Pages

Showing posts with label Drinks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Drinks. Show all posts

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Black Dumplings, Gourds, and a Meaty Mannequin: Halloween Spirit in Zhongshan, China

In past years I have shared Halloween-related scenes from cities such as Taipei in 2011, Changsha in 2012, Shaoguan in 2015, Shenyang in 2016, and most recently Changsha again in 2017. The posts have numerous photos of people in costumes, promotions, and food. Perhaps some day I will fill in some of what I missed sharing here, which includes Halloween experiences in Dalian, Shanghai, and Zhuhai. But for now I will share a sample of what I saw in Zhongshan, since it is where I spent Halloween this year.

One of the earliest signs of Halloween I came across was a promotion at 7-Eleven stores which began weeks before the holiday. Yes, I gave the three black cuttlefish items a try.

Halloween black cuttlefish foods at 7-Eleven in Zhongshan, China


The dumplings were tasty with some Sriracha-style sauce, but a couple of them were rather soggy. The sausage was too dried out. The cuttlefish balls were OK. None of it was as good as the black spidery pizza I tried at Pizza Hut in Shenyang two years ago. At least 7-Eleven had a special price for getting the three together. Not all the items were specially made for Halloween, but the dumplings are now gone.

To wash down all of that cuttlefish ink, 7-Eleven had a special Halloween deal on . . . Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey lemonade and cola drinks of course.

7-Eleven sign for Halloween sale of Jack Daniel's drinks


Moving on . . .

Three years ago I saw a Halloween display at n RT-Mart in Shaoguan. This year in Zhongshan, RT-Mart kept up the Halloween spirit.

Display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


Display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


Their selection possibly surpassed what was available at a Toys "R" Us in Zhongshan. Also, the display had a dark area inside of it where glowing items could be tested.

children playing with toys inside a display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


A Carrefour in Zhongshan similarly had Halloween items for sale.

Display of Halloween items for sale at a Carrefour in Zhongshan, China


Carrefour took it up another notch, though, with a Halloween gourd display.

Halloween display of gourds for sale at a Carrefour in Zhongshan, China


The Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall had a Halloween-themed food fair as part of celebrations for the one year anniversary of its newest section.

Halloween-themed inflated arch at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China


Several nights before Halloween, the fair was packed.

Halloween food fair at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China


None of the food itself was any different from what could appear at any other food fairs, but at least one of the sellers was in the holiday spirit.

man wearing a caveman costume


There was also occasional dancing.

young women dancing


On Halloween day there were a variety of activities. The Lihe Plaza shopping mall appeared prepared for a musical performance, but I didn't stick around to listen.

Stage with a halloween theme at Lihe Plaza


One popular gathering area that night was the central outdoor area at the Central Power Plaza shopping mall, where there were several people painting faces as part of a promotion.

people gathered for Halloween activities at Central Power Plaza in Zhongshan


By 10 p.m on Halloween night at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall, many of the vendors at the food fair had already packed up and departed. But even with a now sagging arch, there were still photographic opportunities.



Some bars, including one at the mall, also got into the holiday spirit. In part because most are far separated from one another, I didn't bother with a pub crawl — so no photos. I also won't be sharing a set of photos of people dressed up for the holiday. See the earlier posts for plenty of those. But here's one of a pirate sitting at McDonald's on Halloween night:

young woman wearing a pirate hat sitting at McDonald's in Zhongshan, China


Finally, for the first time ever I will award a winner (of what I happened to see) for best Halloween spirit. Carrefour wins hands down. No, the Halloween items for sale or the glorious gourds aren't what led to this special distinction.

Instead, I introduce the Halloween Dried Meats Witch:

female mannequin dressed in dried meats and wearing a Halloween witch hat


Perhaps that will become a popular costume for next year.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Three Offers in 24 Hours: Enjoying and Surviving Free Beer & Mijiu in Zhongshan

Yesterday after 6 p.m. I was ready to head back to my hotel in Zhongshan. A small bar across the street from Shishan Park (狮山公园) had earlier caught my eye due to its setting and name. Especially since the weather was rather nice and they had outdoor seating, I decided to get a single drink there first. Nothing more . . . I still had work to do.

