This month I had the pleasure and experience of visiting the People's Republic of China. It was a combination of business - visiting our stone manufacturing facilities- and pleasure, visiting friends.
On October 2nd after traveling more than 8,400 miles, I stepped off a Boeing 747 onto Hong Kong International Airport to change planes. I've been lucky to travel extensively throughout my life and career, but a 20 hour flight and a 12-hour time difference resulted in one of the most grueling travel experiences.
Security, something that Americans are now getting more used to since the awful events of 2001, was incredibly tight, with various levels of security checks including a point where you have to stand still for three seconds and stare into an infra-red camera.
Finally, after I'd been up for 36 hours straight, I landed in Xiamen. Xiamen is an island city situated on the south east tip. With a population of slightly over two million, it is regarded as "the most agreeable city in China." The port ranks among the country's top ten and it boasts a modern airport that has become a major aviation hub. It has a bustling economy, thanks to its designation as one of several Special Economic Zones in China and the large amount of foreign investment that the hub is known for.
After the grueling journey, I was exhausted but glad to see my friends waiting to pick me up at Xiamen airport. They drove me to the luxury that is the Sofitel Hotel in Xiamen. By then, I urgently needed a rest, and I wasn't disappointed. The hotel's standards were incredibly high with impeccably crisp and clean rooms that would be inviting to any traveler, but especially so to such a weary one!
My whole experience was a mixture of the unusual and the out-of-context, including an Italian meal in Xiamen. As an Italian-American, I have a deep love and appreciation of Italian food - though the meal itself seemed to be lacking in the 'Italian' aspect, aside from the Chianti Classico, which was authentic.
Meanwhile, my temporary 'base' of the Sofitel with its slick service and presentation, reflects my overall impression of the People's Republic of China. As a visitor, I found every part of the country that I visited to be immaculately organized and business-like. Any service was like clockwork, and while smiling and welcoming, there was a work ethic that seems to pervade every person. There was a constant sense of control and management, which, as a business person, I can fully appreciate.
My meetings were fruitful - details of those to follow in my next post - and the time I spent with my friends was unforgettable.
The worst bit? The jet lag, both on the journey out and returning home, took its toll, with my body taking days to catch up. Visiting China made me feel like I'd really traveled!
Labels: China, Hospitality, travel