Blog down/no updates from HK Trip

28 02 2007

Some days you just can’t seem to win.  Technology has conspired against me.

First, my blog site was down for almost 2 weeks after I got home.  Tough to update the blog 😦

Second, I went to sync my HP IPaq 4150 with my new laptop, and “Poof!” there go all my nice point form notes that I took every day while we travelled.  Gone.

It seems that the last 12 days of my trip may never get published.

Too bad really – they were a fun time.


Did I mention that some days you just can’t seem to win?

Zhongshan – January 29, 2007

20 02 2007

2007-01-29 (Monday)

We were off on a tour today!

We were to meet down at the Hotel restaurant for breakfast at 0830.  Boy, I sure felt the late night from the night before.  I was getting ready to go, and had the laptop fired up and syncing when I got a knock on the door from Mr 7.  The others were already downstairs and waiting. What??? It was only 0815.  We got the rest of our stuff organized and headed downstairs.  We joined everyone in the restaurant and had a nice breakfast.

The van was waiting for us outside the hotel when we finished, and we all piled in.  This time I got to sit in the front.  Little did I realize that this was to make up for the endless hours of driving we had coming up.

We headed north.  We were headed to Foshan.  Why?  That got left out by my dear, loving translator.  As we travelled along the road I saw all the oddities that remind you you’re in China and that this isn’t Kansas anymore Toto.  We passed a flat bed truck with Ox head remains in a pile (Just the kind of thing you want to see first thing in the morning after breakfast) Of course I took a pic, but nobody thought I should post it.  We saw scooters with Mom, dad and baby all sandwiched together, we saw people with bikes carrying 20 foot long pipes, and moving piles of paper – beneath which somewhere was a person on a bicycle.  Cars wove in and out, using the lane markers as guidelines rather than delimiters.  At one point on the drive, we were following a cement truck on a two lane road.  Two cars each passed us and the truck on each side of the truck as well as a scooter.  At one point we had 4 vehicles abreast on our little two lane road.  Good Times!  Breath deep…relax.

We passed through an area where all the lighting shops congregate.  Indoor, outdoor, neon, flashing, Chandelier, display, day to day.  You name it. During that 10km stretch if you couldn’t find the type of light you were looking for then it isn’t made.  This would be interesting after sunset probably. Since we had been driving for about 2 hours at this point, it was washroom break time!  We stopped at a hotel and everyone took advantage of the break to head in and get rid of the morning’s breakfast coffee.  All 10 of us packed back into the van and away we went.   The next stage was pretty short.  Fairly soon we arrived at a Furniture supermall.  It was a good thing we got there when we did.  As we got into the “Furniture zone” the air had become much dustier and the diesel fumes were becoming much worse.  I was beginning to feel nauseated.  I welcomed the opportunity to get out of the vehicle and into an air conditioned mall.  It was only when I stepped into the building that I came to realize what a monstrosity it was.  Six floors and a square footage that rivals a football stadium, if not surpassing.  The place was HUGE.  Nope…  Huge doesn’t do it justice.  Here…. Look at this:

Full sized panorama (12MP) can be seen at:

We walked around for about an hour while some of the members of our party were looking for furniture to furnish a potential home or to have shipped back to Vancouver.  Some of the furniture had some excellent pricing while others (the more stylish pieces) it would seem were likely to cost as much delivered to home as if we bought them in Vancouver.  There were deals to be had for the wise shopper.  Largely I just wandered in awe of the magnitude of the place and tried to breathe in as much fresh air as I could before being put in the diesel fumes again.  Time up… out we went to the van. Back to the fumes.  This time, we managed to get the driver to turn on the air conditioning.  What a great idea.  That helped significantly.  Apparently I was the only person who was suffering.  Everyone else just kept on with out really noticing.  Urgh!

Having departed the furniture mall, I had managed to pry out information from my translator.  We were going to go have lunch and then after that go to an area where they sell ceramics by the boatload.  Oh joy!  We headed towards where the ceramics were and passed all manners of trucks piled high with furniture of all sorts.  Wooden chairs by the dozen stacked up high on a truck, tables and shelves all towering well above the height that any sane person would have stacked them.  These trucks still drove with the carefree abandon that characterizes the scene just before a huge car accident 🙂 After a couple of wrong turns and one little wrong direction in the traffic circle (Whoops!) we had found our way to the ceramic district.  If you needed new porcelain for the washroom, there was store upon store for you.  Pleasantly, all my washroom needs are presently accounted for in our house.

