In February of this year I celebrated my birthday abroad. It was the second consecutive year that I spent it away from Sydney and, if I’m not mistaken, the fourth birthday I’ve spent away from home in total.
The previous year I had spent my birthday in Hobart, Tasmania. It was the penultimate day of our holiday, a gorgeous day, and we started it off by visiting the Salamanca Markets. I love going to different markets, although I tend not to buy things. I guess it’s a combination of living in a small apartment that becomes easily cluttered, as well as indecision. We drove to Mount Wellington for some fantastic views of Hobart before heading back to our hotel.
In the evening we had dinner at a nice restaurant called Smolt (a locally sourced Italian and Spanish food in an open, elegant locale with Scandinavian-chic decor, according to Google) that was recommended to me by a friend. It was located close to where the markets had been held. Dinner was lovely, and we even stumbled upon a Chilean beer to accompany it! After dinner we went out, hoping for a dance but, instead arriving to a virtually empty club. We had a drink and left, only slightly disappointed.
A year later and it was coincidentally the penultimate day of our latest adventure, in which we traveled to Taiwan and Hong Kong, returned to Beijing and then to Shanghai to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. Her birthday celebration was scheduled for the day before my actual birthday, so I was excited at the prospect of celebrating it in Shanghai.
My birthday celebrations began with a lunch date at Lost Heaven on The Bund, a restaurant specialising in food from the Yunnan Province. We used our trusty Google Maps and Tripadvisor app reviews to decide on some of our dishes, and were pleasantly surprised. One of the dishes in particular had an interesting story about it. A local dish of rice cakes, sausage and vegetables was offered to an emperor in hiding in the region. He loved it, and declared it to be the Best. Dish. Ever. It is now known as “Emperor’s Salvation”.
My friends had organised a special Book Club for the trip at the Old China Hand Reading Room, but as I had not yet read the book, we told the group we’d meet up with them a bit later, and went to Tianzifang to check out the arts and crafts. It is a very cute little market area made up of many tiny laneways.
Once we’d walked around a few times, we looked for some WiFi to get in touch with my friends, but with no luck. We wanted to go to Pudong to see some of the skyscrapers up close, so we left the markets, but not before I tasted a very cute-looking panda tart.
Pudong was amazing. Wowed by the views, we walked for ages, before realising that we were going to be late for dinner. The group was supposed to go to a North Korean restaurant on the other side of the city. We had no idea what North Korean cuisine would entail, but it became apparent that we would not be experiencing it on this trip.
Returning to the shopping centre from which we’d arrived, we struggled to get onto the WiFi, battling the Great Firewall of China so that we could get in touch with our friends to let them know. WeChat was being impossible, the signal was terrible and my VPN was playing up something bad. During our walk to find a decent Wifi signal, we discovered a bakery that sold a Chocolate Mille Crepe, the most delicious looking cake you ever did see. We dropped everything we were doing that very moment, bought a giant slice, and found a corner in which to eat my birthday cake in silence.
We returned to one of our favourite dumpling places in Shanghai, Yang’s Dumpling (during my research for this post I discovered that there is one in my very own Sydney!!!!!!!) for a late night dumpling feast. Yang’s specialises in shengjian bao, pan-fried soup dumplings, Shanghai-style!
Our tummies full, we still had one place to visit. We’d seen online that a nearby hotel hosted a Latin music night on Sundays. We braved the cold and walked the couple of blocks, where we were greeted by a man. We assumed he worked at the hotel, until he asked us if we wanted a sex massage. We left.
We took the hotel’s lift as high as it would take us, and then switched to the stairs. We could hear the music in the distance, but as we arrived, we noticed that there was no Latin music, but a lone man on the stage, strumming an extremely sad song on his guitar. The two of us made up half the crowd, and we felt uncomfortable leaving straight away, so we ordered a drink, and then went out to the balcony to take some photos of our surroundings.
I truly enjoyed both these birthday experiences, and I hope my upcoming 33rd birthday comes with a few pleasant surprises too.