Our founder, Mike Bellamy, who evidently doesn’t have enough WORK TO DO posted the Rick Roll the other day under my name. That was his hint that I should blog more often, so here goes. Sorry for the Rick Roll. Sorry for the absence. And sorry in advance for the length of this post.
More interesting articles:
- Hong Kong remains world’s freest economy: report
- For this American, the idea that the US government can get Google to do anything is silly
- Impressive China economic growth numbers
- Now IMDB is blocked in China
- From Wired, In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits
- De-industrializing Detroit
- How to Push a Dump Truck Out the Window – the wreckage that was America’s 4th largest city
- US slaps duties on electric blankets from China
- Bacteria Rebuilt To Make Oil
- We Are So Screwed – a fascinating look at financial crises
- China protests US arms sales to Taiwan
The last two weeks have been insane. The pollution was unbelievable up until this past weekend, as bad as I’ve seen it in over a decade. I could taste it and feel it on my teeth. Blowing your nose was a bit of an adventure and made me wish for black handkerchiefs.
It has also been fun as the Great Firewall is now blocking Bloomberg completely and Reuters about half the time. Several IT guys we’ve worked with in the past have left China for Thailand because the Firewall is too big a pain in the neck.
Day 15 – Customer visits seem to to be an almost daily event. So far this trip we’ve had them one after the other from USA, France, Australia, etc. I was running late, so I hired one of the gypsy cabbies who hang out by our apartment complex to run me across the street to the office instead of taking 10 minutes to walk. He proceeded to pull straight out into oncoming traffic driving the wrong way down the main road and then cutting across 4 lanes of oncoming traffic to get to our side of the road. Such is life in China. After 10 years here, Mike still doesn’t drive.
Lunch was nothing special, though I am constantly amazed at how fatty the meat here is. In the USA, where nearly everyone can stand to lose a few pounds, fat is bad, horrible, terrible stuff. Here, it is where the flavor is. And hardly anyone is overweight.
At night I head off to Futian to meet an old friend who is now a rep for PassageMaker. He was born in Hong Kong but raised from infancy in the UK, so he speaks perfect British English. He moved back to HK on the day of the handover in 1997. He wanted pizza and beer, so we go to NYPD (New York Pizza Delivery), an outdoor place that serves the best American style pizza I’ve ever eaten. Really.
The owners are a couple American Born Chinese (ABC) from California who developed a dough recipe that is mind blowing. Crispy and soft at the same time, it kicks the pants of anything I’ve tried anywhere else in the world. All ingredients are flown in weekly from the USA. And the beer is dirt cheap, too. Across from our table was a skyscraper with a gigantic TV across the top 5-6 floors. We watched TV while we ate and chatted. My camera sucks in low light, so I couldn’t take a photo.
Sitting outside on a nice night, eating great pizza, drinking cold beer, watching a TV 5 times the size of my house and hanging out with an old friend, all for about 20% of the cost of a similar meal in the USA, I wonder why the heck I don’t live here full-time.
Day 16 – Worked all day and well into the night. We didn’t leave the office until nearly 11 PM. Given the hour, Mike’s wife thoughtfully arranged for dinner – a meal of grilled tofu, potatoes and lamb skewers, washed down with copious amounts of cold beer. Oh, did I mention it was on the side walk, sitting on stools that would be reserved for a pre-school classroom in the USA and eating off a plywood folding table sized for a dwarf? It was bloody fabulous. It cost about $5. I love this place.
Day 17 – A full day at the factory. We are working on a big order that needs to go by the end of the month, and we are using this as the first test case of my ideas for operational improvements.
Day 17 view from our factory managers window every industrial park needs a decorative fountain
That night we picked up some prospective clients for dinner at my favorite Xinjiang restaurant. I’d gotten them hooked up with my old friend from Taiwan as a translator and we all had a great time. One item of note, we saw the world’s most expensive production car outside the hotel.
Day 18 – Mike asked me to join him for lunch on Saturday. On the way down to meet him, I passed a ballot box – the apartment complex is having an election.
