Thursday, February 17, 2011


The first part of this was written a few weeks ago in China:

Last week I went to China to visit our factory located in Nanhai, which is about 45 minutes drive from Foshan. Foshan is near the mega city of Guangzhou in Southeastern, China. It’s also not far from Hong Kong and the scenic way to come is to take the ferry from Hong Kong up the Pearl River and then a car for about an hour to reach the factory. I was coming from Bangkok though and the easiest way was to fly into Guangzhou and where a car picked me up and took me the new Intercontinental Hotel in Foshan. I have a nice room on the 31st floor overlooking a park with an artificial lake. But you can’t see much beyond that because of the smog, most of which I am told is generated by the huge ceramic tile industries in this area. 

Smoggy view f/ the room

Our factory is small by comparison to the ceramic factories. 
A view of the Tai Ping factory in Nanhai

We make Axminster woven carpets for the hospitality industry (mostly hotels and restaurants) and public spaces like airports and theatres and high-end hand-tufted rugs for residences, boutiques, private planes, as well as public spaces and hotels. They are made with tufting guns that look like oversized drills and that shoot yarn into a canvas like substrate. 

The hand-tufted rugs can be like artwork for the floor – think of painting with yarns of wool and silk instead of paint. It’s more craft than industry. The (mostly) women who make them require 3 to 4 years of experience to be able to make the more complicated ones. Then they are hand-sheared and carved by other craftspeople and the finished rug is a thing of beauty – and usually one of a kind.

Somewhat surreally, at lest in my mind, the hotel has a Brazilian steakhouse restaurant (a chrascaria tipo rodízio where different types of meat are grilled over an open flame)). The chef is a mineiro (someone from the state of Minas Gerais where I grew up) and we had a good chat. He’s done a pretty good job of finding ingredients to create some of the regional specialties and his picanha, a particular Brazilian cut of beef, was most excellent. I enjoyed the taste of Brazil in China, especially since there are no Brazilian restaurants in Bangkok. I know: what about Chinese food? I can get good Chinese in Bangkok and will certainly have that opportunity here in Foshan before I leave.
Somewhere along the way, I suspect lunch at the company canteen although none of my lunch companions who had the same food suffered (but as was pointed out – they are Indian and “can eat anything with impunity), I picked up some intestinal plague that keep me up and miserable most of the night and following morning. My normal hardcore remedy of Imodium, even in a double dose, had no effect. Fortunately a British colleague, MJ, who lives and works here came to my rescue: he sent me some Norfloxacin capsules which he swears by from his days of living in India and I have started feeling better although weak from the experience and not eating. I hate not eating and not even wanting to eat. I should be fully recovered by tomorrow night in time for the commemorative factory dinner, which will be held outside despite temps in the high 40s at night. Oh, the factory is not heated – neither manufacturing areas nor offices so I guess the Chinese are made of sterner stuff than me. I was cold yesterday at least until the afternoon where some of the sun’s warmth had worked its way into the buildings. A colleague from Bangkok visited some factories in Northern China last week and despite temps well below freezing they were not heated. She nearly froze. So it’s not so bad here. Anyway the dinner is to commemorate the end of the year and the start of the Chinese New Year holiday when everyone takes two weeks off and the country – or at least industry – takes a holiday. Most of the factory workers come from villages in the countryside, often many miles away and they all travel back to visit family. Sometimes they don’t come back either for social reasons or because they find something closer to home. The company provides dormitories located right next to the factory for the workforce and also provides free meals at the company canteen so in a way it’s easy to pick up and move.

Feeling much better after the medicine from MJ, I enjoyed the next day and particularly the factory's festive Chinese New Year celebration. Here are some images from the event.

Starting the party

One of the dragon (or lion?) dancers

It's the year of the rabbit. These kids were cute.

Our table: I'm about in the middle of the group. We didn't stay seated for long.

Some of the food 

Awards were given and drawings for gifts went on throughout the evening.

There were dancing girls (and guys too but mostly girls)

More dancing: most of the performers, except the kids, work at the factory. There was singing and a comedy skit too. The MC (not pictured) had an amazing voice although I had no idea what he was saying.

Balloons, bubbles and an almost full moon

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