Hong Kong IPO

School and Sightseeing in Hong Kong!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ocean Park & Macau

Hong Kong IPO
Friday May 12, 2006
Another amazing day in Hong Kong! We began with a trip to Ocean Park (one of 3 parks in Hong Kong). Ocean Park, an attraction park that houses many of the local marine animals and a variety of rides, including a big attraction of World's second longest escalator at almost 2000 ft(the longest is in Central, Hong, Kong) and the Atoll Reef exhibit. We went with our friend Heidi and had the amazing time just learning the about the marine animals that make up most of the South China Sea. Another (notice Jaws- this is why we swam in the pool and not in the ocean. ha ha) main attraction is a 6 mile journey in a cable car along the coast of the South China Sea. You can see in the backgroudn Repluse Bay an exclusive resort area for many tourist and second homes for the rich. Justin, has decided to give up the 40 ft boat and trade up for a 150 ft. yacht (oh! the life of the Rich and Famous)!

After Ocean Park we embarked from the International Terminal in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong for an hour boat ride to Macau. The Hydro Foil style boat is made by Boeing, and is similar, to Hovercraft. When docked the boats sits down in the water, but while moving it raises up out of the water and moves a very high speeds. Macau, once a colony of Portugal (the oldest European colony - since the 16th century) was officially turned over to China in 1999, and is similar to HK by being a Special Administrative Region (SARs). You may have heard of Macau in the news recently. Macau, is known as the "Vegas of the East". Macau, has grown more in 5 years (population, revenue, etc.) than Las Vegas did from 1950-2003. Here the wealthiest from Japan, China, Tawian, Hong Kong come for days to spend thousands a day on gambling. We did our fair share to lose a couple Macau dollars, but maintained control. We noticed the Chinese take gambling very seriously and will play for hours. The main game here is Bacarat and takes up more space than slot machines. Another difference, there is no free drinks, in fact they don't even drink while gambling! Aside, from gambling Macau has undergone some astonishing construction over the past few years including large casinos, a small scale version of the Colleseum (Rome), Volcano's, and streetscapes from early 19th century. Many of the wealthy have homes in the hills of Macau. We dined on the boardwalk by the South China Sea with an outside band and finished the evening with a boat ride back to Hong Kong. I would say this is a must see for anyone headed to China, and for those investors out there look up companies in Macau (here's some free advice...names like Sands, Wynn, and Venetian).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Day trip to China

The trip of a lifetime - 10 hours seeing the sights of Chinese communism, land, and manufacturing. What we saw was absolutely incredible. We left the hotel at 7am so that we could travel to Shenzhen, China, the closest city to Hong Kong that is on the mainland. Our first stop was through Hong Kong customs, then China customs, then we were on our way to Cathay Plastic Factory.

This factory is owned by William Yao, a resident of China and a U of I MBA alumna. William was very gratious to allow us into his manufacturing facility, as usually suppliers are the only visitors. It was very obvious when we moved from Hong Kong to China. The land is quite mountainous and the rural Chinese are very poor. They have very small patches of crops and live in shanty's. We saw many of the them physically working in their field with hoes or carrying big watering cans across their shoulders. When we got closer to the city, it was apparent that the government buildings were very nice compared to the rural farms. There were many people in the city of Shenzhen that were riding bicycles or motorized bikes and carrying lots of products. Most of the city is manufacturing and the manufacturers own the dorms for people to stay.
We drove into the middle of the city, down an alley, and then turned into the plant. It looked a lot like all of the other buildings in the area. Cathay Plastics mostly makes gaming pieces for toy games such as gambling chips, dice, battleship(the game), etc... They bring in the plastic in pellet form, it goes into the injection molders, then the workers piece it together and package it. The whole process is very labor intensive - with approx 200 workers, mostly young women, and very tedious. The men were mostly the supervisors and doing the quality inspection. They were also moving the inventory around the plant. Cathay had dormitories on sight for the employee's to leave and feeds them 3 meals a day. The employees earn about $100 US dollars a week. I was completely amazed by the production atmosphere - thinking about our workers at Quaker - the women did not talk to one another and worked fast.
Most of the workers were amazed to see us, we later learned that we were probably the first Westerners they had ever seen since they probably came from very rural western China communities and did not know much about the world, no TV or radio. We were also exposed to Chinese toilets for the first time.....

