I took a walking tour around Changping (where the hotel is) with Dixson. There's not much to see, but the riverfront park was kind of scenic, even though the river was black with muck.

On one of my last days there, Yuling took me on a tour of Qiautao (chow-tau, where the plant is). It was surprisingly scenic, with several parks, pagodas and a lotus pond.

More pictures of Changping and Qiaotau

Our hotel (the Hui Hua) is in the center of Changping, which is in the center of Doggguan County, surrounded by semi-rural countryside and several other small towns. The town its self is a tiny thing of a few square miles, with an ugly business district anchored by several big hotels and a shiny new highrise apartment across the road.

It's a compact little business district with a lot of restaurants and small stores within an easy walk from the hotel. But I hardly ever got out except when others were in town who were dying to see the sights. Those of us who have been there a while tended to grow tired of the beggers, hookers and honking horns clogging the streets, and the food and shopping wasn't nearly good enough to entice us into this mess.

But on my last weekend in China, I decided I wanted to take a hiking tour of the town, and in particular I wanted to pay a visit to Leichi Park on the east side. So on a hot steamy Saturday, Dixson and I took a hike down Changping Boulevard looking for this alleged park.

We walked about a mile east then turned left just before the train station, past the big outdoor produce market and past the bus station. But we didn't see any park. Instead, there was a big weed-choked field near the tracks where a village of locals lived in decrepit sheds and tended small plots of vegetables. A couple of badly worn out apartments bordered the west side of the park, where a high cement wall separated the sheds from the tenements, but it's not clear which side was being kept out.

A small trail led into the park where bedrolls were scattered under occasional trees - an obvious sign of a thriving homeless camp. We only went in a hundred yards before deciding this wasn't a fun place, then headed back to the bus station. At the park's edge we noticed two pieces of plywood standing in a V shape with a big pipe in the middle - a home made outhouse.

So we headed back toward town but followed the back streets this time. Zig zagging along a filthy canal through the dumpy part of town, we eventually came to the Changping River - a hundred yards wide with nice highrises to the west and a scenic park on the east. This is the dirtiest river I've ever seen. Garbage and oil lined the shore under the retaining wall, while farther out the inky black water looked more like pavement than a river. The stagnant water wasn't flowing anywhere, but just sat there reflecting the highrises on the far shore like an oily frying pan.

So we hoofed it back down Changping Boulevard in the steamy heat, but in reality this walk was more fun than it sounds. The scenic park and wide streets were good for walking and this is the prettier side of town where people actually smile.

My last day in China was a scheduled power outage at the plant, so Yuling took me on a tour of scenic Qiaotou. According to our translator, Qiaotou (chow-tow) means "end of the bridge". This presumable refers to the fact that we are beyond the thousands of bridges of the Pearl River Delta. This is the outskirts of Dongguan county, a fast growing industrial region where a lot of foreign companies have set up shop. Most of this town is new and they've made a point of putting in wide streets and occasional parks, which gives it a pleasant but bland appeal.

So we hopped on a bus and zoomed southward through Qiaotou, bucking traffic and running redlights just like all the other buses in China. On the south end of town we hopped off the bus at the entrance to a hilltop park, and started the long walk up. This part of China is loaded with woody hills, and quite a few have a pagoda at the top. This park is surrounded by a sizable woodland with a seven tier pagoda standing over it all.

The path started out with a moderate climb, then half way up turned into a paved stairway lined with benches for the weary. It was hot and steamy (August 1st) but most of this path was covered by the trees. We broke out of the trees at the top of the hill where a couple of street vendors were selling bottled water and snacks. In the center of the clearing was the huge pagoda.

The six tiers of this pagoda make a great observation tower, with a stairway spiraling up the inside and no walls to block the view. So we started up the stairs, working our way from one floor to the next, banging my head on the abnormally low ceiling of the stairwell. It was quite a workout in the muggy 95 95% steamroom but it didn't take long to get to the top.

And the views were great. Woody hills dotted the countryside in every direction, with apartments and factories of suburban Qiaotou filling the spaces between. Our hill was surrounded by trees with a giant lotus pond to the east. We were only about five miles from the plant but we couldn't find it to the north, though its hilltop pagoda should have been easy to spot.

We hiked back down the pagoda then down the path going north toward the lotus pond. A light rain started as we hiked through the trees, soaking us as we weaved down the hill to a small amusement park where we took cover in a big pavilion with a dozen pool and ping pong tables. We couldn't go anywhere for a while so we paid our dollar and spent an hour playing ping pong in the rain. I hadn't played in twenty years but I was able to split half of the games with Yuling, but neither of us could beat his girlfriend.

When the rain cleared we continued our hike across the road to the lotus pond. This is a huge thing, possibly a mile around with treelined walkways, boardwalks and park benches everywhere. It's more lotus than pond with the huge round leaves covering the shallow mud flat. The park was very pretty and popular with the locals and even included soothing music played from rock-shaped speakers.

It took nearly an hour to walk around the pond and by then it was getting late, so we had the driver pick us up and we headed back to the plant.

Later that day we had one more adventure. Yuling was taking the whole production line (about 15 people) out to dinner. So we all walked down the road and crossed the busy highway to a row of small businesses on the west side. A few doors down we found a small hole-in-the-wall place with no decor to speak of.

We piled on in, filling two big tables, then ordered twenty different dishes which were scattered on both tables for us to pick and choose at our whim. The place didn't even look like a real restaurant but the food was great. The fat bacon was so soft it fell apart when I tried to pick it up, and the chive and fungus salad was wonderful. I walked around with my plate to try some of the stuff from the other table and it was all pretty good.

Yuling set a few beers on each table but the shy girls were all afraid to try them. Dixson and I started working on the first bottle and eventually one of the girls tried a sip. And then slowly each of the other girls took a sip, and then all willpower went out the window. In no time at all, they were all banging glasses yelling "gum bay" (bottom up) at each other then they'd see who could chug the glass first.

This went back and forth on both tables: gum bay each other, gum bay Yuling, gum bay Dixson. Dixson was falling for it every time, chugging glass after glass, but when they'd gum bay to me I'd only take a sip. I'd drink enough to be sporting but I wasn't about to get drunk, like the rest of them. Most of these tiny girls were putting away more than me: 4 ft 10 Yu She'en downed a good bottle, and one of the taller girls seemed to be doing twice that, gum bay-ing everyone on the floor.

This went on for quite a while, but eventually we had to head home. We filed out the door, everybody holding each other's hand as they tried to cross the busy highway. They all made it across alive, but tomorrow is another story - they'll have to get up early and go to work.

Dongguan China 2007       A hiking tour of the local towns Changping and Qiautao where the hotel and plant are.
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