We were collected at the College by bus and taken to the Shaoxing International Friendship Hall where we had to register and were taken around the Hall – there are displays from the many sister Cities/Friendship alliances from around the world. From Australia there were two – Melbourne cities – City of Whitehorse and Wyndham, I think. There was scant information about these places as it had been a recent friendship formation.
The Hall was quite amazing. The TV cameras etc were everywhere! There were teachers from other colleges, business women from the city, and other women.
We boarded the bus again to go to the Xilinmen factory – it was described to me initially as a match factory, and later a mattress factory! We entered this huge complex on the other side of Shaoxing, and were ushered into the most amazing showroom complex I have ever seen.
We were all overwhelmed. We were shown around the showroom that had hotel rooms made up with the most wonderful furniture – we were gasping with astonishment. What luxury! What an amazing showroom. Room after room was on display. We were asked not to take photos – so I didn’t!
Apparently they sell to major luxury hotel chains around the world, and you can see why. It is the third largest mattress factory in the world, and one of the world's largest furniture manufacturers.Some of the rooms were actual suites with full dining/conference facilities and then an open showroom with dozens of beds in all shapes, sizes, all beautifully made up.
Then we went into the conference room of the Xilinmen Group. That was overwhelming too! A large room with circular conference set up, and seating around the “inner circle”. In the inner circle sat the distinguished guests and speakers. All the inner circle had microphones in front of the speakers.
There was a name plate in Chinese and English of all attendees – and I now have my name written in Chinese as we were able to take the paper insert. Each place had a bottle of water, a cup for tea which they kept filling, and a plate of cocktail tomatoes, watermelon sliced, and pieces of sugar cane, as well as peppermints.
The conference was a series of speakers, from the Chairman of the Xilinman Group, and other important people from the government. One of our teachers also spoke. As well there was a video presentation on a large screen about the Xilinmen operation and an extraordinary presentation about Shaoxing - which I am hoping I can get a copy to take home with me.
Afterward there were 8 performances including local opera singers, a dancer and musicians. After that we were lead over to the Xilinman restaurant for a banquet. There were a number of rooms set up and each had a round table where up to 10 guests sat and ate an amazing array (probably 18 – 20 different dishes), which included crab, shrimp (really small prawns) lobster, chicken soup, vegetables, many vegetable dishes, and some sweat dishes as well as Shaoxing wine. I had not tried the wine before – but it is served in small (shot size) glasses, and one has a toast and the locals drink it quickly. And another toast, and so it went.
Very informal – and just wonderful!
At 6.30 pm it was over, and before we let the room, we were all presented with a gift bag – which included a Pierre Cardin silk scarf, a fabulous souvenir package for the Beijing Olympics, material about Shaoxing, and a packet of stamps in a New Year Package.
We traipsed back to our bus which transported us back home to the college. What a night.