Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

The big Zhuhai shopping adventure!

A few weeks ago Francie and I were invited by one of our Mandarin classmates to her house for drinks. They had a great place with lots of decorations from various parts of Asia including a number of pieces of Chinese antique furniture. They pointed out that this cool dresser only had cost around $250 USD.

Cool furniture for cheap! We were hooked and then, as Francie says, the hilarity ensued.
We began to do some internet searches on the towns, Zhuhai & Zhongshan, where they had purchased the antiques. We then found this great article in the International Tribune Herald that discussed individuals and tours that are traveling directly to Zhuhai to purchase furniture and ship it back home.

So, we arranged to go to Macau, re-enter China, and finally check out Zhuhai’s furniture district. First, however, we researched prices in Hong Kong and Macau for comparison (at the end of this post I will detail that info for anyone doing future searches on buying furniture in China).

We ended up hooking up with our friend’s contact in Zhuhai (Rui Xiang Hang Antique Furniture) and she showed us the three showrooms (about 5 floors worth–a LOT of furniture).

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We saw some great pieces like these:

This is a Apocathary Chest that was used several hundred years ago to store medicines. The Chinese characters around each handle is the name of the medicine in that drawer. There were lots of these chests that ranged in color and shape and size.

Chest for medicines

Here is a cabinet that we ended up buying for about 210 USD (1600 RMB).

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We also bought several of these Tibetian boxes.

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We also looked closely at these shelves but decided that they were just too big to ship back.

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We did decide on this green Apocathary Chest (as well as few other smaller things). This chest was older and cost 200 USD (1500 RMB).

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Finally we got a tour of the worshop were a lot of the restoration takes place.

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After working with the company to ship stuff back to the States we caught a flight to Shanghai. Now we know a lot more about cubic meters, shipping containers, fumigation costs and asking your friends to drive down to the port to pick stuff up for you (thanks Ed and Olivier).

So, this trip continues to turn out to be part travel and part shopping for the Greg and Francie dynamic duo–I think we have sent about 11 boxes back to my aunt’s house (and that is just stuff for us). Francie and I have made a pact not to purchase anything else for the rest of the trip. ūüėČ We will see how that goes…

As many of you know, I love data and here is some information for future Zhuhai shoppers so that you can start out better prepared than we were.

We actually stayed in Zhuhai but traveled to Zhongshan (30 minutes away) to the Guhe Antique Furniture Market to the showrooms. We only went to the first place listed below but we have some other contact info for you as well. You may be able to get the showroom to send a car for you which is great if you can’t tell the driver where to go (because you don’t speak Mandarin).

Rui Xiang Hang (Antique furniture)
Contact: Mandy Wu (mobile 13420449683)
Guhe Antique Furniture Market
E79, 2nd floor
Sanxiang Zhongshan, Guangdong
Email: wumanyi888888@163.com
(we are posting all this information with Mandy’s permission)

Mobilias Mei Choi is the name we of a place we got in Macau (right infront of the ruins of St. Paul church). They had three small galleries there and I will discuss some price comparisons below. Here is their Zhongshan info.

Yum Luen Small area
Guhe Industrial District
Shanxiang town, Zhongshan city, Guangdong
Phone 13318406822 (vivian)
Phone (00853) 28357625

You can also try Art Treasures Gallery which has a location in the Zhuhai/Zhongshan area. Look them up on the web for contact info.

Prices–So, while in Hong Kong we went to the very upscale Ol Ling/Contes d’Orient and looked at their stock. Well, they have real, non-reproduction, antique quality items and the prices were very high (more than we could afford 1-5000 USD). They also have letters of authenticity etc. It is interesting to note, from a price standpoint, that their initial price for a Tibetian box was 2000 Hong Kong Dollars (at the time of this blog Hong Kong Dollars, Macau currency and the Yuan-RMB were pretty much equal to each other). In Zhuhai we would find similar Tibetian boxes in Zhuhai for about 300 RMB (so that is about 200USD in Hong Kong compared to 40 USD in Zhuhai). I just want to emphasize again that, expect for the Tibetian boxes, the Antique value you are getting at Ol Ling is much more real than the reproductions you are getting in Macau or Zhuhai).

