Two interns in Zhuhai, Alizée Ville and Alice Roberts, interning at a biochemistry company, were recently given the opportunity to travel to the north of Guangdong province. On 28th-29th June their manager Wesley invited them to visit two farms in the Guangdong countryside which were to become suppliers for his new restaurants. Here’s how they got on whilst they were away.
After a long drive, our first stop was at a restaurant where they served us famous Chinese chicken and the ‘best bamboo root in china’. The bamboo root was freshly cut and cooked so it lacked the strong smell that not-so-fresh bamboo roots give off. It is common in china to serve the heads and tails of any meat and fish, so it was new to see chicken and duck head on the plate. We also tried unfertilised chicken eggs before they are shelled.
Fei Sha Hu near the lake: office + new theme park
We then visited Mr Lai’s office, which was in a traditional style building by a large lake. When we arrived, we spotted a calligraphy table, where we practiced some Chinese writing (書法 Shūfǎ) and were taught how to hold the brush. Calligraphy can be considered an art form in China.
During this trip I have realized the importance of tea in social gatherings and business meetings. It is used as a symbolism of hospitality and is the first thing presented on arrival. When we arrived at Mr Lai’s office, he had a beautiful table made specifically for “Chayi”, the art of drinking tea. The water was boiled on a hot plate built into the table and used to clean the china, and then the remaining water was poured over a small porcelain four faced Buddha’s head (supposedly representing Brahma Hindu). The tea was a mix of green tea leaves and herbs, which Mr Lai took pride in. While the tea was served, I noticed a common courtesy was to tap two fingers on the table, near your cup, as a way of saying thank you.
During the tea ceremony, the atmosphere is very friendly and casual. I have noticed that Chinese business culture differs to western, as friendly talk is mixed with business talk, rather than having strict meeting schedules. After a while, a poster of a proposed theme park map was shown to us and it was explained that around the lake, Mr Lai and his colleagues are planning to build a theme park.
Qingyuan (Lilac Garden Hotel)
We spent the night at the Lilac Garden Hotel, in Qingyuan, by the Bei River. Home to four million people, the city is growing alarmingly fast, with new high rising residential towers being built everywhere.
Boat Fish restaurant (in Qingyuan)
That night, we were invited to dinner on a boat restaurant, where we were served freshly fished seafood. The place also raised ducks and geese, so all the meat and fish couldn’t have been fresher. During our dinner, men from our neighbouring table were even fishing while they were eating. We were introduced to Chairman Xie, leader of the Agricultural Board of the Qingyuan district, whom joined us for the festivities. We were then served Fei Xia Ye, a special locally made rice liquor, which is sipped during the meal. Strong, it also has a floral aftertaste.
Chicken and pig farms
The morning of the 29th we drove to the chicken farm that planned on supplying Wesley’s new restaurant. To get there, we had to climb up a hill, despite it being one of the easiest ones to access. Once we reached the top, we saw a chicken pen but no chickens. These chickens were so free range that they were able to roam the hills without fences, so much so that we were not able to see one. As these are free range, they eat whatever they find in the hills so they are not guaranteed to be organic, however the farmers in this area are not educated on how to use fertilizers and pesticides so they do not tend to use them, making the chickens most likely organic.
We did not stay too long and were soon back on the road, to visit an organic piggery. Situated in Donghua (near Yingde), Mr. Zeng Fanwei’s farm hosts domestic Tibetan pigs. Tibetan pigs are (quite obviously) native to Tibet, from around the Brahamaputra river, which is elevated at about 3500 meters. These pigs are thus comfortable in high altitudes and prefer wide pastures, which is why they seem to strive in the Donghua area.
The pigs are kept in age groups, starting at 3 months old (the younger ones being kept with mothers until they are weaned), and acquire bigger pens as they grow. The older ones are allowed to roam freely in the mountain. Being an “Ecological Agricultural Science and Technology” company, the pigs are raised in respect to organic norms and humane treatment.
After lunch and lychees at the pig farm, we started our journey back to Zhuhai. However, within 300 metres, one of the tyres burst and we were all stuck in the Chinese countryside. After a few complications, and some tea at the neighbour’s house we were able to get to a garage and fix it. While driving back we saw lots of beautiful countryside and passed over Guangzhou’s huge industrial harbour.
Interested in being presented with opportunities like this? Apply now to intern in China.