Thursday, June 28, 2012
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
(Collin here, writing from the good ol’ U.S. of A. Since Beijing provided far more blog material than I could possibly write about while I was there, I figure I’ll continue posting until school and work take over my life in a couple weeks.)
One of my favorite things about Beijing was the volume and diversity of cargo bikes in the city. The vast majority are actually trikes with large rear beds, usually made of steel or bamboo. They haul a wide variety of cargo: watermelons, novels, Styrofoam, houseplants, beer, goldfish, copper pipes, bootleg DVD’s, mobile hot-pot kitchens, 2x4’s, dinking water, steamed buns in bamboo baskets, orders from amazon.com, garbage, and passengers.
My favorites were the ones with integrated BBQ grills and/or crepe-making facilities. The mobile food tricycles, much like Portland’s food carts, provide affordable food while transforming the street into a welcoming, lively public space. Brilliant!
I don't know how many cargo trikes are in Beijing, but it’s almost certainly in the millions (the Beijing government estimates that there are more than 10 million bicycles in the metro area). Part of the reason there are so many cargo trikes is simple economics – trucks are unaffordable to the vast majority of these small business people. Another reason is the typically smaller scale of retail stores, which often don’t require tractor-trailer-sized deliveries.
The biggest reason for the huge number of these small delivery vehicles, however, is government policy that prohibits large trucks from entering the city (within the 5th ring road) unless they are carrying food from the countryside and have a special permit to do so.The fine for operating a large truck inside the 5th ring road without a permit is 200 Yuan, or about $30 US dollars. Before 2009 heavy vehicles were prohibited from entering during daylight hours, but the policy was so successful in decreasing emissions and congestion that the government decided to extend the truck ban to all 24 hours of the day. The policy creates an incentive for goods to be shifted to smaller - and in many cases less polluting – vehicles before they enter the city. Most of the cargo tricycles, for example, are either human-powered or electric.
Shifting to a similar model of policy that promotes smaller scale, lower (or zero)-emissions freight vehicles is attractive for several reasons:
- less pollution and noise makes for a more livable city
- smaller vehicles consume less roadway space and contribute less to congestion
- increased safety for all other road users
- more jobs in the transport sector
Chinese officials understand that freight is important to their economy, but they’re not limiting themselves to the standard freeway expansion solution. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking outside the box when it comes to freight transportation?
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
A couple weekends back Andy and I met up with my good friends Nick and Vicky to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Diaolou sites around Kaiping, Guandong. In Kaiping there are five government-sanctioned Diaolou and village sites that we needed a ticket for entry (Zili Village, Majianlong Village, Jingiangli Village, Li Yuan Gardens and Yinglong tower, 150 RMB for all five over two days) and there are countless of other individual Diaolous scattered across the countryside.
The Daiolous are family villas that were built by “overseas Chinese” in the 1930s. These Chinese families spent time abroad, typically in South Asia, Australia and North America, then returned to Guangdong, bringing with them a new architectural taste.
The buildings are considered a significant architectural form because their defensive features and for the way they combine Western and Chinese styles. To protect from bandits of the day they built high walls with ironclad windows and slots for firing weapons. Wealthy families built most of the Diaolous, but each village would also have a less decorative Diaolou that was shared by the rest of the village population during a raid. Today village residents and visitors alike only need to be weary of modern-photoshop-bandits like these two outlaws.
Family portraits and artifacts were displayed in the buildings. Artifacts ranged from chopsticks and chopping blocks, to a 300 year old toilet and an Ashland, Ohio made water pump. The design of the buildings, with tall stories, internal windows, and shaded upper story balconies allowed for air circulation and kept the insides a cool temperature (much appreciated on hot summer days!)
In 1980s many of the families entered into entrusted management agreements with the Chinese government. The government took charge of maintenance and repair of the buildings, while the families remain the owners.
The different sites were in varying states of repair and slow deterioration. The Li Yuan Garden site was by far the best maintained and all the buildings still boasted their original bright yellow paint. At the Ruishi Lou Tower I could see how sun and rain was washing away the once vibrant blue paint. In the tall stairways, protected from elements, colorful stencils still line the walls.
On our first sightseeing day we hired a driver to take us between three sites. On our second day we started early to beat the heat and rode tandem bicycles the 11km between Chikan, where we stayed the night, Zili Village and Manjianlong Village. And we even found the almost fully paved “Guangdong Greenway” to ride home!
Monday, August 15, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
- India Inn (¥ ¥ ¥) has a whole vegetarian page on their menu and is mere meters from Yannan station, exit C. Their TV is always showing Bollywood dance compilations.
- Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Noodles (¥) can be found in all kinds of dirty, out-of-the-way places. Some cleaner versions are in mall food courts, but you probably won't get to sit on tiny plastic stools. You get a basket to fill with whatever you like for your soup, and it'll be your own fault if you accidentally pick the bush meat.
- Shao-Kao (¥). See above, but with barbecue. This has been a staple of our diet, for a number of reasons, and will definitely get its own post later.
- Awakening (¥ ¥) is a jen-you-wine vegan restaurant in the heart of Futian's CBD. Their food is delicious, the staff is super friendly, and they have pictures of famous vegetarians all over the walls. I think it's run by a cult, as all good vegetarian restaurants are. They do cafeteria-style lunches as well. I haven't been able to figure out who their clientele is really, but I've met some Chinese vegetarians here.
- Bars and Western Restaurants (¥ ¥ ¥) cater to foreign crowds, so their menus are in English. Don't expect the food to be like you remember it, or to show up in a reasonable amount of time (it's often biked in from somewhere else). These places are typically in malls, and "expensive."
- Szechuan Food (¥ ¥) can be a boon or a total bust. Get a sympathetic local to help you find the eggplant mashed potatoes and sticky peanut sauce noodles, as they are incredible.
- Delicious Noodles Fine Kitchen (¥ ¥) has a great vegetable noodle soup dish that makes for a pretty good lunch. 'Nuff said.
- Thomas' Place (¥ ¥) doesn't actually have any vegetarian food on the menu, but he will cook special dishes for you because he loves foreigners. It'll probably be an omelette of some kind. His restaurant is half a block from UPDIS and is known for its fancy coffee, which he is convinced will catch on in China someday. Thomas will teach you the proper way to drink it, as well as how to make the best of the bitterness in the cup and in life.
Oriental Pearl Building, Shanghai
Bride Beach, Guangdong province
Lizhi Park, Shenzhen
Kowloon waterfront, Hong Kong
World's longest people-mover, Hong Kong
Urban Planning Museum, Shanghai
Shenzhen Bay Park, Shenzhen
CAUPD-SZ Office ConniePic