We head to an Algerian coffee shop in the center of Luohu. Both of us are in the mood for something other than Chinese food. The place has several things that rare in China – a separate smoking area and SILENCE. The Chinese, especially the Cantonese, are not quiet people. Going to a typical food court on a Saturday is like enjoying lunch next to a jet engine. You get used to it (by slowly going deaf), but it is a shock for first-timers used to the USA where typically people don’t shout in restaurants. We had business to discuss, so it was a good choice.
That night we head to Coco Park area for Brazilian barbecue and to later join friends at Club Viva. I love churrascaria and this one was acceptable. The ones in China just fail on the salad bars, which is a big part of the appeal for me in the States. However there were two items of note: camel meat and beer urns.
Day 19 – despite being Sunday, we go to the office to work most of the day. Not much of note, but a few photos nonetheless.
The day ended with another wonderful dinner by Mike’s wife and the maid. Simply magic from such a small kitchen.
Day 20 – I woke to ghastly pollution. At first it appeared a lovely misty morning, but that soon turned into choking smog that persisted all week. That said, it was a great and productive day at the Assembly Center. The culinary highlight was a fabulous meal at a very upscale restaurant near the factory. The place was part of a large apartment development with Spanish style architecture, a welcome departure from the typical Chinese apartments.
Day 21 – Pollution continues and is even worse. Back early to the Assembly Center to start working on the line. We have a big rush order of a complex assembly, around 90 parts in the BOM, and an agonizing wiring step that takes around 8-9 minutes. No way to automate it, it must be done by hand.
First thing is to head off to B&Q to buy some decent tools to cut down on assembly time as much as possible. For the February order I will get electrical and air tools to speed things up and allow for more people at the wiring operation, but today it is just decent hand tools. By upgrading the tools and teaching some Drum-Buffer-Rope practices, we complete the order 5 days ahead of schedule.
Lunch was at a North West style restaurant.
Day 22 – Another day at the Assembly Center. A good day with more smog. Ho hum. The highlight though was dinner with my old friend, my lao pengyou, Sabrina. She was Mike’s first employee 9 years ago and we have become close friends over the years. We always go for dumplings when I am in China. She is a wonderful project manager, a very tough lady who doesn’t take any crap from suppliers.
Day 23 – Another day at the factory, including lunch at the cafeteria. This time we invited members of the production staff and they played “gross out the foreigner” with the lunch order. Good natured fun and I am used to it. I’ve never yet backed down. Except for the waterbugs a few years ago, but I was already recovering from food poisoning. Oh and did I mention the pollution *cough*?
We join Mike at the office and walk home for a late dinner. This involves Mike’s preferred method of crossing the street – sprinting across 8 lanes of traffic instead of the “long way” using the pedestrian bridge. Chinese pedestrians have no concept of jay walking. The only thing more dangerous than the air in China is the traffic.
Day 24 – We head out in the morning to pick up a prospective client in Futian at the Marco Polo. Dinner involves a trip out to Shekou for dinner at Tasca, a fantastic authentic Spanish tapas bar. Spanish food is the only thing I like better than Asian cuisines.
After dinner we walk over to Sea World, an outdoor mall surrounding an old cruise ship. This was the ship where Deng Xiao Ping signed the papers to create the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which was sort of the real starting gun for the reemergence of China. They’ve since filled in the harbor, completely surrounding the ship. The place is now a “Little Foreign Town” catering to expats. My camera did not work with the lighting, so no pictures. I am sure you are heartbroken. We went to the original McCawley’s for a drink and then headed home.
Day 25 – It’s a glorious Saturday. The pollution is gone and it is deliciously warm but not hot. Mike’s in the mood for pizza and his wife and daughter want to go shopping. The car drops us off in the heart of Luohu, in the shadow of the “Empire State Building” of Shenzhen, Di Wang Da Sha. It is one of the best looking skyscrapers in the world, IMAO.
Scroll back up for the pollution shot of this building from a distance. If China adopts a better energy source – perhaps modern nuclear as in France and Japan – this a pretty attractive city. The clear days that you do get remind you of how awful the pollution really is.
