Friday, November 21, 2008

food and culture

Let's start with the culture shock stuff because most were kind of gross. Whenever you go to the toilet, you will see these signs and a large trash can in the stall. I guess most toilets do not have good flushing or maybe it is to cut down the amount of waste that needs to be treated.

Another sign you will see is "no spitting or chewing of betelnut". The green nuts from the Areca palm are split and sprinkled with tobacco then wrapped in Betel vine leaves. When chewed it becomes a mild stimulant, and with continued chewing turns your gums and teeth red. Also, the liquid that is spit out stains, so you see red splats all over the place.

Most of the television programs are in English, though I think they are a week behind. I was just happy to be able to watch episodes of "Kitchen Nightmares", "Law and Order" and "The Starter Wife".

The phone book doesn't give any addresses just the area and phone number.

You will see many progressive poker places as well as hostess bars (many dress scantily and stand at the entrances of their establishments) and prostitutes approaching men walking on the sidewalks. There are also people who will call out to you to lure you into their shops for a massage or cheap dinner...Just use your judgement, if it looks sketchy it probably is.

Many business, restaurants and shops are 24 hours.

You will see this character all around Saipan. He is called Saipanda. Apparently he was created by a Japanese. His name is a play on words. Saipan-da means "this is Saipan". Sai also means rhino in Japanese and Panda is well, panda in Japanese, if you notice he is a cross between the two animals.

You will also see these two coconut like dolls entwined with each other. These are called "bo-jo-bo" dolls. I couldn't find much info on them but depending how they are entwined (e.g. holding hands, hugging, holding both hands and facing each other) they bring good luck for things like love, money and other things. You can find these all over the island it is just a matter of how much you want to pay for one!

One funny thing that constantly happened was that I would speak English wherever we went and people would automatically say, "Hey, your English is awesome, are you Korean?...Chinese?...where are you from?" Somehow I think we got a little better service speaking English rather than Japanese. Though I think if I knew Chamorro, Carolinian or Filipino we may have gotten even better service at various places.

Okay, let's move onto food....
In Nagoya before we left, while I was waiting to meet Satoshi at the airport, I had some delicious gelato at Babbi--biscokrok (crunchy biscuits in rich dark chocolate gelato) & stracciatella (dark chocolate bits in vanilla gelato). They only sell their gelato in twos so I HAD to get two flavors (682 yen about US$6.82).

While waiting to check-in, we had miso katsu sandwiches for dinner from Yabaton (840 yen each about US$8.40). Miso katsu is a famous food in Nagoya. The miso that they use is a red miso. It was kind of dry to me but still something different to try.

We also had some curry flavored okara (soy lees) chips from Muji (157 yen (about US$1.57) (according to my cousin, they have a store in NYC)....delicious.At Moby Dick's, we had creamy clam chowder in a bowl, a seafood salad, seafood pasta and fried calamari, with and iced tea and coffee....Total with tip: $29.00...portions way too large.

I don't think Saipan has sales tax because all of our bills were exactly as the menus or price tags stated.
The cocktails on the Club floor included champagne, wines and lots of great pupus (appetizers). We also had a great teppanyaki dinner at the Hyatt...price too high to mention. And delicious donuts (apple fritter and chocolate donut) from Winchell's. The donuts were only $.99 cheap and good!
Dinner at Bobby Cadillac's one night was delicious. It was my first time trying a reuben (I loved it!) (UPDATE: Actually, I surfed my blog and it was my 2nd time trying a reuben), Satoshi trying their seafood pizza...with sodas (total:$25.90). Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe located in the Duty Free shop. Satoshi had their humongous nachos and I had the pulled pork sandwich (how I miss bbq sauce!!)--(total with tip: $34.96).
Shopping at the ABC store, we saw (but didn't buy) spam musubi. And at the Joeten Hafa Adai shopping center, we found a supermarket with all kinds of US candies and chips as well as local chicharon (pork rinds)--if you want reasonably priced "omiyage" (souvenirs) shop here. At the Guam airport, we found a Burger King and Satoshi got his fix for portuguese sausage, eggs and rice ($6.25) and I had french toast sticks with tater tots ($4.30).

We I had LOTS of comfort foods on this trip. The portions were huge...and I think we I gained LOTS of weight and our my cholesterol must be high too. While the Japanese travel to Guam as a substitute to Hawaii, Saipan is a different place. Relaxing, laid back, don't expect to do much. Just go to relax, have a good time and eat plenty. I hope you enjoyed our trip to Saipan.

Moby Dick's
Phone: 233.1910

Bobby Cadillac's
Phone: 233.1180

Phone: 234.5566

Hard Rock Cafe
2nd Floor Duty Free
Phone: 233.7625

p.s. as I was re-capping this trip, the weather in Osaka has dropped into the single Celsius digits over the past couple of days...brr (though I still look forward to snow...)


Meng Ke Si said...

YES!.. i think chewing bettle nut is common in Micronesia... I work here in Palau and you can see a lot of that sign too :P visit my blog

K and S said...

Thanks Meng Ke Si, I'll check out your blog too.

Take care.

RyoJul said...

All the food looks yummy. Did you know that chicharon is the Spanish word for a single pork rind and chicharones for multiple ones? Is that what they call it in Japan or is it the name of the company?

Anonymous said...

Red splats...yuck! (thinking of something else)

nordwolke said...

Maybe sales tax was already included in the prices? We always have it included over here.
It was nice to accompany you on your trip. :)

K and S said...

I don't know RyoJul, that what was written on the package :)

Eww Rowena :0

Take care you two.

K and S said...

In Hawaii, they always add the tax in after calculating the total, Beadexplorer, so I wasn't too sure. Maybe you are right though.

Take care.

KirkK said...

Hi Kat - Another wonderful post...I love the observations, but am also dying to try some Curry Okara Chip! We've run (no pun intended) into the plumbing issue in South America, Vietnam, and Cambodia. I guess the infrastructure isn't quite built to handle. As for the "you speak English! Are you Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese???" The Missus has called me the generic Asian....

Phoebe said...

urgh..bettlenut is some form of tobacco? seems like it really gives a vibe of someone lying dead if you spit it out on that spot.

Is that a carrot nose on the panda? ahaha

So much food!!! Well it is good that you had an enjoyable time, take care though! =)

K and S said...

Thanks Kirkk, I freaked having to share the stall with a huge rubbish can :)

Thanks Phoebe. The panda has a rhino's nose.

Take care you two.