A Super-Sized Metropolis in China?

A Guess from The Telegraph

A metropolis of humongous purportions is said to be in the works for southern China, although there are reports on this being false. The cities of  Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Jiangmen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Huizhou and Zhaoqing would merge together, theoretically, amalgamating various public services, including: health care, job opportunities, communication networks, transportation, natural resources, etc. With one big city they would eliminate long-distance calling fees and reduce over-burdened facilities, such as hospitals. Merging into one unit, with a completed high-speed train network, would allow citizens to travel to other city areas when their current location is overwhelmed by local demand. Continue reading A Super-Sized Metropolis in China?

High Speed Rail Around Asia

KTX-Korea

High Speed Rail (HSR) is not new to Asia, although the biggest network is now being constructed in China. HSR has been in Asia for decades and is getting upgraded all the time. As you experience various countries across North Asia, it is important to get familiar with these amazing trains and be sure to work them into your trip! The thrill of legally speeding at 340 km/h (210 mph) on the ground is an awesome feeling.

Shinkansen-Japan

I was lucky enough to experience the early HSR in South Korea (called KTX), which opened just as I arrived there in 2004. It speeds across the country in just under 3 hours. Of course Korea is pretty small, but the KTX beats the 5+ hours car trip plus $60 tolls.

THSR-Taiwan
Continue reading High Speed Rail Around Asia

Pre-Tibet Hike to Heng Mountain

Mt. Heng Summit

Staying in the Florida of China for months makes winter a little less bareable each year. So, before leaping into the unforgiving frost of Tibet in Winter (as I’m told its quite chilly up there), I decided to pay a visit to Heng Mountain; the Southern Mountain and one of Chinese Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism. Heng Shan is a 150 km-long mountain range  with 72 peaks.

My post today is coming from a small hotel in the foothills of this historically important mountain. Of course, it’s also a pretty charming spot to visit if you are in the Hunan area. (Southern China-2 hours bullet train from Guangzhou/ +2 more hours light rail from HK) Last Chinese New Year I visited Song Mountain, which is the home of the Shao Lin Temple. It’s considered the Central Mountain of the Five Sacred Mtns. Someday I’ll get to the rest of them! (Northern, Western, and Eastern) Continue reading Pre-Tibet Hike to Heng Mountain

My Journey with Chinese Chiropractic (Part 1)

My problem area

Although holistic medicine is generally frowned upon in the US, I have grown up with a chiropractor since birth. Dr. Henry is one of the greatest male figures in my life and I make a point of it to see him every time I go back to the US. His practice is not mystics or voodoo; it’s purely anatomical brilliance.

With a painful, achy shoulder for nearly two months, I decided my problem was not just about sore muscles after some strenuous upper-body workouts. My sleeping was also effected because my posture caused continual pain in the same area. Whatever the reason, I felt it needed to be checked out by a chiropractor rather than a general practitioner.

When I finally got around to visiting the People’s Hospital of Zhuhai, I was prepared for anything. I had never seen a chiropractor in China before, but I was determined to experience it and make some comparisons. After all, Dr. Henry’s practice stems from Chinese medicine. Getting in line was easy; as usual, it only cost 4RMB ($0.70) to register. When I got into the doctor’s office I found a vacant stool next to his desk, which I decided was where visitors were expected to squat on. Actually, it kept my back quite straight during the consultation. After I described my condition, he walked around me and grabbed my neck bones with his left hand. His right hand began to massage the sides, perhaps in order to check for dislocation or abnormalities. When he was finished, he suggested a medical massage and an x-ray.

