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Tiers for Fears
By Jack Cameron

Rising Up, Rising Down, and the Folly of Rankings

According to a “comprehensive business index” formulated by CBN Weekly, Hangzhou “is now recognized as a super city with comprehensive capacity and potential.” Fourteen other municipalities are in fact now recognized as "new first-tier cities" including Chengdu, Nanjing, Wuhan, Tianjin, Xi'an, Chongqing, Qingdao, and Dalian.

But recognized by whom, exactly?

And, like: So what?


DON’T MIND THE GAP. SHOW US YOUR UNIQUE GLOW!
Congratulations, Hangzhou. You are now a “new first-tier” city. Officially. Well, not really “officially.” It depends entirely on your definition of official. And as for the legitimacy or plausibility of the new designation – well, that depends entirely on how one qualifies “first-tier.” And how one defines ‘city.’

CBNweekly [sic] ranked 400 Chinese cities other than traditional metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen across 10 categories including brand density; number of premium brands entering; GDP; per capita income; number of colleges and universities; number of companies ranking on Fortune's Global 500; and airport throughput.

On the basis of the 10 individual rankings, CBNweekly has calculated the comprehensive business index for each city.

In China, when people want to rate a city's development level, the first consideration would be its administrative level. However, in accordance with the international understanding, a city in the modern sense of the word is a product of commercial and industrial development and a land for capital, talent, goods and information exchange (1).

Chengdu, Nanjing, and Xi’an made the (new) premiere league. The same maths also makes Ningbo (Zhejiang) and Hefei (Anhui) “new second-tier cities”.

The New Atlantases
The word “new” is essential to these new titles, and indeed CBNweekly's proclamation is so new that the American Chamber of Commerce seems not to have had time to adjust its website:

While various criteria exist for defining a particular tier, the tiers of cities in China usually refer to key characteristics of the city, including its economic development, provincial GDP, advanced transportation systems and infrastructure, and historical and cultural significance. China’s first-tier cities usually refer to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen which make “The Big 4.” Second-tier cities include Tianjin, Chongqing, Chengdu, Wuhan, Xiamen. Third-tier cities include Hangzhou, Chongqing among others (2).

On the subject of tiers and rankings generally, the New Zealand-China Trade Association website offers a little analysis of the matter:

We often hear of China’s first or second or third tier cities, yet what actually makes a city tier? The terms are so often used, yet there is actually no official formula for determining what tier a city falls in. Instead, everyone makes up their own rules. There are a few common views on which Chinese cities fall in which tier, often pointing to population, development of services and infrastructure, and the cosmopolitan nature of the city. First tier cities are naturally the fewest and easiest to find common ground on. China’s four city municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing) are candidates as a clearly-defined group of leading cities. Yet this group doesn’t hold up in terms of the development and stature criteria mentioned above, and in their stead a different quartet is often put forward: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – four huge metropolises with well-developed property markets.

It becomes much more trickier [sic] when we move down to second tier cities (3).

Although the NZCTA item states that “A China consumer study published in 2009 by consulting firm McKinsey, for example, recognized the limitations of using city tiers”, Business Week reported last month that many [luxury retailers] are focusing on China’s second-tier and third-tier cities — which McKinsey Global Institute predicts will be home to 45 percent of China’s middle-class and high-income earners by 2022 (4).” Thinking in terms of tiers – or in just in case it’s not exactly the same thing: generating metrics by which to ranking Chinese cities - seems a difficult habit to break.



Given Business Week’s angle on the arrival in Chengdu of Lane Crawford, and AmCham’s caveat (“Don’t let city tier rankings restrict your business outlooks. Even third-tier cities have populations in the millions and represent a promising potential market for your business”), one wonders what, exactly, motivated CBNweekly’s analysis, what need it fulfils, and what value they (or anyone else) see in its announcement. So-called “second-tier” cities are supposed to be where all the action is these days, and where all heavy-hitters want now to be; and so while the tag might be good for metropolitan self-esteem (the Marco Polo thing is a bit stale), but it might be the worse branding idea since New Coke.

MUMFORD AND SUMS
Human beings have been creating entrepots, flocking to them, gathering in them, and building walls around them for a very long time. There’s nothing new in distinguishing cities from non-cities, urbanites from perioikoi (5), and citizens from non-citizens. The differences among cities, and between cities and non-cities, did not escape antiquity’s notice.

The city as a purely physical fact has been subject to numerous investigations. But what is the city as a social institution? The earlier answers to these questions, in Aristotle, Plato, and the Utopian writers from Sir Thomas Moore to Robert Owen, have been on the whole no more satisfactory than those of more systematic sociologists (6).

Mumford says that “in its various and many-sided life, in its opportunities for social-disharmony and conflict, the city creates drama; the suburb lacks it.”

Mumford, we suppose, had never personally witnessed the social-disharmony and drama at a Lane Crawford sale in a suburban mall; but we’re willing to let that slide, if only because we like his characterization of a city as “a related collection of purposive groups and associations,” and the way the name ‘Mumford’ feels in our mouth and throat when we say it.

