Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Worse for wear

After 3 days in Hong Kong, 4 days in Beijing, 1 unplanned day in Yangjiang, and 4 days in Guangzhou; after 4 flights, 4 long road trips, a train passage, and countless taxi rides; after shopping and window-shopping in 3 cities, and visiting Hanks, and dining with family friends and business associates, and meeting with suppliers, and attending the Canton Trade Fair, I’m just ready to collapse. But I have to suck it in and face 4 work days battling backlog and tying up loose ends from the business deals made during our trip, and THEN over the weekend I have to pack for Singapore and Malaysia. By the time May rolls around, either I will be refreshed from my vacation and ready to take on the several store openings and social events that await me, or I will look like a bedraggled, haggard old bag who is in no state to work or party.

Back to our trip. Hong Kong was the same fabulous city I know and love, and as usual we indulged in two of its most popular activities: shopping, and eating. On the former, I purchased several articles of clothing, one of which, a gorgeous white UWN jacket, was doomed to a dismal fate (read on to find out). Prowling the malls of HK also gave us enterprising retailers a chance to scope out what other apparel brands were selling and how they were displaying their merchandise.

Beijing was colder than expected, but I managed to keep warm despite not having packed any thick clothes (the secret is layers). Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Wangfujing, was a pleasant surprise. The Internet rates were quite reasonable so I didn't think the place would be all that nice, but the newly renovated rooms were posh and pristine, and even had flatscreen TVs! Hanks stayed overnight in our room during our last night in Beijing, and we stayed up 'til 3AM watching the National Geographic special on the Gospel of Judas (really, really compelling stuff, and eerily similar to Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ). The following morning, we treated Hanks to a buffet breakfast at our hotel coffee shop, then we had to leave for Guangzhou. It wasn't as difficult parting with Hanks this time around, because I've seen that she's already settled in and managing to survive Beijing. In fact she's managed to discover restaurants and shopping places I never went to or heard of during my stay. She's even taking a trip to Kunming and Lijiang with 3 friends over the Labor Day holidays. Besides, it will only be 2 more fleeting months before she's back home in Manila and I'll have a roomie again. =D

So like I said, we headed for Guangzhou. Or at least we thought we would be heading for Guangzhou. Upon arrival, a supplier picked us up at the airport and took us to their factory in Yangjiang. By the time we got there (after a 2-hour drive), it was so late we had to check in at a hotel there and spend the night. As I was unpacking my traveling kit and PJs, I got a whiff of a funny smell emanating from the suitcase. I dug around and to my horror discovered that what we had thought were two small flower vases Bens had won in a restaurant contest in Beijing were actually bottles of Chinese wine. The foul liquid had spilled out onto my brand new, yet-to-be-worn WHITE JACKET!! I freaked! When we got to Guangzhou, I had it dry-cleaned but some patches of ugly yellow stains wouldn't come out. :(

Then I had another wardrobe disaster while visiting another factory. The bathroom was vintage Chinese, meaning it was a stinkhole in the ground, and I was concentrating so hard on not stepping on anything disgusting that I forgot that the steel button of my jeans was the kind that snapped on and off. And what do you know, it popped off, and FELL right into the vile vortex that was the toilet. I was just not having any luck with my clothes this trip.

The Canton Trade Fair was an interesting experience. We had to push and shove our way through a mob of people to get to the registration counters. Pushing and shoving through a mob is hard enough, but pushing and shoving through a mob of people with the most godawful B.O. (of varying degrees and qualities of pungency) is just short of unbearable. Olfactory ickiness aside, it was inspiring to see so many individuals of different nationalities converging in one place to look for business opportunities and form new business ties. It was also amusing and humbling to hear Americans, Indians, Africans and Europeans conversing with exhibitors in impeccable Mandarin. It reminded me that China truly is a global marketplace and fast on its way to becoming an economic giant that may one day dwarf the US. It also reminded me that my Mandarin still needs polishing and I need to practice speaking with our Chinese suppliers more!

Trivial sidebar: We were staying in our shipper's apartment in Guangzhou, and their cable TV had Chinese Star World, which aired delayed telecasts of AI. So we got to see the Queen-themed show and the results show the night after. And I just have to get this off my chest: I am deeply regretful and ashamed that I ever had a thing for Ace. Just the sight of him simply disgusts me now, not to mention hearing him butcher one of the greatest Queen anthems of all time. And showing armpit hair on (inter)national television is just too gross. You can't win the competition by showing off your biceps, moron. By next week he'll be wearing a see-through muscle shirt just to earn more votes, the whore.

P.S. Taylor rocks my socks.

From Guangzhou we took a train back to Hong Kong to make our flight back to Manila. Untrue to form, PAL began boarding on time, but unfortunately, we didn't depart on time, because some stupid Pinoy kids got lost in the airport and we had to wait for them (when things like this happen, I don't know whether to pummel the kids, or the adults they're with). By the time we returned to Philippine soil, it was already past 11PM, and by the time I finished unpacking, it was already 2AM. I went to sleep tired from the trip, thinking about my next trip, looking forward to Hanks's return, dreading the workday ahead, and still depressed about my ruined white jacket.


At Saturday, April 22, 2006, Blogger Elyse said...

Man! I can imagine your body sored after the trip! I was truly rejuvenated after my Singapore-Malaysia trip. I really hope it does the same for you too! Relax lang kayo. Hmmm...ano ba advise? Well, Petronas has two admission times only. So we got our ticket at the around 10am in the morning and the tickets being sold were for the 1:30 pm admission already. But entrance there is free. Just get all sorts of brochures that you find once you reach the hotel and airport:) I did a day trip to Malacca. Really queer city. Nakatipid kami cause the tour offered was at around 100 Ringgit ata. But my friend and I just decided to take the public bus for 11 Ringgit only! Plus you can really go around the city on your own. Sa singapore, just a day cruise to Kushu island. Singapore, no problem at all. As in taxis are conveniet. Sa Malaysia, hwag kayo paloko sa taxi drivers! Always ask if they will put on the meter. Kung hindi, wag na kayo sumakay. A taxi driver gave us his calling card. Mabait naman siya and he is nice. you can arrange for hotel-airport pick up or bring you around. Malaysian-Chinese siya. For gimik place, we went to Zouk in Malaysia. It actually came from Singapore. Are you fond of eating shark's fin soup? I know they're becoming extinct...but my friend brought me to this restaurant called the Siamese fins (45 Craig road) serves them well! Ang laki and hindi buhaghag. Their other cuisines are good too. Okay, ENJOY!!!! You won't have a hard time their. Taxis are very convenient and not so expensive naman :)

At Sunday, April 23, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Thanks for the tips! We will definitely have fun exploring. =D


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