Guangzhou – January 15, 2007

18 01 2007


First day at work.

My colleagues were to come and get me at 0850, so I had to make sure I was ready! After sleeping quite well (Who wouldn’t after travelling for the last 40 or so hours) I woke up pretty early at 0700.  After figuring out what bits and pieces I needed to bring with me to work I headed down for my “included” breakfast.  I got down to the restaurant and handed her my card. 

“Oh… sorry sir – Not Included”

“Uhm…. can I pay?”

“Yes, Yes!  right this way.”

I proceeded to have a good breakfast with a mix of western and asian cuisine on the buffet with the oddity of the fact that people here smoke EVERYWHERE, like at the buffet while choosing what to eat.  Derrick would die here.  I kept wondering what happened to my “included breakfast”.  As I finished breakfast a woman came up to me with the bill and I asked “Do I need to pay cash?” She said that I could either pay cash, or I could sign my name with the room.  (kind of like Including it …hmmm) Excellent.  No receipt game necessary – We’re good!

I ended up down in the lobby about 30 minutes early (better early than late I figured).  The only problem with that (otherwise great) plan was the fact that the only couches in the entire lobby were hidden behind the escalators, facing AWAY from any chance of seeing the front door, and as such I ended up craning my neck around most of the time to make sure I didn’t miss the van.  My colleague came into the lobby pretty sharply at 0850 and I was pretty happy that I managed to recognize him after 4 months 🙂  The deal is that we have a van driver drives the route of the 3 staff and my hotel picking up the crowd.  We arrive at work around 0900 and the fun begins! 

It was a VERY challenging morning and I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to overcome the problems when I first got there, but then I learned that many of the staff are quite handy, and we managed to get things almost looking normal.   My first day at the site, and I miss lunch because I’m talking with my boss back in Vancouver.  Sigh…  There’s always tomorrow.

After lunch things started to get better, and we made some changes that had a significant effect on our Internet link.  Thank God.  By the end of the afternoon it was time to leave my servers to work overnight and “settle”.  I was praying that they WOULD settle, and that I wouldn’t come back on Tuesday to a little disaster.  Oh well… Van’s leaving – gotta leave with the gang!

I had a pleasant surprise after work, as myself, and 3 of my colleagues (and the van driver) went out for dinner after work.  We were at some place that (like many Chinese businesses) seemed to have 1 staff/guest ratio.  If you even so much as looked at your teacup with a sideways glance they were there filling it up!  We had some very tasty food.  A classic Guangzhou dish which seemed to be very similar to “Beef Cheung Faan”  It was good, but one of the most interesting dishes was some sort of giant shrimp with pretty sharp shell.  The stripes were a light purple colour and they were tasty!  Also in the meal were the more usual shrimp on a stick – with a twist… They were smothered in a MOUND of Chilies!!!!  Very spicy! But very tasty too.  Tough on the mouth.

We finished dinner and then continued to my hotel.  I got dropped off, and basically just collapsed.  Slightly lagged and a long day, compiled with a big dinner meant time to sleep.  The problem was that there were 4 episodes of 24 calling my name, so I just HAD to watch 6am-8am.  Pretty interesting start to the season.  THEN I went to sleep 🙂  Sleep was different.  Asians like HARD beds.  Not firm – HARD.  I had that “celery on a cutting board” feeling”  It wasn’t too comfortable to sleep on my side.  On the back it was…Zzzzzz.

I woke up at 0300 to see that my Outlook still couldn’t sync with the Exchange server.  Damned earthquake is just KILLING asian connectivity 😦 and the hotel was the worst I had seen yet.  Sigh.  Hopefully my servers are settling despite that.  I suppose we’ll find out….

Vancouver to Guangzhou… A wild ride Jan 12-14, 2007

16 01 2007

2007-01-12 – 2007-01-14

Well, it’s been a crazy few days since I blogged.

The flight:

Our flight was delayed out of YVR until 0200.  Not bad.  In reality, we didn’t leave until probably closer to 0220 😦  That means I left home at about 2200 on the 12th and didn’t get on a plane even until about 4 hours later.  The flight was long and uneventful for the most part.  I sat between a gentleman living in Dubai who travels to Vancouver 2x/mos to look after his properties and a man heading for a vacation in Taiwan.  As usual, Cathay has the good looking flight crew and great service.

