On Friday nights it is a common occurrence that some of the foreign teachers meet and have dinner together. Last night a group of 9 of us ventured into the city for dinner at a restaurant that is known by our group as the Smiling Buddha - perhaps because of the gold Buddha with shiny tummy that sits in the foyer of this restaurant.
We caught the bus into the city, and followed our "leader" along narrow lane ways for quite some distance from the main street to the restaurant. It was quite dark in the lane ways except for the occasional electric light. It was of course the very old part of the city, and along the way we could look in to the little shops - some still with workers, or customers. We saw one man making what looked like a kapok mattress, and others were full of mechanical tools. Our group was walking very quickly, dodging cyclists and tricycles as we went. It would be good to walk through more slowly at some time.
The restaurant was on a main road - but our route was the short cut. (I might add that some of our group have been in China for a while - one of the men, a Canadian, has his own motor scooter and takes off on his own and has done for a couple of years and knows the streets well. His Chinese language skills are impressive too!)
This restaurant has been a favourite of the group - but they were surprised to see it full. There was no table for us. Eventually we were taken upstairs to tables to wait for a private room. Some of us were "selected" to go and order the food and I went along for the experience. There were some 60 dishes - all set on plates covered with cling wrap - all with Chinese characters of description and a price, and the idea is that you choose from the array. As well there were many boxes/aquariums with the live fish. Crabs, stingrays, prawns, and a whole array of fish that I could not identify.
Our team ordered after spending quite a lot of time trying to identify some of the foods on the plates. Some was quite obvious but others not - especially as this is a traditional Chinese restaurant.
We had not long returned to our waiting place when our room became available. A small room but we all squeezed in around the table, and as we arrived so did the food. There was no doubt that the restaurant was struggling to cope with its popularity - and the staff were obviously stressed.
However, the food kept coming and I tried all but a plate of egg (I don't eat eggs). We had plenty to eat, it was tasty and we could identify much of what we ate. When we finished we asked for the bill, and we all had to put in 40 Yuan - which works out to just over 6 dollars Australian. We also had enough left in kitty to get 3 taxi's back to the college.
Even at night the traffic in the city was chaotic - few vehicles have lights, and they seem to travel at the same chaotic pace as during the day. We saw our first "accident" - a taxi and a car had come together - there appeared to be little damage, but lots of abuse from both sides as they sorted it out. One of the fellows remarked that in all the time he had been in China that was the first accident he had seen. Which is surprising really.