During my travel to Asia, I was fascinated by how many uses has Bamboo in people’s life. I was aware that Bamboo is an alternative to the consumption of plastic or other types of wood, but my journey to Asia made me realize that Bamboo is more than an eco-material, it’s actually a source of life. From building roads, bridges, and houses to accessories, furniture, and tools, Bamboo is part of the daily life in most of the countries of South-East Asia. They build, eat, sell, write and make clothes with Bamboo.
That’s why Bamboo symbolism is also deeply included in the Asian folklore, being considered a sacred plant. Besides these life-giving properties, Bamboo seems to possess some magical powers to adapt to all the needs of people, it is considered that Bamboo is a gift from the Gods in order to make people life easier. Because of its emptiness and properties, bamboo is allegorical for Buddhist enlightenment.
What is so special about Bamboo? Firstly, it is a very fast-growing tree in tropical and temperate environments, and is very hardy, not needing pesticides or herbicides to grow well. Bamboo is also easy to grow, no irrigation is needed, when it is cut it, quickly grows back and can be harvested in 3-5 years. More than that, it is an important factor of balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it produces 35% more oxygen than other trees, it sequesters carbon dioxide and is carbon neutral.
One of the most important uses of Bamboo is in building housing. I saw many Bamboo houses, especially in Laos and Myanmar. Even if at first sight, I doubted the safety of the houses, when I had the chance to enter in one, I realized that they are highly resistant even to the earthquake and they have thermal insulation properties. According to UNESCO, 70 hectares of bamboo produce enough material to build 1000 houses and over one billion people in the world live in bamboo houses.
In Luang Prabang – Laos, I crossed a Bamboo Bridge over Nam Khan River at the intersection with the Mekong River where there was a beautiful sunset viewpoint. I had the same impression that it’s unstable but it was strong and sturdy. Bamboo is being used in road reinforcements and building bridges all over Asia, in some cases capable of supporting trucks that weigh as much as 16 tons.
In one of my trekking trips in Myanmar, I asked my guide what would they do without the Bamboo. He couldn’t give me an answer, he told me that they use it for food too because they eat its tender shoots for sustenance or in medicine treating kidney diseases. In Laos, I ate delicious sticky rice which was made in a bamboo pot.
Bamboo is giving them also a way to earn money by producing objects for selling like baskets, hats, musical instruments, or different accessories. Most of their furniture is made from Bamboo too, tables, beds chairs or rugs, almost everything in the house is Bamboo.
Due to its flexibility, bamboo is also used to make fishing rods. Bamboo rods will benefit from extra care from their owners. With a little extra maintenance, a bamboo fly rod can be used for many decades.
Besides all this, Bamboo is considered the new hemp, it can be made into a strong and durable fabric for making clothes. Even the Bamboo fabric properties are better than the other material, the transformation into Rayon is still made through a chemical process which is unsustainable.
Bamboo is utilized to produce paper too mainly in China and Myanmar. In the past, people used it for making writing utensils also or writing tables. In Vietnam, during Luna New Year, I participated in one traditional game – Bai Choi, involving cards in bamboo huts.
Not least, Bamboo was and is still used in making tattoos. A bamboo tattoo is done using the bamboo stick to poke the needle into the skin repeatedly, injecting ink underneath the layer of skin to make the tattoo. Today, tt’s more like a trend than a necessity but in history, bamboo tattooing began in the Buddhist temples, with monks receiving religious text tattoos from grandmaster monks for protection.
I’m sure I didn’t mention all the uses of Bamboo that I witnessed in Asia but I hope I made you research more about this plant and its benefits. Even if you don’t live in Asia, you could still value Bamboo and be eco-friendly by using a Bamboo toothbrush, Bamboo straws or a set of bamboo cutlery when are you traveling. Use Bamboo as a gift from Heaven and make more gifts to nature.