Splendid China & Chinese Folk Culture Village
It combines two different sections. The first part is a miniature park of China. You can find the famous Forbidden City, Terracotta Soldiers, Tibet Potala Palace, Huangshan Mountains, Yunnan's Stone Forest, and of course the Great Wall of China. This miniature park covers 300 thousand square meters, fully forested with beautiful greenery and flower. The second part consists of 56 houses, each representing one of the 56 nationalities in China, such as Miao, Yi, Bai, Mongol and Uygur. You can find here real people, culture, fashion, habits, religion, language and food. As with all the Shenzhen theme parks, plenty of people go just for the fixed exhibits but the real meat is in the shows. Uygur women twirl to Turkish music, Miaos dance, a miniskirted Ming Dynasty troupe performs electronic versions of Ming music and dance. There is even a Tibetan rock band. But if you are a boy, do not miss the Mongol horse battle held daily. Follow the smell of horse manure!
"Trying to Enter The Mainland"
My first experience of Shenzhen was 2004 when trying to cross the border into Mainland China. I had previously entered at Guangzhou. All seemed to be progressing fine, my friend had arrived at Hong Kong airport, late but in time for the cross border bus. We arrived at the border, the guard looked at my passport, looked at me, then looked at the passport and shook his head. No problems for I have a valid visa. He carried on looking and continued to shake his head. I started to get concerned when he called over his colleagues. It transpired that my visa had run out, the date was American format not UK and I had basically got it wrong!! Whilst this was taking place my friend had entered China. I was lead into a small holding room where several people popped in and our to see the guilou. I was asked many questions about the purpose of trip, who I was seeing, going etc etc. After an eternity, my friend carried on to Shenzhen airport and I was sent packing back to Hong Kong to get the correct visa. Next day my entry into mainland China went smoothly. Strangely enough the guards remembered me and all smiled as I passed through. Even the coach driver remembered and checked my visa before he let me on the bus.
My first bussines trip to China
Well I was again on a travel, but this time is was for my work en to a place I never been before. I went together with a colleague of mine to Shenzhen. This is an industrial area in the south of China, just to the north of Hong Kong.
We left on Saturday afternoon from Brussels to London en from there in a bit more then 11 hours to Hong Kong. We landed here around 14.00 locale time. Here was someone waiting for us to bring us to our hotel. We used the city-bus to get there. We had a beautiful sight onto Hong Kong Island from our 9th floor, but unfortunately the high peaks were covered with clouds. I can’t believe it, the second time that I come to Hong Kong and each time Victoria Peak is covered in clouds (OK, the days that we had time to explore the city). It’s gray weather, 27 degrees, clouded en it’s raining now and then. We dropped our luggage and went for a walk across Kowloon. Is it because we are thirsty or because we saw a sing of an Aussie pub that we went for a drink, I don’t know? The place is busy, because of the soccer games on TV. We get acquainted with a certain Kenneth who talks to whole time with us. After three beers (29HK$ each or 4.4 euro and this is then the happy hour price) we walk to the waterside to get a glimpse of the high buildings of Hong Kong. We seek for a Chinese restaurant in a shopping mall and then it’s straight to bed.
Monday morning is an early day for us because at 8 o’clock we being pick up to go by foot to the ferry terminal. A walk of about 10 minutes. This ferry will bring us to China. Our companion from yesterday has already tickets for us en we follow then the people in the line for the immigration desk. Here we stand in between the Chinese to get a stamp in our passport. My colleague, who’s wearing a costume jacket, is sweating seriously. He has a lot of wet stains on his shirt. But these will dry very soon. The fast ferry has numbered seats and I try to get to reduce my sleep shortage. At the Chinese side, we pass again via the immigration office where we get another pencil strike in our passport. We are picked up by car to bring us to the factory where we are holding some technical discussions about our new products. All is going well and at noon, they take us to a Chinese restaurant for a Chinese meal. We are being looked at, I guess they don’t see a lot of foreigners here. The service is very good, but later more about that. Afterwards the discussions go further and then he brings us to our hotel, the Xin Ming Zhu. This is an hotel in the industrial area of Shenzhen. Alfred our contact person brought us and also helped us checking in. Because at the desk they hardly speak any English. (Hello, good morning, bye, cash, card …) Later we hear that this hotel is mainly for Japanese and Taiwanese business people. This explains a lot. I like especially the menu and some English leaflets, they are filled with spelling faults, but this makes the charm complete.