The People's Hospital of Zhuhai

I laughed a little at the x-ray and began to make my case against it. Dr. Henry would never require me to get an x-ray for this kind of discomfort. (Maybe it was just offered to make me feel better… who knows.) When the only option was a “massage”, I felt a natural flight-response pull me towards the door. I tried to make it clear that my chiropractor in the US would never prescribe a massage for this kind of bone-related issue. However, this Chinese doctor couldn’t imagine any other way of dealing with it. Continue reading My Journey with Chinese Chiropractic (Part 1)

My Journey with Chinese Chiropractic (Part 2)

The Saw Machine

Chinese Chiropractic (Part 1) started here…

When I came back he was already seeing another patient. As most do in China, I cut in and made my request to try the medical massage. With a flick of his pen, and 64RMB ($9.50) later, I found myself standing in front of a peculiar contraption. It was a mix of metal, chains and leather straps. I was told to straddle it and fix my head in between the front and back leather straps. A crank was turned by one of the doctors, which pulled my head toward the ceiling! At this point, I got a bit nervous; shouldn’t a fuzzy TV screen turn on featuring a scary clown doll with a spooky voice? (Like in the “Saw”series)

15 minutes before completing a full cycle on this thing, I broke free and asked if I could use heat instead. In fact, both methods were being used by patients who were preparing for the massage therapy. When I finally got on the little wooden stool in front of another doctor, he began asking what my discomfort was. After explaining a second time, I started to get a violently strong neck massage. Tears were gathering in the first few minutes and I had no idea what would happen to me! Then he moved to my right shoulder and the muscles around my collar bone. That is when I felt true pain. He found two pressure/acupuncture points “Xue Wei” like some kind of ninja; and seconds later I was subjugated; forced to twitch and move around like a puppet!

The Massage Ninja

Within 20 minutes my right arm was curved over my head and moderate pressure was applied to a chunk of back muscles. I heard light snaps. And the last 5 minutes would help smooth out the nearby knots in my neck and surrounding shoulder blade area. It seemed that my desired “back breaking” had happened.

Then I asked, “are knots OK sometimes?” He said “knots only exist when something is wrong.” It was then that I realized that our skeletons are not always in control of our bodies. Sometimes our muscles, when agitated over months and years, can take control and leave us in naturally-occurring pain. Some bones move out of place and cause any number of problems. In my case the agitation led to sleep deprivation, which caused other health problems. Continue reading My Journey with Chinese Chiropractic (Part 2)

DIY Holiday Dumplings

Wonton Wrappers

Another Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day week have come and gone here in China! This time is important here for two reasons: first, to celebrate the moon at its fullest; and second, to commemorate the founding of “New China” in 1949. Last year was the 60th anniversary, which is thought of as an important age for growth and maturity in a person.

But a romantic evening under a full moon is incomplete without one thing: homemade Dumplings! Last week a colleague invited me to his family’s house to make dumplings from scratch. (Actually, we bought the little dough wrappings… but everything else was really fresh!) I suggest buying dumpling wrappings from your local Asian food store or major grocer chain. Here are “Wonton Wrappers” available on Amazon.

Before we get started, I should mention that dumplings are generally a once or twice a month thing in Chinese households; similar to our pizza or pasta nights I remember from growing up. In this case, it is a great way to bring the family together for a bonding session. 10 per person should be enough. On this most recent occasion, we added a pan-fried fish and a tarot-root soup to make it a full meal for 5.

Dumpling Prep

1~ PREP filling: Fresh meat is crucial to good dumplings. I prefer pork, but you can use anything you want! Grind up about 1 pound (.5kg) and put in a bowl. In the picture we added corn, but I wouldn’t suggest it.

2~ Spice the meat how you prefer, but we used a few splashes of soy sauce, some sugar, and turmeric. It’s better to go light on the seasoning at this point.

3~ Shred celery and carrots. Mix thoroughly with the meat you have prepped. Feel free to use clean hands to mash it all together. (Great task for a kid with some self-control!) Continue reading DIY Holiday Dumplings

The Hawaii of China: Hainan

Sanya ~ DaDongHai Beach

What first comes to mind when you think of China…? The Great Wall, The Yangtze River, and perhaps super-modern megacities which have only recently hit the world stage. One image that probably doesn’t come to mind, or at least right away, includes beautiful beaches, palm trees, and baby-blue water. Welcome to Sanya, the Hawaii of China!