Since the area was foreign to all of us – including our driver, we asked for a good place for lunch.  We were directed to a restaurant which was apparently “THE” place to eat around there.  After parking and talking to the lady at the front, we were directed around a corner or two towards a distinctly dodgy place.  As we entered, there were pails with snakes, and cages with rabbits.  What really got me was that next to the rabbits was a cage with two cats.  Yup.. cats.  Felines. Felis Domestica.  I’m sure my heart sank a little bit when I saw them in the cage, listless and sullen.  Somebody’s lunch or dinner.  After a quick overall look at the place we vetoed it (of which I was pretty happy – I don’t really want to support a restaurant that serves cat or dog, even though I’m not going to tell someone else that they can’t if they don’t care)  We piled back into the van and drove a couple of blocks until we saw a hotel restaurant.  What a better choice that was!  As usual we ordered what seemed like a reasonable amount of food, only to end up with heaps upon heaps. I recall a plate of shrimp that was overflowing to the brim which I had to help finish off.  It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to do it 🙂

After our late lunch (1425) we headed over to the ceramic area.  They had all kinds of ceramic vases, horses, sculptures etc.  It was fairly interesting.  It became distinctly LESS interesting after passing by the 15th shop selling the exact same thing though.  I almost bought a vase with a really interesting modern pattern but I had visions of it coming home in little fragments so it remained unpurchased.  The day had been hot, and as the late afternoon came the temperature cooled a bit, making it a bit more pleasant to walk about.  Children were already playing with firecrackers around the area, and the rush hour traffic starting up was fun to watch from afar.  A couple of people purchased a few small items and we were ready to head back around 1700.

We were expecting the drive back to be simply long and monotonous.  Not so much.  When we got back to the lighting store area my earlier prediction proved out.  The lights were on and the area was a glitter with outdoor light displays and some beautiful chandeliers inside the stores.  Wow!  That’s got to cost a bit in electricity.  After stopping at the lighting area hotel for a pee break we headed off for the home stretch.  This is the part where you realize that the lack of signage in China is pretty evident.  As you drive down dark roads looking for the “obvious” turn you don’t get those handy little signs like we do at home telling you that the highway is right/left/straight ahead.  At one point we were in a town area, and had a chance to watch some locals shoot some hoops in an organized game, just before we ran out of paved road.  Ooops.  Turn around.  Try again.  We took a few different turns and asked more than a couple of locals before we found the unlit road that led us back to the highway with, surprisingly, our kidneys still intact.

It was pretty late by the time we got back to “Agile town”.  We went straight to dinner that night. It was a western style dinner.  Very nice ambience to the restaurant, and there was a live guitar player providing the tunes.  I had a very nice set menu as did Mrs. D.  It was a strange little island in the middle of Southern China. After dinner, there would be no wasting time.  It was massage time.  I caved.  This time I went for the massage.  It was an interesting experience.  I don’t think it’s something that I would want regularly, but at about 30RMB/hr it’s hard not to find a reason to lay around and have your muscles pounded and shaped.  It felt generally good, although I had to warn my masseuse about the various knee and shoulder injuries to avoid having her work them too hard.  It seemed that all my fellow massage recipients fell asleep while being plied.  I couldn’t.  When it was all done I felt pretty good.  We headed over to a little dessert place where I had tapioca in hot milk.  It was quite good.  That night we actually got to bed by midnight.  Imagine that!

Hong Kong/Zhongshan – January 28, 2007

20 02 2007

2007-01-28 (Sunday)

We got up early (0730), organized the last bits of things that we were bringing on the trip, and headed out for the bus station in Kowloon.

As usual we took the Hong Kong transit system.  Boy oh Boy does Vancouver have a LOT to learn about efficient transit.  You can almost always see a bus on the street, and the MTR (subway) serves a large swath of the city frequently.  This city of 7 million people is always on the move, and mostly by bus and subway.  We whisked across from our home to central on the #70 bus through the Aberdeen tunnel, and then from there onto the metro to go under the water over to Kowloon.  Quick and easy.

