Sherpas Favorites – Dos Locos

Sherpas is a food delivery service in Shanghai. Pretty much what they do is go to your favorite restaurant, get take-out, and then deliver it to your door for a small service charge (about $2.50). This is quite popular in Shanghai and you will see the motorcycle drivers buzzing around in their orange and black scooters all throughout the day and night. I get this service a couple of times a week so I figured I would share some of my favorites on my blog for others.

My go-to favorite is Dos Locos. This is more or less a Chipotle clone. When I lived in Texas, I went to either Chipotle or Freebirds quite often. Dos Locos does a pretty good job of cloning Chipotle. They have the normal burritos, burrito bowls, nachos, tacos, etc. I normally go for a barbacoa burrito or burrito bowl. This time, I got a fully loaded barbacoa burrito bowl, two coke zeros, and a jar of salsa.

Order on Sherpas

Order on Sherpas

After about an hour later, everything arrives. The time really varies depending on the weather and time. I’ve had it take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. This is what came:

Chipotle Clone

Chipotle Clone

Very tasty and worth every penny. Definitely try this out if you are in Shanghai and have a hankering for Chipotle.

The Chinese Movie Theater Experience

So last weekend I did something that I dreaded on doing for a while- I went to a Chinese movie theater. Now don’t get me wrong- I love going to movie theaters. When I lived in Dallas, I went to Alamo Drafthouse almost every week. I love movies and the movie theater experience that Alamo has to offer. They kick out anyone that talks/texts and offers a fine selection of craft beer and fresh food from scratch. The Chinese movie theater I went to was the polar opposite of Alamo Drafthouse.

My first big problem with movies in China is the censorship and government regulation of foreign movies in general. Even if a foreign movie does come out in China, it usually takes a few months after it was released in USA to actually go through the censors and get a theater release. When it does eventually get released, there is no guarantee that the government didn’t edit out or alter the movie to quell anything not in the interest of the government. The ironic thing is that bootleg DVD stores that sell the unedited version of movies (even new releases that are still in theaters) are all over China and are seemingly tolerated.

The second hesitation I had with going to a Chinese movie theater was the type of audience I would be sharing the theater with. Chinese people talk very loudly and I had heard stories about them being very inconsiderate in a movie setting. Even in USA, if someone talks or texts on their phone the entire experience is ruined for me. That’s why Alamo Drafthouse is so valuable- they kick everyone out that does this and leave the adults to watch movies.

Alas, despite my reservations, one Monday that my girlfriend and I had off we decided to see Cinderella. This is a classic Disney fairy tail with little that could be interpreted as revolutionary capitalistic propaganda by the Chinese government so we figured it was a safe bet to see in the theaters unedited. Furthermore, we decided to see it at the Palace Theater in IFC Mall. For those not familiar with Shanghai, IFC Mall is a super high scale mall that houses all the brands from Prada to Louis Vuitton. It is considered ultra high class and a place where we thought would be out of the typical loud/stupid moviegoer’s price range. On top of all this, we picked a time where most people would be at school or work (4pm on a Monday). With all of this going for it, how bad could it be? Turns out, very bad.

First let me say that the movie theater itself was very nice- comfortable seats, crystal clear picture, and a booming loud audio system. It was also very clean and deserved the name “Palace Theater” on account of its very Romanesque decor. The problem was with our fellow patrons. Buying the ticket was easy enough. They were about 100RMB ($16) a pop and the girl at the box office spoke adequate English. After finding our seats, the movie started at about 4:15pm and immediately I was disappointed- people talking behind us. They were not whispering either- they were talking as if they were sitting across from each other eating dinner. I thought this would stop as the movie started to go on- but no, this continued pretty continuously throughout the movie. There were also about two or three people that were on their cellphones constantly (one guy even answered a call on his). I understand that guys might not be dying to get out of their house and see Cinderella with their girlfriends, but does it even count as going if you go if you are texting all throughout the movie? Furthermore, even if just one person uses their cellphone, the glare of light it emits ruins the movie for everyone behind that person.

