In December of 2016, I traveled to China and Singapore for work. This blog post will not say much about work, but will be a recap of the sightseeing we did on the weekend and evenings.
Eva dropped me off at the airport early in the morning for the first leg of my flight to San Fransisco. There was a 2 hour layover in SFO, but I was able to wait in the China Eastern Airlines VIP lounge. I was able to fly in business class where the seats were like little cubicles and the seat unfolded into a bed. It was pretty comfortable. I watched several movies and was able to sleep for about 4 hours of the 12 hour flight. I arrived at the Shanghai Airport at 6:30 pm where a driver pick me up for the 2 hour drive to Suzhou. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Crowne Plaza hotel, they did not have a reservation for me. I had assumed the manufacturing plant was going to make the reservations, but they assumed I would make the reservations. There were no extra rooms for that night, so I had to walk next door to the Lamborghini Hotel. It was a very nice hotel with a Lamborghini parked in the lobby. I was able to get a 3 room suite for $100/night.
We spent 2 days at the Suzhou plant with the plant manager and staff presenting their budgets and strategic plans. We also spent time touring the plant and talking to the people. China has changed a lot since I was there in 1992. Everything is much more modern and clean. It was really like most other large cities, except for the air pollution. It was so bad that you could not see more than ¼ mile before the view was fully blocked due to the smog. The population is so high is this part of the world. There was very little open space between Suzhou and Shanghi. It was like one large city. There is over 35 million people living in the area.
Later that night we had a large dinner at the hotel with people from all three China plants. They had a Chinese Opera show going as we ate. It was interesting, but we did not understand any of it.
The Chinese meal were just a lot of different dishes that were placed on the Lazy Susan in the middle of the table. You just rotated it around and took what you wanted. There was a lot of food, more than what we could eat. The Chinese natives at our table would translate to tell us what each dish was. It was mostly chicken and pork dishes, but I also ate duck tongue and drank corn juice. Neither were very good, but I wanted to try it.
On the weekend we flew from Shanghai to Xi’an. It was a couple hour flight. Unfortunately, Xi’an was just as polluted as Shanghai. Xi’an is pronouced Sian and is the capital of Shaanxi Province. It is one of the oldest cities in China and one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals. Xi’an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
We first went to the world heritage site of Terracotta Army Museum and spent much of the day there. The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife.
The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BC, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits near Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.
The main excavation area was in a huge building. There was one pit where they have uncovered 2000 statues. It was quite impressive. There were several other buildings where other excavations had taken place. There were also sculptures that had been removed from the pits and restored, so you could get a good look at them.
As we were leaving the museum a street peddler wouldn’t leave me alone and he followed me for a couple of hundred yards. I bought a box of 5 little soldiers from him. He started at 20 RMB for each and I ended up buying the 5 for 30 RMB (about $0.70 USD).
After the Terracotta Army we went to the emperor’s winter palace at Huaqing Hot Springs. There were a lot of hot springs and baths that have been used for centuries. The palace was build around 300 BC. We rode a tramway to the top of the mountain, but the pollution was so bad, we could not see anything.
After driving back to Xi’an we stopped at the old wall that surrounded the city. This wall is similar to the Great Wall of China, but only about 25 miles long. It was built around 600 AD. We walked to the top of the wall and rented bikes and rode around for about 1.5 hours. It was pretty smoggy so we wore masks like many of the other people. While we were biking Chinese guy stopped me and took a selfie picture of me and him. Later we saw him again and John Lim asked why he took my picture. He said it was because he thought I was such a handsome man.
We ate at the hotel and then John Lim and I took a taxi to the open market area and walked around for an hour. I bought a few things for Eva and the kids.
From Xi’an, we flew to Shanghai and then to Singapore. We had a few days planned to visit their manufacturing plant for the budgeting and strategic meetings. In the evening we had group dinner a the fanciest and largest buffet restaurant that I have ever been to. It also happened to be Eva and mine 30th wedding anniversary. I sat by James Hui, who was the Singapore plant manager. He had also been married 30 years, but his was an arranged wedding and the first time he saw his wife was on their wedding day. They have 2 boys now and have been very happy.
The next day after work, I walked down to the shopping district to watch the street performers and see the Christmas Decorations in the city. It was a little strange to see Christmas decorations when the weather was 80 deg and humid. The next morning I boarded the plane for my 20 hours of travel to get home before Christmas.