Since it was Sunday when we passed through Central we came across a huge gathering of Filipinos.  Sunday is maid/caregiver day off traditionally, and they all head down to Central to gather and catch up on events.  When we passed through the area, I wondered to my wife, “Are there any left in their home country?”  Having a maid or a nanny in Hong Kong is very common.  Many Filipinos are eager to get out of their country and earn better wages that they can send home to help their family.

We arrived early for the bus so decided to try to find some breakfast.  Not much open.  Hong Kong really doesn’t open until 1200 in many areas.  We found a little place, and ordered some simple breakfast.  Mrs D explained it as cooked ham and macaroni.  It sounded like it might be pretty good.  When my meal arrived it really ended up being macaroni sitting in hot water with pieces of boiled ham floating around.  Not QUITE as appetizing.  I ordered a bun to supplement the fact that I wasn’t going to eat plain, wet macaroni.  It filled me up nicely.

Washrooms in HK –  If you need to use a washroom in HK, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. You’re either going to have a porcelain hole in the floor or the standard North American toilet.  Usually if you have the hole in the floor, you’re also going to find that other standards aren’t quite as high.  At this little place, you got your hole in the floor and not reall much of a door.  There was a common tap for men and women, and after washing your hands and leaving you are confronted with a big pot of short ribs marinating.  RIGHT next to the washroom… Eeeew.  Thank good I didn’t order that!  Sometimes in some of the grungy little restaurants were really nice washrooms.  Like I said, you roll the dice.

We met up with everyone travelling around 1000.  There were a few new faces.  All in all 10 of us, including Mrs D’s cousin from Vancouver and his wife.  The bus is quite a nice trip, and you even get reserved seating.  No fighting for aisle or window seats.  Just like a plane.  The ride was interesting.  When we got to the Chinese border at Shenzen we had to get out of the bus, and pass through immigration.  Then we went a little further and had to go through the routine again.  This time for customs.  In/out up/down.  Sheesh.  I can certainly say I was glad that we weren’t going INTO Hong Kong that day though as the line to enter HK was HUGE.

As we approached Zhongshan the area became much wetter.  We were definitely in the Pearl River Delta.  The wetlands made excellent growing areas for bananas and fish ponds.  Apparently a large percentage of China’s bananas come from here.  The use of the land was amazing and mildly disconcerting. The fish ponds were right next to the highway, meaning that runoff would simply ooze into the water.  on the land between fish ponds they grew the bananas.  No wasting land.  Even in little triangles where most western farmers would just let the land grow fallow, there were 3-6 banana trees.

We arrived at the end of the bus trip to be greeted by our driver.  You got that right baby… we had a driver!  OK, so we weren’t cruising in a Lincoln Town Car but we weren’t hoofin’t it!  We were packing 10 of us into a van for our cruising pleasure.  I hopped into a middle row and we all got settled in.  What I neglected to ask was “How far are we going?”.  After about 15 minutes my legs kind of went numb since they were folded up under me somehow.  By the time we got to our lunch spot, thought I may have had them amputated 🙂  Lunch was at the Agile Golf and Country Club which was nestled in a beautiful hillside area and had quite challenging looking course.  There were some beautiful homes up on the hillsides, which we would later learn were being built.  It was a very nice, and very filling, lunch.  We had a mix of Chinese dishes which were distinctly local in style.

From lunch we headed over to the new homes to check them out.  One of the couples in our party was interested in purchasing a place in the area with an eye to having a home in southern China which they could use for a vacation base.  We looked at the developer’s planned neighbourhood on the scale model.  I would estimated about 2000-3000 units were being sold, of which probably 2900 units had already sold.  It was a mixed bag of detached homes, duplexes, Fourplexes and apartments.  The most expensive unit in the lot was sold.  It had sold for $20M RMB!  It was palatial and overlooked everything, being on the apex of the hillside development.  It had its own little “watchtower”.  It looked like a place that you might own if you were a drug dealer and needed to post your security guards with AK-47’s 🙂

We saw 6000sqft and 3000sqft model homes.  They were very nice.  The finish and design within the homes was beautiful.  They had some small issues like the fact that they had no networking wired, but other than that, for the approx 1.5M CAD the 6000sqft home wold be a beautiful place.  The salesperson took us over to one that was finished, so that we could see the deliverable product.  Wow!  What a difference.  Here I was complaining about lack of network wiring when in reality you don’t even get finished plumbing!  You get a concrete shell of a house.  no floors, no finished wiring, nothing! For 1.5 freakin’ million dollars! It would easily put you back another .5M finishing the place.  Apparently this was standard for China.  Either you get a concrete shell, or you get a home that you can move into and start living in today, fully furnished.  One or the other.  No middle ground.  I still can’t get over that fact.

