3 days in Guangzhou

16 11 2011
Muk Muk and Duck Duck Travel in styleGuangzhou's "New City" by nightGuangzhou's "New City" by nightGuangzhou's "New City" by nightGuangzhou's "New City" by nightLittle bushman?
Yum Cha at the New Century HotelMuk Muk and Duck Duck have Dim Sum in HuaduFred Flintstone Ribs!Pepsi Sports???All the Tea in ChinaAll the Tea in China
Dates, fruits, nuts.... MarketplaceSome of my colleaguesOrdering lunch... FRESHLai Liu HaDiscussions over what seafood to have...Duck Duck and Muk Muk visit the office
Tea discsDuck Duck and Muk Muk at the hotelDim sumApartments as far as the eye can see..Mrs Dragonspeed - enjoying a cold one.Ahhhh...

Hong Kong 2011-11-14-16, a set on Flickr.

Sorry – fell behind while we were in China. We spent Monday-Wed in Guangzhou/Huadu. I had a chance to show Mrs Dragonspeed the office that I helped get setup when I visited 5 years ago. We also got to visit with our niece and nephew. A fun, but somewhat dusty and smoggy visit. Enjoy the photos 🙂

Catch up!

11 01 2008

I just realized that I missed linking to all the cool pics I took in Hong Kong/Shongsan/Guangzhou back in January of 2007


They start here: http://www.fotothing.com/DragonSpeed/photo/105/

and run until: http://www.fotothing.com/DragonSpeed/photo/115/



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?

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.

Guangzhou – January 23, 2007

1 02 2007

2007-01-23 (Tuesday)

Not much happening today. Work went well.  AFter being dropped off, I headed up to my room and began my usual routine of getting my laptop up and connected.  The ‘net had been much more solid since Thursday last week, but I still couldn’t get an Outlook connection through the VPN.  It only required one or two retries to get websites that weren’t Chinese.  I transferred my photos from my camera to the laptop, and let Foldershare start synchronizing them with my home and a PC at work.  (I’m a bit paranoid about losing photos)

I decided to head back out to the Sichuan place for dinner that I had been to a week ago.  This time things went much more smoothly.  I think I may have had the same waitress 🙂  I ordered my pork ribs again.  You just can’t beat those ribs!  It was a good meal and as usual, for less than $10, I left full and happy (albeit with a slightly peppered mouth LOL!).

Having finished dinner,I figured I’d head back to the bar and listen to the band for the evening.  The guys from Nissan were down there again. This time with the big boss from Japan.  I joined up with them again, and there was a LOT of alcohol flowing.  It was nice to have a group of people with whom to spend the evening.  Much better than sitting in the bar alone, listening to the band and watching repeats of English premier league matches.  One of the guys started into the Chivas, and ordered a glass.  The bartender had poured about 3 fingers in the small glass with ice.  The next time, he asked to have no ice.  Surpisingly the bartender poured 3 fingers again, this time with NO ice.  Needless to say, there was no ice in any of the following drinks.  I figured it would be better for my workday on Wednesday if I stuck with beer. We sat and talked and drank until about 0100, and it was refreshing to see a Japanese top level manager spend time with his lower managers and solicit opinions.  Definitely an insightful view into Nissan that night.  I called the girl over to wrap up my tab, and found that it had been rolled into theirs again.   Again the Nissan guys paid!  We all rolled back to our rooms.  Once back at the room, I could check my email, make some phone calls, and make sure the support items back in Vancouver had been, or would soon be implemented.  I went to sleep around 0200, wondering if I was going to pay for the late night at the bar on Wednesday.

Guangzhou – January 22, 2007

1 02 2007

2007-01-22 – Monday
Things have become much more routine for me.  Work has settled down to putting out small spot fires (right on time) and my daily hotel and dinner routine is pretty much the same.  On Monday I had dinner with my Vancouver colleague, and the two guys from the office.  We went to a little restaurant which was pretty close to my hotel and had some very good food…

The meal consisted of the following:

spare ribs in a black bean sauce
barbeque goose
stir fry coy sum with garlic
preserved beans with minced pork
beef cooked in a pot of water (laden with chilies)
green pepper stuffed with pork in black bean sauce.

The food was all quite delicious.  We supplemented dinner a few cold beers and some nasty wheat based Chinese alcohol called “Chu God Leung” or similar.  That stuff sort of gently ripped the layers of your throat off, much as paint thinner might, but more so.  Niiice.

Tonight, dinner for the guys was on the company.  They had put up with a lot from me over the past week, it was the least I could do.

We had a good time, but we didn’t want to stay out too late as they needed to head back to their apartments and deal with their evening tasks. I said good night to them at the hotel where they grabbed a cab to head back to the complex of little apartments that’s located within the industrial park where our office is housed.

