Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Asia Trip, Shenzhen Day #1 Early Morning

Business travel is lonely and tiring. We spent most of the day yesterday traveling from Chengdu to Shenzhen and didn't get to sleep until almost midnight. It's now ~5:30am and we have to get going again at 8:00am.

I spent the last day at PMI interviewing the production manager trying to figure out our electricity costs and production flow process for bottlenecks. However, I was still feeling sick from the hot pot dinner from Thursday and ended up lying down on the sofa in Leon's office, skipping both breakfast and dinner, debating whether to try to throw up to feel better. Ugh...

At ~2pm, Leon and I left PMI and headed to the airport to catch our 4:10pm flight. Traffic has gotten a lot worse in Chengdu since this time last year. It now takes about an hour to get to the factory from Jiaoda in the morning.

A temporary traffic light in the middle of the intersection. It wasn't there yesterday... and people are actually obeying it. Why can't they follow the regular traffic signals?

Bicycle/scooter traffic at a busy intersection. Again, they are the worst traffic offenders. Almost no one stops at smaller intersections regardless what the traffic light says. Every time I cross the street I'm in danger of being run down by bikes/scooters.

We took a shortcut through a gas station (along with about 100 cars). On the way out, I saw a lot of police and chengguan (city manager?), where normally they're nowhere to be seen. Turns out there was a protest at some government office next to the gas station. I saw banners that basically said their land was taken and now they have nothing to eat. Pretty typical land rights abuse by local officials but I've never seen a protest or mass incident in China before... too bad I didn't get a photo.

Typical behavior when traffic is backed up at an intersection. People would drive into oncoming lanes and try to squeeze back in at the front of the line. This only works when a few assh*les do this; if everyone pulled this stunt, the entire road gets congested and everybody loses. I experienced this one time and it took 30+ minutes to untangle the traffic mess.

On the way to the factory, we drive by a Porsche dealer. There was only one Panamera parked in front. About 5 minutes later, I saw one drive by... same color. They're pretty expensive even in the US; in China foreign made cars are taxed heavily and end up costing almost double.

When we get to the high-tech development zone, the traffic drops off significantly. There are only factories and schools here in this area. In front of each school are parked scores of three wheeled carts. These are much cheaper to ride than taxis (also much more dangerous) so a lot of students ride these instead. Interestingly, though our driver drives pretty aggressively in the city, out here he slows down for each intersection, even if we have the green light. With much less traffic, a lot of people drive fast and ignore all traffic signals. I've seen many close calls as cars and trucks run through red lights. You'd figure in a totalitarian state people would follow rules better.

On the way to the airport we saw a huge congregation of driving school cars outside our factory. They like to train students in the high-tech development zone because of the lack of other traffic. However, since they all come here, most of the traffic are student drivers. This probably makes driving here more risky for the rest of us.

Sure enough, around the corner we saw an accident. There was a motorcycle down in the middle of the intersection but we didn't see anyone injured. Typically when there's an accident in China, they don't move the vehicles involved but stand in the middle of the road arguing, thus blocking traffic and making it more dangerous for everyone else.

The other vehicle involved in the accident. Uh oh, white license plate (on a black Audi of course) means military. Maybe the motorcycle rider was "disappeared" already. Our driver told me to take a picture but he closed all the windows so they wouldn't see me... how exciting! He later told us that cars with military plates can do anything they want since they're outside all police jurisdiction. They run red traffic lights, double park anywhere, and drive as fast as they want. Often you find military plates on luxury cars too. Despite being the People's Republic of China, it's easy to see which group (military) holds all the power (not the people).

Okay, enough political ranting and back to boring travel stuff. After arriving at the airport and checking in, we found out that our flight was delayed for an hour. The waiting area for our flight was packed so we sat at another area. While we were waiting, this guy came over to ask me where he should wait for his flight. It turned out that he was on the same flight so he ended up following us for the next two hours (more delays). Leon was joking that I made a new friend.

Shenzhen Airport baggage carousel #6. The flight itself was uneventful. We overheard a flight attendant say that a typhoon was near Shenzhen and there would be a lot of rain. When we landed and walked across the tarmac, there was only a light sprinkle of rain.

After finding a taxi that would take us to our hotel (lots of lazy drivers that didn't want to take us), we met Leon's aunt and cousins. They were at the airport early to meet us but since our flight was delayed, they went to the hotel to wait. They treated us to dinner at the hotel restaurant. Leon's older cousin ordered a lot of food, including sea cucumber... which came in individual servings (one each). Yum!

He also ordered lobster sashimi. I usually don't eat sashimi but this was pretty good. They also ordered roasted dove, some pig intestine dish, and several more. I was still kinds of nauseous so I didn't eat that much. Dinner was expensive... I thought I saw his cousin count out 1400 RMB from a brick of red bills. He seems like a nice guy but definitely had a Chinese mafia feel about him.

Hotel room at the Langshan Hotel in Shenzhen. This hotel is definitely an upgrade from the RMB 138 room at the Fuyuan. We got a discounted rate through another PMI person and only paid RMB 288 per night, including breakfast. I'm here for two nights then off to Taipei.

Even though it's a nice hotel, there's still a lot of Chinglish. This is the fire evacuation notice on the room door.
Please don't worry if a fire is occuring, the hotel have owned succour scattering facilities to ensure you transmitted safely.

Dang, I've wasted an hour on this post. Time to take a short 30 minute nap and get up again.

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