Park Pub in Zhongshan


After walking into the Park Pub, I quickly appraised the situation. Sitting at a table were a young woman and two young men. They offered a mostly typical-in-China selection of foreign beers, and nothing particularly excited me. But one young man strongly recommended the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. 7.5% alcohol was a little stronger than what I was aiming for, but what the heck. I asked the price and the woman told me they were treating.

They didn't offer a reason, and I wondered if they were presuming this was a worthy investment if I ended up buying many more drinks that night. So I made it clear I only wanted one drink and was happy to pay for it.

That wasn't happening. To my surprise, I was soon sitting outside next to a soccer field behind the pub drinking a free Guinness.

Bottle of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout


A little later, I noticed one of the young men locking the back door to the bar from the outside. He told me they had to go somewhere else for dinner, but that I was welcome to stay out back. He also insisted on leaving me with something more. So my view changed a bit.

two bottles of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout


After about an hour at the bar I was ready to head elsewhere, even though a soccer match was now underway. Nobody had returned to the bar, so I did my best to clean up and left via an entrance for the field.

With more alcohol in me than planned, I decided to take a walk through the old neighborhoods surrounding Shishan Park. As I approached one intersection I saw a group of men. They shouted, and I immediately realized there was no escaping.

Soon I was been treated to more drinks.

group of men eating and drinking at an outdoor table


The men were all (or mostly all) from Guangxi and had brought with them a jug of mijiu, a Chinese rice wine, from there. It appeared homemade, and I was intrigued. So although they first poured a glass of beer for me, they were excited I was game to try the mijiu and my drink changed.

Even when the jug of proper mijiu was later emptied, the drinks continued to flow. The man who was the boss of all (or mostly all) the men sometimes bought bottles of Chinese beer but generally bought Blue Girl Beer — a brand popular in Hong Kong — when he decided my glass needed filling.

After I took a photo of my new friends, a woman working at the restaurant, possibly the owner, shrewdly suggested I take one including the front of the restaurant.

local restaurant in Zhongshan


A couple of hours, some tasty chicken gizzards, and who knows how many drinks later, I gave them many hearty thanks and finally made my way back to my hotel where I soon went to sleep.

This afternoon I was exploring the same areas around Shishan Park. A man sitting in front of a small convenience store on West Road (西大街) who appeared curious about my photo taking asked if I would take one of him. I happily obliged.

man posing for photo in front of a small convenience store


Then he offered me some beer.

This time, I had to turn down the kind offer. I thanked him but explained I still had work to do and that the night before had more that satisfied my desire for beer.

While the experience at the Park Pub was somewhat unusual for me, in a positive way of course, the other two experiences were far more typical. They could be fit into the category of experiences in the past I've categorized as "Chinese being friendly to a foreigner in China".

And now I have indirectly explained why there wasn't a post here yesterday as planned. My night didn't exactly go the way I had expected.

Thanks to all for the drinks, whether I drank them or not.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sun Drying Flowers & Peels in Jiangmen

Yesterday shortly after going outside in Jiangmen, I saw more red silk-cotton flowers. These, though, were being dried in the sun.

Bombax ceiba (red silk-cotton, kapok) flowers drying on a chair


Around the corner from there, more red silk-cotton flowers were drying.

Bombax ceiba (red silk-cotton, kapok) flowers drying on the ground


Possibly some people are planning to use them to make herbal tea. The flowers are also used for soup and congee.

Next door, another item was sun drying.

tangerine peels sun drying on the ground

Xinhui, a nearby district in Jiangmen, is known for its dried tangerine peel, used in a variety of foods, soups, and teas. So it wasn't surprising to see these tangerine peels on the ground, even outside a mobile phone repair shop.

I saw these three examples of drying during a brief outing which didn't cover a lot of ground. Undoubtedly, more could have found on that sunny day in Jiangmen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bountiful Bombax Ceiba Flowers

Bombax ceiba (Red Silk-Cotton, Red Cotton, Kapok, 木棉) flower on the ground


The previous post included a single photo of flowers I saw in Jiangmen. Around this time of year I have come across these flowers before, mostly in southern China. I took the above photo almost exactly one year ago elsewhere in Guangdong province at the Guangzhou Orchid Garden. Although the flower isn't an orchid, Guangzhou is a particularly fitting setting since this is the city's official flower.