I went into the hotel, and put my bags back in the room, and headed down to listen to the band and have a couple of beer to help “counter the jet lag” (that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it).

While down at the bar, I met a group of Quality directors from Nissan’s various worldwide operations. They were from Spain, England, Mexico, France and Japan.  A really friendly bunch of guys.  We chatted and drank until about 2330 that night, and it was DEFINITELY going to be easy to sleep.

When I got up to my room there was a googlechat message from my sister.  It appeared to be quite important.  After some fiddling around with Google Chat and my headset, we made a very strong connection on Google Chat.  That was good, because you definitely wanted a good clear line to make sure you heard the news correctly.  My Grampa passed away! 😦  (There are way to many cool things to say about my grampa, so I’ll put it in a separate post) Grampa had just turned 97 a week or so ago and, to those of us that couldn’t see him nearly often enough, it seemed like he was easily going to crack 100.  That sucks.  It really felt like the proverbial punch to the gut to hear it.  On top of that, I wasn’t going to be able to make it back for the funeral or anything.  Damn.

I laid down after getting the news and was in disbelief for a while, and then just plain unhappy, finally sleeping.

(edit – I realize that this news probably wasn’t on Monday now, but the time has been blurred a bit.  I think it might have been Saturday.  No matter.  It SUCKS.)

Guangzhou – January 21, 2007

24 01 2007

2007-01-21 Sunday

Sunday was a rainy dull day, which sucked.  I had planned to go out and shoot some photos of the wild and wacky traffic, but the rain put a damper on that.  It looked to be about 9C out at best.  Sigh. 

After debating with my stomach whether the hamburger last night was good or not, my insides settled.  (Mental note – hamburgers come with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, as well as ground beef… DO NOT eat them when travelling). I wandered down from my room around 1000 to go for breakfast, and I noticed that the Chinese restaurant was serving Dim Sum.  Sweet!!  I went over that way to have my breakfast.  Communication fun was the name of the game again. 

I approached the restaurant and asked for a table for 1 in my usual Cantonese.  She looks and me and says… “No.” and points to the Western Restaurant. 
I shake my head and indicate I want to eat HERE. 
She, with a broken english points over at the other restaurant and says “Western”. 
I point to this restaurant and say “Yum Cha, Dim Sum”.  and it appears that with a bit more hand waving that I finally convince them that YES, I want to eat here.  I think it is because the Western Buffet can be included in your room, and most western travellers just do that.  Since we had the screw up at the beginning, I’ve been signing for each breakfast, so I can go here, and not worry about the fact that I’m going to get charged for the other as well.
I get my little table, and the waitress comes up and says “What kind Tea?” 
“Sao Mei”
Obviously taken aback by my mastery of the Cantonese language she smiles and says what I imagine is “Your Chinese is very good”.  (Or – “Hey – stop butchering our language”.. I can’t be sure).  Alas, no Sao Mei.
“Bo Lei?”
Yes, and off she goes.  Good thing, as I was running out of tea names that I knew 🙂
Around comes the dim sum cart, and I start looking.  Great – recognize everything.
I order the beef balls, spareribs, haw gau, and ham soy gaw.  All in Cantonese!   That really got them buzzing, you could see one talking to another about this… Quite the treat I must be.  Nice to know that I can provide some entertainment value for the local population.

The dim sum dishes were smaller than Vancouver, which is good, as it allowed me to sample more types.  When I finished, I asked for my bill.  It came to about 24 or 30 RMB.  I indicated I wanted to sign for it (as I was billing all my breakfasts to the room and wanted to remain consistent).  Fatal flaw.

Waitress talks to hostess, hostess talks to manager, manager talks to other manager, manager then comes back and talks to hostess, hostess talks to waitress.  Waitress comes back to my table asks for my room card.  I had her my card key.  Waitress goes away, comes back quickly, “No sir, room card.  This is room KEY.”
“It’s all I’ve got.”, I say.  Previous scenario replays, and now followed by waitress runs down to the first floor to talk to the front desk.  Much paperwork ensues, waitress runs (and I mean runs…she’s trying hard not to hold me up) up the stairs, and talks to hostess, hostess comes over, and presents me with the bill to sign.  Wow.  What a production!  You’d NORMALLY think that a hotel would be designed to take your money quickly with the swipe of your pen. Not so much. I think that in order to combat fraud, they have put some pretty elaborate steps in place to ensure the identity of whomever is actually signing.