For us, there is an immediate, unfortunate and possibly reprehensible tendency to read “first-tier” either as “cosmopolitan” or “international.” There is also an equally spontaneous and no less prejudicial inclination to equate “cosmopolitan” with the adjectives civilized, humane, tolerant, and open-minded, and “international” with things like: the gentility of a city’s native and imported inhabitants; the efficiency of public transportation; the degree of refinement (or threshold of crudity) of the average driver in the municipal livery fleet; how many good Indian restaurants there are, and whether any can make a good mango lassi; the likelihood that any given member of the uniformed constabulary will on any given day be wearing white socks; the likelihood that simple municipal ordinances for the communum bonum and salus populi are consistently and non-arbitrarily enforced; and whether there is more than one place to buy a half-way decent baguette. But we know better (7).

METRICS AND METICS
However fun (or silly) or thought-provoking (or bigotry-revealing) such metrics may be, they share the fault of applying to indigenous conditions an alien yardstick. Metrics like these seem also to conflate and jumble-together quantifiables with qualifiables – facts and values, or, facts and the preferences based in part on values. One can count airports and reckon their cargo throughput, tally GDP and FDI, and map 4G bandwidth coverage as easily as one can take a headcount of Uniqlo outlets and Bentley dealerships. That’s exactly what Esther Fung and company did in their Wall Street Journal ditty “What Makes a Tier-2 City in China? Count the Starbucks”. Seemingly they too didn’t get the memo from CBNweekly:

What exactly differentiates a tier-two Chinese city from a tier-three city? Officially no one knows, but it might help to start by counting the Starbucks.

China has more than 600 cities, which are often categorized into four tiers. The government, industry experts and analysts all use this classification, but there is almost no agreement about which city belongs to which tier.

Unlike almost every other Chinese economic indicator, the government doesn’t have an official definition for the tiers. Even the country’s official statistics department—which uses the classification system but notes that it was started by the private sector—said it doesn’t have a definitive list (8).

One could of course count instead the number of Meters/bonwe stores, Geely lots, and milk tea kiosks, or the number of cops in tube socks, or the average distance between litter on the sidewalk and the nearest rubbish bin. Or the number of Tom Ford counters. Or the percentage of counterfeit product in the Tom Ford counters. The point is that whereas developmental markers directly related to commerce, industry, and infrastructure seem to support some deductions and a few solid inferences about other quantifiable data, clever metrics are at best playfully probabilistic. They make us grin because of the correlations they propose: high mean net-income correlates with lots of branded coffee shops that sell muffins and ciabatta bread sandwiches; coffee, muffins, and ciabatta bread sandwiches are Western foodstuffs; therefore, high mean net-income is an indicator of how Westernized (or: how non-prejudical against Western foodstuffs) a city’s residents are.

But it’s not that simple. Fun “Freakanomics”-style metrics also wink at values, standards of taste, and the trajectory of possible convergences upon those Western consumer-preferences we’re now in the habit of calling “global,” while hinting that the correlations might in fact be symptoms of deeply meaningful causal relationships. But there’s a world of difference between the market-penetration of a global Western brand, and the kind of value-thick and norm-rich “internationalism” and “cosmopolitanism” we think of when these two words come to mind or slip off the tongue.

CRAPACCINO
Take Greater Hangzhou, which has 38 Starbucks outlets. Not long ago we were smoking outdoors just beyond the threshold of a city-center Starbucks in which we were having a coffee. (Uncivilized and anti-social behavior. We note the possible hypocrisy.) Advancing with a brisk wobble from seating inside the establishment, Granny Liu pushed open the doors with her shoulder and raced outdoors, across the threshold, and down the steps, carrying her splay-legged grandchild by the underside of its knees. There, two meters from the Starbucks landing, Granny Liu aimed the toddler’s southernmost orifice at a clean spot on the pavement, and with a firm but gentle squeeze and bounce facilitated the latter’s discharge of a formidable, non-viscous pile of toffee-colored baby waste. Granny Liu’s flight plan to the door had actually taken her directly past the Starbucks restrooms. A minute or so later, the toddler’s mother, with a reassuring look of mortification upon her young face, came outside with a wad of paper towels in her hand, and made an admirable attempt to clean-up the mess. She then carried the soggy wad of discolored and despoiled paper towels back into Starbucks for deposit in the rubbish bin just inside the entrance. She did not opt for the trash can two meters away from where her child A-bombed a family of ants.

This is normal and SOP in our city, a “new first-tier city” with a Lamborghini dealership, the highest-grossing Lancome counter on Earth, and a pretty good Starbucks-to-Chipster ratio (9). One might be inclined to conclude that “first-tier” is therefore not a designation synonymous with “civilized” (said the public-smoker), whatever else the phrase purports to denote or intimate. But we have no fears for tiers. We are wondering in earnest, though, whether one should even use the word ‘city’ to refer to an administrative jurisdiction in which this sort of thing is de rigueur, the rule rather than the exception.

For a while now we’ve been publically pooh-poohing straight-faced claims that our adoptive city is in any meaningful sense “international”. But what makes, or would make, a city “international” anyway? Should we simply look for a certain density of shop-fronts for “global brands”, or retail outlets for imported luxury goods? Or should we consider instead the sales volume of whichever foreign brands have a retail presence in the city in question? Is a city more international for having four non-profitable GAPs, or for having one highly profitable GAP in which men strip in the retail area to try-on t-shirts and shoppers with kids are not discouraged by sales associates from allowing their children to piss in the potted plants?

