Chinese New Year 2013: A Retreat to the Mountains

Ben @ the peak of Hengshan

It’s New Year time in China once again and this time I’ve decided to do something a little different. For the Year of the Snake my girlfriend and I are spending 3 days in a quiet, snowy mountain town in Hunan province called “Heng Shan”. It’s one of the 5 “sacred mountains” of China, although this could just be a marketing ploy by the locals… Anyhow, it’s importance to Taoists and Buddhists goes back all the way to 25AD, so there must be something desirable up there! Continue reading Chinese New Year 2013: A Retreat to the Mountains

Easily find Peace in Asian Parks

With the West Lake in Hangzhou recently joining the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, it seems like the right time to highlight the value I’ve received by embracing some peaceful hours of relaxation in the most beautiful parks of China, Korea, and Japan.

Let’s start with the West Lake (杭州, 西湖):

West Lake in Hangzhou

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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

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