We also so some apartments.  Same deal – shell.  Nicer price tag though to go with the fact that you’re going to have to put out some cash to finish it. From the apartments we headed over to the  “Agile villas” where Mrs D’s Aunt #7 and her husband have a place.  The home was very nice. They had purchased it about 5 years ago and it has been their place to get away from the madding world that is HK.  It certainly was as if you had stepped into another reality.  The grounds were quiet, and patrolled.  You could hear birds chirping and hardly hear the traffic on the nearby road.  There were starfruits growing on the trees.  It was a world apart from the crazy city of HK, or the dust and smog of most of China.  It really was nice.

We had dinner at a restaurant in a private room, and on the way down from the room (yes, the restaurant has 3 levels) we crossed two weddings.  It was a busy night for the restaurant and both the brides looked beautiful in their wedding dresses.  The funny thing was that one’s ride from the dinner consisted of hopping in the front seat of a pickup with 2 other people.  I guess weddings in China span across all types too 🙂  The dinner had been grand and inexpensive as much of the food in China was.  From there we headed back to the house and a group of us (all except me really) headed over for a 2 hour massage. 

Mr 7 and I went over to check out the local “bookstore” to have a look at CD’s and DVD’s.  OF COURSE I didn’t buy any. Ahem.  They had Casino Royale, Departed etc. for only 12RMB.  Sure the subtitles didn’t necessarily match the movie, but who reads those anyway? LOL.  You could get Ray Charles’ 40 greatest hits for only 12RMB.  We’re talking about $1.60CAD for a double CD or DVD.  Crazy.  We went out for a delicious iced coffee later, and then caught up with the others as they were finishing their massages.  Our transportation during this little exercise was a 3 wheeled moped.  It was great.  The bike had it’s own rain/wind cover and whistled along at a nice little clip. We could drive around on the streets with it, since most of the area had been developed by Agile, and the local police were far outnumbered by Agile security guards.  This little part of China was basically “Agile town”.

At 2330 the day had been a long one so 4 of us headed for a hotel (the Agile Hotel) while the others went to the house.  It would have been a bit crowded for 10 of us to stay at the house.  It turns out that Mrs. D got missed on the body massage as did Mr 7 since he had been with me.  To make up for that, two masseuses came to the hotel to give them massages.  They got rubbed down until 0230!  Finally, at about 0245 sleep came very happily!

Hong Kong – January 27, 2007

6 02 2007

2007-01-27 (Saturday)

It was wedding day today!  It meant I finally got to wear the dress shoes and new pants that I’ve been packing around for the last two weeks.  I got up at around 0800 and prepared to go.  My brother in-law from Guangzhou and his wife were staying at the apartment as well so we took a taxi down to Tsim Tsa Tsui where the wedding would be.  The wedding was being held in a small chapel which was part of a “Wedding Store” for lack of a better word.  It seems that HK has gone Vegas.  You get 30 minutes in the chapel and then you better clear out since the next couple is booked.  Quite the operation.

They had a lot of guests so the little chapel area was quite full, making it hard to get good photos.  The ceremony was brief and simple but quite nice. The one little hitch that had people giggling was that they had to wait for the ceremony next door to finish with the fancy signing pen so that they could use it at our ceremony.  We went out to the “walk of stars” area for pictures.  The bride was in a beautiful slim white dress with silver sequins at the back on the lower part, accenting the fall lines of dress beautifully.  On her shoulders she wore a white faux fur stoll that complimented her long black hair.  The groom was in a classic tuxedo with a white necktie.  Looking very sharp.  We posed for various pictures of collections of people with the bride and groom and I managed to get a few good pictures as well.

