DECEMBER 8, 9, AND 10 – DAYS 1, 2 AND 3:
Off to Hong Kong and China for a Corporate Christmas Party for Watsons. Sort of like our “Walgreens”. There’s one every couple of blocks and they sell just about everything. Seals & Seals (Dan Seals and Jim Seals) and Travis LeDoyt (young Elvis impersonator who looks and sings exactly like the young Elvis) are performing. There’s only 14 people including myself, so this is an easy trip. Arrived at the airport at 6 am and everyone was on time. No problem checking in except that everything is now “E-Ticket” and you have to use the computer terminals. Which mean “I” had to check everyone in myself. Most of my friends at Northwest are either retiring or have already retired. They are all being replaced by computers. The only “need” for the ticket agent seems to be to attach the luggage tags and help if there is a change or problem with the ticket. Flew from Nashville to Detroit, Detroit to Narita (Tokyo) and Narita to Hong Kong. First flight was 1 ½ hours, then a long 14 hour flight to Japan and another 5 hour flight to Hong Kong. Actually, it seemed incredibly short after the 38 hours of traveling I did only a few days ago to Kyrgyzstan! No problems with any of the flights or getting our luggage/equipment checked in. We were met in Hong Kong by our representative and had a nice bus for the 45 minute ride to the Intercontinental Hotel. Room keys were waiting for us when we arrived at the hotel. This is definitely a 5 star hotel, located right on the Harbor. I can’t help but compare my accommodations to the tents I was in last week. The room is huge with separate rooms for the sink, the powder room, the toilet, and the tub plus a walk-in shower — call marble, glass and gold fixtures. The bath towel is longer than I am tall! And there is a “jet lag recovery kit” in the bathroom. The hair dryer comes in a separate cloth bag and there are separate bags for laundry and dry cleaning — cloth, of course! Big down comforters on the beds and you get to choose which newspaper you want delivered to your door every morning. There is a fabulous work out facility, couple of pools, incredible spa that I really want to take advantage of and probably won’t have time, and of course, the shopping. DSL line right in my room which is the best perk of all. Meeting the guys in the lobby at noon today to take them sightseeing and shopping. I’ve spent so much time here, I can definitely be a “tour guide” for anywhere they want to go. Got up and jogged along the harbor this morning, which is my favorite place in the world to run. Still lots of construction but the railway station that they have been working on since I first began coming here is finally finished. You can hop on a train to China right outside our hotel doors. The weather is beautiful. Should be around 75 degrees here today. When I came back from jogging (and picked up a latte at Starbucks), the doorman met me with a hand towel and a bottle of cold water! This is all the ultimate pampering but I wish I could trade places with one of our guys or girls over in the AOR and let them enjoy these luxuries. What a treat it would be for them and they deserve it for the sacrifices they have made to allow me to be able to come here and enjoy this. I haven’t been here in a couple of years and am wondering which of my favorite shops are still in business. Lots of changes since the handover to China in 1997. We had the buffet lunch in the restaurant and it was absolutely sinful. A salad bar that included fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, an antipasto bar, sushi and sashimi, then an entire “hot” bar with about 15 different items and a dessert bar that had about 30 different items. Took my “boys” sightseeing. We took the Star Ferry across the harbor to Hong Kong Island and then took a double decker bus up to Aberdeen where all the “junks” (house boats where the Chinese live and work) are located. Came back to Kowloon and let them shop for a while. “Elvis” ordered a suit from my tailor. I haven’t seen him since 2001 and when I walked in, he yells “Charlie Daniels”. I took Charlie in there MANY years ago and he still remembers him because Charlie purchased 3 three piece suits, a smoking jacket, a long cashmere coat and several dozen shirts. He still has Charlie’s photo in his display case. I got all dressed up for the Welcome Party and was getting on the elevator in my heels. There is a space between the floor of the hotel and the elevator and my heel went down in that space and would not come out. The doors to the elevator closed on me and some strange man had to pull my foot out of the crack for me! So embarrassing….all dressed up and looking like a klutz!! The Welcome Party was held in our honor…to welcome us to Hong Kong. All the artists got up and did a couple of songs and Gerry and the Pacemakers performed a full show. I sat next to Gerry and he is a delightful man. He is the only “original” left in the group but they were truly great musicians. Mary Wilson from the Supremes was also at our table. Dan and Jim Seals performed several of their hits and then Travis got up. He looks and sounds just like the young Elvis – the one from the 50’s with the big baggy, suits, not the shiny rhinestone jumpsuits. He has all his moves down including the facial expressions. Ian Wade is the owner of Watsons and several other little companies – Priceline in the U.S. for instance! But a really down-to-earth, genuinely, nice man. Watsons is the largest supplier of health and beauty aids – second only too Walgreens. But Walgreens is not worldwide and Watson’s is. Got to get in bed. After midnight and we have a 9:30 am sound check with Travis.
