Across Continents

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A few answers…

November 22nd, 2010

A little while ago, with a degree of trepidation, I’d posed a question. Any questions? Here’s my attempts at answering a few of them…

Do you only get green tea in China, or is there black as well… and do they drink it with milk? Sugar? Honey? Yoghurt etc? And how is it for you?

“Green tea is the staple, usually drunk warm without milk or sugar. You also see people going about their business with bottles of cold tea. For all its purported health giving properties, I’m not a huge fan, much preferring black tea with a little milk. Powdered milk is widely available, being very popular for infants, but black tea usually necessitates finding a decent sized supermarket.

Coffee can - web

Coffee is making beginning to make in-roads, normally in the form of small ring-pull ready-to-drink tins, milk already added. Surprisingly refreshing when drunk cold, despite my normally strong preference for hot black coffee. Jars of instant coffee are much less common, sachets the norm, but with powdered milk and sugar already added.

In the bigger cities you’ll also find plenty of Western style coffee bars, offering decent selection, but at a price. Comparable with what you’d pay in the UK, but expensive for China. Some local chains, and familiar international ones like Starbucks.”

Giardia – have you suffered from this illness in China?

“Fortunately not! Just prolonged and persistent bouts of travellers diarrhoea, in all probability the product of antibiotic resistant bugs and ineffective counterfeit medications. But, legs fingers crossed, that’s in the past now….”

[With thanks to Jon B for the above questions]

What’s surprised you the most about China?

“Three things really. Firstly, the sheer scale – and pace – of development, vast infrastructure projects – towering suspension bridges, pristine new carriageways, pipelines. Alongside the tangible, a real sense of huge social change. Migration to the cities reminiscent of our own Industrial Revolution. Greater freedoms of expression. The latter some way behind our own, but, given the repressive, brutal nature of the so-called Cultural Revolution just three decades ago, impressive nevertheless.

Secondly, the stark contrast between the relative wealth and prosperity of the urban dweller, and the often grinding poverty to be found in many rural communities. Just one of many challenges China faces, and one it is trying to address as best, and as quickly, as it can.

And finally, as a Western visitor, the relatively high standard of living in towns and cities, and yet remarkably cheap. Decent meal out for a few pounds, a three star hotel for ten to twelve.”

[With thanks to Barbara S for the above questions]

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Up through the mountains

August 10th, 2010

Up through the mountains from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Pristine dual carriageway, vast construction projects, and smoking brakes…

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To the lake

August 10th, 2010

"Always be a little unexpected" – Oscar Wilde

The ascent to Lake Sayram Hu. Penetrating dust. Thick, black choking fumes of ascending lorries. Billowing, acrid smoke pouring from the brakes of those in descent. Pristine dual carriageway ends as abruptly as the mountains start east of the frontier town of Khorgas. Rough, stony track, a strong headwind channelled down the steep sided narrow valley makes progress very slow. Demanding. Struggling to control the bike at such slow speed amongst the ruts and loose stones. Lorries crawling past unnervingly close. Neatly cultivated fields, sunflowers, small villages on the plain below soon forgotten.

It is that steep - web version

The pass rises to almost seven thousand feet, the summit col overlooking the wide expanse of the lake. A centuries old trading route from Kazakhstan in the west towards Beijing in the east. An ancient Silk Road. Today, a vast construction site, perhaps thirty or more miles in length. New road tunnels being dug, wide carriageways being built, a vast suspension bridge close to completion. Workers encampments dotted along the route. Not so much an upgrade as a bold re-design.

Mountain montage

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