From the wedding we headed into a minibus (actually a school bus) and went over to the reception location.  We were on the 12th floor (I think) of a building right next to the old airport, and in some sort of private club.  The room  was large for the size of the wedding, I thought,but it is common with Chinese weddings that many people don’t come to the ceremony but come to the reception.  There were about 18 tables.  The bride and the groom arrived without fanfare and we were treated to a slide show of their lives apart as kids and together more recently.  They made brief thank you speeches and then we all got down to eating.  Lunch was a sumptuous spread of Western and chinese foods.  The buffet table was the length of 8 tables probably!  There was so much good food and good conversation.  The bride and groom came around and we toasted them.  We continued eating and chatting for some time.

When we could eat no more we were informed it was time to head off on the minibus again.  This time we were going on a little tour.  First stop: the temple.  It is customary in times of celebration to go the temple and pay respect to your ancestors, so the family presented gifts of food for the temple and incense for their grandfather.  The temple is building a new, modern worship hall so we went up to see it.  It was bright!  A real oddity for a Buddhist temple from what I have seen.  They wouldn’t allow any photographs so I couldn’t get a great shot of one of the workers cleaning the large central Buddha.  He was using a big feather duster, and it looked like he was tickling him under the nose.  Since the construction was ongoing, you could see that the Buddhas had been brought in segments and reassembled in the hall.  They would soon be gilded, leaving no sign of this earlier segmentation.  The temple has been a long time building, as are most buildings that are built using donations.

Aside:  What is it with Buddhist temples and photography?  Why won’t they let me take pictures?  Some say “because of the flash”.  But when I tell them that I will take the picture without a flash they still say “No.”  Christian Churches, Muslim mosques have all be very accommodating.  Why not Buddhists?

From the temple we continued on our tour and headed to the north end of the New Territories where across the short strait you could see mainland China.  The area was known in the older days for its large scale oyster farming and more than a few mainland chinese that slipped across the border.  These days it’s a busy little network of winding roads linking various container yards and small villages.  We drove past the bridge that is under construction which will create a fast link to Zuhai and Zhongshan in the future.  It’s a massive project.  We passed a couple of small “pay to fish” ponds.  The ponds were concrete ponds that were about 40x100ft and had people sitting on stools under sun umbrellas fishing away.  It would appear that they pay by the pound for fish caught as there was a scale set up near the entrance/exit.  Interesting, but not my type of fishing.  We continued along the road until we got to points where we had to keep backing up to allow traffic to pass.  It really felt like we might be going the wrong way.  Obviously the primary flow of traffic was the other way so we turned the bus around and headed out.  We stopped at the “wishing Tree”   These days you can’t throw wishes onto the tree since a couple of years ago a major branch broke under the weight of the “wishes”. 

We got back to TST around 1700 which left us an hour to do some shopping and what have you.  Mrs D and I headed up to the McDonalds to get a quick drink.  This was the ONLY time I have been to a McD’s outside of North America.  I see no reason to eat there when there is always good local food.  At 1800 we headed up for dinner.  You could tell it was going to be a classic “10 course” meal.  After lunch I had been thinking I wouldn’t have to eat for another week… never mind that NIgHT!

Chinese restaurants almost all have “private rooms” where you can dine without the noise of all the other people around.  When you get a private room, you get your own washroom, and usually at least one waiter/waitress stays in the room the whole time, refilling tea/beer etc.  We had one of these rooms and there were two tables set.  The food was exquisite and classic Cantonese styles.  It certainly left me ready to roll home!  When we were done Mrs D and I caught a taxi with her brother and his wife back to the apartment in Aberdeen.  We got home and before Mrs D could even unpack she was packing again.  This time in preparation for our three day trip to Zhongshan.  We had to get to bed.  I had a feeling it was going to be a long day on the 28th.

Guangzhou/Hong Kong – January 26, 2007

5 02 2007


I woke up bright and early at 0630.  It didn’t take too long to pack up the rest of my stuff; by 0715 I was done my morning prep and packing so I headed down for my last breakfast.  I settled in for breakfast with my big bag, my backpack and my laptop all with me.  I knew I would have to have a big breakfast since I wasn’t going to be having lunch (the plane was leaving at 1425).  I had the usual selection of buns, eggs, bacon, orange juice and noodles.  The waitress brought me my coffee this time, and the nice lady that brought me my bill every day brought it to me, and asked about my departure.  I told her that I would be checking out after breakfast and she said that she would go right down and have them start preparing my invoice.  Great! It was going to be a much smoother checkout.  After hanging around and watching the Chinese news for a while I headed down to checkout.  On my way out of the restaurant I took a few pictures of the hostess and the waitress who I saw every day.  Checkout was smooth. Others checking out had to wait for things to get organized etc. The pre-checkout help really sped things up.