DECEMBER 11TH – DAY FOUR:
Up early to work out. Great gym right in the hotel and it’s free! Travis had sound check at 9:30 am and I planned to go shopping afterwards. No problems with his sound check and the person who was mixing Seals & Seals on this gig came down at the same time and began working “off stage”. Decided not to go shopping because I needed to stay and “run interference” for Seals & Seals engineer. The group wasn’t scheduled to sound check until 1 pm. All the other artists began and finished their sound checks right on time. Then we threw the whole day off because of their “problems”. Every time I looked at the sound tech, he had about 10 cables hanging around his neck. I stayed until 4:30 pm and finally got so disgusted, I had to leave. The Seals Brothers and all their musicians have been wonderful to work with and all the musicians were also frustrated with this 7 hour sound check. It was beyond ridiculous. Travis made a big “fan” out of Mr. Wade last night and was invited to sit at his table tonight. I brought him down at the very end of the cocktail party and took him in to the dinner. It was a “Country and Western” theme and they spent tens of thousands of dollars on decorations. Had everything decorated like a Western Saloon and had really nice cowboy hats at everyone’s table. Everyone in attendance dressed in western wear. The best part of the event was the fact that some of the Chinese men didn’t understand the term dress like “Cowboys and Indians”. They showed up as “Indians” as from India and had on turbans and robes! It was hilarious but they were pretty embarrassed. There were several groups on before Seals & Seals and the sound was perfect. Seals’ musicians had commented that this was the best “gear” they have ever had at a gig. When Seals & Seals took the stage, it was absolutely PAINFUL! If I stood near the front, all I could hear was the bass guitar. If I moved to the back, couldn’t hear anything. No vocals or whatever vocals did some through were distorted. Travis was sitting near the front and came running back to tell the sound engineer. He didn’t know that Seals’ sound engineer was mixing them and there was nothing we could do. It took him 7 songs just to get the sound so that you could hear ANY vocals. There were never any background vocals in the mix the entire night, so every song sounded incredibly “thin”. I had to leave and go sit outside for a while just to calm down. Mr. Wade sent word that he was not happy with their performance. But, it had nothing to do with their performance and everything to do with their guy not knowing how to mix. Hard to believe that every other group can have a 1 hour sound check and sound perfect but he spends 7 hours and it sounds horrible. Hate it for Dan and Jim but they need to be aware of this and hire a professional sound engineer. I talked to the band afterwards and they said it was bad on stage, too. Also said that the ear monitor board that they insisted on bringing from the U.S. was a piece of crap…which could definitely contribute to the terrible sound. Mary Wilson and the Supremes were really, really good! Crowd danced to every song. Thankfully, “Little Elvis” was amazing. I promise you, he looks exactly like the young Elvis and sounds almost exactly like him. Besides the repeat gig here and in Macau next year, we also picked up a show in Russia! Lots of new countries of my visits this year – Djibouti, Russia and tomorrow mainland China for the first time. We bus to Shenzhen tomorrow afternoon. Have to go to bed. It’s 3 am and I have to be in the lobby at 5:30 am to get Seals & Seals off to the airport!
