Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Canton Fair

Well, it's an interesting experience. I mentioned before that this is the 99th fair, didn't I. One might be forgiven for thinking that they might, therefore have a fair amount of practice and got the whole thing down to a fine art, mightn't one. That would be a mistake.

EW and I queued for four, yes that's right, four hours to get inside. I had a preprinted letter of invitation but had to queue to get my badge, because that's easier for them then posting it out.

The queue was that bad that fights broke out twice. It was a complete farce.

By 2pm when we finally got inside we were completely exhausted.

There were, to my surprise, almost certainly more people from South Asia and the Middle East than anywhere else. Now queueing is not, in my experience, a strong point for the Chinese generally but these guys made the Chinese look just like the British with regard to repect for the queue. I was pushed, jostled, queue jumped and had to at one point actually turn round and yell at the people behind me who were actively shoving me into a group of stationary people. At one point a guy jumped over the fence trying to bypass the queue altogether. One of the security coordinators ran to him and shoved him back over the fence and was rewarded with a loud cheer and a round of applause from the queue.

There were crowd control measures... There was a barrier that they used to stop too many people from getting into the formal queueing area. Except that it was manned by 5 or 6 60kg security guards who couldn't stop the surge to get the barrier back in place.

The organisers should be ashamed of themselves. People could easily have been hurt or killed in that situation.

Even inside the badge-issuing hall (which took us 3 hours to get that far) we had to queue in several places and a young girl on the tannoy kept shouting in a frightened tone "keep in order! Don't push!" which didn't do anything to help.

First order when we got inside was to sit down and have a coffee. Appallingly they wanted 1 RMB (about 7p) when E asked for a napkin! I also had a single cheese sandwich which, when it came I found they'd made using 5 slices of bread.

The show itself was less interesting than I'd hoped. EW put it down to the places most of the people had come from - I saw people from India, Pakistan, Honduras, Panama, Columbia, Mexico, Iran, Syria, Saudi and so on (everyone had their passports out to register) which did probably mean that people were after lower-tech products than if it had been mostly Europeans and North Americans.

At the end of the day though I had some ideas, a couple of CD-ROMs (probably the most useful thing) and a clearer understanding that it's probably not worth coming back. Another bonus is that I do now have a Guangzhou Starbucks mug.

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