The really bizarre (and almost in a comical way) came midway through the movie where Cinderella was transformed into her gown for the ball. There was magic done by the fairy godmother to Cinderella’s gown to make it glow blue and emit a shimmering display of special effects. At this moment, about five different people sitting in different parts of the theater thought it was so magical that they had to record the video using their cell phones. Really?! Do I even have to comment here? That sort of thing will get you kicked out of any theater in USA and in some cases arrested by the police. What really blows my mind was that there were about five people doing it- meaning it was common enough to not just be a fluke. Everyone talking, using their phones, and recording the movie absolutely decimated the movie going experience.

The movie was pretty good (as good as it can be for a guy going along with his girlfriend). The cinematography was great and Disney proved that they can still tell the same classic tale and make it interesting to watch. About halfway through the movie I realized the actor that played the prince was the same one that played Rob Stark in Game of Thrones. I wanted to yell and warn him not to go to The Red Wedding, however I refrained.

In short, the best way to watch a movie in China is to buy the bootleg and watch it in your own apartment. Experiences like these make me really miss Alamo Drafthouse (or even a regular USA movie theater). If I can’t get more enjoyment out of going to a movie theater than I could by staying at home and watching the DVD- then what’s the point?

Typical Shanghai Workday – In Pictures

This is a post that I have been wanting to do for a while, however have not had the time to do it until now. I also wanted to catch up writing about my trips to Singapore/India/Harbin before I did it. I had an idea to more or less document a typical day from my Shanghai life in pictures. This involved me more or less just taking pictures at all of the steps between when I wake up and when I go to sleep on a workday. I finally was able to do this last Monday. Without further delay, here is a typical day in my Shanghai life in pictures:

Woke up and got dressed around 7am. Weather and air quality are good today.

Woke up and got dressed around 7am. Weather and air quality are good today.

I'm on the 13th floor. Usually the wait isn't too bad.

I’m on the 13th floor. Usually the wait isn’t too bad.

All bundled up in winter gear

All bundled up in winter gear

Walking down the stairs from my apartment to the streets of Shanghai

Walking down the stairs from my apartment to the streets of Shanghai

Streets of Shanghai. Sometimes I get fruit at the shop in the corner

Streets of Shanghai. Sometimes I get fruit at the shop in the corner

Not too crowded around 8am. Still a bit dirty with people spitting phlegm everywhere.

Not too crowded around 8am. Still a bit dirty with people spitting phlegm everywhere.

Getting closer to the station

Getting closer to the station

JW Marriott in the background.

JW Marriott in the background.

Exit 14 of People's Square Station

Exit 14 of People’s Square Station

A lot of stairs in my daily routine

A lot of stairs in my daily routine

Homeless guy singing. This is normally a scam so I never give money

Homeless guy singing. This is normally a scam so I never give money

Past the security check and to the ticket gate. I have a card that I reuse for tickets

Past the security check and to the ticket gate. I have a card that I reuse for tickets

In the main hall of the station

In the main hall of the station

Line 2 is on the other side of the station. Everyone is crowding up to go down the escalator

Line 2 is on the other side of the station. Everyone is crowding up to go down the escalator

Warning signs on the escalator

Warning signs on the escalator

Heading to Line 2. It is starting to get a bit crowded.

Heading to Line 2. It is starting to get a bit crowded.

Being cozy with the other passengers

Being cozy with the other passengers

Taking another escalator down to the platform

Taking another escalator down to the platform

Sometimes people do a mad dash to catch the train. I like to take my time.

Sometimes people do a mad dash to catch the train. I like to take my time.

My home for the next 30 minutes. Usually it is a few stops before I can find a seat.

My home for the next 30 minutes. Usually it is a few stops before I can find a seat.

Was able to find a seat at LuJiaZui

Was able to find a seat at LuJiaZui

Once I sit I can catch up on reading

Once I sit I can catch up on reading

Train gets less crowded as we head away from downtown

Train gets less crowded as we head away from downtown

I get off at Jinke Road

I get off at Jinke Road

People are so desperate to get on the escalator. What's wrong with taking the stairs?