The flight was scheduled to be 13:45 long, but due to the very strong headwind and the full plane, we ran out of gas.  Actually, unlike a car, they don’t wait until the “E” light is on, so we had to make a stop in Taiwan for gas.  It sucks to be the poor guy next to me who will still have to fly to HK and then turn around and head to Taipei because we don’t actually hit a terminal at the airport, we just stop at the pump, and “fill ‘er up”.  It was a good thing we stopped, as we were also out of water for washing etc.  Interesting.  Better to stop in Taipei than run out over the South China sea, I guess.  We arrived late in HK, and people scurried everywhere to make their connecting flights.  The frequent traveller next to me helped me on my way to the China Southern transfer desk, and I got prioritized there, so that I could get to my plane.

After getting my boarding pass for the 30 minute flight I headed through yet another security checkpoint.  I guess HK airport wants to be able to say “It wasn’t OUR fault” if someone goes terrorist somewhere.  I can see their point, but man is that annoying.  After clearing security, I found myself heading to the same gate that Mrs D and I left  from when we flew for our tour last year.  Funny coincidence.

I got on the 737 and sat in my little middle seat (which I had been assigned because the plane was full), only to figure out that the Emergency windows were still empty.  Oh well – it was only 30 minutes.  Strangely there were a lot of guys from Nigeria travelling on the plane.  It’s too bad that they were so tired, as I was curious what was bringing them to Guangzhou.

We arrived a bit late, but unlike Canadian immigration and customs, it was quite quick to go through the various checkpoints and my brother-in-law was there to greet me as I came out.  It was quite a relief seeing him as I had been a bit nervous about my first venture into China without my wife and interpreter – Mrs D.

We left the airport and headed out to find the hotel.  After a few fruitless searches we ended up paying 20RMB to have some dude on a motorcycle lead us there.  OMG, I forgot how crazy traffic is here.  As a passenger, you really have to put your faith in the driver, and just relax (as best you can).  We got to the hotel, and I checked in.  It’s a fairly modern hotel (10 years old) and like many of the Chinese hotels I have been to, it has a HUGE, and largely empty, lobby.  I’m up on the 14th floor, and have a corner room.  It’s an interesting view of the world below.  People, motorcycles, bikes, cars – All blending and weaving… Crazy!   my brother-in-law gave me my Guangzhou SIM card and I was set to go!

From the hotel, I headed out with my BIL (brother in law) for lunch.  We were going to head into downtown Guangzhou for lunch, which would be about 30 minutes, since my hotel is in Huadu (a district to the north of the downtown).  We ran into an interesting problem. There is a new onramp being built for the expressway to take you to/from the airport.  The problem is that the sign builders are faster than the road builders, so all the signs in the area for the airport expressway take you to the dead-end on ramp.  I’m sure in a couple of months it will all be great, but right now it meant we got a tour of Huadu on which we weren’t planning.  We drove around so much, that BIL decided we’d eat out in Huadu.  That was OK.   We had a good lunch.  For Mrs D: I even ate tofu!  Beer around here seems to come in 500ml bottles.  Cool!

When we finished lunch we finally found our way into downtown, and I got to visit for a while with my little nephew.  He’s growing up quite quickly!  He does need to find some other playmates his age soon.  He’s quite into cars and trucks, and was happy to show me his different toys.  We had a good time!  After playing for a while, I went shopping with BIL to see if we could find me a nice dress shirt for my cousin in-law’s upcoming wedding. Asian necks and arms aren’t quite the same size as mine. If I got a neck to fit the arms were too short, or if the arms fit, the  chest was too tight.  No luck there.  We must have walked a few kilometres there.  It was good to get out and walk around.  We had a great dinner with Grampa, Grandma, Auntie, Uncle etc.  A  big crowd, and a big dinner. I was stuffed!  The long day started getting to me, so BIL drove me back to the hotel so that I could crash out. Whew…what a long day.

Headed off for Guangzhou/Hong Kong

13 01 2007

I’m at YVR killing time until my 0200 departure.    I figure I’ll take advantage of the down time to do a little ‘Net surfing and emailing.  My main goal right now is to stay awake for the next 4 hours so that I can pass out on the plane and wake up in HK timezone.

It looks like it’ll be a pretty crazy time.  I’m going to be working for 2 weeks and then my cousin-in-law is getting married.  Then – time on my own in HK.  Should be interesting, as this time I don’t have Mrs. D with me.

I’ll try to keep the blog up to date as I travel and I hope you’ll have as much fun as me!

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