A Travellerspoint blog

Rain, Rain, and Then More Rain

rain 83 °F

Well, I've gotta say, after three weeks of hotels, airports, and taxi rides in the mainland, it's nice to come back to the normalcy of living in Hong Kong. It was a kind of slow week at the office, as I helped put together some information on Geely's competitors for one of the Executive Directors. However, I did get to open a bank account here in Hong Kong. Can you imagine that the first personal bank account I would open on my own would be in a foreign country? I think I'll be more nervous to do things like finding a job, renting an apartment and commuting to work back in America more so than here in Hong Kong! Now, I don't know if I should really call it a bank account, because it's only for my monthly salary (stipend) of 5,000 HKD. That amounts to just about $640 a month, which for me, covers food. And snacks. And meals between meals. And street food. However, I think I might splurge and spend $30 for a dress shirt as I only brought 2 for my trip here. Probably a good investment...
It has been raining heavily here, as the storms that have hit the south of China causing all the terrible flooding is moving its way down south. This entire weekend it has been raining non-stop. Not the kind of Seattle non-stop rain where it just sprinkles all day and is grey and just doesn't quite go away. This is the type of rain where it is pounding so hard of the street it looks like it's snowing, raining so loud you can't hear yourself think type of tropical rain. Needless to say, it's been a nice weekend to post up in coffee shops and get some reading done. I've camped out and done some readings for my research, or at least for a few hours before my attention starts to focus on the websites that stream illegal movies and tv shows. Sorry America, but with HK blocking Hulu and Youtube, there's really not much of a choice.
The past few nights I've been able to catch the World Cup in some of the local bars. Now, due to the fact that there are only 5 TV stations in HK, 3 of which are broadcast in Cantonese and 5 of which do not broadcast any sort of sports events, literally the only place where I can catch a match is in bars. So, recently I've made a habit of stopping by on my way back from the gym, ordering some food, plopping myself down and enjoying some beautiful games in the comfort of cushioned bar stools and central air conditioning. Unfortunately, the first game starts at 10pm, so I'm only able to catch one a day, but they sure are worth it.
Don't have much planned ahead for this week; it's supposed to rain some more and I'm starting a new project for my boss. July 1st is the anniversary of the handover of HK back to China, and according to one of my co-workers, there are usually fireworks that take place on Victoria Harbor. My office is located right on the harbour, on the 23rd floor, giving it a beautiful view of the harbour. He also said that in the past, the office has been open late to view the fireworks at night, and I hope that is the case again this year. We'll see...
I hope the weather is better where you are than here in Hong Kong now; I know I can't wait for it to stop raining so I can go exploring some more! I also hope this week turns out to be more exciting than this last one so I have something more substantial to right about.

Ending hour 8 of quality coffee shop time,
Ben

Posted by bengully 02:34 Archived in China Tagged food Comments (0)

End of the Business Trip

rain 87 °F

Well, it’s been a week and just like I promised, another blog entry. First time for everything, right? I’m currently at the Hangzhou Airport after 3 weeks back on the mainland, waiting for my flight back to Hong Kong. It has been great to be back in the “real” China, but I’m looking forward to some normalcy after spending most of my time between the office and the numerous hotels I’ve stayed in. This past week has been pretty quiet; not much went on in the office.

So Wednesday was Duanwu Jie here, which is the Dragon Boat Festival. I woke up late, had some breakfast and took a taxi over to the West Lake. While I was walking around, revisiting some of the sights on my last couple of times there, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and see some random Chinese girl. She introduces herself as Anny, and due to the fact that the person she was supposed to meet that day had bailed on her, and she wanted to know if I wanted to hang out with her. Well, knowing me, you know how I would have reacted. First of all, who does this random girl think she is tapping me on the shoulder and asking me to spend the day with her? And second, I was tired and didn’t really want to be around people. However, for some reason that I cannot fathom, I said ok. Turned out to be a pretty fun day. We just walked around, her speaking terrible English, me speaking terrible Chinese.

There was actually one point in time where she was really annoying me, so I tried to ditch her in a mall, but goddangit, that girl was tenacious. She found me, and so I decided to give her a second shot. We got some street food, something cold to drink and sat for a while. She showed me a diary that she was translating into English and needed my help, so I helped her with that. Later, we went to a mall where I was looking for suspenders and she was looking for a dress. No one was successful. That evening, we got some dinner and dessert and parted ways. It was a surprisingly relaxing, and I’ve got to say, I’m glad she was bold enough to tap me on the shoulder. Maybe I should try that sometime…

The rest of the week was low key, and on my last day at the office, one of my coworkers took me back to the West Lake and we ate at about 5 different restaurants. I had a great time, and it was a nice ending to my time back here in China.

