Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cheesy Tourist Snap

On the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade

Jesee and I have just arrived home after a two-week grind in Hong Kong and China. We were always on the go and computer access was extremely limited. We would have liked to share our adventures with you on a daily basis, but time now only permits me to share the highlights.

Our mission was to source out new suppliers and to connect with existing ones, but we did find time to visit with family and have some fun. The collection of Swarovski crystals and silver findings that we have acquired will make for an even finer line of jewelry. More shapes, sizes and colours to choose from allowing Jesee to create without boundaries...the dream of an artist.

With the influx of people from other provinces now working in HK and Guangzhou, Mandarin appears to be the predominant language; nevertheless my basic knowledge of Cantonese still served us well. Negotiating is an international body language that is easily communicated with the shake or nod of a head and if you walk away, you can be sure that they'll call you back.

*Should you ever find yourself bargaining in China, note that you should start your offer at 20% of the asking price and expect to pay about 25-30%.

Most all of our days and evenings were filled with activities and we averaged four to five hours of sleep each night. Our families ensured that we ate like royalty every meal and it is customary to go out for a midnight snack. The thirty degree temperatures (85% humidity) begged us to quench our thirsts with super-sized bottles of Heineken and Tsingtao beer. Try doing this everyday for two weeks and you'll be sure to gain more than a few kilos!

We spent our first day in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province. The experience was surreal...traffic, pollution and noise. This city never sleeps and one rarely sees the sun through the blanket of smog. Everywhere you turn there is construction of new highways and sky-high buildings covered up with bamboo scaffolding, known to be incredibly strong, lightweight and flexible enough to survive a monsoon! Bamboo is considered so versatile, you can even own a bamboo bike. How clever.

After witnessing the hundreds of thousands of cyclists commuting in what I call a respiratory nightmare, I swear to never complain about my commutes to work. Cyclists, motor-cyclists, taxis, putt-putts and inefficient gas burning vehicles all manage to co-exist on the crowded streets with a laissez-faire attitude. No one flips the bird or gets hot under the collar. Road rage isn't programmed into their brains, so very little fazes them. I on the other hand nearly required a change of Fruit of the Loom more than once. We thought that we both were fairly aggressive drivers, but pale in comparison to the drivers of this virtually ruleless city.

Hong Kong and China is a shopper's paradise. There isn't anything you cannot find here, except maybe clothes to fit the average gweilo, a Cantonese term for male westerners which literally translates as "ghost man" a.k.a. "white boy". You can buy fake anything here, so buyers beware, as it's very easy to be fooled when you are overwhelmed by the selection and prices and especially the pushy sales staff.

After we endured a day of shopping and sightseeing, we were treated to an hour-long foot massage for about CAD$5.00. The masseuses are trained in reflexology and knew exactly how to fix what ailed us. We were served complimentary snacks and drinks, while we laid back on the chairs in absolute bliss. Most memorable was the young girl who worked on Jesee and when she addressed him as Si Fu which means Master...THIS he could get use to.