Category Archives: Around the world

The Great Wall (Addendum)

Back in the USA, I can now upload to YouTube at reasonable speeds.

You are taken up to the mountain on a ski lift.

And you get back down on a slide. If there was more distance between riders, then you could go faster and this would be an extraordinary amount of fun. As it is, you will often have to stop for slower riders in front of you making the experience only quite fun.

The Great Wall

I took a quick break from apartment hunting to visit the Great Wall of China in Beijing last weekend. I didn’t get to see the whole thing though as it happens to be on the larger side – only the Mutianyu section. This is one of those places I’ve been wanting to see since I was a little kid.

Whenever I get back home and have solid access to YouTube I will upload a video of the ski lift that takes you up and the longest slide ever that gets you back down.

Disneyland

We did a short trip to Los Angeles for Sarvi’s wedding last week. Which means I couldn’t resist hopping over to Disneyland Park.

I brought the family along, which slowed me down considerably (lesson learned!) but still managed to cover quite a bit:

The original Disneyland is still the nicest! Next time I’ll plan it better and stay longer. I need to go back soon anyway, since Ari probably already forgot about it.

Monster Jam

Ilán has had a lifelong obsession with all things vehicle, so we headed out to San Antonio to check out Monster Jam at the Alamodome.

I don’t consider myself knowledgeable about Monster Trucks and I had never attended one of their shows. We got tickets to the pre-show which allowed us to go down to see the machines up-close and even meet the drivers and get their autographs.

Little did I know that these guys are celebrities. There were long lines of kids holding their $10 program ready to get an autograph from these superstars. Is the world of Monster Trucks big and somehow I’ve stayed unaware of it?

It was a great show, easily able to hold the attention of a 4 year-old kid for 2.5 hours. Just bring earplugs.

Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines

We visited a small private collection of arcades from the Soviet era in Moscow. Given my field of work and the man years I spent playing video games, I found this interesting.

It was a stark contrast, these games and what was available in the western world. Games contemporary to the Sega Genesis era looked only marginally better than Pong.

Lots of mechanical, as in little moving parts, displays. This, instead of the raster graphics on CRT displays common at the time. I will have to look more into what kind of processors these things used and how capable they were.

Add terrible video games to the list of why it was crappy to grow up in the USSR.

Eating in Shanghai 2

…continued from Eating in Shanghai 1.

We went with a large group of colleagues to a pretty good dumpling place. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name. It was in yet another large mall but this time in the financial district.

It’s like kreplach, but with soup inside. How do they get the soup in there?! How!?!?

Intel bunnies at a chip factory? No: dumpling sweat shop workers. I’m into this whole extreme hygiene thing.

After over a week of starving because of my poor chopsticks skills, my coworker gifted me with these purple bunny kiddie chopsticks. I feel no shame rocking them in public.

A highlight for me throughout the trip are steamed buns. It’s a genius concept: instead of sticking bread in an oven, steam it in a little basket! Delicious.

Why doesn’t anyone steam their buns around here?

One interesting cultural difference is that on this side of the world, we remove the face of the things we eat. No such thing in China.

That face looks familiar.

Hot Pot. Kind of like Chinese fondue. I am not a fan of fondue but mostly because I don’t want to dip my food where others dip their food. Fortunately, we each got a personal hot pot so I got to awkwardly fish pieces of food out with my poor chopsticks skills for minutes without bothering anyone else. You order a bunch of food (lamb was a favorite of mine) which they bring raw. You dip, wait, take the food out, wait for it to cool down to a reasonable temperature, eat. Impatience is not your friend. I know because I got to chew a lot of half-cooked stuff and burned the roof of my mouth. The genius of the whole concept is that if you don’t like the food, you only have to blame yourself (the cook) for it!

Hot pot.

Make your own sauce.

Raw cow stomach.

Here’s something I didn’t eat: Turtle soup. I was told that if you feel sick, you should eat it. I think what they meant was: if you eat it, you will feel sick.

Turtle soup. Delicious. Allegedly.

Another pretty good drink I had: Black rice drink.

