Hello everybody, I know I haven't posted in the longest time. I have been lazy/busy/travelling in the past months. Anyway, here it goes ...
My long vacation started off with a trip to Hong Kong and China. In fact, it was pretty much the main theme of the whole vacation. This time, I visited many companies and manufacturing plants around Dongguan, Guangdong Province. I got to see the assembly of high-end speakers and audio components at GPE and that was really cool. I couldn't get any picture because obviously GPE has NDAs with their clients and because my camera decided to break down under the heat right in my first week in China. So basically that also means no picture for the rest of the vacation. I saw the site for the new plants of our metalware die-casting business and a new branch office Macau. The most memorable part of my stan in China was a business/sight-seeing roadtrip with one of my uncles and his friends through the Eastern part of China (Dongguan --> Jiujiang --> Nanjing --> Yantai -(ferry)-> Dalian --> Dandong --> Qinhuangdao/Beidaihe --> Beijing --> Wuhan --> back to Dongguan). There are some pictures from that roadtrip but I have yet to get them from my uncle and his friends.
Jiujiang city is pretty well off, considering how inland it is. The best part of the city is built around a lake, where there are plenty of lightworks at night. You can find great food at low prices there, if you know where to look.
Nanjing used to be a national capital in ancient China. It hosts many attractions, including the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, and the now disused Purple Mountain Observatory; and is one of the best jade sculpture centres of China. There is also the first five-star hotel of China, the Jinling Hotel, at which we stayed.
Yantai isn't very special. We only went there to catch the ferry anyway. So I'll just skip ahead.
The area around Dalian has fresh air and decent sunshine because it is one of the least industrialised areas of China. We went to visit a weaponry history museum, which displays some of the least honorable facets of Chinese society. It's not the warfare or propaganda aspects of it; after all, what country doesn't wage war or use propaganda at some point in history? What ticked me off is the utter laziness and lack of sense for civil duty of some Chinese people. We came across some retired war planes and war vessels, which can be visited onboard at 5 RMB per person (which is not exactly cheap in the context of Chinese economy). I went onboard two of those and felt completely ripped off; the vessels are unmaintained and full of litter. Those museum keepers really should be ashamed of themselves. They charge 5 RMB per person yet didn't do anything to keep these historical artifacts presentable. Fortunately the area had great seafood (particularly the abalones) to make the day less frustrating. There was also a museum of reptiles where they teach you many things about crocodiles and snakes. They have a huge indoor lake/river system where you can watch hundreds of snakes live. Of course, the less friendly, dangerous, or endangered species, like cobras, are isolated. Somehow in the middle of the large, beautiful park surrounding the museum, there is a gigantic cage with many different kinds of big and small birds, including peacocks and cranes. I joked with my new-made friend (the son of my uncle's friend) that that must be the secret laboratory where they research new species of cross-infecting avian flu to use as biological weapon. =P
Dandong is a small city on the Chinese-North-Korean border. In fact, it is only separated from North Korea by the Yalu (a.k.a. Amrok) river, which is much narrower than the part of our Saint-Laurent river lying between the Montreal island and the South Shore. Yet, in summer, it can get so foggy that you can't see through to the other side of the river, unless you take a walk onto one of the bridges and past the middle of it. One of the historical landmarks of Dandong is the broken bridge. It used to be a rather advanced bridge in the old days because the middle section of it could be rotated to leave an opening for large ships. The Eastern part of it was destroyed in a bombardment by American warplanes during the Korean War, and the rest is full of holes, either made by shrapnel or by armour-piercing rounds. Apparently the Chinese government left the broken bridge there on purpose to commemorate the war. I took a sight-seeing boat to see the shore of North Korea upclose. The contrast in landscape between the two shores of the river is quite interesting. On the side of Dandong, you would see many buildings that are over ten storeys high (some more colourful than others), big advertisement panels, lots of lightworks in the evening, and generally a great deal of business going on at the shore. On the North Korean side, you would see buildings that are at most three storeys high (generally unpainted and grey/yellowish due to weathering), no advertisement panel, no lightwork, and no business on the shore; instead, you would see a bunch of kids playing on the beach and soldiers elsewhere on the beach, with rifles in their hands, some of which smoking or slacking off. According to rumours, the kids and soldiers only come from "good families", families deemed unlikely to defect from North Korea. Due to the multitude of ethnic groups there (Han Chinese, Manchu, and Korean), food variety is abundant in Dandong. Seafood is served raw and cooked; raw shrimps accompanied with kimchi is especially exotic and tongue-tingling. At night, some people roast corn ears and beef above open coal fire and the flavour is carried across the whole street. Because of this very diversity of food I had my share of misadventure (albeit funny) in Dandong, and that's called acute gastroenteritis. I was sharing a room with my uncle the whole trip. That night in Dandong, my stomach decide to play really not nice. After my uncle had gone to bed, I was stuck in the washroom for over half an hour and I felt more and more sick. I managed to get out and tried to sleep again but couldn't. My uncle woke up and asked me what's the matter. I told him my stomach wasn't feeling very well. My uncle didn't think it was very serious so he went to sleep again. Then my stomach hurt so much that I decided to call the frontdesk to get a taxi to the nearest clinic or hospital. So I left the hotel room alone, while my uncle was still sleeping. I didn't wake him up because I thought it would be quick. I left a message with the frontdesk anyway just in case. So I got to the hospital and everybody on nightshift at the emergency was sleeping because apparently no real emergency ever happens around the place. After about 10 minutes of waiting and paperwork, I finally got to see the doctor, who woke up with her hair and lab coat in a mess. She actually looked kinda cute like that. Then she said three times in Mandarin that I was wrong, with an interrogative look. I thought "what the heck? Does she mean I should have come to the hospital sooner?" After not getting an answer from me for a while, she finally asked me if I was a soldier and I bursted out laughing because at that point I finally understood what she meant earlier: she was asking if I were in the troops. The confusion was due to the fact that "不對的" (wrong) and "部隊的" (belonging to the troops) are both pronounced "bu dui de" in Mandarin. It was a military hospital so maybe soldiers get a discount. Anyway, 10 minutes later my uncle arrived in taxi and had an "lol" all over his face. He told me that he woke up in the hotel room and couldn't find me, so he thought "oh shit. I lost my nephew." and finally learned my whereabouts from the frontdesk.
We then started our trip back on a different route. The first checkpoint was Qinhuangdao (literally the Island of the Qin Emperor), which is apparently where the Qin Emperor sent off an expedition to the seas for the elixir of eternal life. There was also the Old Dragon Head, the Eastern end of the Ming Great Wall. The place features many tablets with poems by past emperors and political figures. The view on the open sea from high grounds is fantastic.
Then we stayed a night in Beijing. Unfortunately that's when my uncle got a phonecall and had to hurry back to Dongguan to take care of some urgent business. So I didn't have the chance to visit the Forbidden City, the Residence of Ji Xiao Lan, or the Old Summer Palace; but I did take a walk around the famous Tiananmen Square and the Wangfujing boulevard ("the boulevard with the well for the lords' residences"), a shopping street that really shows off the lifestyle and prosperity of a great capital.
There is nothing of interest to write about the rest of the trip back to Dongguan.
Coming next: Trip to the U.S.