After working in busy cities and taxiing around countless industrial zones, there is nothing more enjoyable than taking a week to enjoy this little-known, very affordable Chinese getaway. Hainan is an island province in southern China, which is historically referred to as the Tail of the Dragon and the Gateway to Hell. But don’t let the old nicknames fool you, the prosperity of Eastern Chinese cities has started hitting the shores of this little province.

At 100-600rmb per night, depending on your taste, Sanya’s Da Dong Hai [三亚, 大东海] is a inexpensive locale with great beaches. And don’t be surprised if local vendors greet you in Russian; Sanya welcomed 331,000 visitors in the first quarter of 2010 alone! That’s quite amazing considering about 40,000 came in the entire year of 2005. Although Russian language won’t be required, speaking Mandarin will carry you a looong way.

My advice: Come now! With the busy summer season coming to a close, this is definitely the time to enjoy empty beaches, tropical dishes, and romantic sunsets. Explore this tiny enclave of Chinese beach culture before the big crowds come back in the winter.

40 is Good… and 60 is better

60 Years Young

Of all the concepts that differ between Western and Eastern culture, I’ve found that age represents one of the deepest divides. When China celebrated its 60th year of founding their nation in 2009, I quickly discovered that it was more than just a multiple-of-10 anniversary; China had become a fully matured adult. The phrase for turning sixty is “年过花甲”, which is a cycle of 60 years; or literally becoming a flower. 花 is flower in Chinese, but in this case it represents the white hair of a 60 year-old.

There is a respect for elders here (in China and greater Asia) which I’ve never experienced before my arrival in 2004. Back home turning 40 means going “over the hill” which is a concept that doesn’t exist here. The jokes about “getting old” are supposed to be playful, but actually linger in our subconscious… Wouldn’t it be nice if getting older was a sign of wisdom and experience, rather than a reason to be pitied?

Times are changing. Its true that Asian people don’t enjoy getting old either. They also wish to stay young forever… and they certainly try! After about 20 years of life it seems both Western and Eastern cultures start getting nervous about age. Perhaps they should get married soon… have a child before 30… own a house by some other pre-set age…  Parents out here are mostly at fault for causing the age-anxiety in their children. As for me, I’m just lucky to have very supportive parents who don’t set arbitrary expectations on their children. I’m taking my time and enjoying the ride. So, thanks for the freedom mom and dad; you won’t regret it!

Understanding The World of Tea

Is Oolong tea a kind of green tea? Is Long Jing a kind of tea or a brand?  Which one does what for you? These questions have been on my brain longer than my stay here in China (since 2005). After all, tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water. There are certainly more than a few reasons for that! After discussing the specifics with Chinese friends, tea aficionados, and tea shop owners, I can safely say that the mystery around tea is not so complicated after all. Let’s start generally and get more specific as we go along!

One Plant: All (leaf) tea comes from the same species of plant. Just like apples all come from apple trees… Varieties exist among all species and those varieties include:  Green, Oolong, Black, White, Yellow,and Pu’er. Processing and growing techniques are other ways that teas get their distinctive colors, flavors, and characteristics. For specifics on processing, check out the image on the right. The following disambiguations are listed from lighter to darker tea varieties.

 

Continue reading Understanding The World of Tea

Funny Chinese Blogosphere

Living in China is full of reasons to laugh everyday. Its just so different! Sometimes the differences get old, but there is always room for more laughter. Until recently, there was no way for a Westerner to even understand a smidgen of what I’m talking about until China Smack and China Hush came around. (I personally find China Smack more entertaining…) More social commentary can be found at the China Beat too.

The Internet is one big, open web but in many parts of the world it is not. There is a national firewall in China and other dictatorial states in the world have their own Internet. North Korea has its own Internet too. However, for outsiders looking in, there is still a lot for us to read and discuss; much more than we would have thought in the early-90s. So, go ahead, and enjoy the mini-blogospheres of the world!