Alfred takes us to the hotel restaurant and here we are friendly greeted by 3 lovely ladies in red dresses with a long split. One of them brings us to our table, where someone else immediately helps us. In fluent Chinese see asks Alfred what we want to eat. A Tsingtao, a local bier is always nice. They have here a lot of personnel walking around. All have are wearing a different style of suite, this is an indication of their function. We are watched when we are lead into the restaurant, everybody wants to catch a glimpse of us or to knock their head to us. We seem to be a curiosity out here. The food is very good and the service more then excellent. As we take a sip of our thee or beer, it will be filled again by a waitress. They are looking at your hands, as a manner of speaking, to see if they have to replace the plate if this is full with bones or if they have to fill your glass until the top. As I already said, the food was very good and off course we ate with those shop sticks. This was amazingly easy and I didn’t good cramp in my fingers. At the middle of the meal there came a lot of push-cars with dim sum and other dishes through the restaurant, here you can order more dishes. There is even a car with cakes and other sweets, can you imagine this in China? I have to say that the meals are very healthy here in China, everything is fresh, they don’t use any frozen food.
There is also a party for some kids at the same time that we were there. And they are very curious. They come in small groups to our table to say hi, they give us a hand and they disappear again. A few moments later the first one is coming again and he asks: “Where are you from?”, but Theo didn’t understand the question very well and he says: “Pardon.” And the little one answers: “pardon” and he goes back to his table to say that we are coming from pardon. We have problems holding our laughter down and some other people also see that there is something wrong. The kid is coming back to our table to ask his question again and now Theo says Belgium. And very proud is he going back to his table so say that to the rest of the company.
Theo also takes some pictures with the digital camera, as you know the picture is also visible on the LCD and some Chinese are standing behind him to see what he is doing, to catch a glimpse of the picture. It gets a bit more difficult as Theo gives the camera to somebody else to take a picture of us, but if went fine. Everybody give us a big smile and a goodbye when we left the restaurant. They will not forget us very soon, I think. Theo and I go for a small stroll around the block of the hotel and there we pass also through a street with a lot of kiosks where you can by food, clouds or even go to the barbershop. A kind of local shopping mall, but everything outside.
The next morning as we go to have our breakfast, we see on the floor in the elevator, a carpet with the name of the day in Chinese and English. So we don’t have to think what day it is today. Because if I’m on a holiday I normally don’t remember after a few days, which day we are. To bad, but this is no holiday. The supplier arranged again a pick up for us and also these talks went very well. At lunch, we are again going to that Chinese restaurant where we had lunch before. But this time we get a separate room, because also the general manager and his son are joining us. In the afternoon, the talks are finished and they bring us back to our hotel. Alfred wants to join us for dinner, but we said that this isn’t necessary and that he can join if he wants, but we can manage.
First we start with a little reconnaissance of the area. We walk several blocks in the heat and everywhere, people gaze at us. People on a bike passing us and then turning their heads to see who’s walking there. And in the mean time Belgium is playing Japan and this big football fan is walking in the streets of Shenzhen instead of following the game. We get an good impression of the surrounding, walled living blocks on the area of a factory, food-kiosks, many people … The blocks next to the road, they all have a kind of a garage downstairs where the Chinese do their business. Some of them are a pub, others are a restaurant, some a garage or a store. We see also a lot of guards at the factories, all of them in the same outfit. We also see some young soldiers on the street-corner, waving very friendly hello to us. We also found a supermarket, next to the market. Inside you can find all kind of Chinese products, also strong liquor of 46% for 3 euro. I only can guess for the quality of that product. We are the only white people walking here. It seems that the other Europeans and Americans are in other hotels several kilometers from us in an more residential area. The most Chinese people only see white folks in the factories, so it is for them and for us a big experience.