Work was light for me in the morning.  I sat around for a few hours and answered any questions that anyone might come up with.  By the time I left at noon I was confident that I was going to be leaving them with a well set up system.  I said my final goodbyes to everybody and thanked them for all their patience and help in getting my task completed.  One of the staff came to the airport with me to ensure that I didn’t get lost or worse 🙂  (Yes dear – my kidneys survived intact!)  After checking in at the counter, I proceeded to security. It’s a little more complicated than leaving home… you have to fill out a departure card, a health and quarantine card and a customs card.  Paperwork! Paperwork! (Mental note – next time, travel with a pen more accessible!).  After all the paperwork and people checking it, I went through the security screening.  I swear to God all chinese security screening machines are simply set to go off when you walk through.  It would probably beep if I walked through naked.  The china southern flight was a bit late leaving, but it was a short flight, and we ended up getting to Hong Kong on time.

On the plane, I filled out my paperwork for HK arrival (again – more papers).  It was a bit of a walk from where we de-planed to where we got our luggage.  When I arrived at teh carousel to pick up my bag it was the 5th off the belt!  Sweet!  Bing Bang, through customs, and I was in HK!  I popped in my HK SIM into my phone and picked up an Octopus and a return train ticket for the Airport express. I was set for HK!

Once down to the train platform, I called my sister-in-law.  She was in Central waiting for me.  My train ride took about 30 minutes and upon my exit, there she was.  It was good to see a familiar face again.  We bundled up my stuff and headed out to meet Barry down at the Regal Hotel in Causeway Bay.  We hung out and had some good beer (dark and more than 3.5%) and shot some darts. It was good.  Barry shoots darts there regularly so the staff were all good to us.  We even popped out for dinner and left my luggage there with no fear of it walking away.  We met a few of Barry’s fellow dart throwers and had a few more drinks after dinner.

Travelling makes a long day, even if it’s not much travelling.  We bailed from the bar at around 2130 and I took a cab back to Aberdeen.  I felt much more confident being alone in HK, having been so for 2 weeks in GZ.  I managed to direct the cab driver the final blocks to the apartment right next to ours.  It took me a bit to figure out why my key didn’t work.  Oops.  Once I figured out that part, I had the daunting task of hauling my 30Kg bag up the 4 flights to the apartment. I think my right arm is now longer than my left.  Stairmaster ain’t got nuttin’ on this!  I was “home”, and finally I didn’t have to worry about work if I didn’t want to. Once I figured out which bedroom I could crash in, I settled in and slept by 2300.  I knew I’d have to get up and get going in the morning for my cousin-in-law’s wedding on Saturday.

One interesting note.  Last year when I arrived from Vancouver to Hong Kong I commented on how polluted the air in HK was.  This year, coming from China, I commented on how FRESH the air was.  It’s all relative I guess 🙂

Guangzhou – January 25, 2007

4 02 2007

2007-01-25 (Thursday)

Man it was tough to wake up!  Nothing to do with the tequila, just too many late, late nights!  I bumped into the Sergio and Efrain (the two Mexican guys) at breakfast, and rethanked them for the the excellent time and tequila.  As a group the 8 of them made the last days of my hotel stay much more enjoyable.  I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t come along.  (Probably had more sleep and less booze?)

I spent Thursday (my last full day at work) organizing and taking pictures of EVERYTHING I had done so that when a support call comes later, we can refer to a picture of how it looks to direct staff to particular hardware more easily.  I created a few simple scenarios for my “tech contact” to troubleshoot, and although she was a bit reluctant to start looking deeper into the problems at first, by the end of the mock exercise she was much more confident in her problem solving abilities.  I made sure all the staff had all their access set up correctly, and that they wouldn’t have any surprises after I left.  The last couple of hours were spent mentally going over and over what I had done, and whether I had missed any little thing.  I was sure I had it all worked out.  At the end of the work day, told them all to go home and think really hard about ANY computer questions they had.  I was going to be leaving the next day, so they had better get them asked in the morning!