After breakfast, I grabbed my camera and planned to head out.  I got out the door, and said “Nope, not gonna happen.  Too cold and wet.” I didn’t pack a shell with me on this trip since last year it just sat around useless.  This year I kind of miss it.  I realized that I am relegated to staying in the hotel for the day.  I decided to see if there was any more life on the 3rd floor that I had previously found to be largely vacant.  It was largely vacant, but there were some couches that you could sit on, and watch the world go by in the lobby below (3 floor high open lobby).  I took a few pictures and sat with my laptop, and wrote up the missing days in the blog.  It seemed like it might be OK after all.  A down day now and then is a good way to recharge.

I skipped lunch, as I had been pretty full from the Dim Sum.  I decided to hang in my room for a bit.  I put on the headphones and cranked some tunes.  I drifted in and out of a nice restful sleep for about 3 hours.  Around 2pm, I began to hear a relentless pounding (like a 20lb sledge being dropped on the concrete floor above), with a frequency of the pile drivers you hear down by the water front sometimes.  Thump, Thump, Thump….  Uggh.  I dragged my laptop with me and headed down to the lounge.  At least it was away from the noise.  I ordered a Bailey’s coffee, and settled into writing up the blogs and listening to some laptop tunes in the back corner (away from the VERY cold lobby area with its wide open doors).

While I was sitting there, some harried looking fellow comes in and orders a scotch.  He looks frazzled, and somehow when he sees me (another westerner) he starts talking.  And doesn’t stop, really.  Nice guy, doing some wicked 9 cities in 3 weeks visit to all his company suppliers.  Ouch. We talk for a while, and he heads off.

I can’t remember what dinner was on Sunday, but it certainly WASN’T the hamburger this time 🙂  It was a quiet night, and I think I headed back up to my room around 2200 after enjoying the serenading tunes of the band.  Only one more week of work left (4 days or so really)  I felt a slight flutter when I thought about that.  Excitement about finishing?  Nerves?  I dunno.  Monday should prove to be interesting.

Guangzhou – January 20, 2007

21 01 2007

2007-01-20 (Saturday.  Hellooooo Weekend!)

It was luxury time on Saturday – I got to sleep in.  The van wasn’t coming by until 1000 to pick me up!  One of my colleagues had been “volunteered” to show me around today, and of course we had the van driver too.

It was nice to have the paper being delivered to my room, since I wasn’t getting my news from other sources, it was as if I was getting a morning paper if I just ignored it until breakfast.  Down at breakfast I enjoyed a relaxing meal, while reading the paper.  It had a supplement about the upcoming Olympics.  Interesting to see the progress and excitement from a Chinese standpoint.  When I finished, I went down to wait for the van.  It was COLD.  Back up to the room and a mental thank you to my wife for making sure I packed the long sleeved fleece. (Love ya dear!)  With my warm fleece on, I was ready to head out.  I got back downstairs just in time for the van.  Excellent.

I got in the van and found out that it was raining in GZ proper.  Hmmm.  That didn’t bode well.  We headed out to a family shrine (similar in concept to the Chu shrine on Cheng Chau, but MUCH larger)  IT was built in  1863, and reflected the architectural style of the time.  A lot of grey brick construction.  Being winter, it was pretty quiet, and I think there MAY have been a couple of other people there, but I can’t be sure.  There was quite a bit of construction and renovation ongoing, so it would appear that they are probably sprucing it up for the summer.  It was an interesting place.  The second place we went to was a large Taoist temple (actually 3 temples in one) at Yuanxuan(sp?).  It was really large, and had similar styling to Tian Tan, with circular temples rather than the classic Buddhist square ones.  They had an expansive grounds, and everything was very nicely kept.  I learned that similar to the Buddhist concept of the Kings of heaven, they have 40 “Kings” (protectors) which each have a year associated with them.  I took some pics of my guy, and Mrs D’s.  It had rained pretty consistently since the first place we visited, and this really put a damper in the quality of some of the pictures that were available 😦  The circular ceilings inside the temples, however did give up at least one beautiful Yin and Yang picture.  It was very pretty, and I was certainly disappointed by the fact that it just kept raining.

After these two visits, it was lunch time.  We headed down to downtown and met up with the Lab manager.  We were going for Hunan food!  We ended up at a restaurant called “Maojia Restaurant”, translating to “Mao’s Restaurant”.  The lab manager ordered the food while consulting us.  I said “Order whatever you want.. I’ll give it a try.” 
We had Frog in chilies, turtle soup, bamboo shoots, and sweet potato “vermicelli-like” noodles.  It was (of course) quite spicy.  It was also VERY good. I put aside my whole amphibian prejudice, and just enjoyed the food as “food”.  It was good.  We had some local beer, Zhu Liang (which is what I’ve been drinking at the hotel too).  The beer is all quite light, and goes down well when your mouth is on fire. 🙂  I suppose it was a nice change for our van driver to be able to join us for lunch too.

