One afternoon not long ago, since we were visiting a factory across the road anyway, my Wife, her Younger Brother and I dropped by the Ford Auto Dealership on the outskirts of Qingyang that I mentioned here.

Now, I don’t know how many Ford dealerships there are in China, but I don’t think there are nearly as many as there are McDonald’s franchises. This was the first I’ve seen, anyway. Here’s a picture of the front of it for starters, by the way (bottom floor):

But we walked in this one and started looking at one of the eight or nine vehicles in the showroom–and that’s it; just several vehicles inside a showroom, no “back lot” full of additional models. Pretty quickly a salesman came in our direction and greeted us, and for some reason my Wife and her Younger Brother went mute, so this fellow and I struck up a conversation, despite his obvious surprise that (1) the foreigner instead of his two Chinese companions was doing the talking and (2) the foreigner was doing the talking in Chinese.

I had a little mischievious fun, asking him to pop the hood on a couple models and inquiring how fast the Mondeos would do zero-to-sixty. We were really there, however, because my Wife’s Younger Brother is thinking of buying a car in the next year or so, so he and my Wife eventually came over and joined in the conversation.

I took advantage of that to start checking out sticker prices and manufacturing info–and I got to chuckle as I walked away and heard the salesman, who must have thought I was with two of my employees or something, say, “As I was just telling your boss…”. (Later, Me: “Heh heh, did you hear that, honey, he said, ‘Your Boss’.” Her: Cold icy stare.)

It turns out that all the cars there but one were manufactured in China; mostly Guangzhou, I believe. Only one–a Lincoln Navigator loaded with all the extras–was “imported,” all the way from Detroit. It was priced–well, I’ll put it this way–it was priced at about double what the same model costs in the U.S.A., according to my online research. Yowza.

The salesman offered us a test drive, but we had to leave soon for another appointment and so took a raincheck (but if you’d like to learn more about Ford in China, visit http://www.ford.com.cn/). So we headed back out, crossed the road again, and tried to hail a cab. Which proved a difficult thing to do. But I’ll save that tale till tomorrow.

Samples from the advertising literature:

Ford Mondeo cover:

Ford Focus cover:

Lincoln Navigator interior:

This phenomenon isn’t necessarily limited to Qingyang, but the pictures that follow are, sooo….

During previous visits here to the Jinjiang area, it was already possible to get a private dining room at some of the larger restaurants, but that’s all it was: A room. With plain white walls. With a table and chairs inside. With a door. Nothing fancy. Nothing to really set you apart from the people out in the main dining area. Except that you were in a room apart from people in the main dining area. WooHoo.

But now, in Qingyang, Anhai and other cities and towns in this region, getting a private dining room has become quite the gilded experience. Fancy tables and chairs, a private bathroom, large RTV and KTV setups, in-room karaoke, fancy, comfortable seating, waitstaff that stay in the room to refill your glasses as soon as they are empty, and so on. This is in contrast to “the good old days” when they would just show up, take the order, bring the food, and then bid you a perfunctory Hasta la Vista, Baby!

Many of the fancy private dining rooms are in hotels, and in more than one case, we found ourselves in private dining rooms that used to be hotel rooms. (That would explain why one of the private dining room bathrooms we encountered still has, uh, a bathtub and shower in it. Quite convenient. “Oh dear, I’ve spilled gravy on my tie. No matter. I’ll just go shower off…”.)

Anyway, without further ado, here are some photos from one of our dining out ventures in Qingyang, which included my Wife’s entire family, kids, my Mother-in-Law’s Younger Brother and his Wife, (deep breath) my Wife’s Younger Sister’s Husband’s Parents, and, and…Oh Yeah. The Waitresses.

As you look at these pictures, remember that the “cultural lesson” here is that just five years ago, getting a private dining room at a restaurant would more likely have meant a plain room with plain walls and so on.)

(Oh, and way down below, I’m also trying out that “YouTube” video service you see popping up everywhere these days….)

