It was our first real night out in Shanghai, China. The climate was humid but not exactly hot. It was drizzling a bit. We already knew that there is a Korean restaurant on Dongfang Road near our hotel. But, I never thought we will go there for dinner. It was Monday, one of colleague was pure veg and other one was veg for Monday (Actually he’s pure veg on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and non-veg on rest of the days). We just started walking towards the square where we knew are many restaurants.
I was carrying my camera with me. I love night time street photography. Shanghai looks beautiful at night. Although China stays opposed to US values, it follows everything else what US does. For example, everyone drives on right side of the road, free right, tall skyscrapers and fancy lighting on the buildings in downtown. Even our hotel was looking excellent which looked a bit dull in morning haze. The streets were not only brightly lit but also the restaurants were looking bold with red-yellow colors.
After walking for sometime we reached an area where it looked a bit more like being in Asia. There were small shops, grocery stores, street food and small time restaurants. There were people walking around. Some were having a chat outside on the footpath. It really felt more like at home. The smells were exotic and also the sounds were unknown. Although there were boards on each store and joint but, we couldn’t read a single word. All we could gather were, numbers and Yuan signs. Everyone were looking at us for obvious reasons.
Finally we came in front of the Korean restaurant. “Korean Restaurant” on the sign board was the only reason, we understood it was a Korean Restaurant. We stood outside the restaurant for a minute. Neither the restaurant was crowded nor the people inside were looking interested. We discussed a bit (being an Engineer that’s what you do !) We came to conclusion that, there is no harm in going in that restaurant. Anyhow, as far as veg food is concerned all restaurants were same for us. We went in.
As soon as we sat down we were served warm water. Then, we were given the menu book. The menu book was in Chinese and there were some pictures to go with it. It is a rule in China to show pictures of the dishes in menu. As soon as we tried to talk a bit in English the guy ran away. We were puzzled for a moment. He grabbed another guy, who he thought could understand us. But, it was not of big use because all he could understand was numbers (with hand gestures) and Yes/No. We tried our best to tell him that, we wanted veg food.
It was so funny that we spent half an hour just to convince him to give us rice and some soup. There were times when he would get frustrated and look in vacuum. There were times when we already started thinking about leaving. But, even we left where would we have gone. Every place was equally difficult for us. Finally we ordered some potato patty and some vegetable. Now in retrospect, I think we confused him a lot by repeating “No Chicken, No Pork, No Meat” for many times. It was most adventurous dinner I had after long time.
For first timers and who don’t understand or talk Chinese, try to keep a cheat sheet about the things you want. Keep the text in Chinese so that people can read. Believe me, our travel became less troublesome (for all 😉) with a cheat sheet !