I got back to the hotel and settled in for some photo uploads and headed down to the lounge.  I went with the Curry beef on rice again as it was pretty good and wasn’t too expensive.  The band had started playing so I sat back and listened to them roll through their tunes.  The usual set.  It was sort of sad to think that I wasn’t going to hear them again after that evening.  I listened to them play until about 2200 but had to get up to my room to tidy up, and get ready to leave the next morning.  At the end of their last set before I left they played “Hotel California” for me again.  Nice ending.  I said my goodbyes to them, and headed up to my room, with a promise to send them the pictures that I had taken a couple of nights before.

Up in the room, I started packing and double checking to make sure everything was there and that I wasn’t leaving any unintended gifts behind.  When I travel, I like to keep everything in my suitcase since it helps me to keep from losing things.  It was pretty easy making sure it was all still together.  It was an earlier night to sleep since I was going to wake up earlier to get checked out before the van showed up. I went to sleep with an uneasy, nervous feeling, as I often do at the end of a trip – wondering if I’d forgotten something, something key that I needed to do at work still.  Only time would tell.

Guangzhou – January 24, 2007

3 02 2007

2007-01-24 (Wednesday)

With work winding down the days were getting easier.  I had definitely fallen into my routine, and with the exception of having to get up only 6 hours after drinking so much beer, life was pretty good.  I was starting to get the feeling I might have a small heart attack from having bacon and eggs every morning but I seemed to be staying alive.   They have two televisions in the restaurant at the hotel.  Each day it seemed a bit of a random crap shoot as to what you might get to watch.  Some mornings it seemed to be some sort of video game(?).  Many mornings it was the news in Chinese or English.  On this morning it was a Chinese boy band singing some tune which you could vote on (it would appear). This, by itself, wouldn’t have been bad except for the fact that they kept playing the same song OVER and OVER and OVER… I don’t know why, but it was driving me, and a few others crazy.  I grabbed the bull by the horns and after a quick query to the waitress, we were back to watching Chinese news.  WAY better than the boy band thing!

I went out after work for dinner to the local restaurant where previously I had gone 50-50 on the food.  This time, though, I was armed with two of my colleagues.  We ordered food based on what the menu said it was, rather than just the pictures – WAY easier to get what you want this way!  We had good time, and good food.  I know it’s expensive for these guys to eat out all the time, so I’m glad I could cover dinner at least one time.  We walked back to the hotel from the restaurant, and passed a couple of places that looked like they might be coffee/dessert shops.  My friend asked.  They were “hostess bars”.  No need to drink alone.  “I love you long time” kind of place.  Ah… modern China!  We decided to pass up on the “opportunity” since all three of us are HAPPILY married 🙂  Back at the hotel, I said my good night to the guys and got my laptop setup in my hotel room to start transferring the files that Vancouver was going to have for me, and pictures which I had.

Down to the lounge around 2100 for my evening dose of entertainment.  The guys from Nissan showed up again and next thing you know the night begins to slip away again.  As this was the last night that all the Nissan guys were going to be in town, the two guys from Mexico brought down some premium high end tequila.  2 26oz bottles!  The 9 of us managed to polish them off in about 30 minutes.  This was super smooth, and could be compared to a good 15+ year old Scotch.  You don’t get this kind of quality when you do “shooters at the bar” 🙂  Unlike North American bars, the staff were very accommodating to our need for lemons and salt, and didn’t mind at all that we brought in our own alcohol.  They knew it was just part of the big picture and that we weren’t going to be ignoring their supply of beer and Chivas for long 🙂

After a while we even had a few of them, and somehow me, up singing with the band for a few songs.  I’m sure the OTHER patrons just loved it (Why WERE they holding their ears?).  While the bar closed at 2400, the staff continued to serve, and attend to us until we finally let them go at about 0130.  Another late night.  I was really afraid of the morning after having had the tequila. The last time wasn’t pretty (Darren!).  I wished them all a good flight, and exchanged some business cards for later contact.  We all headed off to our rooms.

I got up to my room, and handled a few emails, and sleep came easy at about 0215.

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