Our private dining room:

A close-up of the wallpaper behind the TV:

No, my Wife isn’t slapping her Older Sister; she’s just a very “animated” talker:

A waitress refills the kids’ glasses:

My Wife modeling the hand-carved “lounge” furniture at the back of the room:

My Wife’s Younger Sister finalizes our order with the head waitress:

A video view around the table from my chair:

I wrote awhile back about The Highway to Hell that is the road from Anhai to Qingyang here in Fujian Province’s “Jinjiang” region, but since then, I’ve been able to check out a bit more of what nearby Qingyang has to offer–my Wife’s Younger Sister lives there, and her Young Brother works there–and I have to say that I’m impressed. Qingyang is a small city developing in a way that reflects thought, planning, foresight, and a sense of “community” on the part of those in charge. (Maybe it even has something akin to–gasp!–a ‘city planner.’) I’ve also realized that Anhai, on the other hand, is a large town that for the most part develops only “privately.” The streets and alleyways are filthy; only when you get behind the high walls of someone’s gated courtyard and into their large home, or into a restaurant or store catering to the locals, do you see much development.

I’ve begun to suspect, in fact, that although there’s lots of wealth in Anhai, it may actually be on the short list of towns vying for the “Armpit of Jinjiang” trophy.

And by the way, courtesy of MSN MapPoint, here are some maps showing you where Qingyang and other cities and towns I mention frequently are located–practically within waving distance of Taiwan:

(And for those of you trying to find small towns like Anhai and Cizao on maps, without having to be able to read Chinese, I’ve found that the old MSN Maps & Directions is better by far than similar services like Google Maps and MapQuest. Go here and select the Find a Place tab, select “World Atlas” from the Place name in list, type the Chinese city name in the box, such as Qingyang or Anhai, and then click Get Map.)

Anyway, I guess we’ll make this “Qingyang Week” here on the blog, and I’ll be writing more in the coming days for you about:

  • A New Town private development community that brings thoroughly modern living to Qingyang…where my Wife’s Younger Brother is thinking of buying a place
  • The new huge, sprawling SM (Super Mall? Shopping Mall?) (opened November 2005) that includes a Wal-Mart superstore and more shops and stores than I’ve ever seen in any American mall (though I’ll note that I haven’t been to the Mall of the Americas), as well as a restaurant that grinds and brews the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had in Asia (and I’m not saying that just because I haven’t had real coffee in over two months)
  • The newly opened Jinjiang Museum, which centers around an excellent detailed history of the Jinjiang region, starting off with tombs dating back 5,000 years and–Ha!–finishing off with the opening of the aforementioned SM/Wal-Mart Supercenter
  • The Ford auto dealership I mentioned passing on the road in The Highway to Hell post
  • A health-oriented massage spa, part of a national chain based out of Henan Province
  • The Konica photo development and photo gift franchise store that one of my Wife’s Cousins has opened on the Sunshine Circle intersection in Qingyang
  • The Jinjiang Hospital grounds
  • Maybe more, maybe not

Oh, and as a not completely related aside, I heard recently from a cab driver who admits to making one small fortune but soon parted with it through frivolous living, now trying to get started on his second by driving a cab, that the Jinjiang Region has a lot of “Foreigners” living and working here, but most of them are from India and the Middle East. Not that people from India and the Middle East aren’t full-fledged foreigners here too, just that in comparison with other parts of China, there might be less in-country representation here from places like North America and Europe.

But there’s also precedent for Middle Easterners being here. Back in Quanzhou’s heyday 400+ years ago, Arabic people were settled here in such great numbers that many became political and civic leaders–one even rose to the Number 2 position in the Fujian provincial government. But when that phase of China’s openness to the world ended, many of these people opted to stay, adopting Chinese-esque names. Round here, the surname “Ding” is actually the family line of one large group of Middle Eastern people who intermarried and decided to stay put.

Anyway, more on Qingyang in the coming days.

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