People are so desperate to get on the escalator. What’s wrong with taking the stairs?

Outside the ticket gate

Outside the ticket gate

Taking the escalator to the outside

Taking the escalator to the outside

Exit 3 of Jinke Road Station

Exit 3 of Jinke Road Station

Right outside the station. There is always some dirty looking street food that I would never touch

Right outside the station. There is always some dirty looking street food that I would never touch

Cutting through the mall to get to the road to my office

Cutting through the mall to get to the road to my office

It is a really clear and clean day outside which is a bit rare for Shanghai

It is a really clear and clean day outside which is a bit rare for Shanghai

Almost at the street

Almost at the street

Entrance to mall

Entrance to mall

On the road to my office.

On the road to my office.

Crossing to where the software park is located

Crossing to where the software park is located

Parking lot outside the office. Always have to be careful here for motorists

Parking lot outside the office. Always have to be careful here for motorists

I cut through the larger building to get to my office.

I cut through the larger building to get to my office.

I grab my breakfast at Family Mart (a convenient store).

I grab my breakfast at Family Mart (a convenient store).

Pretty standard Asian convenient store

Pretty standard Asian convenient store

Hot foods at the front

Hot foods at the front

My loot- two steamed buns and some Woolong Tea

My loot- two steamed buns and some Woolong Tea

Right outside my office. I have to be careful crossing this road

Right outside my office. I have to be careful crossing this road

Texas Instruments Shanghai R&D center in all its glory

Texas Instruments Shanghai R&D center in all its glory

Feels so clean and modern

Feels so clean and modern

My desk. A bit messy because I've been busy.

My desk. A bit messy because I’ve been busy.

After being on the subway, you have to use some hand sanitizer

After being on the subway, you have to use some hand sanitizer

First bun is the sweet yellow bun

First bun is the sweet yellow bun

Next is one full of vegetables

Next is one full of vegetables

At lunch we go to a shopping center near the station and go to a Chinese burger place

At lunch we go to a shopping center near the station and go to a Chinese burger place

This is what a Chinese burger looks like

This is what a Chinese burger looks like

I also have some noodles from Xi'an

I also have some noodles from Xi’an

After lunch I decide to get some lemon tea

After lunch I decide to get some lemon tea

Very popular place

Very popular place

My lemon tea

My lemon tea

Today is fruit day. We get different fruit for free every month. This month's fruit is mandarin oranges

Today is fruit day. We get different fruit for free every month. This month’s fruit is mandarin oranges

Around 3pm I get a Coke Zero for the caffeine.

Around 3pm I get a Coke Zero for the caffeine.

Around 6pm I decide to go home

Around 6pm I decide to go home

It's dark by the time I get out.

It’s dark by the time I get out.

Lady selling sweet potatoes on the street. They look dirty.

Lady selling sweet potatoes on the street. They look dirty.

Before I go home, I will stop by the grocery store for dinner

Before I go home, I will stop by the grocery store for dinner

Big escalator down to the super market

Big escalator down to the super market

I always tend to go to the imported food section

I always tend to go to the imported food section

The loot- pasta, pickles, sauce, and cheese.

The loot- pasta, pickles, sauce, and cheese.

Checking out. In China you have to pay for bags.

Checking out. In China you have to pay for bags.

It came out to about 100RMB ($16)

It came out to about 100RMB ($16)

The super market is connected to the station

The super market is connected to the station

Ticket gate and security checkpoint

Ticket gate and security checkpoint

Good ol' Line 2.

Good ol’ Line 2.

Station isn't too crowded around 7:00pm

Station isn’t too crowded around 7:00pm

Every other train has a ton of seats. Waiting for the train

Every other train has a ton of seats. Waiting for the train

Got a seat right away. I can catch up on my reading

Got a seat right away. I can catch up on my reading

Got off at People's Square. Shops on the way to the exit

Got off at People’s Square. Shops on the way to the exit

Back out the main hall...