Perhaps a city is “international” to the extent that it has a large and diverse non-native population -- long-term residents, or immigrants, or both, the majority of which contemplate themselves as legitimate stakeholders in the city, and are welcomed by the natives to think of themselves thus. But what should count as “a large population”? Shanghai is arguably China’s most “international city” on the mainland, and yet the roughly 173,000 resident foreigners there (out of +/-23 million) account for no more than three-quarters of one percent of the total population. So maybe we should instead measure the influence of non-native peoples upon the character of the city – say, the net effect of their presence upon indigenous folkways, mores, and practices, or, the extent to which the presence of non-natives results in a palpable cultural diversity and productive heterogeneity? Wow. Just try and create a formula for that.

The Metic
In this extraordinary society [5th-4thc BCE Athens], a peculiar but vitally important position was held by the resident aliens or metics. The so-called metoikoi were in fact a small but special sub-group… of a much larger group of free migrants or katoikoi. [T]hough the majority were Greeks from practically every part of Greece…, by the fourth century they included Thracians, Phrygians, Carians, Paphlagonians, Celts, Lydians, Syrians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Egyptians, Arabians, Scythians, and Persians. … The concentrated above all in Athens, the city which aspired to economic supremacy. … The anomaly was that they had no political rights: constitutionally, the polis was the state of the citizens, the politai, and no one else. Nor could they own land… [B]ut they had personal freedom, protection of the law, liberty of worship, and almost unlimited work opportunities.
                                                                           - Peter Hall (1998) Cities in Civilization, pp. 58-59


And so to the heart of the matter: what would any metric cooked-up especially for the sole purpose of rankings really establish? What would it really tell us about the character or quality of any given “related collection of purposive groups and associations”?

With respect to Occidental non-natives looking-in on Chinese cities – even when the observer is a well-adjusted and patriotic metic – evaluative descriptions, whether in terms of the presence of Western-trained doctors or the absence of vino verde, are in the final analysis bourgeois euphemisms for the adjective good. Concede that one point, and let it be Archimedean. Hangzhou is a “good city” in respect of this, but not so good in respect of that; Shanghai is a “great city” on account of X, but a pretentious overpriced hellhole on account of Y. Make a frank confessional of one’s private portfolio of priorities, and the devil with the rankings and qualifiers of others. Try and make a falsifiable proposition out of a statement like “Hangzhou is an international/cosmopolitan/first-tier (&c.) city”, and you’re back immediately to teasing-apart a tangle of objective facts and subjective sentiments --- so, why bother?

NOUN AND COUNTRY
Cities, by definition, have always tended to have more nouns than non-cities. Ur, Jericho, Babylon, Athens, Persepolis… Markets, bazars, harbors, quays, docks – where there is produce and trade, there are nouns. The quest for insulation and the desire for fortification end at last with decoration, public beautification, and private accumulation. Nouns billowing out of baskets and spilling out of gourds and amphorae; nouns hanging from hooks, hanging from earlobes; nouns dangling from wrists and hips, twisted into one’s coiffure, pinned to one’s cloak. Nouns traveling from East to West, West to East, in caravans; across seas, up and down rivers; nouns carried on poles, locked in chests, wrapped in leaves or skins. Nouns for sale. Nouns for rent. A city can have an abundance of blind, deaf, or mute beggars, but not merchants. The more nouns, the greater the mercantile dynamism and economic fecundity of a city. Strip a polis of its nouns, and it is a polis no more.

But of course, a bustling bazar and animated agora all presuppose one thing, the one noun sine qua non. People. Unless we contemplate a city as a hive – as some soulless collective of anonymous iterations, a colony of furtive hymenopterae - a city –proper is (as Mumford says in elegant understatement) an intentional aggregation of individuals. And it is through individuals that we should try to evaluate any flock or herd of human biomass --- intra or extra-mural.

So much for nouns. What, then, are the adjectives that matter most to most citizens, in contemplation of their chosen settlement --- their habitat? And what if anything are the citizens doing – purposefully, deliberately - to increase the frequency of positive adjectives, and to decrease opportunities for the flourishing of negative ones? We are back, of course, to subjective metrics of a kind; but the very best of cities are those in which the majority of the citizens embrace the fact hat we are subjects of and for one another, and that in a city-proper we like it that way. Cities are not simply villages with more people, fewer ungulates, taller buildings, and public sewerage. Where most of the inhabitants of a metropolis have carried into the city the folkways and habits of their ancestral encampments beyond the walls, and in so doing have given to urban space a character and tempo inimical to the very idea of the city, there is in fact no true city at all. As Marcel Mauss might have put it: every city worthy of the name has refused or rejected something.

The true measure of a city – rank it as you will – is neither the volume of its nouns, nor the number of extravagant, smiley-faced adjectives which either Officialdom or media wags stick to the metropolis, or append to descriptions of its natives. And given the diversity cities – and the pretensions of some residents in some highly-populated megarural enclaves - we conclude that while we may rate, we might not want to rank.

