My Birthday Cake – Hangzhou Style

I forgot the candle but I got my dongporou (东坡肉), Hangzhou-style braised pork belly cut in a large cube, served in a ceramic dish. Guiltily I admit to having had seconds.

Hangzhou Birthday Cake

Cube ‘o pork belly with colleague Chuck

The flip side was a surreal day of that started jetlagged at 2 am, involved a crack of dawn train from Shanghai to get down to Hangzhou in time spend an hour in traffic to then spend an hour in company’s visitor hall admiring a huge screen of real-time displays, before the hour drive to lunch, then half hour drive to the company’s other office to admire a similar, slightly smaller screen along with a cursory meeting, the forty-five minute drive back to the train station, notice a pattern? Business in each country looks surreal from the outside, I suppose that’s why I like it even when it is exhausting.

Hangzhou Station

The commute is a bitch, waiting at Hangzhou Station

At 9 pm I am finally done moving for the day, my battered body grasping the bowl of changshou mian ‘longevity noodles’ (长寿面) before crumpling to sleep. I think I’ll sleep past 2 am tonight.

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

  • karung99

    I love Dongpo pork when I visited Hangzhou, too bad can’t find it here in State.

  • Great short post. I’ve finally planned my first trip to China for summer next year, but it’s just a short stay to take advantage of the Transit Visa in Shanghai. I’m hoping to go for business before then. Happy birthday, though, and I’m hoping you got some good sleep!

  • Is that Hangzhou Station or Hangzhou East? Looks a bit too nice for Hangzhou Station.

  • William

    Happy Birthday! It seemed to me that you look refreshed (and cute) after eating the pork. Hangzhou airport has added a few international routes in the past few years. Have you tried any?

  • RP

    You look like a Senator. Are you on a Business trip to Korea and China? I enjoyed the N.Korean dancing video in your last post. Happy Birthday.

  • Happy birthday!

    Was just in that train station a few months ago, so it looks very familiar. Could you please explain to me why everyone drives their cars in these Chinese cities when there are really good subways. The one in Hangzhou is new and terrific. We had to practically beg our Chinese hosts to use them with us instead of waiting in the absurdly long taxi line in the hot basement of the station. We found this all to be true in Suzhou and Shanghai as well. We much prefer the subway to being in a car in Chinese cities.

  • @RP – just need to play to expectations. Even though meeting a company with casual dress code, they expect the businessman from NY to be fully suited up so I had did so despite the heat and rain, I included red braided silk cuff links for a nod to China as the knots recall auspicious designs of Chinese knots.

    @smittytabb – it all comes down to ‘face.’ It would be a mortifying loss of face for your hosts to bundle you into the subway.

  • @Skwok – that is Hangzhou Station, which was nearer to my afternoon meeting. We arrived in the morning at the much nicer, new Hangzhou East. The bulk of fast Shanghai trains are between Shanghai Hongqiao and Hangzhou East which is not convenient for many in terms of the ground connections. The only Hangzhou Station – Shanghai Station train around my town was sold out well ahead of when we were able to book.

    @William – I have not tried the international routes but they are a great option, such as KLM’s from Amsterdam. Zhejiang province has so much of the export light manufacturing and tech firms that it is a big business hub now and bypassing Shanghai is boost. With Shanghai Hongqiao Station connected to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, that also is a nice connection option.

  • @karung99 – I have looked to no avail, though within China is is quite hard to find a well-executed one. In NY, Shanghai Heping at 104 Mott has a passable hybrid hongshaorou/dongpou rou served in huge cubes though not in the clay pots. They don’t have an authentic Shanghai-style waipo hongshaorou (外婆红烧肉) though.

  • That was my assumption, but it is good to get confirmation. The cultural differences are often subtle and at times not so subtle. Mostly, I have never seen the kind of generous hospitality we experienced there anywhere else in the world.

  • @smittytabb – it is really interesting/cringe-worthy in reverse when, say, Chinese not so familiar with the US, come to the US and their host doesn’t even turn up at the airport to pick them up. Like for a business meeting and just give the office address and expect them to come on their own. Not going to win that contract!

  • Pat

    All I want to say is be careful what you eat in China. There are people who buy dead pigs from farms and turn them into sausage and god knows what else. And it happens in a very large scale. I personally won’t go to China if I don’t have to. I am a Chinese, btw.

  • @Pat – it is a difficult dilemma, I lived here for 8 years and recently come back for business regularly. My mother-in-law is very fussy about any food she buys, then everything is washed multiple times and various procedures to try to make it safe. I take a more devil may care approach that I can’t do much about it so eat what I want and hope for the best.

  • Aptraveler

    Nice short blog. Although you claimed to be tired, you certainly looked happy and alert in the picture; maybe it was because of the meal you’re about to have. Who knows! In any case, happy birthday Stephan, keep doing what you do so well!