Going on a China factory “vacation”? Here’s how to make the most of it.
Engineers who develop consumer electronics know that there is a typical flow to the year — and this is crunch time. It’s all driven by Black Friday and Christmas — two dates you can’t move even if you’re on T5 of your molding tools, have DRAM shortages, or are hand-cutting copper tape to eliminate a desense issue. For these four weeks in August, engineers “vacation” on frenzied factory floors across China to follow through on commitments to channel partners, backers, investors, and shareholders. They are pushing their products over the finish line.
As a product design engineer at Apple, PVT and ramp were always my favorite builds to support: I loved seeing my hard work scale on lines where piece parts went in at the top and retail packaged units emerged one after another an hour later. On the other hand, it was also a weary time, with the accumulation of months of sleep debt and the unique combination of despair and hopefulness required to push back return flights (just three more days, right?). Regardless, there was always one bright spot on the horizon: Sunday. Sunday is the one day each week in which the factory was, more likely than not, shut down. It was during these narrow slivers of time that I got to experience the rest of China.
My well-traveled team has pulled together some of the highlights of our Sundays in China over the past decade, and wanted to share our go-to list for your factory vacationing pleasure. Whether you're in Shanghai, Suzhou, Shenzhen, or Weifang, we have recommendations on where to stay, places to eat, and things to do!
Andaz Shanghai, right in Xintiandi for a happening (though westernized) spot
JW Marriott, a nice place on People’s Square with easy access to the subway if you want to get around without the traffic
Hotel Indigo, for a great view and easy access to the Bund
Hyatt on the Bund, on the water and a short walk from the Bund. This hotel has a great breakfast buffet.
Soup dumplings, of course! Any Din Tai Fung has great Xiao Long Bao, but for a more “authentic” experience try the ones in Yu Yuan (look for the line!) or in the streets near the South Bund Fabric Market.
Duck: Xindalu, on the ground floor of Hyatt on the Bund, has great Chinese food including Peking duck. Also try Da Dong Roast Duck in Xuhai District.
Hotpot: Hai Di Lao near Jiangning Lu
French quarter restaurants: Franck, Cuivre (both $$$$)
Healthy: Element Fresh in Xintiandi, if you’re craving a healthy salad and smoothie
Mexican: Maya, for when you want chips and guacamole. If you have a big group, ask to book the private room. It has a nice lounge area and high top tables for hanging out with your team. Alternatively, try Pistolera for cheaper Cali-Mex.
Seafood: Shouning Road’s street crawfish — they are messy but oh so good!
Other types of Chinese food: Charmant Taiwanese restaurant, Lost Heaven (on the Bund) for Yunnan, Dong Bei Ren for Manchurian style with tons of dumplings, and Guyi for spicy Hunan food.
Check out www.smartshanghai.com for details or more recommendations
Shop for artsy gifts and knick-knacks at Tianzifang, which also has lots of international restaurants and bars
Zotter’s Chocolate Factory: come ready to eat as much as you can on the tour, as there aren’t very many things to buy at the store at the end.
Shanghai South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market: get bespoke shirts, suits, jackets, dresses, and more. You pick out the fabric, they take your measurements, and deliver them 1-3 days later. All of the booths will deliver to your hotel for a small fee. Booth #241 has clothed half of the Apple Watch product design team! The quality is decent for the price and has held up to years of washing. Expect to pay 90-130 RMB for a tailored shirt, depending on how many you buy and any extra detailing you require. And don’t worry; the woman who staffs the booth speaks very good English.
The Urban Planning Museum — see a scale model of the city!
Visit the parks to see (and join in on) waltz and swing dancing
Enjoy the wide variety of bars and drinking establishments:
Places with spectacular views:
Vue Bar @ Hyatt on the Bund (North Bund)
Char Bar @ Hotel Indigo (south Bund)
JW’s Lounge @ JW Marriott (People’s Square)
Bar Rouge (Bund)
Long Bar @ the Waldorf Astoria (Bund) is very classy
Salon de Ning at the Peninsula (Bund) is a crazy place. Every room has a different theme, like "upside down" or "submarine".
Science Museum (though the market underneath it is a good place for bargaining, if you’ve got the energy)
Nanjing Xi Lu walking street (it’s very touristy)
M50 Creative Park — touted as an interesting art district, but it’s out of the way, and there’s not much happening there on Sundays.