Our last stop after lunch was the Chen Clan Academy, aka Chen Ancestal Hall which had since been turned into an art gallery for local art done in the ancient styles.  There were beautiful “paintings” done with wood and rocks, and pasted as a collage.  Beautiful 3D relief effect.  Photos just COULDN’T capture it.   They had some really nice stone carvings, and clay sculptures, all done recently in the style of years past.  There were etched glass pictures, which apparently are etched using Hydrofluoric acid – YIKES!  Very pretty etched glass windows.  The one thing that caught me by surprise was that they also had ivory carvings.  RECENT ivory carvings 😦  There were beautiful, intricate carvings of 30 layered balls carved from the ivory, and tusks that had entire stories and carved onto them using 3D people. VERY cool, but…  Of course we all know that the Ivory trade is banned internationally due to the rather fatal effect it has on elephants.  Depressingly this doesn’t appear to be the fact in China.  You could even buy some pieces, and there was a reminder that it would not likely be importable into your home country due to the ban in ivory trade world wide.   While I understand the desire to keep alive the old traditions, some things need to become memories, for the good of our planet.

When we had finished visiting the gallery,  my colleague was going to head out and visit a friend, and I was headed back to the hotel.  It was a long drive back to the hotel. Probably 40 minutes or so.  kind of awkward sitting in the van with the driver, as he doesn’t know any English.   Got back home, and transferred photos and got some uploaded (taking advantage of an actually responsive Internet for a change).  I figured I’d try the hamburger down in the bar for dinner that night.   I got down around 1830, and settled in to the tunes of the band and a beer.  It was COLD down there.  The girls must have been freezing in their sleeveless outfits.  I had the burger.  It was quite good, and cost about $6CAD.  Bed time came early that night.  It had been a long day, so I headed up to my room around 2100, and fell asleep watching some movie.   Woke up briefly at about 0200 and turned off the lights and TV 🙂  Back to sleep.   Nothing planned for Sunday, so I figured I’d go out on Sunday and wander a bit during the day to take pictures of the crazy traffic.  g’nite.

Guangzhou – January 19, 207

21 01 2007

2007-01-19 (Friday)

Almost everything is working at work now – as it should be.  The next week will simply be making sure everything continues to work while actual people start using them.  Of course I ran into one small snag. One of the main pieces of equipment started giving me some grief.  I contacted their support office, and had a reply pretty quickly as soon as their Friday began.  Monday will be the test of whether I can get THAT working or not.  Coming out of work, with the increased clouds and the usual haze, there was a beautiful sunset

It had been a long week.  I’d had challenges that I never thought I would have had, and I’d successes where I thought I might have failure.  Work has gone well, and the whole “Go out to random restaurants” idea hadn’t resulted in food poisoning or being robbed, so clearly I was doing well.  Tonight I decided to actually try the hotel restaurant (Chinese).

I headed down to the restaurant and found that it’s not so busy at night.  As a matter of fact there was me, and one other table at the other end.  There, of course, were about 6 people waiting to serve you.  I sat down at a nice table by the window and had a great view of the fountain outside, and the little light and water show that it puts on.  – ASIDE – Chinese people must come to restaurants knowing what they want to have. – END ASIDE –  As I was seated by the hostess, a waitress approached and handed me the menu.  It was quite comprehensive, and it was bilingual.  Wow.  (This place could also use some help with their translation services).  There were big dishes of Shark’s fin soup for large sums (relatively) of cash.  There were all kinds of “specialty” items that seemed to mostly be parts of animals that don’t make it on most Western restaurant menus.  There were a couple of pages of text only in Chinese (hmmm… what ARE they hiding from me!). I settled on some “Century Seafood”.  It looked safe.  I had that and a bowl of steamed rice.  It was very good.  Basically seafood in light ginger sauce.  It certainly wasn’t as big as the dishes I had been getting outside the hotel, but it was a good size for one.  If I recall, the price was about 38RMB.

After dinner I went up and grabbed my camera and tripod to head out and take pictures of the fountain.  It was pretty successful.  Nice long exposures made for some beautiful silky flowing water pictures.  I’ve put the picture on my fotothing blog, will try to remember to attach it into this blog posting.  (Brutal network connectivity still to North America

I went up to my room and took the photos off my camera and got them transferring back to home.  I also managed to post a couple up to fotothing. 

The evening was the usual routine of down to the lounge to listen to the band, and hang out.  I chatted with the 3 guys from Canada for a while (they seem to be in a higher income bracket than me – no local restaurants for them)  Around 2400 I called it a night.  Back at the room I called Vancouver and explained my problems with my piece of equipment.  I got a “Good luck with that!”. Thanks Derrick!  About 0100 – time to sleep, we were going to be doing some touring of GZ the next day.

