Shandong, PRC
 
September, 2010
 

Two words to sum up our 4-day trip to Shandong….”WOW!” and “AMAZING!”

It was FD’s first Tour of Duty for 2010 and our Inaugural dragon boat trip in China. I can sincerely say that the FD Shandong Team did you all proud! We lived up to our FD tradition of not only kicking a$$ but also being the media sl@ts once again! I am sure that my trip report will miss many funny mishaps and stories which I am sure the FD Shandong team will be more than happy to share with all of you over a few beers.

Our FD Shandong team consisted of 15 dedicated hardcore FD paddlers/party animals/dogs. We had:

1.      Grace “One Stroke”
2.      Angela “I have never been drunk before”
3.      Kelly “Bikini anyone?”
4.      Zena “Queen of all Drinking Games”
5.      Marilyn “FD Official Shandong Photographer”
6.      Mani “the Human Spring Roll”
7.      Jo “Only White Shandong Girl”
8.      Benny “Bowel Problem”
9.      Mark “I can do Sign Language”
10.    Al “Look, she’s got hairy armpits!”
11.    Dave “Are you a Gweilo”
12.    Adam “the human trampolinist”
13.    Lee “Jacky Cheung”
14.    Kin “Someone’s playing basketball”
15.    Yours truly Alvin “No means Yes in China”

Read on if you want to find out what the above means…

 

Friday 3rd September (The Arrival of FD):

FD Shandong team departed in 3 groups (one morning, one afternoon and one late in the evening). Our transportation from HK to Shenzhen was relatively smooth as people were still recovering from the night before. I presume some of us went to Prive/Hyde/Tasmania Ballroom on Thurs night. Our first little mishap happened at the Shenzhen airport when one of our team members forgot to buy his/her air ticket! Also another member had his/her name incorrectly entered. So after some initial panic and loud “D’Oh!” and “You got to be kidding!”, we managed to scramble enough RMB to buy 2 extra tickets and we were on our way!

Since the food on Shandong Airline was definitely NOT appealing, when we arrived, we were ravenous and knowing we had a 1.5 hr ride to the hotel, we stocked up on snacks. Lee was our brave guinea pig and he bought some pre-packed Jinan chicken burgers…. Did I mention he also bought beers for our road trip and then the drinking started…..

Since it was a long ride, we got out Lee’s Ipod and our trusty gadgets to connect it to the car speakers. We were happily listening to our usual Lady Gaga and FD Hip Hop Mix when we noticed that our car started to speed up. Only then did we notice that the driver had started to move his head to the beat of the music. As the music got louder and faster, so did the speed of our car. We then started to weave through the traffic like a needle through cloth. He made Van Diesel look like a pu$$y in The Fast and the Furious…. We immediately changed our music back to Frank Sinatra….

We finally got to our hotel. It was definitely China 5-star only! Actually it was only meant to be officially opened in Oct this year so we were definitely the Guinea Pigs. When we got into our rooms, we realized that that some of the wine fridges and room safes were still packed in the cardboard boxes!

Since we were still very hungry, we decided to venture down the road to look for some real food. Along the way, the locals kept staring at us and also the cars slowed down and people started to shout out “hello!”.  Only then did we realize that Lee was probably the first gweilo some of these guys have seen!!

We found this “hole in the wall” restaurant but boy was the food good. It was the best dumplings and lamb soup we’ve ever had. It was also very cheap. RMB15 for 60 dumplings!!! This was the place for our 1st FD Memorable Moment. The table next to us (with 3 local Jinanians) got up and wanted to drink with Lee. Pretty soon they had kidnapped Lee to their table and started to pour him unlimited beers and offered him cigarettes. We knew Lee could pick up girls but we didn’t expect him to be able to pick up guys as well, let along 3 together! We even saw some of them kiss his hand and also hug him from behind! Lee was officially a celebrity! Finally after drinking about 15 glasses of beer, we finally managed to rescue Lee and leave. The Jinanians didn’t give up and followed us out of the restaurant! We managed to get rid of them and went back to our hotel.