In the evening we go again to the Chinese restaurant in our hotel and again we are being brought to our table by those nice girls in their long red dress with a very long split. Just like yesterday, there are already some Chinese laughing as we enter the room. The one who gets the order speaks fluently Chinese, what we off course don’t understand. But this can’t spoil the fun for us and we have to laugh with the whole situation and they also start to see the funny side of it. The drinks are easy, we just point to the bottle of beer, Tsjingtao, because our pronounciation of that word is not so good that they could understand it. The Chinese menu is too difficult for us, the only thing what we can read is the price. But at last some one finds a card with pictures on it, so we choose from that instead. But the recipes that we have chosen, where not the ones we expected. It was all seafood and it looked at last at one dish with meat. It was OK, but a lot of ingredients were not recognizable, Chinese for experienced as you can say. As we are finished the girls with the dim sum are coming in, to late for us. We decide to go to the bar to have a drink, but this is on bar it is the Western restaurant. Here it is also the place for the western breakfast, like you can have a Chinese breakfast in the other restaurant. As we enter, we get a menu card under our noses and in the end we can make the waitress clear that we are not here to have dinner but for some drinks. We choose a Grand Marnier and they read it in Chinese as Campari, something total different and we are just in time to stop them. So instead we take a whisky, ok, we pointed to a whisky. After that I wanted to taste a Chinese strong liquor. But we couldn’t explain to them what we wanted, not even with a translator of one of the girls. It’s not cleat for them what we want, a huge wall between the languages. So we point then to another whisky instead. It’s nice to hear them say it: Wies-se-kie.
The Wednesday is normally planned to go to the production plant of Philips, it’s called SBI here. We get a tour and have a short discussion with some people and we get also a general explanation about the area. China seems to be divided into provinces like Guandong, which on his turn is divided into 11 cities, like Shenzhen and is then further divided into districts, towns and villages. All the factories have living areas (buildings) for their workers. These flats are surrounded with a wall and all entrances are guarded. The people are living on the factory-area and without a pass you can’t get in. Inside there are recreation facilities like sports area’s, sauna, …
The people that are working here are coming out the rest of China, but you need a temporary permit to get here. This is needed to see how many people are coming to this area so that they can plan the housing, the food and drink water supplies. As I tell you that there are 100 million people moved to this province, then you can understand why they want to do this. The people arrive here around their 17th year and when they are 23, they are married or go back to their own province. The people are coming here to get a better life then they have on the countryside. Imagine you that two of these people are getting married and they are coming out of different provinces. If they have a child, the child is getting the mothers address, not the temporary one, but the permanent one and this is the area where she is coming from. It is therefore very important for these people to get a permanent visa, otherwise they have to pay for the education of their child. Because the province is only helping with the cost for its own residence. They work in two shifts, one shift is 12 hour and they work 6.5 days a week and, now the most amazing part, they have 3 official holidays a year.
At noon we are finished and we plan some new appointments with new suppliers on Friday in the Philips factory. The general manager and another person going with us for a lunch in the western restaurant in our hotel. He asks us if we have other appointments this afternoon and we ask him if he can give us any direction for some sight seeing in the area. He sends us to a place called Waterland resort, with a lot of frogs as their display sign. The trip back and forth is an experience, a must!
He arranged a taxi for us, it’s picking us up around 15.00 and will take us back around 19.00 to our hotel. Maybe something before I start this story, you have to know that also in China they drive at the right side of the road, just like in the normal world, sorry for al the English who are reading this. Imagine you are sitting in a taxi and you have to cross a very busy road. A road filled with cars, motor’s packed with suppliers or people, a lot of trucks, bicycles and small tractors. Well this is a double 3-lane street and what you do is slide gently on the road and don’t mind the honking of the other people. If there is a small opening go for it, the other one will stop. Eventually you reach the middle of the road and then the front of the car is standing on the third lane of the opposite side and on your behind is on the third lane of the other side. So now you still have to cross this side will the traffic is going on on both sides of the taxi. If it’s very busy it can take you a long while to cross such a road. But there is coming some help for us, a big truck is also making his attempt to cross the road. As he thinks that the opening is big enough for him he moves and he’s clearing the way for us. A opening big enough is one the other car or truck has time to stop before they hit you. A marvelous system don’t you think, why place traffic lights when you can have an adventure every time you cross a road.
They also know traffic lights here, but red will not mean stop, but it means honk your horn and drive carefully through. Another great traffic rule to introduce in Belgium. But I have to tell that how more nice (residential) the area, they honk less their horn and keep more to the normal traffic rules like we know them.
We also drove on a normal double lane road in both directions. Most of these roads are very wide and they have a separate bicycle lane, but almost nobody uses them. At the left hand there are driving the trucks, little tractors and cars. And if you want to pass you have to do this at the right hand side, avoiding the bicycles and motors. Some of them are also taking over at the left hand side crossing a double white line and thus driving at the opposite side. When a truck enters the road, he’s immediately going to the left hand side of the road to avoid those slow moving bicycles and mopeds. Because here in China they are not the slower traffic, the bicycles are. Now and then you see a street-worker who’s cleaning the road with a broom, they don’t care about the traffic, they keep on doing their job. I can tell you that we drove a lot of slaloms to get there. When we came back you have off course again the same situations, but now you pay more attention to the whole traffic situation. I learned that honking is a way of warning the other road-user that you are coming so don’t go to the left or right or slow a bit down so that I can safely pass you. Even they honk the horn to warn people not to turn onto the road because they are coming. Also when somebody wants to turn in front of you, they honk the horn, reduce speed and if he passed on a safe distance you accelerate again.