Mr Yao took us to a traditional Chinese lunch in Shenzhen. It was quite the cultural experience!!! We learned that the Chinese like their food fresh, so they often like to view it before eating and pick out what they want to eat. It was a little overwhelming for us Westerners!!! The food tasted OK.

After lunch we then went to TTE factory in Huizhou. This company encompasses Thompson, TTE, and RCA TV's and is the largest manufacturer of Televisions worldwide. There was a very long work line and we watched TV's being build from the original board with transistors on them to putting the screen and shell on, to the testing. I was very suprised to see that it was pretty high-tech, however, it was still somewhat labor intensive and much like an assembly-line process. Unfortunately we weren't able to take pictures in the plant, but we did get a few shots of the sales floor.

The ride back was quite as we all contemplated what we has witnessed in China. It was almost overwhelming! The evening was spent in a fun restuarant/bar district where we enjoyed cheeseburgers and Phillysteak sandwiches!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Trade Council and DP World

Today started with a quick jog around Victoria Park. We then departed for the Hong Kong Trade and Development Center. There, we learned about how important tourism is to Hong Kong and manufacturing to China. Hong Kong has 100,000 companies with operations in the Chinese mainland. Since Hong Kong is perfectily situated on the ocean and the southern most part of China, it plays a huge role in transporting products made in China to all over the world. They are within four hours of all major Asian cities and five hours of half the worlds markets. Hong Kong is the #1 international sea and cargo center. The Trade and Development Center touts is online service and forming business partnership with Chinese manufacturing and other business venture. The also host a world expo for small and medium-sized enterprises to meet business partners and exchange ideas. They really gave us a good idea of Hong Kong business relations.

Our next stop was to DP World. They have the largest single concrete structure in the world - certified by the Guiness Book of World Records. It is 9 million square feet in total. This is the port terminal company that wanted to purchase the US ports, but was denied authority to do so for security reasons. They bring in vessels that can carry over 4,700 semi-trailors. They hold inventory for lots of different companies such as IBM, McDonalds, Intel, UPS, DHL, FedEx, etc. Since there is so much inventory on sight, the security was high, we weren't allowed to get off the bus and were escorted by a leading and trailing police car. They use a computerized tracking method that allows them to identify each container at a single point on each vessel. Each vessel has a certain time to unload and be loaded again by the huge cranes. The cranes moved each container so quickly, it was amazing. DP world was so fascinating!!! They move huge amounts of inventory from China to the rest of the world. This was definitely a highlight of the trip so far!!

After DP world, we relaxed and then found a Mexican place for dinner. Not like Mexican in the US, that's for sure! We even found a Russian Restaurant/Bar where we put on ridicolous fur coats and hats and went into a ice room - the tables were giant blocks of ice!!
Again, here are some amazing shots of the city and area. Tomorrow, we are off for Mainland China.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Chamber of Commerce and Trade Center

Today is Monday and we had the morning free. We slept in :~) I went with Heidi back to the pearl shop where she picked out a few very beautiful pearls. The nice thing about this city is the public transportation. We have become very comfortable with the train system and have been able to explore the city well(and cheaply) by using it. On our way back to the hotel, I walked around the area and found a very cheap nail shop for a manicure, $50 HK dollars, which is $7.14 US dollars. It was a very small shop and the two girls just barely spoke english, but they did a very nice job. They were curious about my age and enjoyed looking at my jewelry and my hair.
The group met up to go to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. There we listened to a chief economist, who happend to be a white man, born in the US, but had lived in Hong Kong for 20 years and is a resident. He gave us some interesting facts about Hong Kong and China's economy. A few highlights were that Hong Kong is the most globalized city on earth. They mostly provide banking, insurance, legal, and shipping services. They outsource manufacturing, dry cleaning, foreign affairs and military defense. There are 3.5 million employee's in Hong Kong and 2/3 of the economy is foreign trade. Hong Kong people do not pay taxes unless their salaries meet a certain limit. Only 17% of the population here pays taxes. The government owns all of the land in Hong Kong and sells long-term leases that are typically passed down through the families.