Since we had to wait for about 4 hours before the other groups arrived, we started to party in Lee’s room. With his ipod pumping and the beers flowing, we started to party. Lee’s rock hard Chinese mattress bed became the official FD Trampoline and the best moment was when Adam, Al, Mani and Zena were all jumping up and down on his bed! I feel sorry for the room downstairs as the guy must have thought it was an earthquake. I am surprised it didn’t cave in! Lee’s bed eventually gave in and broke. It was an FD classic moment. Not only did the mattress and the ensemble underneath broke, the mattress actually shrunk around 6-inches from each side making his queensize bed into only a double bed! The mattress was literally in a V-shape. Our jumping up and down was eventually put to a halt after the guest below complained. After some great translation from Kin, he came back and said that the guest actually complained and thought that someone upstairs was playing basketball in the room! If he only knew what we were doing in the room above!

The last FD group arrived and after 4 dozen (1-litre) beers on the first day and partying till 3:30am, FD called it a night.

 

Saturday, 4th September (China meets FD!):

Morning call was at 6:30am (Ouch!). Breakfast at 7am and then we were off to our first training session on the lake. The race was actually held on the Dongping Lake which is the main tourist attraction there. It was 27 KM in diameter so it is a big a$$ lake. We were led by a 3-car police escort/convoy. Along the way we had locals waving at us so we really felt like celebrities. Not only was it a practice session for the International teams but it was also the local elimination races as well as the rehearsal for the official ceremonies the next day. We had to wait for 2 hours in the heat before our practice session. We had the locals constantly taking pictures with us. It was only then did we realize that they only wanted to take pictures with the foreigners (Dave, Jo, Al and Lee). On several occasions, Mani and Mark were asked by the locals to get out of the picture….MANI WAS NOT HAPPY!!! Grace was also asked to sign autographs for some of the kids and Dave was his gadgets (ipad and cameras), the kids thought he was James Bond!!!

We finally were summoned to start our practice race and session. The boats were actually not bad. Wooden boats but in pretty good condition. We started to gauge at our opponents. There were a total of 10 International club teams representing various countries and 38 local teams. The 2 best local teams were also selected to race against the International teams bringing our total field to 12 teams. These included:

1.      JiuJang (China National Team)
2.      Dong Ping City Champion Team;
3.      Water Margin (Champion Local Team);
4.      American Team;
5.      Germany Team;
6.      Portuguese Team;
7.      Macau Team;
8.      HK Team (Freedom Dragon)
9.      HK Team (MTR)
10.    Taiwanese Women National Team;
11.    Singapore Team; and
12.    Fair Dinkum representing Australia!

We got to the starting line for our first practice race, not knowing what to expect. We were lined up against 2xMacau, 2xHK, Germany and Portugal. It was only a 500M race but since it was freshwater and only a 10-men boat, we knew it would be a much heavier boat. We were locked in at the start and after the gun went off, we were off to our usual 10-30-long start. It was a little untidy but we managed to get a good lead. We then went to our routine 20 Long/20 Power all the way until Kelly called the final Sonic Boom. We won our practice race convincingly and were quite confident for the next day. We managed to have a few more practice runs to sharpen our transitions.

Once we were off the boat we got changed quickly. That was when Kelly and Adam started to get changed in front of the locals. Kelly was in her binkini and Adam was showing off his chest. Big mistake! We have never seen so many locals with their mouths open and jaws dropped! I think it was really their first time seeing a girl in her binkini and a topless gweilo in the public. Finally we had the official tell the locals to leave us along and stop staring as our teams were changing!!!

After training, some lunch and a power nap, we were off to our team manager’s meeting and official opening dinner. The definite highlight of the night was the performances on stage. It was China’s version of America’s got talent! We had a mixture of singing performances and Chinese traditional dances, latin dances, ballet etc. Al managed to snap some great photos especially of the group of girls  performing their traditional dance… Obviously Hairy Armpits was in Fashion in China!