1. http://www.china.org.cn/travel/qingdao/2013-12/24/content_30994444.htm. Consulted Tuesday 22 April 2014.
2. http://sme.amcham-shanghai.org/faq/what-meant-first-tier-second-tier-and-third-tier-cities
3. http://www.nzcta.co.nz/chinanow-general/1486/what-makes-a-city-tier-in-china/#sthash.d0KB0pz4.dpuf
4. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-25/foreign-brands-shift-focus-to-chinas-second-tier-cities
5. Perioikoi, Greek, lit. “dwellers about/outwith”.
6. Lewis Mumford (1937) “What is a city?”, Architectural Record. An interesting aside, and good point to consider given Mumford’s reference to Plato and to More, sis that there’s not a whole lot of the utopian genre in China’s long and fascinating literary history. See Geng CM (2010) “Old state and new mission: A survey of utopian literature during the late Qing dynasty and the early period of the Republic of China”, Frontiers of Literary Studies in China, September 2010, Vol.4, Issue 3, pp.402-424 – vide http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11702-010-0105-7
See also Chang H-C (1986) “Literary Utopia and Chinese Utopia Literature: A Generic Appraisal” -- vide
7. http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI8612022/. “In about 1732, ‘civilization’ was still only a term in jurisprudence: it denoted an act of justice or judgment which turned a criminal trial into civil proceedings. Its modern meaning, ‘the process of becoming civlized’, appeared later, in 1752… Hence the first inevitable question: was it necessary to invent the word ‘civilization’ and encourage it in academic use, it is remains merely a synonym for ‘society’?” Fernad Braudel (1987/1993), A History of Civilizations, Part I, Chapter 1, “Changing Vocabulary”. This is hardly cutting-edge scholarship today, but Braudel’s gloss on the etymology of the word civilization, and its conceptual relationship to the word culture, is still worth reading.
8. http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/04/16/what-makes-a-tier-2-city-in-china-count-the-starbucks/
9. Chinese hipster = Chipster
FURTHER READING: In addition to the above sources, see generally Bell and de-Shalit (2011) The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in the Global Age. The editors of this volume convened a workshop in May of 2012 (The City, Identity, and Political Thinking: An Interdisciplinary Workshop) at Jiaotong University, Shanghai. Daniel A. Bell is the Zhiyuan Chair Professor of Arts and Humanities at Shanghai Jiaotong University and professor of political theory and director of the Center for International and Comparative Political Philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. We heard from an acquaintance of ours who attended that the paper presented by the delegates from Chengdu (we forget their name[s] and affiliation) was among the most interesting. See http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9544.html. Broadly related to the subject, we also like Niall Ferguson (2008) The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World; Azar Gat (2006) War in Human Civilization; Feher & Kwinter (2002) The Contemporary City (Zone Series, 1 & 2); Christopher Alexander et al. (1977) A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction; Jane Jacobs (1961) The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Henry Adams (1918) The Education of Henry Adams.

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My journey from West to East

Inspired by the skills of martial artists Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, 18-year old Tim Vukan and his friends were intrigued by this ancient art. After seeking guidance and training from Ving Tsun Gong Fu instructor Jan Hantelman, a connection was made for life. He shared with us stumbling across a tiny Chinese bookshop and discovering hundreds of books detailing the very art he loved. Intrigued by the images he found within the pages, he often went back to look around. It was here that he found the book that would change his life: Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu. Being the only book he found written in German, it became a part of him, attached to him day and night. After watching a live performance from the Shaolin monks in Hamburg he knew it was time…

After six years of intensive training and teaching in Hamburg and Münster, Tim took the plunge and moved to Dengfeng, Henan to practice directly at the source. Home to many academies and thousands of students, he chose to study at Wushu College where a little girl took him by surprise: “The best teacher I had was a nine-year old girl. She taught me high kicks and how to perform very difficult techniques. She taught me to be honest and kind to people.”

 

What was the most difficult part of your course?

The most difficult part was we had to train very hard every day no matter what condition our bodies were in. Training started at 5:30am and continued all day until 6-7pm. After three weeks of intensive training, I couldn’t walk up the stairs and suffered from heavy muscle tension pain in my legs. Once I was lying in bed, I felt calm and peaceful until the loud Chinese march music woke me up in the morning and it started all over again. This pain is necessary to understand your body. If you want to perform Shaolin Gong Fu and to reach a high level we must go further to feel what it means to have focus.

In Chinese there is a saying 先苦后甜, which means after hard and bitter work there will be sweetness. It means that we have to work hard if we want to achieve something. Everything we do is to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and to learn how to control our body and our mind in different situations. Our body is sometimes weak. Learning Gong Fu is a way to train our minds to tell our body what to do and when to stop. I learnt jianchi 坚持 – it doesn’t matter if we fail or succeed, it is more important to go on. Our body and mind each have their own language and we are able to control our body with our mind. If there is a strong mind and a clear heart, there is a strong body. Many diseases are based on an imbalance of our body and our mind. If we stay focused in the moment, we can prevent illnesses and have a happier life! Gong Fu is a way to choose health and happiness in your life.

 

After Henan, Tim moved to Yangshuo, Guangxi province to continue with taiji quan classes. There he met a woman who was offering taiji sword lessons and became her student, learning taiji next to the Li river. She taught him many things like Chinese cooking and the art of bartering. He felt happiness getting to know a culture which he had always wanted to learn more about.

