A big bunch of fun

09:41, August 12, 2010      

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Ripe and ready. Photo: IC

When the Malu No.1 bus turns into a bumpy lane after a 30-minute drive through the town, it turns a natural charm on as well. It promises, as the journey continues, a warm welcome, according to the posters alongside the road, and that is exactly what is delivered when the bus stops at the Shanghai Malu Grape Theme Park.

Summer is harvest time and it has also become tourist time for those who like to enjoy a touch of farm life or to pick their own grapes. Many visitors travel here to escape from the pressures of city life but wind up discovering the cool, fresh air, fresh fruit and vegetables.

There is nothing quite so tasty as sweet juicy grapes you have picked yourself. The picking area for yellow rose grapes, a large green variety, can be found on the left of the entrance gate. You have to follow your guide to the right areas of the vineyard. These change constantly depending on the variety and when they ripen.

Then it's just a matter of reaching up to grasp a bunch, pulling it down a little and cutting it from the vine. The best bunches are those with ripe fruit of the same size, color and firmness. The guides can help you if the grapes are difficult to reach and the trick is to do this quickly. "Clip them with one quick cut or you might be sweating a great deal for little return," advises Zhao Kai, a university sophomore who has a part-time job as a professional guide. A lot of visitors try to do things their own way - until their fingers begin to ache.

The park grows more than 120 varieties of grapes and visitors can pick 56 types. Most of the other grapes in the park are being studied scientifically. Some special varieties like the yellow rose, xia hei ( a small, crisp and purple grape) and ya jing (a large dark grape with a strong wine flavor) are hybrids introduced from Europe and America. All are cultivated with organic fertilizer and constantly maintained, pruned and weeded.

The Ying Bin Garden is a newly-built guest area where you can rest and enjoy the fruits of your labors. There is air conditioning here but a "water screen" keeps the place cool. Water from a well 100 meters underground is pumped up and flows along a 50-meter "water wall." Seven giant industrial fans push air through the cooling moisture.

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