In Macau we found that medium size Apocathary chests were selling pre-bargaining for 4200 HKD (550 USD) and a large cabinet was going for 3300 (410 USD). In Zhuhai/Zhongshan the costs were much less expensive and the quality was equal or better. The amount of choices were certainly much, much better (don’t believe them when they tell you that the factory doesnt have a showroom). In Zhuhai/Zhongshan the Apocathary chests ranged between 1100-2900 Yuan (160-400 USD) and the cabinets were much cheaper as well often costing 1500-2200 Yuan (200-310 USD). The Tibetian boxes were only 300 Yuan in Zhuhai.

Overall, there was great selection and the prices were much cheaper before any bargaining. But what about shipping? Rui Xiang Hang specializes in large shippments to resellers overseas but I believe the other two companies listed above are much more use to shipping for individuals who are chosing a few pieces. Still, Rui Xiang Hang had no problems getting the shippment together.

In Macau they told us it would be 1430 Yuan (190 USD) per cubic meter with a one time fumigation charge (I think it was 400 HKD). In Zhuhai/Zhongshan it cost about 137 USD for the first cubic meter and about 100 USD for each cubic meter after the first one (2 cubic meters would be 237 USD). There ended up being about 1000 HKD of additional charges for shipping (transport to the port, customs leaving China and fumigation). The final destination for this shipment is the port of Seattle‚ÄĒnot to our front door in Seattle.

That is about all the information I have for people looking to buy furniture in Zhuhai. In my opinion, it is really worth it to go there especially if you are looking for a number of pieces. If you do the math it gets cheaper to send more, rather than less, furniture back home.

The only major negative about buying the furniture in Zhuhai is that you must use cash to pay the bill. In Hong Kong or Macau you can use credit cards. Obviously, we were less worried about this since we were referred to Rui Xiang Hang but, nonetheless, we will post in the future about whether our furniture made it to Seattle, whether there were hidden costs, etc.

UPDATE 1: About 18 days after purchasing the furniture our friends in Seattle have received faxes and phone calls saying the shipment has arrived. One friend had to pay a $40 (300 RMB) fee for the custom paperwork. This included the Bill of Laden, Fumigation paperwork, shipping contents and certificate of authenticity.

UPDATE 2:  We hired Global Transportation to help with the customs clearance.  It took a few weeks for this to go through the entire process but $410 later our friends were able to go and pick up the crates.  The $410 was mostly $250 for the Global Transport fee to handle customs.  Very little was actually customs fees.  You may be able to do this cheaper on your own!

Alls well that ends well.  Good luck if you order furniture!

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June 29, 2007 Posted by | China | 15 Comments

Graffiti Commentary

Francie and I saw this graffiti on a wall around the Soho district in Hong Kong. I am not sure if it is directed at Hong Kong specifically or at the overall changes in China. This week marks the 10 year anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong and I heard former PM Thatcher being quoted as saying that she never believed (before the handover) that communism and capitalism could exist in the same place. So, this image seems particularly timely…

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The real Chinese flag has four smaller stars around the big star.

June 29, 2007 Posted by | China, Hong Kong | Leave a comment

Travel Notes from Hong Kong

We leave Hong Kong for Macau tomorrow and we wanted to post a few things for anyone doing searches on Hong Kong.

Food

The food in Hong Kong is amazing.  We were staying in Kowloon so most of our recommendations are for the Tsmi Sha Tsui area.

Kanamizu Sushi Bar-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Granville Rd. just North of Nathan). This sushi bar is really good for the price (you can get better sushi). I would really recommend the eel or crab Nigiri that has been blowtorched a bit ($2 USD) and seaweed salad.

Saki is 50 HKD for a bottle.

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Pizza Express-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Ashley Street)–Great Salads and Pizzas. Excellent service. Prices are under 100 HKD.

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Red Ant-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Ashley Street)–Pasta, noodle and rice dishes done in a kind of Asian fusion style.¬† Very popular with the Hong Kongers.

Munch-Tsmi Sha Tsui (right off of Ashley street)–Organic Pasta and Pizzas.¬† Really good.¬†

Happy Garden Noodle and Congee Kitchen-Tsmi Sha Tsui (Canton Rd)–This is in Lonely Planet and the shrimp wonton noodles really are awesome.¬† This is also cheap eats!

Housing

We stayed at Vincent Guest House (see post below) in Mirador Mansion on Nathan street.  Cost was 180 HKD a night.  A little sketchy but the rooms were nice, but small, on the inside.  Quick access everywhere because of the metro but the hawkers might drive you crazy.  The price included internet and laundry. 

Internet

Cyberpro right near the Star Ferry (next to the McDonalds) is screaming fast.  The room has ac and comfortable chairs.  They also have webcams, headphones, card readers and cd/dvd burners.  This is in Tsmi Sha Tsui.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Travel | 1 Comment

Goodbye Hong Kong!