The scientific name for the tree which produces the flower is Bombax ceiba. The tree is also known by a variety of other names in English such as red silk-cotton and kapok. The name "kapok" is used for some other trees as well, such as Cochlospermum gillivraei and the more closely related Ceiba pentandra, also known as the white silk-cotton tree. So it may be better to avoid using the name. At least in this region, the typical Chinese name is 木棉 (mùmián), which literally translates as "cotton tree".

Whatever you want to call the tree, I welcome seeing the large deeply-colored flowers. And they are one of the key ingredients for Five Flowers Tea (五花茶 - wǔhuāchá) — a traditional herbal tea common in Guangdong and Hong Kong which I drink simply because I enjoy its strong bitter flavor (no sugar, please).

I didn't mention any of these details before because I wanted the earlier photo to stand alone. But viewing the photo while sipping some Five Flowers Tea would probably work fine.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Late Night Buds in Jiangmen

In response to a photo of riverside eating and drinking in Jiangmen, one question was "Budweiser?"

Yes, those are bottles of American Budweiser beer on the table. Those there weren't the only people drinking Buds. And on another night at this dining establishment — 星期五 (Xīngqīwǔ — Friday) — I drank a cold one myself while looking out onto the river and waiting for some roasted fish.

bottle of Budweiser Beer next to Jiangmen River


Chinese-brands Tsingtao and Harbin were available as well. I went with Budweiser since it seemed fitting for this outdoor eatery which prominently featured the beer on its signage and menu.

Friday "星期五" roasted fish outdoor riverside outdoor eatery in Jiangmen at night


Most of the nearby riverside options similarly feature Budweiser.

roasted fish outdoor riverside outdoor eatery in Jiangmen closed during the day


outdoor riverside outdoor eatery in Jiangmen closed during the day


All of these places only open at night, which fits the mould for a type of place I personally associate with serving Budweiser in some parts of China. In Jiangmen, I have also noticed Budweiser advertised at multiple karaoke establishments.

"Unleash your true self" Budweiser ads in Jiangmen


So if you want to sit by the Jiangmen River and drink some Budweiser, there are options. And if you want some roasted fish as well, you're really in luck. The ginger squid is good too.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Visit to the Halo Cafe in Guzhen, Zhongshan

Today in Guzhen, a town in Zhongshan I will say more about in later posts, I unexpectedly saw a Halo Cafe.

Halo Cafe in Guzhen, Zhongshan


Since I had just mentioned two other Halo Cafes in a post yesterday, I felt compelled to take a closer look (and write this light post now).

inside Halo Cafe in Guzhen


Their menu lists a variety of drinks:

Halo Cafe takeout menu

Halo Cafe takeout menu


I went with a simple double espresso.

double espresso at Halo Cafe in Guzhen


Some will take issue with the cream (I also don't use sugar). But it looked like a double espresso. It tasted like a double espresso. And unless an incredible placebo effect was at play, it had caffeine. It cost 15 yuan (US $2.25), cheaper than then 20 yuan for a Starbucks double espresso.

According to the barista, Halo Cafe originated in Zhongshan and has spread to some other nearby cities, all in Guangdong province. I still had many unanswered questions, but I chose to leave him in peace. So I will just leave it at this for now. Well, except for one more thing . . .

In the outdoor seating area there was a claw crane game. These are very common in places such as shopping malls. I wouldn't have given it much notice, but this claw crane had an unexpected theme.

4th July crane claw


Happy Independence Day crane claw


I think it is only fair to ask why the American coffeehouse chain Starbucks can't show some similar spirit in China.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Halo Next to Starbucks in Zhongshan

For a change of pace from the "Starbucks Coeeff" store, here is a large Starbucks store with a sign spelling "coffee" correctly:

Starbucks and Halo stores at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan


What more caught my eye about this Starbucks at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan was its prominent neighbor — Halo Cafe, which also sells coffee.

Earlier the same day, I had notice another Halo Cafe at the Central Power Plaza (兴中广场) shopping mall.

Halo Cafe at Central Power Plaza (兴中广场) in Zhongshan


Their storefront sign has "coffee" spelled correctly, and there is rooftop seating. So at least the basics seemed in order. There is a Starbucks near this store as well but in another section of the mall.