Back out the main hall…

and to Exit 14

and to Exit 14

Right outside Exit 14. Raffles City (the mall) is now open

Right outside Exit 14. Raffles City (the mall) is now open

I always pass by the police station near my apartment

I always pass by the police station near my apartment

I also cut through the strip mall that sells cell phone accessories

I also cut through the strip mall that sells cell phone accessories

Outside entrance of my apartment at night

Outside entrance of my apartment at night

Up the escalator to my apartment

Up the escalator to my apartment

There is a nice park at the base that keeps things quiet

There is a nice park at the base that keeps things quiet

After dropping stuff off at my apartment, I run downstairs to the dry cleaner.

After dropping stuff off at my apartment, I run downstairs to the dry cleaner.

This dry cleaner is very inexpensive and does a good job

This dry cleaner is very inexpensive and does a good job

It is called Elephant King

It is called Elephant King

Price list. I have a membership card and get a discount

Price list. I have a membership card and get a discount

I had a lot of laundry to pickup

I had a lot of laundry to pickup

Stop by another convenient store on my way back to get some drinks

Stop by another convenient store on my way back to get some drinks

… and that is it. I ended up cooking and watching the new season of House of Cards. This was a pretty standard day. Sometimes I will go to the gym and sometimes (more so than not) I will order delivery. It’s a pretty relaxed day and I am happy to say that this sort of day is becoming very normal for my life in Shanghai.

Harbin Vacation

Since even before coming to China, one of my dreams was to visit Harbin China and go to the world famous ice and snow festival that takes place every year. Since I moved to China last year, this dream turned into a reality. I decided to take advantage of the company holiday for Chinese New Year and booked my trip to Harbin China.

Harbin, China

Harbin, China

Since Chinese New Year is a big holiday where pretty much every single Chinese person travels back to their hometown it was imperative that I booked travel early. In the end my girlfriend and I booked travel about three months before hand and planned to stay three nights. The ticket came out to about $350 and the hotel (Shangri-La Harbin) came out to about $1000 for two people. Even before going to Harbin I started to prepare. Harbin is located in the far north of China and is known for its extreme cold and unforgiving climate. For that reason I had to buy a bunch of very warm cloths. In hindsight it was a bit overkill, but I bought:

  • Three pairs of thermal underwear/longjohns
  • Winter gloves
  • Ear Muffs
  • Winter Jacket
  • Russian snow cap (pictured below)
I'm a Russian ninja

I’m a Russian ninja

I bought the majority of these on TaoBao (kind of like the Chinese Amazon) with the exception of the winter jacket. I went to the fabric market here in China and got that custom tailored for about $200. It is a wool/cashmere blend and is very warm. I will definitely be using this jacket for many winters to come!

Winter Jacket

Winter Jacket

The airline that we went with this time was China Eastern Airlines. Since it was domestic travel there was no choice to opt for any better luxury airline. After catching an Uber from my apartment, we got to Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai early in the morning and boarded our flight. The flight had a quick stopover in Qingdao (famous for its beer). It was a bit odd because normally when there is a stopover (without a plane change) you get to stay on the plane while others disembark/board, however in Qingdao everyone had to get off the plane. We got to walk around the Qingdao airport for about an hour, however after that we just ended up boarding the same plane and took off for Harbin.

Getting off the plane in Harbin I was expecting an arctic chill that instantly froze any patch of bare skin, however it actually wasn’t that bad. It was probably around 25F and with all the layers of clothes I was wearing I didn’t seem to notice the cold too much. Anyway, after taking a bus from the airplane to the airport (it was the old school way) and grabbing our luggage we met our hotel provided taxi and had a 40 minute or so ride to The Shangri-La Harbin. I do have to say that I was very impressed with the service at The Shangri-La. The moment that we got to the hotel we were greeted by the staff and went directly to our room to check in.

