Today was a first for my business trips to China. A day not spent working, but sightseeing with my colleagues. Some background. I planned this meeting last winter as a chance to get our global team together. We’ve been lucky enough to meet each of the last two years in Minnesota. But unfortunately, only one of the team from China has been able to attend. I was hoping that by holding the meeting here, we could get the 2 engineers, and the 2 saleswomen (yes, sales WOMEN in China, I run a progressive group) to attend as well as the country manager. So we planned the meeting for an amazing resort hotel, that cost a princely $59/night, right near our main subcontract factory in Dongguan China. This is like planning a sales meeting in Pascagoula, Mississippi across from the fish rendering plant. Business/Adventure travel.
Anyhow, my colleagues here planned the last day of our meeting to be a group sightseeing expedition, to a UNESCO world heritage site about 3 hours drive away from here. The Kaiping Villages are very unique. They were home to many expatriate Chinese, who emmigrated to foreign countries from the Pearl River Delta area, during the 19th, and 20th century. Leaving behind their families, to a country that was unstable and lawless at the time, they sent home money and constructed what is best described as “castle towers” for their families to live in. Built in a western style using materials shipped back from the West, they look like little “keeps” from the Italian countryside, not like something you’d see in a rice paddy in Southern China. The windows and doors were heavily fortified to keep out theives and bandits. Most of these men had 2, 3 or even 4 wives living in China in these family compounds. What I find most amazing, is that they are still family owned. Many still belong to foreign Chinese who only visit on occasion. The ones we toured were donated to the Government by the families that owned them, to be preserved as museums.
Enough words, lets show some pictures!
But that’s one of the more “normal” looking of the Dialou houses. Here’s a more typical example of some…
This shot is one of my favorites…
This one is taken from the upper porch of the home on the right…
There are even urban areas built in the Dialou style. This is a tidal river in the delta. Reminds me of Florence.
Did I mention it was hot? My god, I just about melted. Even my Chinese friends were complaining. Jeepers its hot here in August. Whose idea was it to hold a meeting here?
Oh yeah, right. Anyway, after sightseeing we left the clear air (yes, you heard me clear air!) and headed back to Dongguan. Within an hour my throat was burning again from the pollution. This was to be our last night together, and time for the traditional farewell dinner. They had planned a special location for dinner. A restaurant on stilts overlooking the Humen Bridge, and the Pearl River, in the city of Humen.
You will be surprised to know the specialty was seafood. But not just any seafood. Chinese seafood. Or as we call it in Minnesota, “Bait”.
OK, those white things in the tub were earthworms as thick as your thumb. The little back things were some type of swimming beetle about the size of a half dollar. And the other stuff was… well, does it really matter? After worms everything else is pretty much a let down. Suffice to say there was every imaginable crustacean, and squirmy thing that swims in the river delta.
And there was also alcohol thankfully. In fact, Mao Tai made an appearance. This time we were among friends, and there was much toasting, and picture taking. Laughter, and camraderie all around. And for one evening we were not 4 Hong Kong Chinese, 3 Americans, a Japanese, a Belgian, and a girl from Shanghai, but one team. It was enough to bring a tear to the eye of this sentimental old fool. Or maybe it was the Mao Tai. In any case, when we loaded back into the mini bus for the drive back to the Hotel, and good byes, I decided the time had come to pick up the karaoke mike, and serenade the team. (Yes, the mini-bus came with on board karakoe)
I sang John Denver a-Capella (that’s Latin for poorly) With a slight twist…
Almost heaven, Dongguan China
Kaiping Village, Pearl River Delta…
Life is old there, older than the trees,
older than the mountains, rolling like a breeze,
Country road, take me home, to the place, where I belong,
Dongguan, China, mountain-mama,
take me home country road…
It brought down the house.