During his travels in 2004, he really enjoyed Hangzhou. Growing up in Hamburg, he was a part of nature. In Hangzhou, he found he could still have that in the beautiful mountains and bamboo forests surrounding the city. From the beginning of his martial arts career, he often came into contact with Chinese medicine. In 2005, he decided to start studying it. In ancient times, masters of Gong Fu were often also doctors of Chinese medicine – it was a natural progression. Zhejiang Chinese Medical University offered him a place.

 

We hear a lot about the pressure of education in China, did you feel a lot?

The Chinese education system can be very challenging for foreigners. First to master the language and then to get used to the way of teaching. Asking questions doesn’t have much space in classroom; it’s very different to the west. Chinese students are not used to communicating with their teachers, only listening to gain information. This caused a lot of pressure while studying. Preparing for a test required memorizing and repeating facts instead of putting the theory into our own words like back home. Every culture has its own specialties, especially when it comes to education. Now, I often meet young people in the clinic telling me about their life and study and that it made them sick. Young students are often overwhelmed with pressure. I start telling them my story, hoping to inspire them to find their own way to learn.

 

You’ve founded your own company, how has that been? Do you have good support?

I founded Wushan TCM, a Chinese medical network, with the goal to connect the east with the west and to offer Chinese medicine education to students and current practitioners. There are live webinars and recorded online courses about the theory and practice. I also arrange local treatments for foreigners with Chinese medicine and take care of the language translations and clinical arrangements. I work in cooperation with Chinese medical doctors whom I’ve met during my studies and practice over the past twelve years. I want to help people to come to China and to gain their individual experiences.

 

You’ve studied tai chi, TCM and lots of other ways of healing. What would you say is the best medicine?

In our modern times a practitioner has to have knowledge from both western and Chinese medicine to offer the patients the most accurate and suitable diagnosis and treatment. Even though western and Chinese medicine are very different from each other, they can be combined in many different ways. While western medicine is treating the illness, Chinese medicine is treating the symptoms of the patient and finding the source. An example of how they work in harmony would involve undergoing surgery for an external injury (western) followed by Chinese medicine to strengthen the patient help to recover in a more comprehensive way. Both medicines have their limitations and their benefits.

I won’t say that TCM is the best medicine. I believe Chinese medicine can help a lot of people, where western medicine cannot. Above all, the best medicine is when people take better care of themselves and gain more understanding of how we can keep healthy and prevent illness. It’s about our lifestyle, our emotions, our living and working environment, our family situation, our nutrition and so much more. I want people to gain more sensibility about their lives and what makes us ill.

 

What plans do you have for the future?

I would like to combine my life in China with the life in the west. At the moment, I am preparing the German natural license test to be allowed to work and to treat in Germany with Chinese medicine. In the future I want to offer more lectures, seminars and tours in Hangzhou and to give more students the great opportunity to learn from professional doctors. More and more foreigners are interested in coming to China to study TCM. I want to help them however I can. The world will become more connected. Let’s become a part of it!

 

Tim Vukan has been studying and practicing Chinese medicine for more than ten years at the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University in Hangzhou. He founded Wushan TCM in 2008 to connect Chinese medicine practitioners and students by offering Chinese medicine online courses and training tours to enable an authentic education in the theory and clinical field of Chinese health cultivation methods. To learn more, visit the website at www.wushantcm.com.

Campbell House

I first visited Georgetown, the capital city of Penang Island, Malaysia, in 2008. This was just before Georgetown gained Unesco World Heritage designation. I vividly recall the beauty of the decaying historical buildings dating back to the late 18th century British colonial rule. The multi-coloured shop houses with peeling paint stood stoically, telling countless stories of the centuries gone by.

In 1786, Britain established Georgetown to rival the Dutch trading port Malacca in a bid to gain control of the important trade routethrough the Straits of Malacca which connected Europe, the Middle East and India to the west with China, Southeast Asia and Japan to the east.Georgetown began attracting Chinese, Indian and Malaysian merchants and settlers. Each group broughtalong their language, food and religion making Georgetown a very special mix of cultures living together in harmony.

Georgetown’s Unesco World Heritage zone is a compact, easily manageable area that you can walk around in two to three hours. Start at the grand KapitanKeling mosque, built in 1801 by Indian Muslim settlers with its Mughal-style domes and Indian-Islamic minaret, from where the call to prayer can be heard five times a day.

Then wander around Little India with Bollywood music blaring from shops and colorful silk saris on display. Tantalizing skewers of tandoori meattempt you to stop and nibblewhile tables piled with samosas and Indian sweets are hard to resist.Then further to the north, near the coastline are the British colonial buildings that now house banks, western bars and restaurants.

Turn a corner and head towards the Chinese area with colourfulclan houses, temples and shops. Bustling hawker stalls line the streets, selling Penang’s famous street foods like CharKwayTeow, Chee Cheong Fun and HokkienMee. The Chinese community has roots from Hokkien, Cantonese and Hakka and they here are a linguistically talented bunch who easily switch between conversations in Cantonese, Mandarin, their own Chinese dialects, English and Malay.

By the time I visited in 2008, much of the historic area had fallen into disrepair. Then came the Unesco World Heritage designation breathingrenewed life to Georgetown and historic buildings were restored and converted into cafes and boutique hotels. Previously, Georgetown mainly offered budget guesthouses and one very top end hotel. Now, there’s a growing range of boutique heritage hotels for visitors to choose from.

