Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Friday, Oct 12 - in which we eat and are bathed

Today, we went and visited Louise's grandparents' grave (along with her uncle and aunt). It's out in the boonies, pretty far from the main city. We had a long and bumpy bus ride out there, with a lot of honking. The cemetary itself was really nice; pretty quiet and peaceful. We swept the grave, put some flowers out (after tearing them up and placing them around the grave so that the flower merchants couldn't resell them). For some reason, even though I never knew Louise's grandmother, it was an emotional experience for me to visit the grave.

We then went back to this uncle and aunt's house to have lunch. First, we visited the market, and they let Louise and me pick out some fresh vegetables for lunch, as well as some rice ovals (nien gao). This market was very clean and modern for a Chinese market, and the vegetables looked really fresh.
At the market

They apologized in advance because the lunch wouldn't be as fancy as the dinner we had at her other uncle's house; of course they needn't have apologized - the food was fantastic. Tsao nien gao is one of my favorite Shanghaiese dishes, and this one was very tasty, because of the fresh vegetables and fresh (not rehydrated) rice cakes. They also made some snow pea type things, which were crisp and flavorful - nothing resembling the ones we have in the states. Some pea greens and fresh soybeans were also excellent. There was a dish of very small, fresh eel, cooked with some greens, which I almost considered breaking my diet to try some of.

Afterwards, her cousin took us to the bootleg market. This was a unique experience; definitely more fun than I thought it would be, though I didn't actually buy anything. A lot of this stuff is probably made by the same factories that make the actual products. The fake Converse Chuck Taylors were the most convincing.

After this, Louise's cousin had promised to take us to a bathhouse, since we had been asking about good bathhouses (that weren't the sort your mom warned you about). This was truly a new and unique experience for me. After splitting up, we met one of Louise's cousin's friends in the men's side of the bathhouse. I went in a shallow hot bath with jets, then headed into the sweat lodge for as long as I could handle. This was more or less like a normal sauna, but with hot coals and a lot of steam. I stayed in for about as long as I could stand, and then we headed over to get scrubbed with rough mitts and massaged.

After this, we went to a beautiful outdoor warm bath; half of the roof was exposed so that we could see the sky above. Then we showered off, put on disposable underwear and pajamas, and headed upstairs to meet the girls. It turns out that a lot of the wedding party met up with us there, and we ate a full dinner at the in-house restaurant. Pajamas are a big equalizer - a lot of people like doing business in this place, because it's harder to lie if you're naked (or wearing ridiculous striped PJs). There was something incredibly fun about being in a giant fun-house for adults, wearing silly pajamas.The bathhouse also has massage rooms, several lounges (smoking and non-smoking, with TVs playing), a tea lounge, a live performance space, private sleeping rooms, etc. A lot of business people actually use these places as hotels, because it's the same price or cheaper than a hotel, and you get more out of it. We're definitely hoping to make it back to this place again.

1 comment:

Imen said...

Those Nian Gao looks delish!