Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: January 20, 2012

Many of us kicked off Friday in the early hours of the morning at Neway—a karaoke bar on Kowloon near to our hotel. We figured what better way to soak up a little bit of local color than with a favorite Chinese pastime (or at least so we’d been told)?! The fact that we got put in a private karaoke room led us to believe that perhaps our reputation as stellar singers had preceded us and no one wanted to be shown up on a Whitney Houston number (yeah, yeah…probably not the reason but let us keep dreaming okay?). Either way, it was a total blast and the best hits of the 80s, 90s, and today were belted/wailed/whined in style for hours on end. MBA /Law bonding experience? Check.

After several much needed hours of post-karaoke slumber, we all got up and headed down to the bus for a visit to our friends at the VF Corporation. Once there we met with Tom Nelson, vice president for Global Product Procurement and managing director for Global Sourcing. In addition to all of that, Tom is also an Elon parent (his oldest daughter graduated from high school in Hong Kong last year and is currently enjoying her freshman year at Elon)!

Tom gave us a great overview of VF in Asia and the world and how their brands interact to make them a leader in the apparel industry. Most interesting was learning more about how VF helps to maintain the individual spirit of the brands that they acquire (their most recent acquisition was Timberland). Tom talked about how walking into an innovation center for The North Face is very different from entering the offices at Wrangler or Reef.  We got to see exactly what this meant when we went on an impromptu visit to a couple of show rooms in the building. Nestled between cubicles, meeting spaces, and shelves overflowing with fabric swatch binders were rooms for several of the individual apparel brands that VF maintains. With its rough cement floors and industrial design elements (from the clothing racks to the exposed pipes on the ceiling), the Vans room felt very much like an ode to a skateboard park.

Nautica, on the other hand, was very clean and polished—displaying the colors and emblems of the upcoming season’s collection on minimalistic (but wood and still somewhat nautical feeling) shelves. The Eastpak room felt like its brand, too, and was a perfect example of why these rooms were designed the way they were. Each showroom is meant to be a little slice of the brand it houses so that when brand employees come to the Hong Kong office on assignment they will have a workspace that feels like home.

Of course, the rooms can work as functioning showrooms if a buyer is coming to see the product but, more importantly, they are work spaces for each specific brand’s employees. The Eastpak room was in the middle of being used for just that and was strewn with fabric samples, boxes of product, and various bags and backpacks.

In addition to our time with Tom at VF on Friday morning, we also heard from Jeff Blount of the law firm Fullbright & Jaworski, LLP. Based in Houston Texas, Fullbright & Jaworski is an international law firm with more than 70 offices all over the world. Blount is currently a business lawyer living in China and explained that he represents a lot of American companies that are in the process of buying Chinese companies.

Throughout the morning session, Blount discussed China’s evolving regulatory environment and practices, and he also talked about China’s main laws and rules affecting inbound investment and mergers & acquisitions transactions. He also touched upon how his firm deals with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Acts, which deal with improper payments to Chinese government officials in order to obtain or retain business. Likewise, Blount mentioned that China’s domestic anti-bribery rules are strong and their enforcement has become increasingly robust.

Following our morning visits we loaded back onto the bus and headed for a traditional dim sum (and then some!) lunch. Crowded around the lazy susans (and huddled together for warmth as this particular restaurant was quite chilly) we shared some exotic new dishes and some that by this point have become old favorites. We also marveled while a Chinese family seated at a table nearby that was at least twice the size of our 12 person tables managed to share a meal with a lazy susan that was no larger than ours without spilling anything on the tablecloth! Oh to be so gifted with the chopsticks (we’re still working on it)…

After lunch we headed for the docks where we hopped on two party boats and headed out for one of the highlights of the trip. We passed the Jumbo Floating Restaurant…

…and rode into the typhoon shelter (which looks much like a harbor) where we saw a local phenomenon. Dozens and dozens of boats anchored and lashed together where families live full time! Of course, we had heard of house boats before (come on, who hasn’t seen Sleepless in Seattle?!), but we had never seen anything like this:

Seriously. How cool is that?! Right in the middle of the city there are all these industrial-looking boats just hanging out with clothes hung out to dry and local fishermen floating by. So neat.

Completely awesome. After our trusty captains (all the helmsmen were actually helmswomen—supposedly because of the mad skillz needed to navigate a big boat through the awkwardly arranged harbor—girl power!) got us back to shore, it was back on the bus and over to the Stanley Market to shop ‘til we dropped. We should note that at this point some members of our group had headed back to the hotel to make their way to Macau for the evening, but the faithful remnant spent an hour or two shopping around the market.

On the way there we drove on many curvy hillside roads and saw some spectacular views of the water. We even passed a theme park with rollercoasters on the side of a mountain/glorified hill—surely a ride on one of them would have you thinking that you were bound for a hillside tumble and then a giant splash at the bottom—and an upscale apartment building with a hole in the middle of it (don’t worry, it was intentional since the land had been the site of some gory goings on and the building needed to have a way to let the ghosts—or “goats” as we swear our tour guide Mike said—pass through). The market was fun and quite a bit classier than those we visited in Beijing, but a little over an hour was plenty of time there as we were all exhausted and ready to get started on our official free time.

Back at the hotel we took time to rest and change and then headed out in smaller groups. Some went to Macau while others explored the area near our hotel on Kowloon. Several of us walked down to the harbor and had drinks at Aqua Spirit (situated on the very top floor of one of the tallest buildings in HK). The view was incredible—water, skyline, mountains, and sky. The buildings were all lit up for the Chinese New Year with messages of season’s greetings and images of giant dragons. Some buildings even had laser shows on their sides and coming off their roofs. It was an unparalleled sight and we refuse to spoil it by posting any pictures as they simply don’t do it justice (you’re going to have to go there the next time you’re in Hong Kong).

We ventured onto the subway (which was super efficient and fairly easy to figure out) to head up to Soho and some other nearby areas which boasted a whole new set of bars, restaurants and shops that were yet undiscovered by us. All in all, Friday was an eventful and successful day and it’s safe to say that everyone went to bed that night a very happy camper!

Danielle Appelman, Gavin Sands and Jennifer Tucci


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