I was excited because my newly acquired aubergine Pasaporte is getting the wear and tear that the two green ones stapled to it have seen. Yes, I must carry 3 passports.
The trip was a pure business trip to a province in China that specialized in a particular item we are sourcing for. As always, any trip is also a chance to finish the one book that has been on my travel read list for about a year now, and have yet to finish: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I am happy to announce that finally, I'm on to another read.
Because I lived overseas for a good portion of a decade, I've had my share of airplane rides. So much so that it felt almost routineary. Sometimes I hardly remember to look out the window. I'm more of an aisle flyer myself, never wanting to bother people's personal space just to take a pee break.
This was probably the first time in a long time I peered out, and was pretty flabbergasted at what I saw. a ton of infrastructure, yes. But what struck me was the intention tip-toeing of buildings around mountains, lakes, and other natural resources to make way for paved roads and a ton of skyscrapers. It's true, China is HUGE and from up in the air you could feel its growth all the more.
But then I was momentarily jolted when I had to walk down a flight of stairs to get out of the plane... am I in Caticlan???
Our hotel was about 2 hours by car from the Guangzhou airport, and by the time we arrived we were exhausted and famished. I left the booking and planning to our people, so I wasn't really expecting to live the life. It was a business trip after all.
When we arrived at the International Yucca Hotel, I was speechless. Yes, I'm used to staying at nice places, but for the price we paid, I severely underestimated what my RMB money could buy me. The lobby was immense with marble floors and an overcompensating crystal chandelier to welcome us to the lobby.
It had a spacious receiving area, which indicated that a lot of guests also receive guests. I was excited for our room, since we had booked the Deluxe Suite. I didn't know what to expect, coz I've had my fair share of very un-suite-like features even if we paid top dollar.
I was also loving our bellman who, literally, would not let us lift, press, or do anything while on his watch. He closed the door on me as I was giving him a tip, and I had to run after him in the hallway. I think I ma have insulted him?
Upon entering our room, I was greeted with a spacious living room with marble powder room and some comfy furniture. Suite indeed.
I especially took interest in the mini-bar, with its complimentary almond carbon cookies, tea and other handouts.
The master's bedroom was pretty big as well,with the duvet rivaling the one in my room. I was not a fan of the decor but hey, that's just a minor deet.
The clincher for me is always the bathroom. And, come on, who wouldn't DIE for a bathroom like this. It even had a jacuzzi! Too bad I was traveling with my mother... That would come in handy somehow.
And I won't lie. Yes, I am that Filipino who loves amenities and toiletries. So much so that I would take every shampoo/soap/comb/showercap everyday as well as the refills. I was really in love that they had loofah! Deal with it, there are worse things I can take but don't.
Like this traditional Tea Set sitting on our coffee table. I was tempted to purchase it after all the tea ceremonies we received.
Since I can't really divulge what I did in China, I'll just make everyone hungry by giving an account of what we ate while on trip. The best part about our hotel was its connection to a mall, movie theater, disco, supermarket, and restaurants. In particular, one restaurant left us coming back for more, again and again and, yes, again.
It was like a food court, but not self service. It had little stalls of different provincial cuisines from China. But of course, ignorant old me could not really perceive the difference
First you take a seat, which designates what table number you are. Then the Server (in black suits) hands you a little cardboard card which looks like a bingo sheet with perforated dots indicating prices.
When you choose your meal from a stall, the order taker writes on the back, takes out some dots, and then will deliver the dish to your table. Think Fast Food, but with authentic Chinese food and full service assistance.
So this is our first meal at Food Street on Thursday.
Salted Fish Fried Rice, Fish Head with Tofu and Mushroom Hotpot, Spicy Szechuan Shrimp, Chicken Feet, and Braised Spare Ribs. The latter two I didn't partake in coz I still didn't eat meat.
The next day, Friday, we ended up there for Dinner once more and decided to order from different stalls.
Har Gau. Made interesting with the addition of celery inside.
Pork Knuckle with preserved Dates and Hard Boiled Eggs.
A bit weird because it had vinegar and some honey, so it was sweet, and sour. But NOT salty. We had to figure out how to translate "soy sauce" to our Server. Initially they arrived with soup spoons then bowls, before the table next to us took pity and ordered some salt. SALT.
