You think you’re prepared for moving across an ocean and living in another country for the first time. You read a little. You study a little. You embrace your inner calm and accept that you will just need to go with the flow. You talk to friends. You buy a Lonely Planet guide. You watch old episodes of Ian Wright traveling the world.
But even with all of that, there are occasional moments where you can’t help but do a double take and wonder if you have been dropped into an episode of Punk’d. And it isn’t always dramatic moments. Sometimes it’s little things.
The Bearded Giant does quite a bit of his blogging at home. But the internet in residential areas is occasionally wonky. So there are times it makes sense to visit a cafe and pay for overpriced food and beverages to go with stable internet.
My favorite cafe (ok, the only cafe I have actually been to) is Zoo Coffee, about 1.5km away. It’s a Korean chain of “themed” coffeehouses that caters to Westerners (but still sees plenty of business from cooler-than-average locals). Here you will find all sorts of unusual decor, from a giant statue of a rainbow colored zebra, to life-size stuffed Baymax dolls already seated in various chairs around the cafe to join you while you work.
(I haven’t seriously considered trying to smuggle that zebra back to America… I mean yes, I have considered it, but not seriously.)
So I might chill at Zoo for a while, and enjoy some of their fine fare. Prices are about 5-6 times what I expect to pay in China, but really, what price would YOU pay to hang out with a rainbow zebra??? Why would I want a can of Coca-Cola for 3 RMB with the logo in Chinese when I can get one for 20 RMB at Zoo with an American logo? I’m not ashamed to admit I paid 20 RMB ($3.30) for a can of imported Strawberry Crush the other day… Okay… Maybe a little ashamed.
The case at Zoo is full of great options:
One one recent trip to Zoo, I stayed for around 5 hours and wound up eating twice. As it happens, the two items I ordered were adjacent in the case.
First up I had that gorgeous fruit salad in the middle row. At 49 RMB it cost as much as a dinner for two but most dinners don’t have a rainbow zebra, now do they?
With a berry compote, sour cream, and vanilla ice cream as complements, I have to admit, the fruit salad was stellar. Maybe not $8 stellar, but stellar nonetheless.
A few hours later it was time for the dish below it in the case:
“Spicy meat sauce roasted potatoes with cheese”
Yeah. That’s spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese over french fries…
If you’ve read more than three of The Bearded Giant’s blog posts, you know how this story ends. Yes, I ate them all. But no, they weren’t great.
Walking home from Zoo that afternoon, I saw all the normal things I expected to see.
I saw cars parked diagonally on sidewalks.
I saw people wearing shirts with English writing that made no sense whatsoever.
I saw people driving without using turn signals.
I saw people doing double takes staring at me as I walked by.
But this post began with me saying sometimes you feel like you have been dropped into an episode of Punk’d… and none of the things I just listed would qualify.
That’s a guy with two huge milk cans on a motorcycle.
And a giant ladle.
And some plastic bags.
He pulled up as I was about 50 yards away. And before I even reached him a pedestrian stopped and bought some milk.
Seller whips out a plastic bag, fills it with his ladle, then another… Here ya go. Two plastic bags of milk. Thanks. Have a good day.
Permits? Licenses? Inspections? Food handling safety courses? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Here’s your milk.
For those of you shocked at the idea of being sold liquids poured into a random plastic bag… We recently ordered some noodle soup from a restaurant downstairs in our building. Here’s how it was delivered:
Here’s your soup.