The hotel room was nice. Since I am a frequent guest at The Shangri-La I was able to get on the club floor with a good view of the frozen river. The bed was warm and cozy and the view alone was simply beautiful. At night you could even see the ice festival off in the distance. After unpacking our luggage a little bit, we decided to see if there were any good places around the hotel to eat. At the advice of the hotel staff, we decided to go to a nearby Harbin style restaurant. Walking to the restaurant we got our first taste of Harbin City. My first impression was that it looked somewhat European. Being so close to Russia, the buildings had a very distinct Russian influence.

The streets of Harbin

The streets of Harbin

After fumbling around a bit we were able to find the restaurant (with the help of Google Maps through VPN). The restaurant was… an interesting experience. When we first entered the staff seemed somewhat surprised and confused to have foreign guests. After some more confusion, we were somehow able to understand that they wanted us to go to the second floor. When we went to the second floor it was somewhat deserted, however the waiter insisted on sitting us in the empty hallway by the window. They also shuffled in another group of foreigners, however they soon migrated downstairs to get a more “authentic” atmosphere. Even weirder was there was a guy who was randomly taking pictures of me and my girlfriend. At first I though he was just some random Chinese guy that rarely sees foreigners, however later (after he brought us printed pictures) we were able to guess he either worked for or owned the restaurant.

In lieu of a printed menu, we were handed an iPad with pictures of all of the different foods that we could order. This is where I made a major mistake. I guess the saying is that “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”, however I (not my girlfriend) ordered way too much. To make things worse, the food wasn’t exactly anything special. It was OK- however nothing to write home about. I’ve highlighted a few of them below.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Dumplings

Dumplings

After dinner we walked back to the hotel. On our way back we stopped by the frozen river and enjoyed the beautiful sunset. There were bug chunks of ice on the lake and the whole scene was like something out of a poem.

Sunset at the river

Sunset at the river

So beautiful

So beautiful

I love the colors

I love the colors

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to gear up for the ice festival.This involved bundling up with all of those warm clothes that we bought. The ice festival is known to be prettier at night with all of the lights illuminating the ice sculptures. After putting on enough clothes to survive a winter hibernation we got a taxi to the ice festival. The taxi charged by hour (70 RMB an hour) and we were told by the hotel to keep him on the clock while we visited the ice festival as taxis were supposedly hard to get during the Chinese New Year festival. One surprising thing was how much tickets cost to the ice festival- about 330RMB (about $50). That’s even more expensive than Six Flags in Dallas! Still, for the experience, we shelled out the money for the ticket.

So how was the ice festival? Not bad. It was definitely quite impressive to see all of the different structures that they made out of ice. I had to constantly be on guard to not slip and break my tailbone on icy floors- however the entire experience was quite enjoyable. There were a few times we were reminded that we were still in China- a couple of times where there were urine stains in some of the more discreet snow sculptures, but overall it was a very beautiful festival. One of the big attractions was the huge ice slide, however the line was too long and we did not want to weather the cold to get on it. Below are some of my favorites from the ice festival.

Entrance of ice festival

Entrance of ice festival

Me on ice horse

Me on ice horse

Ice couch

Ice couch

After we saw all that we wanted to see, we found our hired taxi and made our way back to hotel. After winding down, we settled in for the night and prepared for a full schedule the following day. The next morning our plan was to go to the famous Siberian Tiger Park. After a wonderful breakfast at the breakfast buffet we caught an hourly taxi to the park. This park was a bit more reasonable (90RMB per person) and didn’t seem to crowded (we did get there early). After getting our ticket, we went into the entrance lobby where we could pay 50RMB to take our picture with a baby Siberian tiger. I think the tiger cub liked my girlfriend more than me (he kept gnawing on my gloves), however he was super cute and I got a great picture.

Baby tiger

Baby tiger

After our face time with the tiger cub, we boarded a caged bus and were taken through the tiger preserve. The whole experience is pretty amazing- in the park there are about 100 or so tigers just chilling out everywhere. You can tell that they are very well fed and most of them have a bigger belly than mine. In addition to tigers, there were different cats such as lions. At one point of the tour a caged jeep came around the truck and a guy through a bunch of live chickens out towards the tigers. The tigers definitely knew what was up and instantly tore the chicken to pieces.