DECEMBER 12TH – DAY FIVE:
Managed to “crawl” out of bed after 2 ½ hours sleep and go to the lobby to get everyone off to the airport. I felt so bad because I always thank the artist for a great show and this time I just couldn’t do it. I did thank them for coming and tell them how much I enjoyed working with them which was definitely the truth. Went back to bed for 2 more hours then got up and did my final run along the harbor. It was another beautiful day with perfect weather. And I found a new “route” so that I didn’t have to double back a couple of times to get in my 5 miles. There is a lot of construction and what I thought was an “on ramp” to an interstate being constructed was actually a pedestrian bridge. I saw another runner going up it and decided to follow him. Only negative was it is a long, steep incline and I’m not accustomed to running hills. But, once I got to the top, it leveled out and then wound down into a pretty little park. We had the Australian band traveling with us to China today. I was excited to actually be going to mainland China for the first time. Nothing like I expected. It’s really beautiful – very clean and the architecture on the buildings is amazing. There’s a “tropical” feel in this city of Shenzhen where we are staying at a beautiful hotel. Palm trees and lots of green foliage lined the highway. What impressed everyone is the fact that there is no litter, no graffiti, no homeless people, and no RAP music blaring in any of the cars in Hong Kong or China. The young people are much more respectful than in America, too. Travis was concerned at his show last night because there wasn’t a “boisterous” response to his songs. The audience loved him but they think it is disrespectful to interrupt his music while he is performing and they hold their applause and enthusiasm until the show is finished. We had to clear immigration going out of Hong Kong and then again coming into China. In Hong Kong, this meant getting off the bus, going inside and giving them our “health” forms and meeting the bus on the other side. In China, it meant taking everything off the bus, hauling it through customs, clearing immigration and then loading everything back on the bus on the other side. As we were loading up, our escorts/coordinators received a frantic phone call from one of the promoters who was still in Hong Kong. Evidently several cases of equipment (guitars and keyboards) that belonged to Gerry and the Pacemakers got mistakenly loaded on the bus with our things! They were supposed to perform at a benefit in Hong Kong tonight and we had their gear. So we had to sort through everything, hire another vehicle and send one of our escorts back to Hong Kong. Fortunately, it’s only about a one hour drive. Had trouble getting my internet to connect. It’s a free DSL line provided by the hotel and it’s slower than a dial-up! Hotel is really beautiful and I finally got to treat myself to a massage (with HOT STONES….lovely) and a facial (look 10 years younger…not!). Really shouldn’t admit this, but looking back, it’s pretty funny. The little girl giving me my massage (with hands of steel!) didn’t speak a lot of English. She mostly just used hand signals. I went into a changing room and was given a robe and something in a plastic package. When I opened it, it appeared to be one of those paper “hair nets”, so I put it on my head thinking it was to protect my hair. But I noticed it was more like a paper head band than a full net. When I came out, the little masseuse collapsed in a fit of giggles. She started pointing to my head and then rubbing her mid-section. She finally pulled the net off my head and I noticed there were THREE holes in it. It was a pair of paper panties! Have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever worn panties on my head before unless there was alcohol involved! I checked in on the “Salute America’s Heroes” Tribute that I have worked so hard on and could not attend because it was a conflict with this trip. The event was a big success for our wounded. Check out the website at www.saluteheroes.org. Definitely going to plan better next year so I can attend. After midnight now and I’ve got some work to do before going to bed. Tomorrow is sound check and then we go into Shenzhen to SHOP, SHOP, SHOP. Show tomorrow night and the we drive back to the Hong Kong airport because we have an early flight out on Tuesday.
DECEMBER 13TH – DAY 6:
I keep forgetting to mention this Chinese Dance Troupe that was on the concert in Hong Kong. They were incredible even though they were hired to do the “can-can” and instead did a beautiful dance with Chinese fans and silks. Anyway, the “star” was a beautiful, very young female. She was back stage stretching before her performance and she bent her leg back behind her and put her hand behind her head and grabbed her ankle. She was standing on one leg and the other foot was at least six inches above her head. Try it. It’s not human. I’m doing good to grab my ankle and bend my foot back far enough to touch my waist in the back! Got up and worked out in the hotel fitness club. Nice little gym…small, but all the latest equipment. I don’t eat breakfast but knew I would be skipping lunch, so went to the breakfast buffet. They were able to make me an egg white omelet. You would not believe the spreads they put out for these buffets. I would weigh 200 pounds if I ate there every day. They have buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it’s a bigger variety of food than I’ve ever seen anywhere. Travis did a quick sound check and then we all went down to the shopping center. It was a 5 story building with thousands of little shops. And, the prices and quality were better than Hong Kong or Korea. Now I’m spoiled and only want to shop in