After the chamber we went to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The actual exchage floor was all electronic, which was really for show only. They gave us a great overview of the stocks that are exchanged and their impact to Hong Kong.

After our visits, we changed for the evening and then took the Starr Ferry over to Kowloon to get American food. After walking around for a long time, we settled on TGIFriday.

cheeseburger was excellent!!

2nd day of class

Sunday morning started with another jog around Victoria Park and a walk in the rock garden. I am getting better at walking on the rocks, although keeping my socks on seemed to help! Class started at 9am and went pretty much until 5:15pm. Our instructor is good about giving us a break every hour, however we were pretty beat by the end of the day. We're learning about macro-economics and how savings, investments, consumption and government policy play a part in determining interest rates and keeping our economy from going into a recession, but not inflating prices too much. An interesting point to me is when labor across the country is made more efficient, our output increases, ie our GDP goes up. I relate to this well from determining our own labor efficiencies at work. We also talked a lot about government spending, the deficit, and trade imbalances. It is also pretty cool to hear the Hong Kong's students version since HK is owned by China which is mostly communist still. Interacting with them has definitely been the highlight of the trip. They have been very kind and answered every question we've thrown out at them, which has been a lot!
While I was at class, Justin had a relaxing day of napping, swimming, and touring with Mike, another non-MBA husband. They met up with us for dinner.
After class, the entire group along with some Hong Kong Iowa MBA alums went to dinner at Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. This was a very fancy place and we had about 13 courses to our dinner, all centered around duck, as you can imagine. I thought the food tasted ok, but I did enjoy the slices of duck. It tasted a lot like turkey, we placed it into a very thin flour tortilla, along with some sauce, cucumber, and onion, and ate it kind of like a burrito. Very tasty!

After dinner a few of us went to the Ladies market. This was a small alley with millions of street vendors selling mostly trinkets and knock-off items such as purses, shoes, watches, hair clips, etc.. They were very pushy and were always trying to make a deal. We did have fun bargaining for a couple of things.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

First day of class

Today is Saturday and we had class in the afternoon from 2-7pm. In the morning I met up with several classmates for a jog in Victoria Park that is right by our hotel. The Park consists of a giant grassy ground normally used for soccer, but used for Tai Chi in the morning, a running lap around the park that is 600 meters long, lots of different work out stations to do strength training. There were close to 1500 people exercising, from walking to running to doing Tai Chi. There were several different groups of people practicing Tai Chi - a form of dance/karate. Some of the groups had Chinese fans and did more of a choreographed dance. My friend Katie joined them for a bit. After the jog, we tried the rock garden, where people were walking on rocks in their bare feet. The others were able to walk on the pointy rocks, but I could only muster the flatter ones. After a shower, Justin and I joined the rest of the group for a trip to a Pearl Jewelry shop. Luckily one of my classmates, Jane, had done a lot of research on the best pearls in Hong Kong and found a great shop that was a wholesaler. Our tour guide, Glory (male), took us there and knew the owner so we ended up getting an even better deal. They had beautiful jewelry! Freshwater pearls, cultured pearls, and China South Sea pearls. Most of us bought an item or two, I got a very pretty ring/earring set. After pearl shopping, we had time to grab a bite to eat and then back to the hotel to get ready for class. Hong Kong has great transportation, subways, busses, trams, and taxi's. We rode the MTR-subway- station out to the pearl shop and back again. They are very clean and can take you almost anywhere in Hong Kong, but best of all - they are AIR CONDITIONED!!! It was a nice break from the humidity.
Our first night of class was good. It is essentially a macro-economics class and we learned about GDP and the attributes that contribute to it. There were about 20 Hong Kong students in class. The were extremely kind and very smart about economics. They also came to class more prepared then any of us US students.
After class I joined Heidi and a few others for Sushi in honor of her birthday. Heidi introduced me to sushi a few weeks ago and I am now really enjoying it - mostly the cooked sushi. We found a great sushi restuarant in the Hong Kong World Trade Center. The area around the center reminded me of Las Vegas - lots of lights, shops and people. After dinner Justin and I walked around for a bit then turned in early. I have a case to read for class and we are both still not quite onto the time change yet.

