Partying With China’s Rich

“The Sobering Experience of Partying With China’s Rich,” published at Vagabond Journey on August 12, 2014

The wooden table had a red tablecloth over it and a glass plate over the tablecloth. The chairs were made of heavy polished wood.

“How fancy,” Rachel said.

We were eating on the second floor of a tiny restaurant on the street level. Once you enter, there is a creaky staircase going up a meter or two to the second floor and another few steps going down to a first floor crowded with about six tables. Anywhere else, the chairs at such a restaurant would be plastic stools, but this was Shanghai.

Outside, the sky was gray and dull, covered with smog. Even the three super tall skyscrapers in Pudong — Jinmao, the World Financial Center, and the nearly complete Shanghai Tower — were invisible from Huangpu, on the other side of the river.

Inside there were cracks and scratches on the corners of the wall and floor. The pictures of food on the wall were faded and askew.

Upon the table were three dishes: mapo tofu, kou shui chicken (chicken in a spicy sauce), and green beans with peppers and mincemeat. The mapo tofu, although not quite as biting and mouth numbing as the authentic dish, was spicier than the bland mess that is usually served in Shanghai. Mapo tofu comes from the spicy southwestern province of Sichuan. Shanghai people prefer their food sweet.

At the table on the other side of the room less than 10 meters away, a group of friends were talking loudly. One man was bragging about how he “didn’t even need to know English to get by in America!” Even though KFC in America has no pictures on its menu, he was still able to order, he told his friends, who knew none the better.

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