Monday, March 24, 2008

24 hours in China

Sorry I haven’t kept in touch for a while—been very busy working and I have to admit, very busy having fun! After 22 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon. It is beautiful, but the most beautiful sight was the soft, luxurious bed! We ordered room service dim sum, had the tea that was set out for us, then we crashed. Day One in China would begin in just two hours!

We got up at 5:30 a.m. Our broker, Fanny, picked us up and took us to the train station. Fanny and Michael were to be our hosts and guides for a (can you believe this?) 24-hour adventure to visit printing and Style Kit bag manufacturing plants across the border!

Off to Guangzhou. Two and a half hours on a train and one and a half hours by car brought us to a 30,000-square-meter printing facility with four presses from Germany and 1,200 employees. They print brochures, books in all kinds of configurations (we saw some pop-up scratch-and-sniff and fuzzy tactile books being made), boxes and packaging for all kinds of products. At noon the workers lined up for lunch. Their facility is so large they raise their own pigs and chickens, and have a large dormitory and cafeteria.

We didn’t get to taste the lunch and we were starving. At this point Fanny and Michael treated to us an incredible Chinese banquet. This town is known for fresh seafood and we got to taste some unusual delicacies. Two of our favorites were the spicy fish dish and the scallop in black bean sauce. Mmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!

We rolled back into the car and fell into a stupefied slumber during the 1.5-hour drive to the bag factory in Guangdong. It was just as we imagined: six stories of row upon row of 500 sewing machines total. Each worker specializes in one part of the process—cutting, clipping, gluing, sewing, et cetera.

After a few hours it was time for our next destination—Shenzhen’s famous wholesale shopping district. Wow, what an experience that was! People had warned us to hold on to our purses and that the vendors were very aggressive. Boy, were they! We did not take pictures because we were too worried that Kara would have her camera stolen.

We picked out what we wanted and Michael and Fanny did the bargaining for us. We got some great deals and had a lot of fun. By now it was 8:30 p.m. and the shopping had worked up our appetites.

Fanny and Michael took us to an amazing restaurant in Shenzhen. In the entrance of the private dining room was a display of plates stacked in the form of a blossom.

The dinner was oh so yummy! Ten courses, each better than the one before! One of the most unique was a dish of steamed cucumber with little tiny fish on top. It was delicate and delicious. But the three of us agreed that our favorite was the dessert. No surprise there! It was pumpkin jin doi—globes of fluffy, deep-fried pumpkin sweet rice that simply melted in our mouths. By the time we remembered the camera, Lissa was on her third one!

When Fanny and Michael told us they were taking us to a foot massage to end the day, we had no idea what we were in for. This was an enormous place that was a cross between a spa and a Las Vegas lounge. It was glitzy, with rows of recliners with television screens. You got your foot massage while being served refreshments. After the one-hour massage we thought our pampering was over, but to our delight we were taken to another room for a two-hour full-body massage! Boy, did we all need it. I was in the same room as Kara, Lissa and Fanny and heard surround-sound snoring all around me. I guess everyone was pretty pooped and relaxed.
At this point it was 3:00 a.m. and our day was still not over! We headed over to the only open border station, took a bus from China back into Hong Kong and a cab back to our hotel. My head hit the pillow at 5:30 a.m. It had been 24 hours since we began this crazy day—and that was just the first day of our trip! Thanks Fanny and Michael for a day we will never forget!

More later, much more…