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: http://www.fotothing.com/photos/409/409511e3fdc2e1e5562b0897e8279193_b49.jpg

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!

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