Day 11 – Maglev, Suitcases and Goodbyes

After our first late morning of the trip, we were all packed and ready to go our separate ways.  But before that, it was time for a last Chinese experience: the Maglev.

I am probably not the best person to talk to you about this, as I was one of the three to stay in the bus to take care of the numerous suitcases. But apparently it was quite impressive, but without being mind-blowing.

During this time, we had time to take some pictures with the said-suitcases: we really could have opened a suitcases shop with all of those.

Then it was lots and lots of hugging, saying goodbye and wishing each other good travels. And with this was the end of our China trip.

With this very late last post, I would like to thank all the people who made this trip so amazing:

First, Jayne and Edy, for organizing everything and making us really see the most of China, both from a business perspective and from a more touristic one

Then to our Beijing tour guide, Jessie for making us discovered some very surprising restaurants, for being as fast as Speedy Gonzales and for having such an amazing laugh

To our very helpful tour guide/translator/and so much more Jayne, for giving us the free time to go to karaoke and for baring our never-ending votes about everything

To our bus drivers for getting us through the traffic of Beijing and Shanghai without getting us killed

To our now famous Backseat Boys – JF, Darren, Ryan, Raja & Jordan – without who the bus trips will have been awfully quiet and their very understanding manager Kip without who the band would have get out of hand (and Kip, thanks for giving us the opportunity to meet Nancy)

To John B and Noha, for introducing us to this very good Lebanese place where some of us discovered a new passion for belly-dancing

To Umakant, Sholeh, Vivian & Muhammad, our amazing Fort McMurray friends, it was really nice getting to know you and a real big up for Umakant and Muhammad for surviving being vegetarian in China

To Jennifer M & Aneil for allowing us to live their pre-Tibet adventure and for finally overcoming the Chinese bureaucracy (and Jen, thanks for being my roommate and for liking orange juice so much!)

To James, Nicola and Bente for sharing with me the curse of having blond hair in China and for some unknown and mysterious reason being able to avoid having their pictures taken (If you have a secret, I really want to know it)

To Cole for trying out this improbable pea ice cream and always finding the craziest pictures opportunities

To John S, Brad, Evan & Bryan for becoming Shanghai’s new superstars and for breaking so many young Chinese girls’ hearts

To Miju for bearing with a smile and a constant good mood our tricks and jokes and for being a good sport all the time

To Jennifer C for joining us on our jumping pictures and on all the inside jokes and most of all for being the first one to realize that the karaoke we went to was way more than a simple karaoke

To Thai & Patricia for being as fashion and bag addicts as I am

To Pam & Michelle for giving us some good advice when it was time for us to choose our suits and for always being here with a smile and a joke

To Peter & Janice for being such a cute couple of funny and nice people and for accepting to translate random things for us (We owe you big time)

Thanks everyone: you guys are the best!

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Day 10 – An inspiring woman, Gardens, Suits and Bar Rouge

We woke up this morning for what we knew to be our last full day in China (well, at least for the unlucky ones who were not able to extend their trip after the regular duration).

First stop in this foggy day, Touch Media. There, in an empty building due to the fact that it is Saturday, we had the pleasure to listen to Nancy Pon. It was an amazing talk. She explained us the keys to have in mind if we want to succeed in China and because of her (amazing) story, we could only believe her and hoped that one day we will be like her.

After that, we were given our last free time of the trip. Everyone went separate ways. Some decided to climb the tallest tower of Shanghai, the Shanghai World Financial Center and to stop by the aquarium to admire sharks and other soon-to-be sushis. Most of us followed the plan and went to the Yuyuan Garden, where we chilled for a while before going to the neighboring market to spend some more money and fill out our already-packed suitcases.

Then it was time for dinner and for suit delivery. After that, a bunch of us decided to sit the corridors of the SAI and to chill out there around some Chinese beers. Some more adventurous went back to Xintiandi. I met my friend again and ended up at The Bar Rouge on the Bond dancing with Pikachu. Just so you know, he is not a very good dancer.

Overall, it was the last day but clearly not the least of our days in China. It is with a heavy heart that we went to bed this night.

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Day 9 – Water, Mall, Suits and Clubbing

Thank God it was Friday and with Friday came our first entirely day devoted to sightseeing in Shanghai. We left in the morning to the Zhou Zhuang Water Village. After a long bus drive in which we experienced our first Shanghai traffic jam, we arrived to our destination. The sun was here, the heat too and a coolish wind was blowing. It is with this perfect weather that we started wandering in the old paved street of this Chinese Venice.

We did a boat ride in the small canals. Our boat driver was singing and was making the boat swing from one side to the other. We were relaxed until we saw a strange sign “Prohibiask for tips”. What the hell does that mean, we had no idea until our boat driver ask us to tip him but before we arrived at the end of the trip as it is not allowed and he can get into trouble if the people working at the pier see the money exchange. Mystery solved.

After this very nice boat ride, we went walking around the streets, some people bought some more things (their suitcases are about to explode), some people took jumping photos, and everyone took a lot of pictures.

In the blink of an eye, it was already lunch time. We were sceptical to eat in the water palace after seeing people cleaning the food in the canals. But we are adventurous and almost everyone ate the food that ended up on our plate.

