Friday, April 15, 2011

Pizza Hut, Pizza and Expectations in China

I am a little past half way through a 2-week trip to China for work as this is written. (I can't upload it until I get back out of Communist China as they block blogs, etc. for political reasons.)  This isn’t my first time to China, somewhere in the low 20’s I believe.  The first time, it was really neat, to travel to a far exotic country and see a different culture, although the part of culture I got to see was factories and hotels.  Not a good representation of China at all.

Several years ago, I got to take the good wife, and we did a whirlwind tour.  We traveled through Japan to Beijing and got to see all the typical tourist sites in that area, The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and took a Hutong tour on a bicycle among other things. 

Tiananmen Square
The Great Wall of China

Then it was down to Shanghai for a couple days.  The highlights there were getting to go skiing/snowboarding indoors and the Maglev train ride to the airport, hitting 430 km/h or 268 mph! 

Indoor Skiing in Shanghai
Speed of the Maglev Train

The main part of the journey was down in the Dongguan area, working in the factories.  The highlight there was a foot massage which lasts over an hour and costs about $10 USD.  Not a bad deal.  The good wife also got a scalp massage for over an hour, while I slaved away at the factories.

Foot Massage

We had a couple days in Hong Kong before heading back to Tokyo, Japan.

Hong Kong from Victoria's Peak

In Japan we did a walking tour of the area around Shibuya, which is famous for its 6-way scramble intersection. 

Tokyo from our Hotel Room
Shibuya 6-way Intersection in Tokyo

By then our trip had come to an end and it was time to head home.  The good wife questioned why I always complained about my 2-week trips to China, that she had so much fun and got to see so many things.  I explained that my trips did not consist of galavanting around Southeast Asia, and that I spend my 2-weeks in the Dongguan area in the factories and hotels.  Then she understood, as that was the least favorite part of the trip for her.

Over the course of all my trips to China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia, I have taken hundreds, if not thousands of pictures.  Things that used to amaze and amuse me, now seem common place and I don’t even look twice.   From driving down the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalk, to five people jammed on a motorcycle.

But there are still a few things that annoy me when traveling in China.  One of them is pizza.  After eating Chinese food (real Chinese food, not the breaded and fried American version of Chinese food) for a week, I need a break.  Pizza is a perfect relief, usually.  If you can find the Pizza Hut, you will get a very accurate copy of the pizza you will find at your local Pizza Hut, although the menu is substantially different.  It is seafood pizza, and all sorts of other odds and ends, more like a full restaurant, than the pizza joint in America.  I happened to visit a Pizza Hut in Dongguan on the first week it had opened.  The pizza was spot on.  However, a few years later, and all the pizza has a funny fishy taste.  Since they don’t wash their seasoned pans, and just wipe them clean, they have taken on the flavor of all those seafood toppings the locals enjoy.  And if you need the bathroom, you better hope it is for a quick relief and not a time to ponder, because you will be squatting and not sitting.

However, last week I went to lunch with a supplier to the Tianmu Blue Bird Café Western Restaurant, also just known as the Blue Bird Café.  After looking at the pizza menu for a bit, the only safe pizza seemed to be the Hawaiian.  The traditional ham and pineapple toppings.  Seemed like a safe choice.   My host ordered the seafood pizza, which I wasn’t going to get near.  When the pizza came, I took a long hard stare at them.  I couldn’t tell which was which.  I saw squid circles (calamari) on one, I saw shrimp on the other.  After my host had a brief consultation with the waitress, it was determined that the one with shrimp was mine.  Apparently the standard pizza comes with shrimp topping, free of charge.  It is as though the shrimp is in the sauce.  Not big shrimp, but not small either.  Kernels of corn were also a standard topping on all pizzas, along with green peppers and a few olives here and there.  Under the cheese was a bit of ham and some small pieces of pineapple.  I was hungry enough that I figured I could choke it down, although in my mind I had pictures a Pizza Hut quality pizza.  That was OK, I would get it down with my Taiwanese iced lemon tea that I had ordered.  I took a big gulp and then held it in my mouth.  What else was in there?  I looked at the glass.  All I saw was ice at the top and some slices of lemons floating in the tea.  But there was definitely something of substance in my mouth, and it wasn’t ice or lemons.  I swallowed.  I looked back at the glass of tea.  I stirred it a bit and saw clear gelatinous lumps turning over and over.  I took a sip through the straw, and I felt some slimy lumps come through.  It felt as though I had a mouth full of lemon flavored lugies.  Aargh!  Another choking swallow.  I ate a little over half my shrimp laden Hawaiian pizza, took a few more sips of my iced lemon lugie tea and I was done.  My appetite had been satisfied (as much as it was going to be satisfied at this meal).

It wasn’t that the meal was that bad.  The pizza tasted alright, and iced lemon tea had ice, lemon and tea.  It’s just that what you have in mind of a meal when ordering and what you receive, is not usually the same thing in China.  You think I would know that much by now!

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