Papa John’s is the choice for today, and like many US chains in China, they’ve gone upscale and adapted to local tastes. The dining area is an alcove of sorts, shaded with big comfortable chairs. Kind of like eating pizza on you covered patio at home. The recipe for the dough was substantially different than in the States, and while it was satisfying, it is no NYPD. Looking out from our alcove a gleaming new Gucci store dominates. A Mercedes festooned with wedding decorations pulls in to park. To the left is a brand new Hyatt and to the right the Huaan Conifer Hotel, a Chinese hotel that is by far the nicest place I’ve ever stayed in Asia. I spent 3 weeks there once and it is decadent. Next door to the Papa John’s is the most badass fast food restaurant on the planet.
After lunch we go to the Dongmen (“East Gate”) Road shopping area, which is a sprawling warren of narrow streets selling every consumer good under the sun. It was a mob scene. And lots of fun to see that many people out having a good time. We buy some movies and the ladies get squid-on-a-stick (they didn’t ask me if I wanted any, *sniff*) and take it easy instead of going out on the town.
Day 26 – Another beautiful day. I go across the border into Hong Kong with a co-worker, just into the New Territories, not the famous city center. We are going shopping for American style dill pickles (yes, really) for Mike, mainly an excuse to get out of Shenzhen and do something different. We cross the border at Luohu, and see something across the fence in Hong Kong I have never seen in Shenzhen – a grave yard.
Today also saw my first trips on the Hong Kong MRT and the Shenzhen subway system. So now I have an Octopus card for Hong Kong (which can be used to buy all sorts of things, not just riding the MRT, very cool) and a Shenzhen subway pass. I rock.
First we went to a Chinese “wet market” selling an amazing array of fresh ingredients. The smells were powerful and it is not for the faint of heart. I thought it was awesome.
Upstairs they had a food court. As I mentioned above, these places are LOUD, but I feel right at home. This dynamic, barely controlled chaos, coupled with incredible food, is what attracted me to Asia in the first place. We have two 600 ml Skol beers and noodle soup.
After lunch we try a number of Western style grocery stores looking for the pickles. They are located in malls that are part of the MRT stops. Very sensible. Not sure which is the chicken or the egg, but it works well. The grocery stores are 100 times better than when I was last here, but they are still thinly stocked compared to your average Kroger and are positively claustrophobic. I can barely walk down the aisles without turning sideways. After an hour or so of looking, no pickles. We buy Cadbury’s chocolate for the office instead. Couple things caught my eye.
Defeated we cross back into Shenzhen at the new Futian crossing, a far more impressive building than the old Luohu crossing. Reminds me of an airport. In this place the Shenzhen River is much wider.
We take the Shenzhen subway to meet Mike for dinner. Very clean and efficient. Instead of a poster in the car showing the map of the lines, they have an electronic display that tracks the progress of the train. Very cool. We head to a Japanese restaurant that has the craziest deal I’ve ever seen. All the sushi and tepanyaki you can eat and all you can drink – juice, soda, tea, beer, wine, sake, doesn’t matter – for 150 RMB. That’s $22. I have no idea how they stay in business. By my count, I ate $100 worth of food alone, not even counting the beer. There is no restrictions – you can order anything off the menu. The absolute highlight was kobe beef sashimi – raw slices of rice paper thin beef. I ate at least 3 orders, each 45 RMB. It was fantastic. It is now my official favorite thing to eat in the whole world. Note to the FDA – it is far easier to control the diet and health of a cow than a wild fish swimming in the ocean. If sushi is legal in the USA, why not raw beef?
This restaurant is in the basement of one of the big malls in the area, CITIC Plaza. It is a bit of a maze, so we went round and around looking for it, including an elevator with the follow sign:
Last item for today’s blog, the Japanese restaurant had cool bronze dragons on the table. I had seen these before in Korean restaurants, but had forgotten about them. I need to get some of these for my home in the USA.
That’s all for now…