Campbell House was one of the first boutique hotels to open in Georgetown, and work on converting the building into a hotel began even before the Unesco World Heritage listing was announced. The owners, wife and husband team Nardya Wray and Robert Dreon, both saw the potential in Georgetown and had faith in its future. Nardya has a personal history with Penang, having been born in Malaysia before moving to UK andthen often returning to Penang to visit family.

Robert and Nardya bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, both coming from successful careers in London’s luxury hospitality industry.The couple embarked on restoring the hundred-year-old corner shophouse, completely gutting the building down to the original beams and structure.Working tirelessly over three years, they lovingly restored the building and filled their dream hotel with antique furniture sourced from around the region.

Campbell House offers eleven suites, each with an individual character representing a different element of colonial Malaysia, such as the Colonial Room with a four poster bed or the Sari Room graced with a headboard made from sari silk.

The rooms are luxuriously appointed and feature modern fixtures and technologies like flat screen TV’s, Nespresso machines, chilly central air-con, rain head showersand newplumbing. You may be staying in a heritage hotel with antique furniture, but you will not lackfor any modern comforts.

Campbell House is located on Campbell Street, right in the heart of Georgetown and makes a great base for exploring the city. The next street over is LebuhChulia, one of the main roads of Georgetown, where you’ll find many bars and street food.

Leaving behind the chaotic colourfulstreetlife and stepping into the peaceful tranquility of Campbell House, the first thing you will notice is the lovely lemongrass scent. Then the friendly receptionist will get you checked-in and pull out a map to show you where to find the best food and attractions.

Respecting the original architecture, there are no elevators in this three story house, but the hotel staff will use a clever pulley system to get your luggage to the top floor. Smoking is not permitted indoors, but you can do so on the rooftop terrace.

As is the tradition in Malaysian houses, guests have to leave their shoes in the public area before proceeding upstairs to the rooms. This ensures that the living areas are immaculately clean and you get the warm feeling that you are an honoured guest in a private house. Each guest receives personalized attention and you can even make special requests for breakfast to suit your dietary needs. The library invites guests to lounge and chat with each other and we had many lively conversations with our fellow travelers there.

Rooms are cleaned twice a day, and atnight they will leave iced tea and some sweet treats in the fridge. The soft and fluffy king-sized feather-topped bed is so comfortable, there seems to be a magic spell around it because as soon as you lay down you almost immediately fall asleep.

Breakfastis served in their Italian restaurant from 8am-12pm, so guests can leisurely sleep in or go out for an early morning walk before temperatures get too hot and still have ample time to return and enjoy breakfast.The breakfast spread includes a basket of freshly baked bread, a selection of housemade jams like coconut, orange marmalade and pineapple, a large platter of fresh fruit and a choice of entrée such as Eggs Benedict or Welsh Rarebit.

Their Italian Restaurant, Il Bacaro, draws on Robert’s Italian roots and offers an alternative to local cuisine. As much as I love curries and fried noodles, sometimes you just crave a fine Italian meal. It’s become a trendy dining destination for travelers and locals alike.

Georgetown is a city you can come back to again and again and never grow tired of.The Unesco World Heritage designation came just in time to save many heritage buildings from demolition. Though developmentis bringing about changes, its soul and authenticity still remains, just a scratch beneath the surface. The introduction of a heritage hotel like Campbell House means you can now visit Georgetown and stay in style and comfort.

Campbell House is a World Luxury Hotel Award winner and is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for B&Bs in Georgetown. Rooms range from 600-800RMB per night.Air Asia flies from Hangzhou to Penang, transferring in Kuala Lumpur.

Bon Provecho!:

The Hyatt Regency welcomes Raul Avendano, a 31-year-old chef from Chile, to “spice up” their restaurant and buffet. This South American hottie creates a flavor so refreshing it will whip your taste buds into shape and wake you up from a world of slumber. This talented chef started his career in the hotel business studying administration, but after one year he decided it wasn’t for him. He changed majors to be in the kitchen and everything fell into place.

“When I put on my uniform and take my knife, I feel different. I get this intense feeling, just taking the raw ingredients and transforming them to something incredible.”

Raul has been cooking in top hotels all over the world. After four years traveling in Mexico, he moved on to Macau to open a new branch of the Banyan Tree. He was also the chef in the pre-openings of Dubai’s exclusive beachfront bar and restaurant Zero Gravity and the Grand Hyatt Casino Hotel in the Bahamas.   

His Mexican Flautas are a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with Latin cuisine. Succulent chicken breast cooked in a tomato base and wrapped in a crispy flour tortilla, topped with sour cream and fresh salad. Next, we tried the Pork Loin Roulade with onions, garlic, dried cranberries, nuts and apple sauce, pan seared and finished to perfection in the oven. This was served with roasted potatoes and a chorizo-like sausage. If that wasn’t tantalizing enough, the final surprise was the Green Lamb Chops marinated with lemon and served on a bed of creamy quinoa risotto that really got our tongues tingling! We managed to have a chat and find out ‘more’ about the man himself for all you readers of MORE Hangzhou.