Tiger chilling out

Tiger chilling out

A lion couple

A lion couple

That poor chicken

That poor chicken

After the bus ride, we were taken to a raised/caged boardwalk area where we could see the tigers a bit closer. Definitely an interesting experience being able to get that close to the tigers. There was a guy that was selling live chickens and dead meat that you could feed to the tigers. Not wanting to incur any bad karma by playing chicken executioner, I opted for the tongs of dead meat. The problem was that at first I pointed to the live chicken (I misread the Chinese characters). The guy proceeded to yank the chicken out of the cage and it made an awful squawk, however after realizing that I wanted the dead version he shoved the chicken back into the cage and gave us two tongs of dead meat. You took the tongs and placed the meat in between the links of the cage. The tiger would then leap up and eat the meat giving you the chance to take some awesome pictures.

Live chickens and dead meat

Live chickens and dead meat

Feeding the tiger

Feeding the tiger

There were also white tigers, leopards, lions, and a host of other cats. After we had enough of the board walk, we walked around to the exit and caught our taxi back to the hotel. The entire experience was very cool and I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Harbin. After getting back to the hotel, we wanted to go out and get some lunch. My girlfriend found a very popular Russian restaurant close to downtown so we decided to take a taxi. The restaurant was very posh and clean. The food was great and they had this very sweet and delicious homemade wine. They also had a very delicious borscht as well as an awesome pickle/sausage platter.

Yummy borscht

Yummy borscht

Pickles and sausage

Pickles and sausage

After dinner we decided to walk to one of the famous walking streets in Harbin called Zhongyang Dajie. We miscalculated how far it was from the restaurant and ended up walking about an hour through some “interesting” parts of Harbin, however eventually we found our way to to road. It was very picturesque and old fashioned. The road itself was closed to all but pedestrians and was made of old cobblestones that gave off a very European ambiance. We stopped at a Russian souvenir shop where I bought some Russian chocolates for my office and my girlfriend bought a Russian doll. Afterwards we stopped by a supermarket where we both bought some Russian fish eggs.

Zhongyang Dajie

Zhongyang Dajie

Very European

Very European

After taking a breather at a cafe, we went to go see St. Sophia’s cathedral. We were a bit tired at this point (and it was a bit crowded), so we decided to just take pictures and not go inside. We then took a taxi back to our hotel for a lazy night of eating an (uninspiring) dinner at the hotel Dim Sum restaurant and watching movies in the room.

St. Sophia Cathedral

St. Sophia Cathedral

The next day for lunch we had an appointment at the ice restaurant (everything is made of ice) for hotpot, however the weather was a little warm and the restaurant had to close because it was melting. Instead, we decided to go to another Russian restaurant that was on Zhongyang Dajie. After catching a taxi from the hotel to the restaurant, we found that it was packed. Determined, we took a number and waited for about an hour until we were seated. It was typical Russian fare and was very delicious. The highlights included borscht, pepper steak, and a strong Russian ale.

More Russian food

More Russian food

Russian beer

Russian beer

At this point it was pouring rain, however we were somewhat lucky and were able to catch a taxi pretty quickly back to the hotel. I decided to go for a nice swim and we both relaxed in the hotel until dinner. I had some food credits saved up from Shangri-La so we decided to try out the dinner buffet. We had high hopes, however the buffet was very mediocre. This was a disappointment because the breakfast buffet (that we went to every morning) was awesome. Still, it was free for me and we made the most of it before retiring for the night.

The next morning was super cold and by far the coldest day of the trip. Our flight was at 11am so we had a bit of time to walk around again on the frozen river. It was really picturesque and somewhat amazing that an entire river could be completely frozen. There were a few instances where it looked less frozen than other places. In those instances, we hastily retreated.

Very cold river

Very cold river

After walking around the river, we took the hotel taxi to the airport and returned to Shanghai. Overall the trip was quite enjoyable. This was one of the only domestic travels that I have done in China before. It was very interesting to see a city so different from Shanghai and taste very unique food. I would definitely recommend Harbin for anyone who wants a quick vacation in China during the winter.

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