China and the Cookbook

18 August 2010

Well, where do I start? What an experience!

I had no idea what to expect from China– my perception was that it is the most powerful country in the world, has the largest population in the world, is the number one for technology, yes?

Well, where do I start? What an experience!

I had no idea what to expect from China– my perception was that it is the most powerful country in the world, has the largest population in the world, is the number one for technology, yes?

My colleague and I went to Guangzhou the third biggest city in China, where we were received by Belinda and Ricky from Heschan Ching Luen Printing Co.Ltd one of the biggest printing companies in the country.

An hour and 45 minutes from leaving the airport, we arrived at our 5 star hotel...or 4 star hotel, or not sure it would even pass as 3 star in any other country. From our arrival there is no one there that speaks English; the lobby is dark, and stinks of cold tobacco and there was no air-conditioning. We checked into our respective rooms which were full of ashtrays – eight to be precise in mine and the room stinks of cold tobacco again. There’s no hot water only warm, there’s no English TV channels, no in house movies and no mini bar.
I went to bed every night and woke up in the morning feeling like I’d smoked a packet of cigarettes. Then breakfast...well we are back in the 70’s, with a buffet of bain-marie warm stews, warm congee, noodles and dim sin not – even close to be edible.

But we were there for the book printing, which was in a massive building with over 1000 employees, with amazing machinery. But I wasn’t too sure about the working conditions, it is 38 degree outside, and so much hotter inside.
We are taken for Yum Cha, okay food but nothing spectacular. Back to the printing and we are just about to start one of the biggest pre-sold books 60,000 which is approx 13 million pages. We spent most of the day approving the beginning of the 15 press checks. Each press check is 16 pages long and it took 8 hours to print 60,000 pages of each page. Then we are printing 3 different covers for the book for 3 different corporations. The whole experience is quiet complex and technical but exciting.

During each press check we are in the waiting room, full of smoke of course, reading books, checking emails and taking calls from Australia.
The place was full of workers with their clients and we are like royalty and our suppliers treat us with foot massages for 90 minutes and people are constantly surrounding us to help us. It is unbelievable how cheap everything is, dinner for 5 people with over 7 to 8 dishes, beer, teas and fruit for less than 30 dollars.

Every time we are taken from the hotel to the printing place the trip is just overwhelming, millions of scooters, bikes with up to 3 people per bike, no stopping at intersections – it is a jungle. All the building are falling apart like it was the aftermath of the war, it’s crazy, all, I repeat, all, the buildings are in complete deterioration. Most of them are abandoned. It’s like we are in the third world country – I was completely shocked.

Next day we were lucky to visit a food market that not many foreigners go to, we could even have been the first, what an eye opener it was, I have never seen anything like it. The hygiene is just non-existent. Fish are on the floor, the butcher is cutting meat with a cigarette in this mouth, their chopping boards are dirty/disgusting and we saw chickens and ducks, killed and butchered in front of us. There are cats, rabbits, snakes everything that is alive is at the market ready to be killed, chopped and purchased. It is 38 degrees and there is no refrigeration, coolers, ice, nothing. All the people are staring at us, some giving us dirty looks, some are amused and some are quiet entertained to see me taking photos. It was so dirty and smelly it was revolting but also something that I would have never expected to see in my life.

So after 6 days what did I think of China? I am confused, little bit depressed and very appreciative of what I’ve got in Australia. Does it mean they are not happy? Well maybe they are more satisfied than us, there is no stress, no financial pressure, no mortgage, phones are free, there is limited electricity and they dress extremely simply.
Would I return to China? I don’t think so.