Guangzhou – January 18, 2007

20 01 2007

2007-01-18 (Thursday)

My morning routine has become a bit better. I have found that having a few beers down at the lounge before going to bed really helps cut the 0400 jet lag wake up 🙂  (Although it probably isn’t helping my waistline).  I’ve got the timing down so that I now don’t waste quite as much time hanging out looking hopeless in the lobby in the morning.  My Western restaurant hostess and waitresses have come to know me (by “Sir” of course), but they are more willing to try to strike up a conversation now (albeit with their weak English and my non-existent Mandarin a very LIMITED conversation). The Van pool seems to be arriving a bit earlier now, closer to 0830.  That’s good, it gives me a bit more time each day to try and get things working “just so”.  I don’t recall if I mentioned the drive to work is about 10 minutes if traffic is good, and 20 if it’s bad.  We haven’t really run into a “traffic jam” yet, and everyone seems content to simply weave in and out among the different lanes (like driving the 401 on crack).  We’ve come within millimetres of trading paint with buses, trucks and cars at different times.   I try to just ignore it, and talk to my colleagues on the drive.

At work we had fun.  I got some PC’s online and shortly after we lost power to half the building.  It was a nice (even if it was unplanned) test of my UPS for the servers.   After much testing, the electrician was blaming my UPS.  I said “My money is on the building wiring”.   By the end of the day I won that bet 🙂  All ended well, and I got most of the staff using their new PC’s and the applications that they would be using to connect with the central server.  Things were actually working well!

Lunch was better today.  If you leave a bit earlier, you get there and get HOT food 🙂 

When I got dropped off at the hotel that night, it was abuzz with activity.  There were many cars (nicer than the usual cars) and a couple of “tour buses” parked around the entrance.  As usual, once the van stopped the bellhop and bellgirl(?) jumped out and opened almost every door.  I got out and went to the front door.  As I entered the front door, I found myself on the “red carpet”, with more than a couple of eyes looking at me.  I smiled nervously and scuttled back to the elevator to get to my room.

Once back at my room, I set up the laptop to start syncing email and files.  I headed back downstairs to figure out what to do for dinner.  I ran into “Bodie”, one of the floor managers.  I asked him the usual question – “Where do you recommend I go eat dinner”? 
He was in the midst of directing me to the western restaurant I had just tried the other night, when I stopped him and said, “Local, Chinese food.”
I got directions to a local place from him, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t find it. It sounded a bit complicated to get there.
I went on my way, and found the place.  It was definitely a “local” restaurant.  Most of the vehicles parked in front were scooters, and there was a more normal 1 waitress to 20 guests ratio, and they were running off their feet.  The joint “Excellent.”, I thought to myself,  “Another restaurant that doesn’t have a lot of caucasian clients.  This’ll be fun.”

Through my broken cantonese I manage to get my table for one, and then proceed to look at the pretty pictures on the menu.  I picked two dishes that I thought would be good, with the idea of supplementing the somewhat bland lunch the next day.  My waitress looked at me with great confusion when I ordered from the pictures and I later found out that she was asking me, “What ever?”  because I certainly didn’t order with any kind of real conviction.  A little later she comes back and explains that one of the dishes I ordered isn’t available… what are the odds?  So, I order a different picture.

My dishes showed up, and I performed the customary dish washing and settled in to sip on my hot water and watch the locals while they watched me.  It was interesting to watch people get their scooters parked and see all the little compartments.  One for your helmet, one for your bags and coat.  Quite the spacious little bikes.  There were guys offering “scooter taxi rides” to people and the customers that rode, would don these little “helmets” that looked like cheap batters helmets and highly unlikely to save you in the event of the highly LIKELY forthcoming accident.  Off they would zoom into the night to continue their nocturnal adventures.

Food appeared fairly promptly. One dish was beef slices with a long green vegetable with a skin texture similar to green peppers.  The sauce was spicy, and it was quite good.  My second dish followed along behind that.  It seemd to be little rubbery pieces of meat sliced.  The shape of the slice really had me thinking “Chicken hearts” or something along those lines.  The vote on this dish… 2 thumbs down.  Oh well 50-50.  Not bad, but I wouldn’t be supplementing lunch with that 🙂

After dinner I went for a bit more of a walk, over to an area of a street which was closed to traffic, so it was a pedestrian mall.  There were little stalls set up along the length of about 4 blocks, ala Mong Kok, but the only items being sold were clothing.  Lot’s of it.  A lot of it crap.  I saw a pair of “NIKN” sweat pants, that I was tempted to buy, if only for the horrible job of trying to avoid Copyright. (Cause the “Swoosh” underneath didn’t make that too obvious)  It was an interesting walk, and interesting to see many of the vendors just hanging out playing cards together until a customer walked into their booth.  Pretty laid back… Way different from other stores in China where the salespeople practically try to drag you in 🙂  It was good to get out and stretch my legs, but I figured I should probably head back to the hotel.

