Sunday, July 24, 2011

Guangzhou- Where shopping is literally a way of life

I often wonder if Mao is spinning in his grave with such velocity that the Chinese could harness it as a power source. There seems to be no country that has become more driven by consumer markets than China...well aside from the US, which supplies much of the demand, but still it's a far cry from some communist utopia. Now this isn't to say that China is some market driven utopia either, their construction policies are clearly centrally planned, and market demands would never create a city like what I just saw in Guangzhou, as I think occupancy rates are under 40% in most of these buildings. Despite this you can't help but be impressed with the engineering and the layout of this modern city in China.

View from outside my hotel 

This was my first visit to mainland China, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Despite there being a very large language gap, as almost no one speaks English and hand gestures are more useless than normal, the cultural divide didn't seem to be nearly as large as that of south Asia, and possibly even south east Asia. Large sprawling modern city layouts, shared sense of common courtesy, and a daily schedule that started well before 10am were all things that made China a more familiar ground than Nepal or India. The lack of trash and relatively clean air (even if it was oppressively hot and humid) was also a nice contrast to what I have become accustomed to. Even the sporting events being covered or advertised were American baseball, basketball and Olympic style swimming events, all things that are much more interesting to me than cricket.

Beautiful park and tower built for the Asian Games

What most stood out to me though was the feeling that you were in a very modern new city. You could see it in the engineering, the building layout, the designs that took into account modern technology, the way the parks were layered with roads and pedestrian bridges and tunnels. Some of the larger buildings and towers supplied a great contrast to the leafy boulevards and it was easy to arrive in the city and believe you were seeing the future. I think that might be a bit mature, as it became increasingly clear over the course of my stay that development was far outpacing demand, and that will at some point create a devastating bursting bubble for China. All that said, you can't ignore how far the country seems to have come.

 The real reason I was in China

As interesting as the city and culture were to me, my purpose in China had little to do with tourism, I was there to buy stuff for the restaurant, and this was definitely the place to go. Around the city were what can only be described as sub-cities that specialized in a type of product. So one day we went to a city that was one giant show room after another selling furnishings, and maybe then you could drive an hour and be in the city of warehouses and show rooms that sold kitchen equipment and dishware. Quantity was only a problem sometimes if you wanted too few, unlike Nepal where you often have to go to several locations to get enough.  The above pictures shows one of the oven units we got, which even after shipping , taxes and customs will be over a third cheaper than if we had bought it in Nepal. Other items. like the salamander and deep fryer are not available here, and would have had to have been imported some other way. I was really excited to be able to get the kitchen equipment we got at the price we got. I had honestly been afraid that the kitchen might end up over budget, now we are running under budget by a decent margin.

Glasses for the restaurant 

Glasses and dishware were also found in quantity and the selection was enormous. Better still because our agent has a decent relationship with the supplier and there are containers regularly coming this way we'll be able to order replacements at reasonable prices. With glassware we found that a certain amount that we selected was actually American made, and the quality difference really did show. American glassware consisted of much clearer glass, less bubbles & blemishes, and the stemware was sturdy but much thinner. The cost for this quality showed though as well, and the price was usually 4x the Chinese price. Now if I were putting together a fine dining establishment I would have insisted on the American made glassware, but as we are doing a more midrange bar style restaurant, I did swap a few items to the cheaper Chinese options. I just couldn't care enough about the look of a shot glass to pay that much more. Others, like the Margarita glasses, were harder to justify because the shape of the Chinese versions was a bit off. 

One street in "furniture city"

By the end of our shopping we had purchased the better part of all our kitchen equipment, pots, pans, cooking utensils, cutlery, dishware, furniture, outdoor furniture, awnings, and glassware. It's hard to say exactly how much we saved by going there until we get the customs and transport charges calculated exactly but I'd wager we saved at least 30% even after all of those fees, and got better products on top of it. I was also really intrigued by what I did get a chance to see and would really like to go back some time at a more relaxed pace. Several people in the area we were staying that were originally from Hong Kong explained to me that they were starving for good Western food over there. So who knows, maybe Guangzhou will be our next location for a Brian's Grill House!

1 comment:

  1. When visiting the Guangzhou area you must try the cured meat called the Canton Province Bacon. Wash this down with a Zhujiang Beer which gets it name because of the Pearl River which flows through the city.


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