So Raul, you have quite the resume! Can you tell us which of your experiences have been the most rewarding so far?
A great place for me to work was Dubai. It was challenging at first because of the religion and restrictions. In Chile, we like to cook with red wine and experiment with new ingredients and spices, but there I could not use alcohol or pork. But, the supply of fresh meats, vegetables and spices was endless and we had good contacts with the suppliers. In the end, I really honed in on other techniques and flavors. It was a memorable time.

We all know how difficult it is to get certain ingredients here. Why did you choose China?
The fascination came from when I was a kid, you know. Growing up, I loved the Chinese movies with Jackie Chan, and I was amazed by the different culture and, of course, the food! Then I worked Macau and I learnt so much! I thought “I’m here! I’ve done it.” China is a place that people from the west think they know until they arrive here and it all opens up. It’s a whole new world. After I left Macau and went back to South America, I thought… “Something is missing in this kitchen… the woks!” Working on a line with these tools and producing a different taste was incredible, and I am happy to be back working with a talented group of individuals.

What’s the greatest difficulty you have here?
It has to be the language. I’m learning slowly but it will take time. I always say “I have no problems, just challenges,” and because I have no problems, I have more time to find solutions. I love working in this team. To these chefs, it isn’t just a job, it’s their passion and that’s what make this food very special.

Where did your motivation come from? Did your mum cook at home?
Oh no, my love for cooking comes from my Dad’s side of the family. My aunt and my Grandmother, they have good taste. My teachers too, they really inspired me to do more. I hope the people in Hangzhou can be open to try new flavours and enjoy eating my food as much as I enjoy creating it.

If you would like to join the taste fiesta, then head down to the Hyatt Regency hotel for their Latin Festival which lasts until April 10th. The buffet, which includes the dishes we tried, will run you 348RMB from Sunday to Thursday and from Friday to Saturday 368RMB (both prices have a 15% service charge).

Raul is in the process of creating a whole new a la carte menu that will be available after the festival with other dishes of Latin taste to tease you too! For more information on this, go ahead and contact the hotel or pop by for a sneaky peak at Raul himself hard at work in Café at the Hyatt. Buen Provecho!

CrossFit:

To be honest, this is not exactly how I saw my Saturday morning going. After a good deal of persuasion, I had given in and decided to come to CrossFit Qiantang to see what all the fuss was about. Standing in a room full of about twenty-five athletic-looking sorts limbering up, little did I know that I was about to experience what would be one of the more intense twenty minutes worth of exercise I had done in my life.

In the car on the way to the gym, after having signed up for the class, we found out what the WOD (workout of the day) was. That day it would begin with 150 Burpees, a movement which involves going from standing to lying, to standing and a jump to finish. Then, 100 Wall Balls, requiring you to throw a medicine ball to above a line high on the wall. These two exercises were to be completed as a team, shared and in rotation. The final part, 5x200 meters, would be an individual effort.

After stretching and warming up, we were put into teams of three, our team name placed on the board, thereby riling up the competitive spirit in each and every athlete present. As the countdown began from ten, the crowd erupted, and as the music got louder, the tempo in the room sky-rocketed and the anticipation became unbearable.

Then, the room exploded as the battle for supremacy began, each team pitted off against each other in an effort to achieve the best time. During the next twenty minutes, I found strength in me that I didn’t know existed as my team and trainers (and even the opposition!?) spurred me on to reach the finish line in as fast a time as possible.

So this was my experience of CrossFit, a way of working out that has taken countless countries by storm and is now rapidly spreading through the mainland of China. For a better explanation of what CrossFit actually is, I spoke with the founder of CrossFit Qiantang, The General. Summing up my experience perfectly he told me, “It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone. CrossFit is fun, but at the same time it can be brutal because it pushes you to your limits. The purpose of CrossFit is to train at your threshold area, which means you need to push your margin out.”

What is CrossFit?
CrossFit has three core fundamentals: constant variation, functional movement and high intensity. The first, constant variation, aims to improve your overall fitness, offering new and completely different workouts each time, using muscles you never knew you had, in contrast to a more focused improvement that some sports or traditional gym training offer: “We want every single one of our athletes to have a great general, broad fitness, which means they are prepared for the unknown,” said The General. In addition, you only find out the WOD after having booked the class, so if it’s something you don’t like, there’s no backing out: “You have no idea what you are going to be doing that day, just like real life. Life is unpredictable... CrossFit is the same thing.”

Functional movement involves using non-artificial movement – many gym machines promote a movement that is not entirely natural, whereas functional movements are more daily-life based and can therefore be used more in everyday situations.

High intensity is fairly self-explanatory, the benefit being you can put in less time but get more benefit. Rather than spending countless hours on a treadmill, CrossFit can condense this into around fifteen or twenty minutes of actual workout time (not including warming up or down), and yet offers results to match and even surpass longer, less intense workouts.

Why do CrossFit?
Aside from obvious health benefits, the most valuable thing CrossFit can offer is community. Looking lost on my first time in the gym, I was warmly received by trainers and members alike, as they approached me to introduce themselves and confess their great love for CF. Jenny had been CF-ing for around six months and was quick to praise the social aspect CF offers. She’d been working out in traditional gyms for years, rarely meeting anyone new: “I would be next to a guy on a treadmill every week for five or six years and have no idea about his name or who he was. Coming to CrossFit, there is a real feeling of community; everyone is very friendly and a strong bond is formed.”