I don’t know what projects or work I’ll be doing back in Hong Kong, but judging how this first month (yikes!) has gone already, I know it will be interesting, and I know it will be challenging.

From the relaxing and soothing city of Hangzhou,

Ben

Posted by bengully 18:51 Archived in China Tagged cruises Comments (0)

Hong Kong

overcast 77 °F

Well, after a long time gone, I have another reason for the blog again! Considering I created the blog specifically for relaying my experiences in China, I welcome the opportunity to do the same for my time in Hong Kong.

So, I flew into Hong Kong on the 21st of May, and immediately started work on the 24th. Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind so far. My first weekend in the city was consumed by walking, as my brain was in such shock and awe that I couldn't think of anything better to do except walk. I walked around the area I was living. I walked to places I thought looked cool. I walked from the east part of Hong Kong Island to the west. And I still got lost every time. My first week at work was extremely exciting, as I was tasked to put together a report on a European car company that one of the executive directors of the company had an interest in investing in. While having somewhat of an idea to do, I was still really nervous at the project, and after a couple of meetings with him, was able to produce something that he found useful (or so he said). Later in that day, I had to leave early though, as a co-worker and I had to leave for a trip to the mainland, where I've been ever since.

We started off in Hangzhou, which is where the headquarters of Geely Auto is located. We were there for only a night, as we had to travel to Ningbo the next afternoon. I spent about 4 days there touring the factories and getting a general feel for what a day in the life of a typical Chinese person was like while on the job, whether in an office or in a factory. During this time, I was able to get to know a recent graduate who was very helpful in explaining the going-on's of the company, all while enjoying delicious meal after delicious meal. She also told me that she didn't have an English name, but wanted one, so I took her Chinese name and Anglicized it (Englishized? Englishfied? Americanized?) to Jessie. She was beyond thrilled. I don't have much evidence during my time there, as I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the factories, but it was beyond amazing. That factory alone is able to produce upwards of 280 cars per day, cars that are ready to be sold, ready to be driven. This being the case, there are many parts of the factory that run 24 hours a day. Furthermore, due to the high speed of production, each factory worker, or team of factory workers, only has 2 minutes 15 seconds to complete their task. Ridiculous. Also on the premises, they have testing sites, driving tests, even body painting. When I mean they are ready to drive, I mean they even have a full tank of gas.

After I left Ningbo for Hangzhou by bus (thank God it had air conditioning), I stayed there for another 4 days, and got to be familiar with that part of the company and the people that work there. Every place I have gone, they have been more than happy to eat with me and talk with me, and in some cases, teach them English. It is always quite humorous, and is a constant source of entertainment. Towards the end of the week, I left for Shanghai to spend some time at their factory there. However, it did not turn out to be quite as fruitful, as this is a slow period for them as some of their machines are undergoing renovation. Using this quiet time, I decided to head into the city to see the World Expo. While not exactly a bad mistake (I'm very happy I went), it was absolutely jam-packed and bizarre. For many of the pavilions, you had to wait in line to enter, and in some stations, the lines were over 4 hours long. This apparently was a slow day. The most popular were the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and German pavilions, which on some days, the wait time has exceeded 8 hours. There was never more a perfect pictorial representation of a clusterf*** than the Shanghai World Expo. Good lord! It was exhausting just walking around. But the architecture was stunning, and it was really cool to see what each country came up with. Also, I got to go into the North Korean pavilion (which sucked) that was basically a store with cloud wallpaper that sold stamps with Kim Jong-Il on them, or books that he wrote. Lame. The Expo also had this great idea to sell Expo Passports, in which if you went to a pavilion, you could get that pavilion to stamp your passport, and you try and go around to every pavilion to do so. There were about 1 million Chinese people that tried to do so. They absolutely LOVED it. Sometimes, they wouldn't even try and learn something about the country they were headed to, they just wanted that stamp. They would literally run from pavilion to pavilion, with 3, 4, 10 passports in hand, and wait in line just to get the stamps. It was genius, but also completely defeated the purpose of the Expo. After about 5 hours, I couldn't take it any more, so I headed over to the Bund, got some street food, and spent the rest of my day there.

I head back to Hangzhou on Monday, and I'll be there until Sunday, with a break on Wednesday for the Duanwu Jie National Holiday. For those of you still reading this, Welcome Back! I will attach pictures as they come and hopefully stay updated during my time in Hong Kong. I already one thing for sure about this summer: It's not gonna be boring!

Forgetting how good it feels to be back on the Mainland,
Ben

Posted by bengully 01:42 Archived in China Comments (1)

Goodbye for Now

sunny 9 °F

So, it's about 5 o'clock in the morning on the 15th of December, and I, for some reason or another, have decided to spend my last few moments in China writing on this blog. Gotta love procrastination...

