Our Trip to China: The Great Bamboo Sea
There were a great many parts of China that were first time experiences for all of us. There is no doubt that each and every day was something fascinating and new, but personally, the day we traveled to the Great Bamboo Sea was perhaps my favorite. I am a passionate a nature nerd. Throughout my travels I always seek out mountains, canyons, forests—essentially anywhere I can go for long a hike and enjoy nature’s majesty. I appreciated the combination of culture and cuisine that met us in this specific forest. After our gondola lift ride, which provided stunning views of the fog-topped bamboo, we entered a small town with a tall pagoda. There, we got to relax and take in the views…not that the gondola wasn’t relaxing but dangling a hundred feet in the air made me a tad tense!
We spent some time bartering and buying souvenirs for friends and family back home. Bartering is something I am not used to. In the U.S., there is a price tag, and that is that. In China, haggling is commonplace. Start with half of what you initially get told, and go from there. I was most excited about lunch though. In my Food Writing class back in Hyde Park, NY, we had to read a piece about a man that wanted to try rat. Don’t think New York City sewer rats, these are bamboo rats. They can be bred in captivity or captured wild. Suffice to say, I was very excited to try it, and honestly, it was quite good. I hate to be the culinary student that says “it tasted like chicken”—but it did. Fried and combined with vegetables and a sweet and sour-style sauce, I had no qualms about enjoying this cultural delicacy. The rest of the lunch relied heavily on the flora and fauna of the forest. Fungi, moss, bamboo shoots, just about everything that grew up in the bamboo was tied into the cuisine.
Our day ended with a several-mile hike through the bamboo forest, with its profound views and landscapes. It was crazy to see vendors along the trail. People that live in the region come to sell dried goods. So, part of the trail was dug into the side of the mountain where you could find ice cream and other confections. Near the end of the trail, it was amazing to watch as an older Chinese woman being carried down the steps on the backs of others. Towards the end of the hike, there were many Buddhist shrines and statues built into the trail, as well as a chain link of “love locks.” By the end of the day, we were ready to get on our bus, take a breather and start reminiscing. Not only is the Bamboo Sea a natural wonder in itself, it offers great insight into the different cultures and lives of those born into the many and so varied ecosystems that exist within China.
By Ramon Manglano