After numerous bottoms up with the Officials and the other teams and 19 dishes per table, the dinner finally ended. I was suddenly dragged to one side by one of the organizers. I started to panic and was wondering what have our team done now…. He then said that our team had a reputation of being “Party Animals!”. I couldn’t believe that our FD reputation had travelled so far! He offered to take us out to “party” but we couldn’t tell the other teams. I was actually quite skeptical at first and some of us thought it must be the other teams trying to get us drunk so we will not be at our tip top condition the next day at the races. But little did they know that FD is at their best when they are drunk and hung over! So after some discussions, we started our covert operation. We got back to our hotel with the other teams and after 10mins we rendezvous again to go out in 2 minibuses. It really felt like we were on a covert operation. After turning in some small side alleys we pulled up next to a KTV. We were led into the biggest room there and that’s when the FD team let it all out. There were countless Spice Girls/Bon Jovi/Elvis/Madonna songs and unlimited whiskeys and beers. We eventually called it a night and was in bed by 1am!

 

Sunday 4th September (Raceday!):
Morning Call 6am
Breakfast 6:30am

Roll Call 7am!
It was a miracle the whole team managed to wake up. But the FD breakfast table was obviously very quiet. All you could hear were “Oooohs and Ahhhhs” and “I am never drinking again!”.  Thanks to Lee, the whole team was given their supply of berrocca to cure the hangovers. During breakfast, the team confirmed that definitely China toilets are not made for Aussie guys. Benny “ Bowel Problem” Chan managed to clog his toilet twice in one day. Al managed to do the same!

After our police escorted ride to the Competition area, we found our tent. It was an awesome sight. Each tent had their respective national flag. Also at the starting ceremony, all 12 team flags was up. Mark told me he actually weaped when he saw our FD Flag flying high next to the Germany, HK, Macau, China and Portugal flag! The whole opening ceremony lasted more than an hour long. We had 5 speeches from Government Officials, lion dances and also the Eye Dotting Ceremony. We had numerous media and TV crew interview our team. It was actually an amazing site. Around the whole course, it was jam packed with with spectators cheering all the teams.

The Race was divided into 3 races. First Heat, Repecharge and Final with the Top 6 teams competing for the Cup and the bottom 6 teams going for the Tail Race.

Thanks to Mark’s uncanny ability to draw the worst lanes and worst heats, we were up against The China National Team, The Local City Champions, HK, Portugal and Macau. We also managed to get lane 5 and had JiuJang (China National) to our left and Macau to our right. We were quite nervous at the start as it was our first time against the China National Team. It actually didn’t help that they had 8 guys while we only had 6. We eventually found out that in China, for a Mixed Category, the drummer and steersmen also counted in the number of girls in the team. So with the gun going off we were off! Within the first 20 strokes, the China National Team was already a boat length ahead and started to pull away. They actually jumped the start quite noticeably but no one said anything. We didn’t panic and started to get into our long strokes. We were a distant 3rd behind China National Team and the Local Champions. With the last power and Sonic Boom (over 100m), we managed to gain a lot of grounds and finished the race 3rd less than 3/4 of a boat behind the local champion team. The other teams were more than a boat length behind us. It felt good and we knew we could do better. It was less than 20mins rest and we were up once again in our Repecharge. We had to come top 2 to get into the Cup Final. We drew Lane 5 and were against Taiwan Women’s National Team, Macau, Portugal and USA. We knew we could take on all these teams. Our race was much more solid. We were 2nd all the way behind Macau and in the last power up we surged ahead and finished a convincing 1st! We were in the Cup Final!