On the way back to the hotel, I passed a little corner store.  I stopped in and grabbed a couple bottles of Coke (500ml = 3RMB), and my bill came to 6RMB.  Unfortunately all I had was 100RMB on me at the time, and the clerk didn’t look too happy about giving up most of his change.  He did though, and I was now the proud owner of a small stack of Chinese small value bills.  Lucky me.  One odd thing about my Coke.  I took it from the fridge, only to realize that the fridge is actually being used as just a cupboard with glass.  Warm Coke.  Won’t be drinking that as I walk 🙂

Back at the hotel, I ran into Bodie again and he asked how dinner was. I explained my 50-50 result, and told him I was glad he directed me there.  It was fun to eat locally.  I asked him what the big gala at the hotel was about.  He explained that Nissan was having a big “Do” and that there were Chinese celebrities here.  He pointed out one walking out the door, and rattled off a name (no idea) and also pointed out that she was quite good looking.  That was an easy statement with which to agree.  We both laughed.  I headed up to my room to start cooling my Coke, and then went back down to the lobby bar to have a couple of drinks before bed.

Through the girls in the band, I learned that the table next to me was a group of Canadians as well.  Small world.  They were in from Windsor and were marketing tools to companies here.  It was nice to be able to carry on conversations without hand waving and trying to explain myself. 🙂   Headed off to bed around 2300, and slept well.

Guangzhou – January 17, 2007

20 01 2007

2007-01-17  (Wednesday)

Work has become pretty routine.  I don’t think I’ve told you about lunch yet though….

The office is in an industrial park, and there is a “park” canteen.  If we let them know ahead of time, they will serve a plate for each “reservation”.  Cost per person…. 7RMB.  Yup $1CAD for lunch.  This isn’t the “overstaffed restaurant” kind of lunch though..  No.  They put your lunch out at 11:50, whether you’re there or not.  If you take too long it’ll be cold.  Your tough luck.  Lunch consists of usually 2 meat products, and 2 veggie products as well as a bowl of soup, and all the rice you can handle.  It’s on a metal tray, so the longer you take to get there, the quicker it will cool… Cold bland food – not so good. 😦  It definitely is a “working man’s lunch”  Nothing fancy about it.  It’s decent fare though, and it’s close and convenient.  My other colleague who is over from Vancouver with me just devours it.  I’m a bit slow on the pickup…more of a “pick and choose” eater.   Perhaps by the end of my stay I’ll attack it with a bit more vigour.

Today I just went out for a walk from the hotel.  And with all due respect to someone who cares about me very much, I wasn’t robbed, killed or even threatened.  I DID get lots of strange looks as white guys are about as common as hen’s teeth around here.  Some couples turned, others tried not to stare.  You really get an interesting reaction when you turn and smile at people when you hear them saying “Guay Lo”…LOL!  They look quite shocked that you know they are talking about you.  I went about 4 blocks away from the hotel before the life on the street started to die down, which was a signal to me that it was time to turn around (See… I DO care about my safety!)  On the return I saw a place up on the second floor (most restaurants seem to be on the second floor over shops) called “Focus Coffee” which advertised Chinese and Western food.  Back home that’s an invitation to disaster..usually neither the Chinese or the Western food is good. 

I figured I’d roll the dice and see what I got.   I was greeted by the classic red gowned hostess (will have to get a picture for you) who spoke just about ZERO English.  I could feel another challenge coming up!  I was seated at a nice booth by the window, which afforded me the opportunity to watch the local folk come and go on their little scooters.  Quite the little devices….more on that later.  I sat down and got my menu.  It was a typographical nightmare.  Every English word that was supposed to have an “A” had a an “H” instead.  I looked over the various beef options, but I somehow didn’t feel like having a steak  (better on the Barbeque at home), and continued looking.  During this time, my VERY attentive waitress sat RIGHT next to my table and watched my every move.  I felt quite a bit of pressure to get my order placed.  Chinese people must have an immunity to it. Me… not so much.  I decided to go with something on the Chinese part of the menu that looked like portuguese style baked pork chops.  I chose my item, and my waitress dutifully repeated the name “Hoisin Fan”? Of course, she could have been offering me cow dung, so all I could do was nod my head. In my poor Cantonese I asked if it was beef or pork, and the manager even came over to try and help explain what it was.  Nope. No luck. Hmmmm.  She asked if I wanted a drink.  I always like to try the local beer, so I had a beer listed underneath Bud and Heinekin.  I figured it’s Chinese, and it’s in the beer column.  I’ll give it a whirl.

