Few people outside of Greater China have heard of Dongguan, but chances are that many of the things they use were made in one of the thousands of factories that dot Dongguan's landscape.
A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of the People's Republic of China, Dongguan is located at the heart of the Pearl River Delta, known to the rest of the world as the World's Factory.
Just north of Shenzhen, another SEZ, Dongguan is a 75 minute drive north of the Hong Kong border.
Many people think of Dongguan as an industrial wasteland, and much of the sprawling metropolis really is just that. I've viewed Dongguan countless times on my way by train from Shenzhen to Guangzhou, and it never occurred to me that I might want to get off the train and spend the night there.
But owing to the large number of buyers, factory owners, and product designers that frequent Dongguan, dozens of hotels and resorts have been built there in recent years to cater to the needs of both long and short terms guests. And some of these hotels and resorts are actually quite posh!
They have fine dining restaurants serving both Chinese and international cuisine, luxurious spas, an array of sports and leisure facilities, and karaoke lounges (so what else is new?).
Up Close and Personal
I spent four nights in Dongguan recently to review restaurants for a newspaper in Hong Kong, staying at two properties – one in the Dong Cheng district and another in the historic township of Humen.
While staying at the Pullman Dongguan Forum, which is located in Dong Cheng, I left the hotel in search of a Mini Mart to buy Coke Zero.
I never found a Mini Mart, but I did stumble upon a lovely park.
Located a short distance from the Pullman Dongguan Forum, Huangqi Mountain looked more like a hill than a mountain to me. A popular destination for outings, “mountain climbing” (hiking is more like it), and worship since the Tang Dynasty, Huangqi Mountain is considered to be one of Dongguan's “Eight Ancient Sceneries”.
According to an old legend, there was once a banyan tree at the top of the mountain (hill?) that attracted fireflies, making it look like a giant lantern at night. Not sure what happened to the banyan tree, but a huge red lantern – reputedly several metres tall – has been installed there.
From the garden of the Pullman Dongguan Forum hotel, the lantern looked a bit like one of those giant orange moons that very occasionally light the sky when climatic conditions are just right.
The 243 hectare park in which Huangqi Mountain is located has a newly built square with stands selling everything but Coke Zero, a gate tower, and a body of water known as Qifeng Lake.
I circumambulated the lake in search of a kiosk selling Coke Zero. Unsuccessful in this endeavour, I did enjoy the sights, key amongst which was a temple situated at the foot of the mountain called Huangqi Kwan-yin Ancient Temple, which was built in Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD) – entrance fee: 5 yuan.
It was breathtakingly hot so I decided to save my 5 yuan. I really didn't want to climb those stairs.
All's Well That Ends Well
I left the park without any Coke Zero. Undaunted, I walked down Dong Cheng Middle Road in the opposite direction.
I never did find a Mini Mart, but I did eventually find a little shop selling soft drinks beer, bottled water, and fruit juice. Amongst them were several plastic bottles of Coke Zero.
I bought three bottles, and – mission accomplished – I returned to my hotel.