The Last Race of the Day, the Grand Final. Again we drew lane 5 and we were lined up against China National Team, Provincial Champion, Local Champion, HK and Macau. We knew it was going to be a tough race but we had a chance for a podium finish since we were only 6 sec behind the local champion team in the 1st race and as we learnt from the Stanley Race, anything can happen in the final. Guns went off and we were off. It was a much better start and in no time we were off to our Longs. The China National Team and the Provincial Team were clearly pulling away but we managed to keep up with the local champion team. Final Power Up and we were only a boat length behind the Local team and we knew we could catch them. We called out Sonic Boom on Every Stroke and threw everything at them. We crossed the finish line and when the results came out, we realized we missed out coming 3rd by 0.3sec. The Local Champions clocked 2min44.43 while we clocked 2min44.77. It was a great effort. We were so close! We congratulated all the other teams and we were off to the Awards and Closing Ceremony. With Mani dressed as Lady Gaga, our girls handed out our gifts to the spectators. It was like a Rock Concert. Everyone was fighting to get our little Koalas!

With the Races finally over, we were ready to party! Little did everyone know this was the beginning of a very long night! After a nice lunch in a little restaurant (it actually looked more like someone’s house), some of us went sightseeing. I think this was when one of the locals went up to Dave and asked him whether he was a Gweilo? Not knowing how to respond, Mani and Dave invited him to take a photo with them. The local guy happy accepted but he only wanted to take the photo with Dave and not Mani. Mani cursing nonstop and unwillingly stepped away! Afterwards we managed to negotiate and buy some big fireworks and again 4 more dozen beers! After some long negotiations by yours truly , we managed to hire several cars to take us into town for dinner.  The restaurant had no menu nor price list. Mark, Benny and I managed to come up with a menu after going into their kitchen and talking to their chefs and pointing at various ingredients! Mark had to use sign language to order some of the dishes. It left a lot of their young waitresses giggling and laughing but that’s another story in itself. After a sumptuous dinner with some crazy drinking games, we managed to finish all our beers. We then went on to our spectator fireworks show right outside the restaurant. I am sure we woke up the whole town with it.

We were once again off to KTV and again crazy singing/dancing/drinking followed. We all thought that it was the end of the night when we got back to our hotel but we were wrong! We decided to finish all our alcohol at our little party in Lee’s room once again. This consisted of a bottle of vodka (magnum), tequila, 2 dozen beers. Again Lee’s bed became the trampoline. It also became a stage for our FD pillow fights. Definitely a classic moment (check out Facebook when the photos/videos goes up)! Another highlight was when some of the guys (including me) rolled up Mani with a blanket, like a springroll, and started to run down the hotel corridor and knock on every door with her head! I believe it was around 3am before we all collapsed, totally hammered and completely exhausted. Even Angela “I never get drunk” Yu became very very quiet…..

Monday, 6th September (The Journey Back):
After breakfast and lots of photos and farewells and gifts, it was time to leave. We managed to all get back in one piece. Amazingly, no one missed their flights. This was the end of another truly memorable FD Tour of Duty!

I am very proud of FD. I am sure we left a lasting impression in Shandong and we will definitely be invited back once again next year. Once again, FD made a lot of new friends. More and more people know about FD now.

 

Press coverage

China Daily! clear pic of us leading the race!
http://chinadaily.cn/regional/2010-09/07/content_11268457.htm

Complete website of links  to  the event! (every single link has photos/videos of the event!- Must look at link no 26!!!) (Some of the titles are hilarious eg link 17 "Drinking with overseas friends with Adam & Jo) (see link 14 – lot’s of photos of Kelly!!!)
http://bbs.sddp.net/thread-86939-1-1.html

I have taken link 26 below. It is titled "handome guys and pretty girls on dragon boats". And most of the photos were on us!!!!!
http://bbs.sddp.net/thread-87066-1-1.html

Chinese papers:
http://www.sd.xinhuanet.com/travel/2010-09/06/content_20820841.htm

http://www.chinanews.com.cn/ty/2010/09-05/2512921.shtml

HK newspaper:
http://paper.wenweipo.com/2010/09/07/SP1009070010.htm

The official video - from setting up of the event to the conclusion (37 minutes long):
http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/Jxphf2l0AUk/

Very clear video and Grace's interview (her mandarin is worse than mine!)  Grace, what is "Ho Ging"? haha 
http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/Iq7B0fKwP9o/

On CCTV:
http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/_46XHOL131A/

 Another tv channel:
http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/0vcU-1u1GHc/

 
 
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