I don't have more to say about this competitor for Starbucks in Zhongshan other than I haven't found any evidence it is connected to the Halo Cafe in Taipei (review in Chinese), the Halo Cafe in Dublin, the Halo Cafe in Kota Kinabalu, the Halo Cafe in Clinton, South Carolina, or any of the other Halo Cafes around the world I have just found online. Together, all those Halo Cafes offer quite a variety of food though.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Just Another Day in China: Starbucks Opens 2nd Store in Bengbu

For several weeks, the status of the second Starbucks in Bengbu hasn't been clear. This afternoon I had reason to stop by the Intime City (银泰城) shopping center and discovered the store is now finally open — part of Starbucks opening more than a store a day on average in China. I didn't have plans for a caffeine boost, but I decided to check things out and immerse myself in the experience.

Staff excitedly told me it was their first day of operations. They hadn't opened earlier because some supplies and equipment hadn't yet arrived.

As at Starbucks elsewhere in China, many of the staff wore name tags displaying English names. Typically some of the names are more creative and wouldn't be common in western countries. The name used by the young woman who took my order fit in this category.

Starbucks nametag with "Lonely 石"


In short, the coffee tasted just like the coffee at the Starbucks 1000 meters down the street and other Starbucks much farther away. Although at the moment this location doesn't appear in the store finder for Starbucks in China, it seems safe to say the store isn't a fake. It was about one third to one half full of paying customers while I was there. At times there was a line at the counter, but at other times you could roll right up to place an order.

young woman on skateboard at a Starbucks counter


While this Starbucks reflects Bengbu's recent growth to a degree, what's reflected off of the front of the store will say more about Bengbu's future.

under-construction buildings reflecting off of the front of a Starbucks store in Bengbu


Many residential and commercial building projects are currently underway in Bengbu. Many, many, many. They raise serious questions which also apply to other cities in China. More about that later.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bengbu Experiencing Starbucks' Expansion in China

I have been to a number of cities in China where Starbucks can't be found, such as Ganzhou, Mudanjiang, and Shaoguan. Yet Starbucks' growing reach in China has been readily apparent, whether by coming across their first stores in cities such as Hengyang, Kunming, and Xiangtan or knowing they have opened in cities such as Lanzhou, Yanji, and Zhanjiang since I last visited them. Loosely based on these experiences, when I recently arrived in Bengbu I didn't expect to find a Starbucks here. I didn't even bother to check if one existed.

But I still found one.

Starbucks at the Bengbu Wanda Plaza (星巴克 — 蚌埠万达广场)


Prominently situated at the Wanda Plaza (万达广场) shopping center, the store opened about six months ago.

Inside the Starbucks at the Bengbu Wanda Plaza


For those now thinking of making a pilgrimage to Bengbu for mug, a warning: unlike many places elsewhere in China, no city-specifc mugs are available at the moment.

"China" labeled Starbucks mugs


Soon after finding this Starbucks, I saw that another Starbucks will open only 1000 meters away at the Intime City (银泰城) shopping center.

Under construction Starbucks at Intime City (银泰城) in Bengbu


Five days ago I watched workers place the letters for the storefront sign.

workers putting up lettes for a Starbucks storefront sign in Bengbu


Since then, the state of the store hasn't been as clear.

Starbucks at Intime City in Bengbu (星巴克 — 蚌埠银泰城)


The outdoor coverings are gone and there is nothing external to indicate the store isn't open. Sometimes, as in the above photo, the door is even left open. This seems to scream "we're open", but they aren't. I have seen multiple people approach the outside door only to find it locked or to open it and discover a Starbucks with a ladder standing in the middle of the floor, empty shelves, and no baristas at work. This experience doesn't strike me as what Starbucks should want to deliver. When I asked a Starbucks employee at the other store when the Intime City location would open she said she wasn't sure and suggested I wait a bit.

Whatever the story, the already-open Starbucks seems to be doing well and presumably, someday, the other will open as well. It isn't obvious whether this says more about the growth of Bengbu, which like many Chinese cities has undergone much change over recent years, or Starbucks, which also has stores in nearby cities including Hefei, Suqian, and Xuzhou. But both Bengbu and Starbucks appear to be enjoying the arrangement.