Greater Suzhou Area
Hyatt Regency Suzhou is close to local eating establishments
Intercontinental Suzhou is right on the lake with large rooms (some of which have circular bath tubs). Beware: there’s no such thing as a “quick dinner” at the restaurants in this hotel, but do try the “Flower Pot” confection if you’ve brought friends with you to dinner.
There’s a shopping mall a block away from the Hyatt Regency. It has an imported good grocery store, a Korean bibimbap place, Din Tai Fung, and a Japanese katsu curry spot in the basement.
Taiwanese Hot Pot in the basement of the Eslite Mall
Go see the dinosaurs in Changzhou
Walk or bike around the lake (you can rent bikes from the Intercontinental)
Go to the historic water town — the Hyatt offers a free shuttle
Tiger Hill Pagoda is the leaning pagoda of Suzhou
Master of Nets Garden (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
- Crowne Plaza Changshu. If you stay here, bring your own Airport Express to make sure you can get reliable wifi. If you have allergies or are sensitive to cigarette smoke, definitely skip this place.
Shenzhen (and a little of Hong Kong)
Grand Hyatt Shenzhen. If you book a 10-night stay, they will upgrade you to an Apartment Suite (which has a kitchen). You can buy food at the grocery store under the mall next door and cook meals for yourself.
Sheraton in Futian. This place was the original 5-star Western hotel in Shenzhen, and still has some of that charm left. Great central city location!
DoubleTree Longhua. Newer hotel with nice amenities right next to a large mall with many restaurants.
- Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. If you've saved up enough points, definitely consider spending them here.
- Marco Polo Tsim Sha Tsui. This is a quality hotel in Hong Kong in a great location (on the Kowloon side), and has a ton of business rates with CMs - see if your factory contact can get you a good deal!
Ovolo Noho in Hong Kong island. If you're looking for a hotel in a great location and you don't care about the size of the room, this is for you. Great prices, complementary Happy Hour, and steps away from mid-levels and SoHo.
ICO mall next to the DoubleTree has a great Italian restaurant with legit flatbread pizza and pasta. There are also some good Chinese restaurants and a Hai Di Lao for more adventurous folks.
1881 Chinese restaurant in the Grand Hyatt has excellent duck and delicious mango pudding
CoCo park: Azzurro has good Italian food, the chef is actually from Italy and is usually on site. Shark Restaurant nearby has fine dining and fancy drinks.
Hong Kong: Grissini in the Grand Hyatt: it’s a Frommer’s 3 star Italian restaurant with the best balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had — it’s as thick as molasses.
Check out shenzhenparty.com for more details on these places and others
Shop for food, snacks, and high end clothing in the ICO mall.
Overseas Chinese Town: There is an artist annex next to it that’s been created from old warehouse buildings that’s got a lot of exhibitions, restaurants and bars that’s great to walk around and relax in for an afternoon
CoCo park bar street: across the street from the CoCo park mall is where all of Shenzhen’s best bars are
Dafen: See where hand-painted art is manufactured, including everything in the hotels you’ve been frequenting. Get hand-painted copies of famous works for $10-20. Enjoy walking among the artists and seeing them work.
Cross into Hong Kong to enjoy the city, food, and islands:
Spend a day hiking Lamma island! Eat at one of the seafood restaurants at the destination town — order some local Squilla (a creature that is essentially a lobster tail).
Take the funicular up to the Peak for a great view with the option of a calf-strengthening walk back down!
Grab a bite or a drink with a view at any of the Wooloomooloo steakhouses — seriously amazing views of the city
Take a ride on the outdoor escalators through Midlevels and Soho
Get authentic dim sum (but be prepared to wait)
Pullman Weifang Wanda: the nicest hotel in the area
In Qingdao, stay at the Westin (it’s brand new and very nice)
The Wanda Mall next to the hotel has a ton of good Chinese restaurants in it as well as a really solid Japanese teppanyaki all-you-can-eat restaurant
There is a Korean fried chicken restaurant on the street corner if you go out of the Pullman, take a left, and walk to the next intersection. Cross the street in front of you and it should be just to your left.
On your way in or out, stay a night in Qingda
Eat clams, other seafood, and then more clams on the streets of Qingdao (ask your hotel concierge for the restaurant street where everyone sits outside to eat - it should be less than a 10 minute cab ride from the Westin).
You have to have the Qingdao beer on draft — it tastes so much better there than anywhere else!