Below are a few other pictures we've taken of the city:
Night views

From our hotel rooftop The grass/tree area is Victoria Park.

Tour of the city

Wow, what a great first day. Today was a holiday known as Budda's birthday. We started off our tour with a trip up to Vicotoria's Peak for a "Photo Opportunity" of the islands of Hong Kong. This is one of the larger mountains of the Hong Kong Islands. We were on a tram that went up the slope of 4,000 meters above sea level at an angle of 27 degrees. It was better then any other rollercoaster! It was only clear at the top for about 5 min, then the fog rolled in and it started to rain. We are amazed at all of the construction around the city - the scaffolding is made of bamboo and tied together with string!!!

Next was a stop at Stanley market. There are many markets like this around the city, but Stanley was supposed to be one of the better ones. We bought several souviners and Justin enjoyed bargining with the vendors. Mostly for sale were trinkets, silk kimono's, and Polo t-shirts.

After the market was a boating tour through the harbor where the fisherman live on thier boats. It is amazing to think that living on a boat in the harbor is more appealing then living in a 300 square foot apartment. The fishing boats were huge - we're not quite sure what they were looking to catch.

We had lunch at a Chinese restuarant for dim sum. This is a lunch tradition where the meal is placed on a lazy susan and each person tries a little bit of each dish. Mostly the dishes are dumplings or bread wrapped meat. They also served Jasmine tea that was excellent!!
After dim sum we headed to a Jade market. It is astonishing to see the people who make a living off of selling jewelry from a stand to tourists. The are always interested in giving you the best deal!! The jade was beautiful, mostly green but also in brown and purple shades. Next to the jade market was a fresh market where venders sold everything from freshly slaughtered pigs to live chickens you can choose from to fresh produce. I didn't actually walk into the market, but I heard plenty of stories from my classmates.

Our last stop was to the Wong Tai Sin Temple. Since today was Budda's birthday, we found many people at the temple burning incense and kneeling down in prayer. They also brought gifts of oranges and apples, believed to be a sign of energy and peace. Another event at the temple was shaking a can of 100 sticks. When you shook it long enough, one would fall out and the number of thes stick would be the number of the fortune teller that would try to predict your future. There is a lot of superstition and resulting Fung Shei that the Chinese believe in. For example, in the city of Kowloon, Kow stands for 9 and loon stands for mountain. It was named that way because there are 8 mountains around the city, the 9th one being the emperor. It is believed that mountains always contain a dragon, so the 2 buildings that sit directly in front of the mountains have a 3 story square hole in the middle of them - so the dragon can see through and is not disturbed. Another believe is the colors. Yellow is the color of wealth, Red the color of the dragon, or anxious, green is the color of energy. Their use of mythical figures and thinking is really interesting.

This evening we took a ferry to Lamma Island for dinner. It was beautiful to leave the harbor and see the city from afar. The sight of the island is incredible - building on top of building and coming out the sides of the mountains. Also, there are many mountains and islands. Dinner was interesting. We literally saw the servers remove the fish/crustacia from the tank and take them back to the kitchen. Giant prawns, Calamari, White fish, Lobster, beef, pork, chicken. It was quite a cultural experience.
The fun thing about this trip is that I'm meeting lots of new faces and learning about the variety of MBA students. One person even recognized me from my old AFA days. We are still continuing to have fun and am feeling a little more localized then last night. Of course a good day always ends over a bucket of beers....