This bond can only serve to improve your workout input as when you are making that final push, those around you shouting your name are sources of admiration and inspiration, team members who want nothing more than to see you do that extra rep, sprint that last 100 meters. They expect nothing less than 100%, and that is exactly what you should give them.

Furthermore, CrossFit supports and encourages its members to leave their comfort zone behind and do things they never thought they were capable of. The General explained, “The vast majority of people in this world only want to do the things they can do well… we like to give you something that you’re not good at… just use four or five hours a week to do this and your life will change completely.” So rather than doing something which comes easily to you, something you’re used to and can handle with relative ease, why not improve yourself by doing something you’re terrible at. Makes sense, right?

Some go to church, others go to CrossFit
For most, CF is more than just a workout. It’s way of life, a way of thinking that seems to make people want more from themselves. For one member, Adriana, CF was the missing piece of the puzzle, and after discovering it, her life came together, leading her to quit her job and become a shareholder in the company. Like many of the members here, you too may find yourself starting a new chapter of your life. Discover a new you, meet new friends. There’s really no excuse, so go on down and meet the CrossFit Qiantang family.

Give it a shot
For those of you thinking of joining, the first step is to sign up for one of their trial classes, either on Saturdays at 10am or Wednesdays at 8pm. The Saturday morning class will include members, so you’ll have a chance to meet the whole gang, something I strongly recommend, whereas the Wednesday evening class will include prospective members only. Also, many different membership schemes are available depending on your availability, ranging from a one-off drop in fee to a five-times-weekly membership.

To play live is to feel carefree

Etienne Jeanne, guitarist with gypsy jazz band Three of a Kind, has been living in China for almost ten years. His Russian bandmates are based in Paris which means he mostly gets to play with them when he returns to France in the summer. This year however they are recording a new project in April and are hoping to embark on a world tour next year. I asked Etienne some questions about the band and the musical genre of gypsy jazz.

How did you meet your bandmates?
The three of us met in Paris in 2002. I had just moved to Paris when I was 18 in order to start my career as a professional musician, and met Aliocha and Vladi separately while doing gigs in Paris. It was the beginning of the "gypsy jazz revival" at the time. They were performing in an old Russian cabaret every week. I went to jam with them and found we had a strong connection right away so we decided to form a band. We've remained friends ever since.

How do you define gypsy jazz?
Gypsy jazz is a musical genre developed by the late great Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in the late 30's, on the initiative of Hugues Panassié and Charles Delauney who wanted to build and promote a unique type of European jazz. That is why the Hot Club de France were the first "strings only" jazz quintet ever, innovating jazz music with a totally new sound never recorded before.

Is gypsy jazz the hardest genre to play on guitar?
It definitely requires strong guitar skills to play gypsy jazz, but not only that. A certain knowledge about jazz and gypsy culture in general, and an acuity for improvisation are also important.

Do you think there is a large audience for this type of music?
There is undoubtedly a large audience for gypsy jazz as this type of music is getting more and more popular. When I started to play this music, it was kind of a geek thing known principally in France and a few countries around (England, Germany, Holland, Italy), and now there is a Hot Club in every major city in the world, such as San Francisco, and even in Beijing! This style of music is pleasing to the ear, non-aggressive, and visually strong as you can see guitar players and violin players going crazy on their instruments! Plus it involves the guitar, which is the most popular instrument in the world, so people tend to identify themselves with it even more, especially metal guitar players.

What's the best thing about playing to a live audience?
Two things; the reward of an intense practice at home for years when people are clapping their hands, and the freedom to re-arrange our tunes, improvise, and make people surprised with a brand new show each time. To record is to leave a trace in time, to play live is to feel carefree again.

Where's your favourite place to play in Hangzhou?
I personally like to play in JZ Club because the venue is well adapted for live performances. There are many other places in Hangzhou offering the possibility to watch live bands, but not enough in my opinion. That is why I still need to work in Shanghai regularly since there are more opportunities. Fingers crossed about more musicians coming to Hangzhou in the next few years.

Has Chinese music had any influence on the music that you play?
Chinese music had an influence on the way I write originals indeed, we also cover a few songs from the early 30's Shanghai jazz repertoire.

Which bands are you following at the moment?
In the field of gypsy jazz, there are a lot of good musicians upcoming from all around the world although I think this type of music is precisely the legacy of Django Reinhardt, and hasn't really improved yet. People tend to copy the "authentic gypsy style" too much instead of working on their own interior music, which I think wouldn't have been the wish of the creators of this revolutionary musical genre.

If you would like to see Three of a Kind playing live, you can check them out at the venues below.

April 2nd @ ABC Café (Starts at 7:30pm)
1/F, Changjian Mansion, 415 Huanxing Rd, Binjiang, 滨江环兴路415号长建大厦1楼

April 8th @ Amigo (Starts at 9pm)
8 Yugu Rd, 玉古路8号  

April 17th @ JZ Hangzhou (Starts at 9:30pm)
6 Liuying Rd (Nanshan Rd) , 柳营路6号(靠南山路) 

April 22nd @ Reggae bar (Starts at 10:30pm)
131 Xueyuan Rd, 学院路131号 

April 23rd @ Schänke (Starts at 9:30pm)
Room -3 and 2-2, Building 32, Qingchunfang, Qingchun Rd, 庆春路青春坊32幢1-3室和2-2室

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