We love you Hong Kong, and are so sad to be leaving!  We will see you again for sure.  Maybe we will even move to you someday.

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HK Video 

TTFN.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong | 1 Comment

Mirador Mansion Memories…

Tomorrow morning we take the boat to Macau, and leave behind our slightly sketchy but never dull Kowloon pad.  Thank you Mirador Mansions and Vincent guest house Рyou have treated us well.

Our 2 meter x 2 meter room:
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The “atrium” of Mirador Mansion:
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This guy was very suspicious of my photography:
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One of many hallways on the ground floor:
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I will not miss the copy handbag/watch and custom tailor hawkers, but other than that I have wonderful memories of Tsim Sha Tsui. What an interesting neighborhood. There is most definitely no other place like it in the world.¬† ūüôā

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Travel | 1 Comment

Do you like my hat?

As a kid I really like the Dr. Seuss story Go Dog Go!!! (oh wait, I guess it was P. D. Eastman). One thing I thought was funny was the dog that keeps reappearing and asking whether the other dog likes their hat. 

 I got a new hat the other day so I thought I would review the hats that I have used on the trip. 

This is the¬†Gilligan Island¬†look I was sporting on the beaches in Thailand.¬† Actually, it was Francie’s hat that I stole from her.¬† It worked well for blocking out the sun while sleeping on the beach.¬† Francie bought the hat in Bangkok’s Chinatown. I think it cost about $4 USD.

Greg

This is the adventure hat and I bought it in Vientiane.  It cost about $3 USD.

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The adventure hat has now been replaced with the Laoban hat.¬† Laoban means ‘boss’ in Mandarin.¬† It cost about $5 in Hong Kong.¬† Slightly more stylish for our time in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

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It¬†cracks up¬†that I just learned that Go Dog Go!!! was actually written by Eastman and not Dr. Seuss.¬† I have been wrong all these years…

June 23, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Laos, Thailand, Travel | 1 Comment

Mandarin Lessons in Hong Kong

On Thursday Greg and I had our last day of a two week Mandarin course we took here in Hong Kong ūüė¶¬†(you’ve prolly been wondering why we’ve been here so freaking long).¬† Here is a photo of us, our classmate Nathalie, and Candy, one of our instructors:

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Both Greg and I are very sad the class is over.¬† It was a great experience.¬† We took it at the Hong Kong Language Learning Center¬†in Wanchai, which I would highly highly recommend.¬† They teach both Mandarin and Cantonese, have very flexible course lengths and times, small classes (ours had just 3 people), great materials that are well paced¬†& great instructors.¬†¬† What I’m really trying to say is… our class like, totally rocked, and we like, totally had an awesome time learning mandarin.

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Travel | Leave a comment

I got air conditioned on…

One thing that drives me absolutely crazy while walking around Hong Kong is getting air conditioned on.¬† What is this you may ask (I am sure all the Hongkongers would know in an instant even if I don’t know exactly what they call it)?

If you look at the picture below you will see the large number of external air conditioner units outside the windows of apartments and businesses.¬† Well during this heatwave people just have these ac units cranking and each of these ac units drips water that falls way way down to the sidewalk where people walk.¬† So there you go enjoying the ol’ Hong Kong and then drip drip on your head.¬† Let me tell you my friend, it brings you down…it brings you down.

As you get a little more Hong Kong-wise you know to look at the sidewalk ahead of you and avoid places where suspicious puddles lurk on the hot pavement.¬†¬† That water didn’t come from heaven.

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And while we are on the subject of pedestrian issues–hey you people texting on your cellphones while ‘walking’ down the street, stop it!

June 22, 2007 Posted by | China, Hong Kong, Travel | 1 Comment

Get thee to an Apocathary

Francie and I saw this sign tonight outside a store tonight.  I thought it was pretty entertaining.

Wise words...

In case you find the small text hard to read it says:

We have BEER for you to drink.
CIGAR for you to enjoy.
PERFUME for your girlfriends.
VIAGRA for banana become “cucumber”.
Dont forget CONDOM for your safe sex.
Otherwise… DRUGS to heal you.
If she insist “no”… MELATONIN for you to go to sleep.

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong | 1 Comment

The fishy got Francie

I told her not to try and pet it…but she wouldn’t listen to me…

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Stop screwing around!  You kids screw around too much!

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Hong Kong, Misc, Pets, Travel | 1 Comment