Spinach & Prawn Dumpling.
My mom said it perfectly when she described it as "sobra sa laman" (too much stuffing)
I got Baby Octopus in a spicy sauce. Note to self: when Chinese say spicy, believe them.
Spring Onion Cake
Since it was being made by an Indian man, i figured it was more like Roti. And it came with traditional curry sauce. I loved this, even if it was sopping in oil.
And then on Saturday, we ate there a third time for lunch. It didn't help that the restaurant was connected to the 3rd floor, and we were lazy to get Chinese cabs who could take us to neverland. This time, we promised to order only one dish each, because the MSG was just getting a bit on our nerves.
I had some Ramen
And my mom had her favorite Fish Head with Tofu and Mushroom Hotpot. She said it is just as good as Choi Garden's, but 3 times cheaper. Speaking of cheap, I didn't realize how affordable dining in China could be. Apparently the RMB is pretty strong but still good when comparing it to eating elsewhere, even Manila!
We decided to "splurge" one time and try the Hotel's Chinese restaurant, the Peninsula Seafood Restaurant. It was one floor of the hotel, and had capacity for about a thousand diners. We saw set menus that had thousands in their prices, so we thought this would get a bit steep
Upon looking at the menu, my mom quickly deciphered that they had a lunch special of 4 dishes for 118RMB. In USD that would be $17.28 or just under PHP800.
This was our order for $17.28.
Fried Rice with asparagus and egg whites
Steamed Fresh Fish
The meal was fit for four people, and we were stuffing ourselves silly because of our Filipino guilt on wasting food. But we were so amazed at what quality we received for such a low price. MSG overload at this point
On our final dinner, we were treated by our suppliers. Sarah, from Hunan, wanted to take us to this Hunan restaurant near their showroom. Here she is with the tea table which I am now coveting. I love the art of Chinese Tea!
The Hunan restaurant looked promising with the bevy of diners eating, smoking, ordering and making one big ruckus. But we didn't end up eating there.
Instead we ate at the restaurant across from it. My mother has an extreme aversion towards smoke, and the sight of everyone lighting up was enough for me to say bye bye to a possibly memorable Hunan meal.
Interestingly enough, the utensils and china were vacuum sealed for sanitary purposes. In China, this is a major leap for mankind. I was getting used to pouring tea all over my cups to make sure they were properly disinfected.
Now here's the thing, Since I started this no meat/poultry/pork/anything but seafood sacrifice, I have always been specific with people feeding me that "I EAT SEAFOOD". Obviously, I know how that can get lost in translation especially when a middle man is involved. So again, I told Sarah that she could order whatever she wants, but I don't eat meat. I eat seafood.
The cuisine was from the Wenzhou province, and this was what we had:
Sweet Corn Soup
Sauteed Gourd (Patola)
Egg Soup ( She actually asked me if I eat eggs).
Garlic KangKong (They called it something else there)
Baby Celery with -WAIT FOR IT- Baby Octopus!
Sauteed Wood Mushrooms (This was delightful. I love mushrooms!)
And Eggplant in Szechuan Sauce
So basically, save for the tiny bits of octopus with the celery, the Dinner was almost entirely vegetarian. My mom and I were a bit surprised, but then realized this was a gift from God himself since we are now able to muster up enough fiber to rid us of all teh MSG we had eaten during this trip
ToT and the Original JMAT
Surprisingly, we didn't do any shopping in China. It rattled us so much that we knew we had to do something about it, even if it meant being unconventional. I was with my mother, after all.
So we headed to the Supermarket to buy food treats to bring home
I am admittedly cheap when it comes to useless spending, so instead of paying .30RMB for a plastic bag, I stuffed the groceries into my purse. Hey, it's big anyways. My mother was not pleased. Filipinos have no hesitation when it comes to shopping, and saving.
We got some Nori chips, Peanut Mochi (TO DIE FOR!!!!) and, look at that Chinese version of Sponge Crunch on the right! I also found a premium bottle of X.O. Sauce which I am sure my brother will hoard when he finds it hidden in my room.
So when we returned to Manila, I noticed a lot of bloat around my face, and since it's 1 month til Labor day, I must go full on intensive workout before summer season ends. Yeah Right. Food is Friend.
In Zongshan province? Stay at Yucca Hotel!