China. I got two Prada and 2 Louis Vitton Bags plus another pair of shoes (just what I need) and some souvenir items that friends wanted. We only had 2 ½ hours there and I needed at least 4 more. Can’t believe we have to leave after the show tonight. I’m going to put together a shopping trip for a group of women and come over here just for fun next year! While we were away shopping, the hotel changed our keys and basically “checked” us out of the hotel. They wanted us to all move into one room until we departed after the show tonight. That didn’t happen! Very strange show tonight for the Chinese. They just wanted to party, so Travis got down on the floor and invited everyone to come up and dance while he sang his Elvis 50’s hits. This one little short, obese Chinese guy in a pink shirt came up and started “humping” Travis right in the middle of a song. Scared me! Also, there were these Chinese “impersonators” on the show. They were supposedly “look-alikes” for Chinese celebrities. Of course, I didn’t “recognize” who they were supposed to be. But, they “sang” and it was like a cat howling. No one sang on key. It was painful. Learned a very interesting fact about the Chinese. They have the money to buy the best and build the best. But then, no one knows how to “utilize” what they have. For example, if they buy a computer, they go out and purchase the very best model. Then no one knows how to operate it. The dinner tonight for Watson’s was a disaster. The food looked beautiful but tasted horrible – or so I was told. We ate in the hotel restaurant, thank goodness. Leaving in less than an hour to drive from China to Hong Kong. Staying in a hotel near the airport since we have to be at the airport by 6:30 am tomorrow. Almost home…. Jude
DECEMBER 14TH – DAY 7:
The worst part about shopping in Shenzhen is the fact that they won’t leave you alone. The sales people follow you saying, “Missy, Missy…copy watch, Missy; bag, Missy” whatever….The only way to get away from them is to go into a shop and then those salespeople start harassing you. I refused to buy several items just because I couldn’t get them to shut up long enough for me to look. They are forever forcing another item on you and won’t allow you to “browse”. After we left, I learned the Chinese phrase that means “No, I’m not buying anything”. It sounds like “Boo-Yaw”. The items are NEVER in the stores. They ask you to wait “2 minutes” while they go get them and that 2 minutes is usually more like 10. One guy wanted me to follow him to his office. He seemed “reputable” so I agreed. Then he tried to take me outside the main building and into an area that I wasn’t familiar with. I refused. So, he took me back to the shop and said he would go get the bags. While I was waiting a couple from Singapore who spoke excellent English started talking to me and said that they were going over to his “office” so I agreed to go with them. Wow! That’s where I found all the great bags and prices. Got his card so next time I’ll know where to go.
After the show, we were supposed to be able to leave no later than 11 pm for the drive to Hong Kong. But, the party ran late and the photographer who the promoter insisted had to ride with us, couldn’t leave. It was almost midnight before he came out which meant we were not going to get a lot of sleep before our flight. I didn’t care about myself, but I knew that Travis and his group were in coach, the flight was sold out, and they had to get off the plane in Minneapolis and go straight to sound check and two shows that night! The bus driver drove like a maniac to make up for lost time. When we arrived at the border crossing about 10 minutes after we departed the hotel, the photographer said, “Oh, here’s my friend. I’m riding with him” and left us. We all wanted to hunt him down and torture him. Didn’t arrive at the hotel until after 1 am and the guys left a wakeup call for 6 am. I got in bed at 2 am and left a 4 am wakeup call. Had to get up and get on the internet before I left.
I purchased an internet card the night before and the pass code kept coming up “invalid” when I tried to log on the next morning. I spent almost an hour of valuable time trying to communicate with the front desk and get it fixed. Not to mention that I paid for a 3 hour card and only got to use about 30 minutes of it. Oh well. At least I got my email checked before the flight.
Because I’ve flown NW so much these last few weeks, I’ve seen all the movies. And, they are NOT good movies. What they list in their “in-flight” magazine is NOT what is actually available. I got so desperate, I watched “Princess Dairies 2”! On the flight from Narita to Minneapolis, I was the ONLY female in the entire upstairs area on the plane. Sat next to a young guy (23 – college student) who was a scientific engineer. He had been hired for 6 weeks to travel all over Asia and visit fertilizer plants that he had developed some kind of system for. He fired up his laptop and proudly showed me photos of dust on something that looked like a battery and all kinds of charts and graphs. Nice guy but the conversation was way over my head. He had an old IBM laptop that he had “converted” and I think it rivaled anything I saw at CENTCOM. Informed me that he never watches TV and will not “pay” to go see a movie. He never “pays” for cds or dvds, just burns copies of someone else’s. Ahhh….our future leaders! Makes me even prouder of our fine young men serving in the U.S. military.
Landed in Minneapolis and I assume all the luggage and equipment made it. I had to leave for my connecting flight before the band’s instruments came out. Short flight to Nashville and now I’m home for less than a week before departing to Korea through New Years.
Click the link below to view photos.
Hong Kong Photo Album