Shortly after ordering,my “beer” showed up.  “Purple Goanna”.  Definitely NOT beer 😦  Urgh.  This can best be described as a kind of grape koolaid flavoured cooler.  It had 5% alcohol, but it tasted like a bad bottle of koolaid. Oh well.  You live… you learn.  Some time later, my hoisin fan showed up.  What was it?  Baked seafood on rice.  Just like you’d get back home at Gloucester cafe.  LOL!  It was quite good, and I took a bit of time to help my waitress learn the words “Baked Seafood on rice”.  She seemed genuinely appreciative of the fact that she now knew one more menu item in English.   As with most dishes, one was more than enough to fill me up.  So as I finished it, I recalled seeing that they had Bailey’s on the menu.  Sweet.  When she came back, I ordered a “cup of coffee and a shot of “Bailey’s”.  That was the cue for more hilarity.  She looked at me like I was from Mars. 
“What kind of coffee, sir?”
“Just plain coffee.”
“Just one moment please.”
Uh Oh….
My waitress returns with the menu.  There’s no such thing as “Just plain coffee”.  You have a choice of “Brazillian, Java, Italian, etc…”  I quickly scanned the coffee options.  “I’ll have the Italian” (it was the cheapest). 
Then she paused for a moment and asked, “What did you want with that?” (In much less clear english than that).
“Bailey’s Irish Cream”
Quizzical look, “One moment please.”  Away she goes. This doesn’t bode well.
A minute or two later she comes back with the manager, and exchanges a few words with him.  He turns to me and asks, “What would you like, sir?”  (Always with the “sir”!)
“Bailey’s Irish Cream”
“Irish Coffee?”
“No.  Bailey’s Irish Cream.  It’s in the menu.”
“One moment please.”
He comes back with the menu, and I proceed to try and find where I saw Bailey’s.  I see an entry for a B52.  I tell him, it’s one of the ingredients in the B52. 
He looks at me like I’ve got 3 eyes and am growing horns, “I don’t understand”.
After going over the menu 3 times, I finally find the entry for “Bhiley’s Irish Crehm”  (Which explains why I couldn’t find quickly).
“Oh, yes sir.”
They both went away, and I awaited my cup of coffee and shot of Bailey’s.
About two minutes passed when the manager sheepishly reappeared and said, “Sorry sir, but we have no Bailey’s Irish Cream.”
Sigh….  I was determined to have an alcoholic coffee, as the cold weather that had set in that day made me want to warm up a bit.
I managed to end up with Coffee and Kahlua.  Nothing like coffee flavored liqueur to go with your coffee!  LOL.  The coffee was very strong, and drowned out my Kahlua pretty badly.  After finishing that, I paid my bill, and was on my way.  A pretty inexpensive meal still, but not as good a deal as I had a the Sichuan place.  I headed back to the hotel, and was in a pretty determined mood to have my coffee with Bailey’s. 

The lobby bar had about 4 people in it, so I got pretty quick service 🙂  I knew this time that I’d have to choose my type of coffee.   I chose the cheapest coffee I could find (25RMB!) and my shot of Bailey’s (25RMB). It was nice, if not a bit expensive.  There was a band playing (2 female singers, and guy on the piano).  They played various cover songs, and were pretty good.  Between sets, they came by and said “Hi!”  Nice folks.  We chatted for a bit. 

After my second Bailey’s and coffee, I headed back to the room, and took advantage of the first night that I actually had semi-half decent Internet connectivity to get some email done before Vancouver woke up.  I still woke up at 0300.  Sigh.  Tomorrow is Thursday…time is ticking to get everything done… Excitement at the prospect of a deadline and jet lag contributed to the middle of the night wake up I think.

A couple of quick pics from Guangzhou

19 01 2007

Sunset tonight (2007-01-19)

Fountain in front of my hotel (New Century Hotel) tonight:

Gaungzhou January 16, 2007

19 01 2007

2007-01-16 (Tuesday)

I still haven’t got the sleep thing right.  0400 is NOT when I’m supposed to wake up.  I last woke up about 20 minutes before my alarm, and noticed that my Internet connectivity at the hotel STILL sucks rocks… C’est la vie.  Down for breakfast..

“Sorry Sir… not included”

No!!!!! Not again!  We went through the routine again, and again we danced the dance.  I DID get breakfast though, and then headed down to the front desk (just like I did YESTERDAY!).  I explained to them that I don’t want to keep getting asked EVERY time… just bill it to the room…. PERIOD.