Maybe something about the resort, it’s build in October 2001, so not even a year ago. It’s a big park with many ponds, some buildings and again a lot of personnel walking around. There are not a lot of visitors in the park, but the entrance fee is than 60 Yuan, this is almost 9 euro. If you know that most people earned a few years ago 2 euro a week, then you know he. It’s here very nice to walk, you get a map with all the locations (off course in Chinese) that you can visit in the park. First we walk over the good walking-paths, bridges and that gives us off course a thirst. Why do you think, well it’s a very hot day, it’s over 30 degrees. We are going into a house, it seems to be a restaurant and again we are getting a menu, but we only need one bottle of beer. And they bring two. In China you always get a cup of thee, no matter what you order, a meal, a bottle of beer. A few moments later a Chinese is sitting next to us to have a talk with us, it’s for him an opportunity to practice his English. As we see a toilet, we need to go, but you can only see at the inside if you are at the correct place, I can’t read the Chinese signs for man and wife.
They also have an ecological museum, with two doors, one on the left wall and the other in the right wall. Well we found the entrance because the exit was marked in English. Lucky us. Off course inside is everything in Chinese, but this isn’t so bad, we interpreted the exhibition on our own way. At a certain moment a Chinese employee comes to us and with signs she asks us to come with here, it seems that somewhere there starts a show. They do everything to help you, but then in Chinese. A bit further, an other Chinese girl takes us into a room with a slanted floor. We already have been there, but how to explain. So we follow here and see makes those signs like close your eyes, feel the movement, stay to stand firm, … I have to say also in this park we are the only white people walking around a again people stare at us, they are very curious. And for us Europeans they also have some English words on signs, there ware a few warning signs saying: “keep sefety” instead of keep save, exit and toilet and museum. That’s all folks.
As the taxi delivers us back to the hotel, the guards are saluting again for us, Ok not for us, they do that for every car that is going into the parking lot of the hotel. We are eating again in the Western restaurant, because all those Chinese meals are giving us the feeling of all the time the same food, although we never ate the same. This evening is again closed with some beer and a wies-se-kie.
Also today, Thursday the name is spelt on the floor. We are pick-up by the second supplier brought to his factory, a 40 minutes further. Also here the talks are going well and again there is a Chinese meal that goes in the same atmosphere as the other ones. In the evening we end our visit. Here we also hear something more about the guards, we asked if they are all coming from the same firm because they all use the same uniforms. The answer is sublime simple, no they are all own personnel but all factories buy the uniforms at the same firm. Also for those two military persons that we saw during our first walk, you remember those who were weaving very friendly, well these uniforms you also can buy everywhere.
Now an evening working on the laptop at my hotel-room and then we are going to take some pictures of the lights around the hotel. As Theo takes his camera, there are again immediately several curious Chinese people standing behind him. They watch every movement that he makes. To bad that I didn’t had my camera by hand so that I could make this unique photo.
Friday is our last day in China and after a half day of supplier talks at Philips we are taking the ferry back to Hong Kong en there we have an half day to walk around. But before we are doing that we drop our luggage at the Hard Rock Café in Hong Kong. Yeah a person from Philips knows the manager very well and he told us to put our luggage there. First we have a beer and a meal en we are watching the football and also looking through the windows onto the street. Below us there are dozens of people standing for a small screen watching the football at the entrance. As a person from DHL walks by with a push-car, he starts running on the spot going slowly ahead and then he walks further again. I think I have to propose this scene to them to use as a commercial. It was funny.
After our walking trip across Kowloon, we are going to pick up our luggage and there are certainly 50 people standing outside watching the game England against Argentina on that small TV-screen at the entrance. If we are trying to get in, we being stopped and they tell us that there is no more room for eating, but we only go for a beer and our luggage so we can go in. We order us a beer and we see Beckham kicks the 1-0 against the net. And a furious shouting starts, England is leading and they are very happy with that. Can the fact that this was a former English colony have anything to do with it? But know we have to get our luggage and then we have a plane to catch and this is then the end of our Chinese adventure.