At the beginning of August 2009 we flew the first leg of our journey, 11 hours from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan, and slept overnight at the Hotel Nikko Narita. Next morning we flew the second, four hour leg to Xiamen, China, to meet with our chosen manufacturer the following day. Fortunately I had also sourced an inspection company in Xiamen to check the quantity and quality of that factory’s eventual product prior to shipping, and had luckily invited their representative to our meeting. Without him we would never have found the office in a country with almost no speech or signs in English.
Our meeting was long but went well, we thought, and a cause for celebration. We asked our concierge to book us a table at a restaurant on the nearby island of Gulang Yu, but as we were leaving for Japan the next morning we thought we should first find a gift for our host there, and having found it in the vast shopping mall of our hotel, made the mistake of agreeing to have it gift wrapped. We were courteously guided to the hotel’s Guest Satisfaction Center on a different floor where we learned that in order to have our gift wrapped, we first had to to become members of their Guest Satisfaction Club. Well, OK, we figured (wrongly) that that would be faster than finding gift wrapping paper etc. ourselves, so we started filling in the forms (requiring getting our passports), which then unleashed the staff of three to spend the next hour and a half of our all our lives finding and then presenting options in wrapping paper, ribbons and cards, followed by an excruciatingly immaculate, slow-motion wrapping of the gift. By the time we changed for dinner it was already late, and by the time we caught a taxi to the ferry, and the ferry to the island, our restaurant had closed and, mapless, we roamed the steamy, winding walkways of Gulang Yu, lined with the moldy relics of British colonial mansions, until we found a place that agreed to still feed us. We returned to our hotel room well past midnight and threw ourselves with our sweat soaked clothes into the jacuzzi. The next morning came all too soon but was mercifully undemanding; a taxi ride to the airport and a flight back to Japan.