“Oh, Yes sir.  I’ll put a note on your room file”

Sure… we’ll see.

China is an interesting place to work.  Everything happens in its own way.  I was reminded again why I chose NOT to try driving the last time I was here.  Out here, on the outskirts of Guangzhou it is just as crazy (if not more so) than it is in the downtown area.  After the drive to work I find I need a few minutes to just regain my resting heartbeat!  Between scooters/motorcycles/cars/pedestrians and bicycles it’s amazing that we survive the drive every time.  People change lanes randomnly, and the only real rule appears to be if you’re a car you have the right of way over a motorbike, motorbikes have right of way over pedestrians.  Pedestrians… bottom of the totem pole.  It seems that it’s better NOT to signal your lane changes because then someone else might see you and get the same idea, taking your previously staked out little piece of the traffic flow.

Electrical standards are not quite the usual CSA.  The 160A breaker just sits in the warehouse with the bare wires available for any fool touch…. Nice.  Love it.

Apparently my servers all settled, and I had a working DC on Tuesday morning.  This was great, since I could now login and not have to have my electrons travel all around the world for a change.  It was a day of network wiring fun, and compromise appears to be one of the key words to surviving here in China.  I think we’ve ended up with a decent setup for networking.  The test will, of course, come when people actually try to USE the stuff… Eheh.

Tuesday was a bit harrowing, but I made it through the work day.  Now the hard part was to begin.  Dinner.

I figured I’d start with having dinner at the hotel on the first night, so I went to the front desk and asked them which of the hotel restaurants would be a good suggestion for Chinese food, as I knew they had Western as well.

“Do you like Sichuan, sir?”  (Everyone calls you “Sir”  I feel so OLD)


“OK, you go out of the hotel and then turn right.  2nd floor near corner”

Obviously she didn’t QUITE understand my query.  No worries.  I’m game.  “Can you give me a bit better directions?  Perhaps you can write the name on a piece of paper so that I can see if I have the right place”

“Just one moment, sir.”  (Just one moment is the phrase that means “You’ll be lucky if you see me again, or I’ll be back before you can even exhale”)

Bellhop shows up, “I’ll take you there, sir.”

“Uh… OK”, say I – somewhat confused.

Sure ‘nough this dude takes me about a block over to the restaurant and says “Have a good dinner!”, turns around and is gone.  Didn’t sit there waiting for a tip or anything.  Wow!

I went up into the little second floor restaurant and was greeted very pleasantly in Chinese. Only.  Uh Oh!  OK – I indicate that I’m just one person for dinner and I get a table.  I got the menu and started perusing the pictures.  After a short bit, a waitress comes by to take my order… In Chinese. Only.  I’m not sure what to have.  The hostess comes over to help (thinking that two people speaking mandarin makes is sooo much easier?) They both are pointing at something on the menu and nodding their heads while speaking at me.  I nod too…. and then there’s a pause.  They look like they think I might want to order more.  I try to indicate that I’d like to know how big it is with my hands, and making “Full tummy” motions with a questioning look.  Quite comical.  That got NOWHERE.  So… I say no more, while waving my hands in the “no more” fashion.  Away goes my waitress.  Tea shows up, and I’m happily sipping away, while she comes back and asks something else in Mandarin.  We figure out that she’s asking about drinks.  What kind?  I dunno.  She disappears again and comes back with a beer. (500ml bottles are the norm).  Gives the quizzical look, and hovers with the bottle opener over the beer.  I try to ask “How much?”, but then think…whatever!  Let’s just get me my beer.  So, I nod again, and she opens it.  I indicate via my quality mandarin hand gestures, that I’d like a glass.  Poof!  One glass.  Good cold refreshing beer, albeit quite light.  Only 2.5%!

My dish showed up shortly after that.  It was a HUGE rack of 3 pork ribs (full length pork ribs) arched across the plate, and smothered in chilies and chili oil!  I did expect spicy food though, so I was OK with that.  It was REALLY good.  That one dish stuffed me.  It’s a good thing I didn’t order anything else – I wouldn’t have been able to touch the second dish.  As it was, I was taking home a doggy bag from this meal to spice up tomorrow’s lunch.

Two beers a plate of giant ribs later, I was heading back to my hotel, contented and ready for the 3rd and 4th hour of 24.  I got settled in, realized that I had no Internet connectivity to speak of (Boo Hoo!) and started watching my show.  Holy crazy episode 4!  If you’re a 24 fan, you’ll know what I mean!

2300 came around and it was time to rack out.  I figured I’d sleep well.  Not so much. I woke up again at 0330 and tossed a while before falling back to sleep again.  Damned jet lag.  Tomorrow (Wednesday, I’ll have been here half a week already… Time flies!)

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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