About 12 years ago, I felt really fortunate to be able to venture over to Taipei to visit Pro QC’s headquarters. With an undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities, I couldn’t think of anything more awesome.
A few months ago, I proposed a trip to our offices in China. I was getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of social media content development and participation (turns out there’s a good reason for that… people don’t have “free” access to these sites there and more people don’t know about Facebook than do). Either way, I proposed taking a nine day whirlwind tour to get video and other content and also educate our team there on how they can help. My idea was approved.
I’m writing all kinds of stuff about the trip on the Pro QC blog and such, but I do have some personal observations as well.
So, I had no idea how much land would be necessary to house ~25 million people… it’s massive… it’s vertical. The first thing you notice leaving the airport are all the “green” billboards in English. I didn’t note there was a great deal of smog or anything, but they obviously realize they have a major PR problem on their hands. I also heard that production facilities have been moved further outside the major city centers. Pro QC had arranged for a driver that was pretty great about introducing me to all the sights on the way in.
I had so much fun at the Yuyuan Bazaar and Yu Gardens. It was such a cheesy thing to have done, but I’d do it again if given the opportunity. The Gardens were exactly how I had imagined… a natural, yet well maintained, space for peaceful enjoyment would look. The carp… weeping willow looking trees, jade stones that were 1000s of years old… it was magnificent!
I’d have to say the highlight of Shanghai was definitely the night out with our Managing Director and a few others. Dinner was awesome (Lost Heaven) and we ended up at this little Beatles themed bar called Abbey Road where there was a band doing covers ranging from Nirvana to Zeppelin.
I won’t say the bus ride from Shanghai to Ningbo was the best experience, but I can’t say the same experience would be any better here in the U.S. (with the exception of the bathroom accommodation situation that I’m not even going to discuss). I’m just not a good bus rider… I get motion sickness, the smell bothers me and I just hate sitting that close to people in any kind of hot environment. If I take away the “princess perspective”, for little to nothing, I travelled three hours to quite an industrialized and historic city of ~10 million. The views along the way were spectacular. It’s amazing to see how much food is being grown… even though you realize how many people there are.
I’m going to own up to requesting a check-out of the first hotel I stayed at here. I guess I’m kind of a hotel snob too, although I did prepare myself that a work trip wasn’t going to be what we would necessarily book for a personal vacation. My general OCD to have things new and shiny sometimes affects me more than I’d like. In my defense, there was some shady business going on there… Fast forward to the Crowne Plaza in the city center and I’m livin’ large. There’s amazing shopping in the square right across the street (Tianyi Square), and the hotel itself was sweet!
I had an opportunity to go through a factory in Ningbo, and that was pretty awesome… although, the no air conditioning thing did test my limits. I had gone through one in Taipei and several here in the U.S. It’s just interesting to see the relationship of resources to region… also, there’s serious variability when it comes to productivity. As with all of the office visits, meeting up with our team was really fun! I’ve worked with many of those guys for nearly 13 years!
This was my favorite city… I guess it’s just kind of cool how the government took this little fishing village ~30 years ago and decided to make it an experiment in capitalism (special economic zone). It’s super high-tech and brand new… They even “moved” the sea back to make room for luxury high-rise residences. The view of Hong Kong from the sea walk is breathtaking! We strolled along the water one evening and saw people of all ages doing slow dancing in unison or tai chi… children were playing… it was peaceful.
Ah, I did get to go on another factory tour and saw Foxconn on the way. I’ve talked so much about Foxconn in my classes that it was pretty cool to see an operation that employs and houses nearly 600,000 people (yes, I did see the “nets”). The factory I toured was making little Betty Boop figurines… I don’t think people ever consider how much labor and general resources goes into production of even something that simple. It’s crazy! (I’m hoping my video will do a good job… I need to figure out editing first).
My expectation of riding a ferry was that I would stand outside in a romantic scene that included wind in my hair. Instead, I pulled all of my luggage up three flights of stairs to a huge yacht looking boat. It was a bus on water… and, that thing moved! The ride took ~45 minutes and included some amazing scenes of the HK port (largest in the world). Holy crap, so much stuff moves in and out of there (mostly out).
I only had a night in Hong Kong, but I’ll say that it’s one crazy cool city… like New York on crack times 10. You get off the ferry and are greeted with a series of escalators (not stairs like in the mainland), a mall, taxis standing by to assist… It’s a mega concrete jungle surrounded by mountains and beautiful coastlines. I really, really wanted to go see the Big Buddha , but I didn’t want to deal with the sky lift ride that late… I went shopping instead and did actually get quite a bit of work done once I could finally access social media sites! Next time, I want to check out the Temple Street Night Market and the Big Buddha & Po Lin Monastery.
In general, China is a seemingly well run machine. City centers are comparable to that of the nicest cities here in the U.S. (some nicer)… when you leave the city centers, it’s exactly how you would imagine it to be in areas with a great deal of industrialization going on while still dealing with the obvious issues of developing as a major player in the world economy. It’s obvious they are master investors in infrastructure and seem to create an odd form of harmonious chaos for the people. People naturally have a larger sense of culture and history, but are able to incorporate innovation and change without having to compromise. It’s really very interesting…
Oh, I was a bit worried about communication with the crew while I was away… but, Luke figured out FaceTime would work on the iPhone with airplane mode and WiFi. Internet was widely available in the hotels, which made things super nice. I still found myself trying to pull up FaceBook and Twitter, but it just wasn’t going to happen without a special setup. And… there were lots of Starbucks and KFCs in the downtown areas. I did eat at KFC once for lunch and can say it was different, but good. In fact, all of the food (with maybe the exception of the squid and fish heads) was that way.
Overall, China was an amazing adventure! I met so many wonderful people, saw crazy cool stuff and ate things I never thought I would, eventually using chopsticks like a boss… highly recommended!