It had been over a year since Lee's last visit to the Quest office in Zhuhai, so it was time to head back there in April. This would be a "fly in/fly out" affair with little spare time and Ky opted to stay at home this time.
It was a very early start on Sunday 7th April with our trusted Geelong driver arriving at 6.15am for the comfortable run up to Melbourne airport. Online check-in ensured a very speedy process at the Qantas counter and there was enough time for a bite to eat at the busy Urban Provedore before boarding the flight bound for Hong Kong. The flight left almost an hour late due to air traffic control restrictions but made good time and landed early into Hong Kong at just on 5pm local time. Immigration and baggage collection were both efficient as usual here and then it was time to try something new - the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau megabridge to cross over to mainland China. All previous visits had utilized the ferry service from the airport (or city) over to Zhuhai but the timing of this flight meant a long wait for a ferry, so this was a good opportunity to try the recently-opened bridge instead! Finding the right spot in the enormous airport was easy thanks to excellent signage and a private transfer in a Mercedes people mover was soon booked and the journey began. Exiting the airport compound meant surrendering passports for an "exit Hong Kong" immigration check and then there was the six kilometre tunnel before joining the bridge aproper - for the next 50+ kilometres! The new surface was billiard table smooth and there was hardly any traffic so it was a very easy, comfortable and quick trip across, arriving into the massive Zhuhai immigration terminal. There's no doubt they have constructed the bridge and its supporting infrastructure with the future in mind, there was barely anyone at the new terminal on this Sunday evening. After clearing immigration in Zhuhai and navigating the earily empty terminal, there were plenty of taxis and it was an easy twenty-minute ride to the Marriott hotel, checking-in just after 7.30pm. The bridge transfer was very easy and efficient, helping to leave some time to relax in the five-star comfort of the Marriott before getting an early night in readiness for the hectic week ahead.
After fueling up at the Marriott's buffet breakfast, the short walk over to the office was the first experience of the hot and humid conditions in this part of the world at this time of year. Monday was a busy work day, broken up at least by a nice vegan buffet lunch at nearby Su Yuan in the international shopping centre behind the Quest office. This cheap and busy spot always provides a great meal (all you can eat in seventy minutes for about eight Aussie dollars) and is very handy from work. In the evening, a return visit to the wonderful environment of the Buddhist temple area of Beishan was in order, this time enjoying the company of good friends (Aaron, his wife and newborn baby and Caroline & Matt) at the high-end Su He Su Shi vegetarian restaurant. We enjoyed the courtyard setting for a while until showers drove us inside, but this was another chance to enjoy the interior space of this really special, peaceful and historic place. The food was again fantastic here, we tried some new dishes as well as some old favourites from previous visits. It was a super-fast taxi trip back to the hotel to make an evening conference call commitment - with a couple of minutes to spare!
Tuesday was back-to-back meetings from 9am to 5pm, with a quick break for lunch back at Su Yuan (with the members of the new "Testing & Quality Practice" kicked off during this visit). After the busy day, it was great to enjoy a relaxing dinner with Alex at Xing Yuan Zi Ran Su Shi near the hotel. This high-quality vegetarian restaurant was a favourite from the last visit and the high standard had been maintained. We enjoyed a great range of delicious dishes, prepared with care and beautifully presented.
It was another day of back-to-back meetings on Wednesday, this time with lunch being at Hakka with the Scrum Masters group. Once work eventually wrapped up, Alex and I headed back to Xing Yuan Zi Ran Su Shi to try a different selection of their amazing dishes.
Thursday was a repeat performance workwise, broken by lunch over the road from the office at the ever-popular and reliable Shanghai restaurant where we also joined by Selina, a colleague briefly visiting from the Austin office. When work wrapped up for the day, Alex and I gave Selina the chance to enjoy the fine vegie fare at Xing Yuan Zi Ran Su Shi and we chose a few old favourites as well as yet more new ones from their incredibly broad menu.
After checking out of the Marriott on Friday morning, it was a taxi ride instead of the usual short walk to reach the office as the promised thunderstorms that had held off all week finally arrived. There was of course time to cram in a few more meetings before lunch, which was a final return visit to the Su Yuan buffet restaurant with a couple of my mentees. Back at the office, it took a while to do the rounds and say goodbye to everyone before catching a taxi with Alex to the ferry port at about 2pm. There was plenty of time to kill before the 3.40pm ferry to the airport so Starbucks was a quiet spot to have a last catch up with Alex before he headed back to Hong Kong city on an earlier ferry. The ferry was on-time and very quiet (the new bridge has decimated its trade, apparently) and it was a quick check-in at the deserted Qantas counter at the Sky Pier on arrival into Hong Kong airport. With almost three hours to kill, there was opportunity to stretch the legs by exploring the airport (including discovering a viewing deck for the first time!) and grab a coffee before boarding the 8.10pm flight. An exit row seat helped ease the pain of the overnight flight and it was an uneventful trip, landing back in Melbourne just after 7am. My trusty taxi driver soon arrived and it was a clear run home so early on a weekend morning.
This was a really short trip and an incredibly busy work schedule, but as always it was the enthusiasm of the staff in the office that made it all worthwhile. The chance to sample some truly world class vegan food was a bonus too and sampling the new bridge was at least one new experience on this very familiar work trip!