Black rice drink.

There was a little wooden duck in Ilan’s toy box for years. I finally learned what it was: a chic chopstick holder. Ironically, it eventually got decapitated and was thrown away. I say ironic because at this particular restaurant the duck is served with its head firmly in place.

We had one of those little ducks lying around the house for years and I never knew what it is for. Mystery solved.

Last, shoutout to my uncle Isi and cousin Rafa who heard I was going to be in China and flew halfway around the world to buy me dinner. Happy birthday Isi!

Isi, Rafa, Marcos.

Eating in Shanghai 1

In the time I spent in Shanghai there was a lot of eating. My colleagues at work did an amazing job taking us out to eat. Below I share a few notes from the extensive eating we did.

Only one subway stop away from the hotel was Chamtime Plaza – one of seemingly thousands of restaurant-filled shopping centers around the city. This is a big, fancy place and we probably ate at ten restaurants there. There was one that specialized in Beijing Duck, and while I’ve had that dish before in the US, it definitely doesn’t compare. I think this is the only place we went to twice, on my first and last day.

Beijing ducks and me.

 

Beijing duck

In China they use ingredients that aren’t common in western cuisine. This can be a little challenging to a visitor. Things are made worse when said visitor limits himself to ingredients that aren’t intrinsically treif. Helpfully, most menus are fully illustrated and some are even translated.

Here’s a dish that ingredient-wise I could have technically tried but I decided against:

Donkey meat burger.

The hotel had a wonderful breakfast buffet with local food but also your typically Western breakfast. So you could get seaweed salad, made-to-order Ramen, with some corn flakes; all at the same place.

Glorious breakfast buffet at OneHome hotel.

No ramen in this photo, but do notice the rice thingie filled with sweet beans.

Our hosts took us to a lot of great restaurants. When trying things on our own, we didn’t fare so well. One place that was a total success was Lost Heaven in the Bund, a Yunnan-Style restaurant in… wait for it… the Bund.

Lost Heaven In The Bund

One thing I saw in lots of convenience stores was these white glass bottles that people drank out of using a straw. I couldn’t help but be curious. It turned out to be: yogurt. Good tasting for sure, maybe not the most refreshing thing after an arduous workout.

Yogurt in a glass bottle.

The biggest challenge for me was that I suck at using chopsticks. Everyone else in the country seems not to suck at it. I could have starved, had others not felt pity for me and chopstick-fed me.

I could have not done this better myself. Really.

Honorable mention: tea. Especially milk tea. Especially matcha milk tea.

Matcha milk tea.

This post is getting too long for the limited attention span of my readers, so it will have to be continued…

Eating in Shanghai 2

Shanghai

I headed out on my first trip to China for work. This was my first flight on a 787 Dreamliner (very nice!) and my first trip to China (very far!) and the longest I have been away from my dear beautiful family (very hard!).

The legroom on an American Airlines 15 hour flight is… minimal. There was maybe an inch between my knees and the seat in front of me. Seriously.

My first impressions of the city are great. Very modern, clean, traffic is not insane. Great roads, unbelievable skyline. Excellent subway.

We stayed at the very nice Onehome Art Hotel which had everything from fake clouds, elevator music in every hallway, lots of art, a glorious  Chinese breakfast buffet…

Fake clouds

Seaweed salad for breakfast? Check. Ramen? Check. Anything you want is here.

More fake clouds. They also have weird fake bird sounds all over the place.

Creepy and artsy cell phone charging station at the hotel.

More of Shanghai in upcoming posts.

San Antonio

Back in December the Austin Kirsch family headed to San Antonio to meet the Mexico City Kirsch family. San Antonio is pretty close, so obviously I never think of going.

Highlights:

  • My beautiful nieces
  • San Antonio Zoo: Perfect for little kids. Not gigantic, but not small. Great variety of animals.
  • The DoSeum: This place makes Austin’s The Thinkery feel tiny. I didn’t even know it existed!

Conspicuously missing: Six Flags (closed), Sea World (closed), The Alamo, Riverwalk. Gotta leave something for next time.