13-Dec-2003 -- This is the first of a two-confluence hunt made in conjunction with a China Expat
Soccer Tournament I was attending with our local soccer club known as the "Shambles -
By name, by nature". It was the first of what will
hopefully grow to be a quarterly event with some of the expat soccer clubs in China. Our
opponents were a French team from Shanghai, a Beijing team of mostly Brits and Americans,
and our hosts from Guangzhou, a mostly Australian team. Our team was the most
international with players from China, France, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Britain, and
Chengdu, where I live, receives the least amount of sunshine in China as the result of
being in a basin surrounded by high mountains. On the way to the airport there was very
low-level cloud cover that would only have to drop about 50 metes to be pea soup fog. I
was concerned that the flight would be delayed, but things went smoothly.
Taking an early flight from Chengdu I got a window seat next to an elderly couple who
are farmers. This was their first flight, as it was for quite a number of other
passengers, and they marveled at the unfamiliarity of such things as seat belts. The man
was next to me and had his eyes glued to the window, even while we sat on the tarmac.
Take-off was a rush for them, and the food was strange. They decided that they would take
some uneaten food home with them and put one plastic bowl in his hat. After the meal was
over, the stewardess collected the trays and told them that they were missing a bowl. At
first he denied it, but after the stewardess insisted, he sheepishly pulled it out of his
hat and gave it to her.
Once in the air, we quickly climbed through the clouds popping through like an arrow
through a bed of cotton just as the sun was rising. There was a collective gasp at the
beauty from the passengers.
The clouds were painted with the deep orange glow of sunrise and the shadows cast by
the low level of the sun highlight the fine formations of the upper level of the cloud
Once we got past the ridge of the basin the cloud cover evaporated and the landforms
below became more distinct. Passing over mountainous Guangxi province, evidence of massive
pollution from a multitude of cement factories could be seen. In one place, the factory
smoke belched out a plume yellow-brown smoke several kilometers wide and scores long.
Later we pasted over the pointy conical karst hills of Guilin, looking not unlike an
irregular bed of nails. As we approach Guangzhou, vast areas of yellow raw soil appeared
in areas of recent filling in preparation of new development. Closer to the airport
warehouse and factory buildings covered the ground.
From the airport I went to meet my teammates and play our first match. Afterwards, I
had planned to meet Targ Parsons (China?s Confluence King with more than 80 to his name)
at the train station. Targ had recently purchased a HK4,000 (US$550) alarm clock that also
had useful other features such as a mobile phone and PDA to replace the one he lost on his
last confluencing trip to China. As I was on my way to the train station, he called to
suggest that we meet in Dongguan, along the way, so we can visit 23N 114E today, and then
do 23N 113E on Sunday.
Targ was waiting for me at the Dongguan train station when I arrived. He was standing
in a cloud of paint fumes from a renovation going on at the exit gate and suggested that
we walk to the confluence since it was less that two km away. It had been six months since
we last met in Chongqing to do 29N 107E
and 30N 106E.
The city of Dongguan looks much like any other mid-sized city in China with the
exception of the palm trees that line the streets. The main road along the railroad tracks
led to the confluence and there was a billboard over the road announcing the Lakeside
Villa development where the confluence lies.
Targ said that on previous visits (this is his fourth time here) he always had
difficulty getting into the development, so he suggested that we say we are interested in
buying a unit. It seemed like a good strategy, and it worked like a charm. Once inside the
development, we could have continued directly to the confluence, but we thought a quick
stop in the sales office might be useful.
The saleswoman, Wang Weihua, was very excited to see us and said that Unit 31 (next to
the confluence) had been sold and was currently under construction. The new owners added
170 square meters to the basic plan making it a veritable mansion of 550 square meters
(5,900 square feet). Ms. Wang said that the adjacent unit, however, was still available.
Unit 31 sold for 3.800,000 RMB several months ago and will be ready for occupation in June
2004. Average prices for new units are 7,800 RMB square meters in an unfinished condition.
Decoration costs generally add 2-3,000 RMB per square meter. So getting a confluence unit
in this exclusive development would set you back about US$700,000. It was not in the cards
for me today.
I was thinking about the price and wondering why there would be such a market for this
kind of place 60 km from Guangzhou. Later I remembered that Dongguan is the center of
clothes manufacturing in China, and obviously there is money in this business.
There was an enormous 1:150 scale model of the development in the sales office that
seemed to go on forever. Ms. Wang offered to take us around in a golf cart to check out
the units. We told her that we would rather walk there so we could get a feel for the
On the way, we past a fake rock wall with some calligraphy, magic music mushrooms, and
a band of construction of new units. Unit 31 was lakeside with some swan boats lined along
the shore. The monument and tree that Targ found on previous visits still remained. Targ
also met one of the guards that stopped him on a previous visit a few years ago.
Unit 31 was behind a construction fence and we entered the gate unchallenged. We
quickly located the confluence point just outside what will be the front door located at a
stack of bricks in what will probably be the front yard. After taking the required photos,
we decided to explore the confluence unit, which at this point is only a basic shell, and
roof. The construction workers had already quit for the day, so we had the huge place to
ourselves. It is a three-story building with what looked like four-meter ceiling heights.
On the third floor was a big deck area overlooking the lake. Given the late time of day,
the setting sun afforded terrific views past the scaffolding.
After we finished our tour, we jumped on the "Confluence Courtesy Bus" (sic) waiting
outside for a free return trip to the train station.
On our way back to Guangzhou, we got a new double decker train with high-tech seats
with a complicated diagram and instructions printed on the back of the seat in front of
Back in Guangzhou, we checked into the Yuexin Hotel where half the soccer team was
located, and then went and had dinner with them.
I christened this the Mansion Confluence.
The story continues here at 23N 113E.