of my shoes while we were drinking those super-strong G&Ts with Fiona on Sunday? Because i was wearing awesome shoes that day. Seriously. They would have been great in a photo essay.

    By the way, there was this dude spitting for health reasons in a restaurant we were eating in yesterday… every three seconds. Seriously. It was horrifying. No sooner do you get a little Hunan bacon and eggplant into your mouth than he phlegmed up a huge roaring hoark no more than two meters away. For, like, an hour. How much phlegm can one man produce? If you rid your body of so much crud in such a short space of time, can you die? Can you be reduced to anti-matter?
    MaryAnne recently posted..Breaking Free- The Karmic Irony Edition

    • On May 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm Sally said:

      I was actually going to comment on your shoes. They were lovely! And I really should have had a few more G&Ts and taken their picture. Alas, we’ll have to schedule another G&T & photo-shooting session in Shanghai in a couple weeks!

  8. On May 3, 2011 at 1:37 am Odysseus said:

    Yay, a new unbrave post! I was excited to see that it also included a shout-out to me (your Internet stalker!). I think the highlight of your photo essay, though, was the sign warning foreigners that Chinese people do not understand the fun of swearing. In this day and age, when you yell mean things at people, they so rarely appreciate the fun of it. I also like the inclusion of the word “always” in “spitting is not always directed at you.” Only sometimes. Like when you swear and the Chinese people do not understand the fun of it.
    Odysseus recently posted..The Grace of India

    • On May 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm Sally said:

      You know, I love my Internet stalkers the best! It’s always nice to know that someone loves me (because all those old guys spitting at me definitely don’t love me — and they ARE directing their spit at me. I’m sure of it!).

  9. On May 3, 2011 at 4:40 pm Ceri said:

    Well, gin and tonics or not, it sounds like an awesome couple of weekends, hun. 😀 I did notice that you’d been a little quiet … so I guess you could shove me into that ‘stalker’ category. Ho hum. 😛
    Ceri recently posted..6 Months

  10. On May 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm Photogenuiss said:

    Deleting my browser history almost makes me feel like I never cyberstalked you in the first place. hahah thanks for the return!

    • On May 4, 2011 at 12:24 am Sally said:

      Deleting my browser history is kind of like a double-edged sword for me. Yes, it deletes all evidence of cyber-stalkerdom & time wastingness, but it also deletes all my saved passwords… so then I have to spend 10 seconds on each site putting in my username & password & that’s valuable cyber-stalking/time-wasting time!

  11. On May 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm Bendos71 said:

    Chinese street food is incredible.

    I don’t think I walked past a dumpling in Shanghai without eating it.

    More please!

    • On May 4, 2011 at 12:21 am Sally said:

      I think it’s technically impossible to walk past a dumpling and not eat it. They have this magnetic force that just MAKES YOU EAT IT. Resistance is futile.

  12. On May 5, 2011 at 1:40 am Katie said:

    At the risk of sounding like an Internet stalker…I’m glad you’re back. I missed reading your posts while stuck at the office. 🙂

    I loved the photos! The airport’s “you’re here” sign had me in stitches.

    Can’t wait to read more!

  13. On May 5, 2011 at 1:40 am ChinaMatt said:

    You made me miss some of my travels…especially since I doubt I can afford a trip back to China this summer. Those communist pigs would go great with my cartoonish Chairman Mao doll (I bought it at Grifted in Beijing).
    ChinaMatt recently posted..Farewell Bagels

  14. On May 6, 2011 at 7:32 am Paul said:

    I think my favorite photo is the poor duck dish that is looking ever so gracefully at it’s soon to be eaten dismembered body.

  15. On May 9, 2011 at 11:07 am Evan said:

    Great post!! “You’re Here!” Hahaha, fantastic.
    Evan recently posted..Lotus Lantern Parade

  16. On May 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm Choi Kum Fook said:

    Hi Sally! All good taste food can be found in great China. Of course, I am pretty sure the meat you have eaten, the back of its body always face to the sky. Can you find out any animal with its back is not facing to the sky? It is considered rude to spit in public. But, the throat would be felt better and smoother after spitting. I think, now the Chinaman have improved a lot in spitting. Sally, I love and enjoy reading your post very much especially with colour illutration! Please don’t miss next destination—Xi’an, the former capital of China.You can see many historic spots and read a lot of historical stories in this great ancient city. Bon voyage! .

  17. On May 11, 2011 at 6:55 am Lorna - the roamantics said:

    wow sally! you were busy! just explaining the fun side of “fu#k” to all the chinese people…phew 😉 sounds like you had soooooo much fun! love the pics! 🙂
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..Life and Travel Lessons from Mom

  18. On May 12, 2011 at 8:53 am Christy said:

    Hahahaha, you’re really good, and I am laughing:)
    I get it when you talk about blogging or writing from your space; I don’t update my blogs when I am traveling too; well for a few simple reasons:
    1. Travel means vacation, and to take my mind off everything and I am too busy exploring places. You don’t fly there for hours to sit there and write, do you?
    2. Like you, I am practically out the whole day, and when I am back, I am exhausted and I need a good bath and sleep for another early (and long) day
    3. Yes, I need that familiar or muse to write:)

    Hehe…I’m only supposed to comment and there I go, like I’m writing a post!:P
    Oh btw, that signboard you captured MADE ME laugh too…loud 😀
    Christy recently posted..Hong Kong Street Snack- Little egg waffles Gai Dan Chai 雞蛋仔

  19. On June 1, 2011 at 9:54 pm jade said:

    I was shocked by how many bikes there were in Beijing- it seemed like everyone rode a bike! It also surprised me that the car drivers didn’t really care about all the bikers and would just run right into them!

    oh, and I LOL at that signboard too.


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