The time has come to do some work. After over half a year of bumming around, it was time to put on a pair of slacks and a nice shirt and become a useful member of society. Weronika’s brother and his wife are here to meet with some suppliers of lamps, and we are there to help translate and negotiate.
The first stop was Zhongshen, a huge city with a population over a million people that we have never heard of before. This is the lamp producing capital of the world, and just the place you want to be if you need to source some lighting equipment.
The taxi driver had a hard time finding a cheap hotel, and eventually brought us to a place with rooms for 168 yuan (about US$26) per night. While not cheap, this was a very modern room, with a kitchenette, nice furniture, balcony, and a huge lap pool on premises. It felt strange walking into a place like this wearing a t-shirt and a big dirty backpack.
Every day, we had a meeting with a different company. Each morning, they would pick us up in a car and we would spent a good part of the day walking around showrooms, negotiating quality issues and prices, and looking for new designs. After work was done, they would take us out to dinner. We had a chance to sample some local dishes without having to risk navigating a Chinese food menu. One company even took us out for a tremendously relaxing massage.
This is the area of China where most manufacturing happens. This is where supposedly all the sweat shops and forced labor conditions exist. However, we saw none of that. And it was not even only at the companies where we had appointments. We walked in the streets and passed countless factories, assembly shops, metal works, and glass blowers. Everywhere, people are working, but the atmosphere seems fairly relaxed. It is true that factories have their own apartment blocks where people come to live and work. However, from what we saw, things do not seem not as horrible as they are made out to be in the western world.
With the factory visits behind us, we now have a few days for sightseeing. We are heading off 700km to Yangshuo to see some amazing limestone karst formations towering over rural landscapes. The sights there are so spectacular that they have put a vista on the back of the 20 yuan note.