Sunday, June 20, 2010

Surprises from China.

These recycling bins have been following me around from Shanghai into Hangzhou and Shaoxing everywhere I go. The infrastructure for eco-friendly gestures is apparent in cities and the intentions are good. But a look into the contents of the recycling and non-recycling bins will tell you more about the actual effectiveness of its recycling intention. At least, it's a start.

Eco-friendly way
of travelling in the city of Hangzhou. It's not a business venture, therefore rental charges are very affordable, meant more for the locals (I think) to ease the traffic pressure on the roads. Bike booths are located in a lot of places in the city, not just the touristed areas. Any time of the day, you can get a bike (as long as they are available) with a top-up card. No deposit seems to be needed.

Found these tiny solar panels and solar stands along some roads to power the street lights. Brought a touch of green amidst the exhaust fume from the vehicles that run amuck on the road.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Green Tea Mania

Bought a packet of Japanese green tea biscuits--bamboo shoots-like biscuits coated with a layer of green tea cream. Something that I was addicted to while in the UK.

Glad to find it in stock over here. But little did I know that I would open to a paper box full of horror.

Inside the box, there are no more than 10 pieces of biscuits. But EACH biscuit was further packed painstakingly in little plastic bags. Classic example of excessive Japanese packaging where appearance and exquisiteness surpass environment concerns. And from a country that produces no resources on its own.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dragon Well Village

When was the last time, I asked myself, as a city dweller, bought a product that is produced at its source? I realize I have never done so. Everything that I have bought has been imported into urban centres where a high proportion of the price that I paid for those goods went into the pockets of businessmen whilst peanuts were passed onto the hands of those who actually produced them.

Businessmen, in ancient China, used to rank below farmers, craftsmen and scholars in terms of social status. They were frowned upon because, unlike farmers and craftsmen who produce goods, businessmen contribute nothing substantial but make a living out of the labour of others and generated money from money itself. In those days, knowledge and skills were appreciated. But, of course, not anymore now. Money alone measures the amount of respect one gets.

All the more made those tins of Dragon Well Tea that I bought from Dragon Well Village significant .

Dragon Well Tea (Long Jing Cha) is one of the many green teas produced in China. It got its name from the village that grows the tea bushes. Dragon Well Village sits on a hill near West Lake in Hangzhou and the name happened to catch my attention in google map while surveying the vicinities of West Lake. So, this is the source of the well-known tea.

It turned out to be a modern village, revamped a few years ago with new cables, drainage system and buildings, not the traditional wooden houses that I have imagined. But it was certainly a nice area with creeks and woods. It was misty that day and some of the plantations were shrouded in mist. Air was fresh, creeks were crystal clear and surroundings were serene--that I almost forgot I was in China.

Met a few villagers on the bus to the village, one of them Mr. Zhang who is the third generation of tea planters in his family. Own plots of land and apparently, the harvest time (usually during Spring, right after winter)for the tea was over (May) for the year. Harvest period for this tea is brief and therefore, the tea is well-sought after. Tea leaves are plucked early in the morning, around 5. Invited to his house for tea (well, of course, it was not without a purpose) and sampled his tea harvested from his own plantation. It was delicious! (I must use this adjective for the tea) I even started chewing the dried tea leaves from the pile and they were tasty! It certainly tastes different from the tin that I bought from supermarket. Even C who has a disdain for green tea warmed up to the flavour and we ended up buying a few tins of Dragon Well Tea from the planter. I knew I was being ripped off for the price that they quoted me but something in me held me back from bargaining down. I guess I'd prefer to be ripped off by these people who are in the frontline of production rather than the far end of it.