It has been an absolute dream to come and live here for 6 months, study some of the time, party some of the time, and wander all of the time. Coming here originally wasn't my first plan, or my second, or even my 17th, but you know what they say about that 18th option, it's always the one that works out best. Well, my Chinese father is gonna take me to the airport, where I fly into Tokyo, and then catch a flight into LA, about 1 hour after I leave. So for all of you who didn't come to visit me, thanks a lot, you were only about an hour away the entire time, jeez...

The study tour was definitely a success, but for whom, I'm not so sure. We first went to Xi'an, where we saw some ancient terracotta warriors(cool), and then had a lecture on Islam in China(not cool. Who wants to do learning on a 'study' tour?). After Xi'an, we then flew into Chengdu, which is in the Sichuan province. After going to a panda research center, I have decided that either: a) I once was a panda in a previous life, b) If I were any creature in the animal kingdom, I would probably be a panda, or c) If there was a breakthrough scientific development that allowed humans to change into pandas, I would seriously consider it. They have the best life. Not only do they eat 20 hours out of the day, but they are treated like royalty, and even get help mating! How cool is that?! After mental updating my life goals in Chengdu, we headed down to Leshan to see a giant Buddha carved in the side of a cliff. It apparently took a single monk 20 years to beg for the money to get the project started, and then once that was completed, he decided to build it himself. Good plan, dude. Guess what? He didn't finish. All bitter sarcasm aside, it was an impressive structure, and I have to admit, his fingernails were well groomed. I'm sure his Buddha mother would be proud. Later, we landed into Lijiang and stayed in an old village-town. I'm not sure exactly what it is, hence the hyphen. It was great to stay there and explore the village-town's winding paths and waterways. We would take excursions during to day around the area, and then return at night. It was fun. At present, that is all I remember about Lijiang, more to come later. We then went to Dali, which was kind of a bummer because that town really sucked. Not to hate on Dali, but it sucked. It was like a knockoff version of Lijiang, just with more hookers and less village-towny vibe. Food was good though, remember writing that down somewhere...

This is where the story gets good. So, we're on our way to Kunming, when we stop for a break, and to get some food. So, everyone decides to get some dumplings, which happens to be my favorite Chinese food. I mean everyone. Low and behold, hours later, the vomit starts to...start (eww, that was ugly), yours truly amongst the trailblazers. So, instead of being able to see the wonderful city of Kunming, I was the wonderful view of the toilet...and the trashcan...and the sink...By the time we got back to Beijing, close to 84% of the people on the trip had gotten sick from those dumplings. All in all, it was a great ending to the study tour, quite memorable.

We had our farewell dinner the Saturday after we got back, so it was nice to see the teachers and all, but I don't really feel that sad, as I will be coming back next year. Actually, that's not certain, but I like to tell myself that so that I believe it's real, just like I tell myself that Santa Clause still exists. Trust me, it's crazy enough to work. Right now, I've got a lot of maybe's and probably's for internships in Beijing next summer, but hopefully things will start to materialize in the spring.

Well, thank you so much for putting up with me throughout the course of this blog, after getting over the shock of the sheer atrociousness of my writing, there was probably some good things to laugh at me about. It's been a long time away from home, and I'm ready to go back, while at the same time am looking forward to my return trip here. I look forward to seeing all of you who are still reading this, so Mom, I guess that just means I'm talking to you. Wow, I just realized that I could of done all of this in an email. Great work, Ben...Anyways, this is the end of my travel blog for this year, but come back next summer for another (un)exciting round of Ben's China Adventures, and see how his (lack of)adventures are the second time around!

Hoping the flight back home was a well-stocked wet bar,
Ben

Posted by bengully 13:04 Archived in China Tagged armchair_travel Comments (2)

Yo-Yo Ma

overcast 40 °F

Last week I definitely had a Top 5 life moment: I saw Yo-Yo Ma live in concert. I can't even begin to describe how absolutely amazing it was to see the man who I've been listening to on CD's for the past 10 years no more than 50 ft. away from me playing some of my favorite music. I still don't think the experience has quite sunk in yet, but I'm sure that some day it will...

Other than that, last week went by without a hitch, and this week as well. As per usual, I didn't manage my time, so now I'm writing this entry 5 minutes before I have to leave on my study tour, so I'm sorry for the rush, but hopefully I'll have time on the "study" tour to put some more updates and add some pictures on the way. Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, mine was filled with studying and testing, as I'm apparently not in America. Well, I'll write soon, and I'll consider writing more.

Spending the night on a train bed built for a small Chinese person,
Ben

Posted by bengully 01:12 Archived in China Tagged postcards Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 17) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »