The Final Days: Dongguan

Dongguan: Final Day 1

Bared window on a bare concrete wall.

Nicole made bacon and eggs for breakfast. Chinese bacon is a lot fattier than Canadian bacon. It was tasty but left me feeling a little ill.

We took a taxi to Nicole’s school in the afternoon. The father of the school’s owner kindly lent us his bike and key to the school to pick up Nicole’s bike which she had stored there. He invited us in for tea and lunch but we graciously declined. We then biked (well, I biked, Nicole was on her roller blades) along the canal and through the city square to the Pullman Hotel.

One of Nicole’s friends was living at the Pullman Hotel in Dongguan and had offered us access to the pool. We thought it would be the perfect thing to do on a lazy day in Dongguan!

The hotel was very swanky, especially in comparison to the places we’d been staying the past few days! The staff were very abiding and checked Nicole’s bike and roller blades for her. There were multiple pools. We choose the one outside that was surrounded by palm trees. I went for a short swim with my parasol to protect me from the sun. There were butterflies and dragonflies flying overhead with the sound of falling water and guitar music to enjoy.

To our delight, the hotel had VPN Internet. So Nicole left me to check Facebook while she went on a beer run to the depanneur. She returned with 4 Tsingtao, prawn chips, cucumber flavored lays, and an unknown three dimensional chip. We didn’t have a bottle opener, so Nicole went inside and asked staff to open them for us. To my surprise, they obliged! I feel like that sort of thing would never be allowed at a 5 star hotel in North America.

There was a naked boy swimming in the pool who eventually joined his grandmother to eat sugar cane in the shade. After they left, two men came to sunbathe. One wore a Speedo in the Italian colours with ‘Italy’ written across the back and the other rolled up his swim shorts listening to music on his iPad. A group of four young boys came to play in the pool, followed by their family. It was a quiet but active place!

Around 3:00, we went inside to use the sauna before heading over the the tailors to pick up my suit and blouses. The blouses looked very nice, but gathered a bit in areas as they weren’t made in the same material as the Theory blouse I’d brought to be copied. The blazer fit nicely, but the pleats in the back fell funny and the seamstress had put big faceted buttons on it. The pants looked like they belonged in a marching band. They were really big in the hips and front, and sort of tapered in. I couldn’t wear this to a job interview!

Nicole helped me communicate to the seamstress we needed standard buttons, and that the pleats and pants needed alteration. While I stood for the tailor to write on the garment with chalk, my vision went funny and I felt dizzy. Nicole encouraged me to stay standing until the tailor had finished, then I finally sat down, feeling really weird. Nicole gave me water and once we left, we walked my bike for awhile before getting back on. We guessed it must have been the combination of the pool activities and the sauna.

Nicole took me out to the local Indian restaurant, Little India, for a change of food for dinner. We ordered my favourite: saag paneer, a vegetable dish, naan, and butter chicken. The naan and butter chicken were very different than I’d had before. The naan was condensed and the butter chicken had a very different taste and texture than I was used to.

The restaurant had Bollywood music videos on the television. They were very interesting to watch with the English subtitles below. They were all about drugs, love, espionage, and alcohol with very lavish sets and choreography. I am getting such a kick out of foreign television.

We met Nicole’s friends at an Irish pub nearby for a drink. Although it was a Saturday, there was only about ten people there. The didn’t have bijou, which I had yet to try, or the Brazilian or Chinese cocktails I asked for from the menu, so the bar maid made me a ‘surprise’ cocktail instead. Nicole and I could not figure out what was in it.

To my great amusement, this Irish bar in China had poutine on the menu. I of course had to order it! It was nothing like real poutine however. It was a Southern gravy sauce with cheese on potato wedge fries. It was satisfying though!

interior of a Chinese nightclub

Nicole wanted to show me a couple nightclubs in China, as they were very different to the ones we went to in Montreal. The first one we went to wasn’t busy, so then we went to one across the street… and it as crazy! The entrance was all these laser beams and inside we found a mass of people bathed in red light. There was a female DJ in front of a huge screen of psychedelic videos, a cat walk with dancers, and people playing dice games at every table. We went up on the catwalk to dance and were instantly embraced by a group of girls screaming “We love you!” who danced with us for 2 minutes before leaving us for someone else.

Soon after, the security guards started clearing the dance floor for a performance. Nicole told me that Chinese nightclubs had multiple shows every night of the week. This one was a Tron themed dance piece to dub step with the dancers wearing futuristic suits that lit-up with sunglasses and gloves that shot lasers out into the smoke of the room.

The Tron inspired piece was followed by a fashion show with the Ukrainian ‘party girls and boys’ Nicole had told me about. Apparently a lot of people from Ukraine come to work at the clubs to do shows or stand around and look pretty. These Ukrainians walked up and down the catwalk in various skimpy outfits that glowed in UV light, reminding me more of a drag queen show or male model underwear competition than anything else. The people around the stage loved it and everyone were taking pictures and video with their phones.

After the show, Nicole and I decided to go check out another club. The show at this one had just ended and the Ukrainians girls were just coming off the stage wearing little black dresses. We got on the catwalk to dance and a Chinese girl full of glee immediately came to dance with us. Her male friends soon came to join her and soon edged their way to us to dance. I didn’t quite know what to do- guys never try to dance with me at home! Either I went to clubs that I didn’t fit the aesthetic for or went to dance bars where everyone just danced in a circle amongst their friends or by themselves. I have no idea how to dance with other people and I felt incredibly awkward even though I knew they meant nothing by it.

I made an escape to the bar to get some water. Nicole followed and we were handed two cups of boiled water, still warm. We went to sit in the lobby where it was quiet. A tall Chinese man who was obviously drunk came out to talk to us in English, saying he enjoyed watching us dance and asked where we were from. After the standard pleasantries, we somehow got in a conversation about the future of China and Chinese politics. It was very interesting to hear him talk about his fears for the future of China with its lack of human rights. I asked what he thought a possible solution could be and he whispered in my ear “Revolution.” I then asked if he knew of Ai Wei Wei as he was having a large show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, but he did not.

Then the conversation took an unexpected turn. It had been intellectual with not a hint of flirtation or disrespect when he asked out of the blue, “Will you have sex with me?” I was shocked! I politely declined saying I had a boyfriend. He then asked if we could make-out to which I laughed, saying “No! I have a boyfriend!” He then leaned over to Nicole who had been on her phone during this and asked her “Do you want to have sex?” And Nicole went straight into teacher mode.

“That is a very impolite question to ask. You do not ask women that type of question.” She then asked him what he asked Chinese girls when he wanted to go home with him. He struggled with an answer, eventually saying “I ask it they want to go out with me… My place, their place, or a hotel.” Nicole then explained that it is similar with Canadian girls. You just let things happen or ask “Do you want to get out of here?”

The three of us then had a conversation about culture and once Nicole and I had finished our glasses of water, we said a cheerful goodbye and went home, giggling to ourselves.

Dongguan: Final Day 2

Sunday was a warm and sunny day. We started off our day by going into all 4 banks around Nicole’s apartment trying to draw money out with my CIBC debit card. However, none of them would take my card even though it had the VISA attribute. We eventually figured out that not all “Cash Recycling Machines” were ATMs and found an ATM that would take my card. Finally I had money again!

We went to Tommy Boy Coffee to sit outside with our bike and roller blades. They didn’t have ginger honey milk tea, but had sesame milk tea, coffee jelly milk tea, and brown sugar mango smoothies! I ordered a wheat flavoured red bean smoothie and Nicole got a peanut smoothie. Both our drinks were really yummy!

After we had finished our drinks, we went to the tailors to pick up my suit. The pleats sat much better than they did yesterday and the seamstress had changed the buttons to a more standard choice. The pants fitted better too but still looked a bit funny. However, I wasn’t about to get them to change them again, especially as I left for Hong Kong in the morning, so paid for them and went to the park.

The park was one of Nicole’s favourite parts of the city. It indeed was beautiful, with palm trees, a green pond, and bamboo. I hadn’t seen a temple during my trip in China yet, so we went to the temple that was in the park. I was surprised how big it was and how many people were there, lighting incense and candles, and paying their respects.

Dog sleeping on stone steps in the sun.

It was a beautiful temple. The roofs were made of cobalt blue and bamboo green glazed tiles with flowers engraved in them. There were painting on the wall in the old section of the temple with a friendly dog snoozing on the steps in the sun. It was a very peaceful place.

It was my first time visiting a temple outside of North America, as I had been to Buddhist temples in Canada and the States before. However, this one, as one would expect, was very different. Firstly, I found it fascinating how well attending this temple was in comparison to places of worship back home in Canada. The temple and its courtyard had a fairly consistent trickle of people leaving offerings. Everywhere I went, there were people!

Cobalt blue tile roof and telephone wires.

After the park, Nicole took me to the South China International Hotel to buy my bus ticket to Hong Kong. It cost 120¥ and would drop me off at the subway line which I could take to my hotel. I was excited!

Nicole and I then went home to wait for her friend, Fly, to drop off her cat, Milo, who he had been cat-sitting while we’d been away. While we waited, I packed, having great trouble fitting everything in my knapsack. We deemed I’d need a second carry-on bag.

Nicole’s friends were going out for a massage that afternoon, so after Milo came home, we went to meet them. The massage centre they went to was the whole top floor of a mall. Like many places in China, it had elaborate interior decoration that had fallen victim to disrepair and grime. You could tell it had been quite nice at one point within the last ten years.

As it was the National Holiday, many of the masseuses were away, so we couldn’t get Nicole’s friends’ all-time favourite, the foot massage, or the massage pedicure that appealed to Nicole and I after our travels. Instead, we opted for the Chinese medical massage. None of us knew what this would entail.

We were led into a room with four chairs- one for each of us. There was a TV with a Chinese news program on and A/C. We each ordered a complimentary drink and waited for our masseuses. They filed in one by one, smiling and greeting us in Cantonese, wearing lab coats.

The massage involved much more pressure than any of us had experienced in a massage before. They started with your head and worked your way down. It was painful at times but still felt good. It was great to have all the knots in my back and neck worked out after carrying a backpack and bus travel! The most painful parts were the sides of my hips and upper arms- who would have thought! My right thumb also started to go numb during the calf massage which was interesting.

The massage was an hour and afterwards I started to wonder how I could move to China so I could have massages every week like Nicole and her friends. It felt so good… and so cheap!

After our massage, we all went to a nice Chinese restaurant for dinner. Nicole wanted me to eat some unusual Chinese dishes before I left, so we ordered a black rice pancake, jelly fish, and tiny shrimp in their shell. I liked the black rice pancake best! It was yummy.

We went to Walmart after dinner were I got a little carry-on luggage piece and some Chinese candy to bring home as souvenirs. We went home where I finished packing before sitting down to watch the Canadian romantic comedy, My Awkward Sexual Adventure. It was an entertaining film – so we ended our last day together in China with many laughs.

  • Photos taken and post written on an iPhone 4S.

One Reply to “The Final Days: Dongguan”

  1. Nell I am probably more sorry than you that your trip has come to an end… I have enjoyed every morsel of food and every breath taking scene you and Nicole took in. So very happy you write so very well. Stay safe on your jouney home… !

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