After lunch we left for Shanghai and got stuck in a traffic jam almost as bad as the one in Beijing. Therefore it was way too late to go to the Yuyuan Garden as planned. And because of democracy, we ended up at a mall. Note for everyone: a mall is a mall and it is the same thing in every country in the world. However as we are MBAs and therefore creative and imaginative people, we came up with some idea to keep ourselves busy. One of us bought a basketball and the boys started playing in the street. After a little while, a bunch of people stopped around to watch those weird tall white guys. They are now celebrities.

Dinner was at SAI. Once our belly full, we went to the chess room where we were to do the first and last fitting for our suits. Some people were very happy with what they got. Some a little bit less. After the fitting, I cannot tell you what happen for the other people as I left to meet one of my friends who is currently doing an exchange in Shanghai. We went to an underground place where you have to pay 100 Yuan to enter, and then have access to free drinks all night. It was a place filled half with Chinese and half with expat and overall rather cool. Then we left for a Chinese club where the music was extremely loud, almost too loud even for my ears which are more than use to clubbing. Despite the fact that there was feather on the floor and that the crowd seemed to be lot of fun, we left: loud music we can do, too loud music we cannot. Finally we ended up in Hollywood, a club nearby where lots of expatriate are hanging out. And then we danced all night long!

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Day 8 – Clothes, Steel, Lebanon and Brothel

Thursday was another business day.

First in the morning, we went to Giordano Fashion Inc., a clothes manufacturing company. There we listened to Bernie Mah, who told us about the firm and its activities.The bonus of this visit: free I Love Shanghai Shirts!

Then we had some free time for lunch. We went to the Giordano store where we saw the lowest ceiling in the history of ceiling: you could reach it without even stretching your arm. After taking some pictures, we went looking for washrooms, ended up in the back room of some coat shop and were able to visit then the most disgusting washrooms of the history of washrooms. During our hour of lunch/free time, people did some shopping again (I am really wondering how most of my classmates will be able to bring all those things back home!), but most just wandered and ate fast food (we personaly had ice cream at Mc Donalds, miam!)

Once everyone got back together, we left for BaoSteel. First we stopped at the company’s hotel, where, in a room with quite comfy chairs. we listened to someone who presented us the group. The room was in a Chinese traditional setting for meetings: people sitting in the first row on the right are the most important people, the back row on the left are not much. Now guess were I randomly sat before knowing that?
This presentation was interesting but the comfy chairs mixed with a delay in the translation of the speaker to english made it hard for us not to fall asleep. You were able to see people fighting and struggeling and suddenly giving up for a fezw minutes and then coming back and listening again as if nothing happened. Fun times.

After this introduction, we went for a tour of the gigantic steel factory. It was interesting but would have been far better if we actually stopped and if someone explained us what’s going on. With no explanation we had to figure out on our own what this burning steel was doing at what point and why it was doing that. The plus bonus of this visit: we got to wear yellow helmet and too short gloves.

For dinner, we were free. A whole bunch of us went to a Lebanese restaurant. We had lots and lots of food and we saw Chinese belly dancers. We also saw Canadian belly dancer as some of us went to the dancefloor to move their body.

Then, some of us went to karaoke in a strange place that we found out later was a karaoke brothel. Anyway we had fun and that is all that matters right?

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Day 7 – Industrial Park, Great Food, and Masse

This Wednesday was another day entirely dedicated to business. After our usual early morning and a breakfast a little bit less impressive that the one we got used to in Beijing, we left for the Singapore Industry Park, situated in the region of Suzhou, 1hour and something away from Shanghai.

We arrived early but this time no promise of Starbucks. We just stopped to chill a little bit in the park and take some pictures. Then we went to a museum/presentation about the park and already had a clearer idea of what is going on there.
Suzhou is not only a park, it really is a planned city devoted to the research of new technologies, similar in that to the research park at South Edmonton Common. However, the ressemblence stop right here. In Suzhou, you can find all the anmenties of a city: sport and recreation complexes, university, apartments, etc. We were amazed to learn that this industrial park is almost as big as Edmonton.
and is approximately the size of Edmonton.

After learning so many things, we were starving. Time to go for lunch! And, my god, what a lunch! In one of the park fancy hotel, we sat as usual at our 3 tables. But what arrived after that was completly unexpected. Food kept appearing in front of us, dishes all more tasty and delicious than the previous ones. We ate, we ate. When we thought it was the end, it was not! We had desert for the first time in a Chinese restaurant and it was awefully tasty. At the end of this gargantuesque meal, we were almost all in a food coma.

In the afternoon, we went for a presentation and a tour of Synthes, a foreign company who owns offices and a factory in the Singapore Industry Park. The talk was very interesting: we talked about corruption, about the compamy, about managerial style, about culture, about the park, about being an expat… The tour was amazing (and kind of scary, when you think that this little screw can end his life in your bones): we got to see how the chirurgical screw and plates are made and the explanation were clear and understandable. It was so far one of the highlight of the trip!

After going back to the hotel where we had dinner, we went for a night tour of the Bund. We took pictures, I met my friend who is studying in Shanghai and we all went back on the bus to drive to Xintiandi, a shopping, eating and entertainment district. There some of us sat and had drinks (beers for almost everyone, except 2 of us who decided to go for girly drinks – I can tell you that those 2 are not girls) while the others wandered around for a bit. After that everyone chose different paths. Some took a cab home, some went to this German place to eat and drink Masse, some kept walking in the streets and some, among who myself, tried to find a karaoke but failed miserably as we were not ready to pay 600 yuan to have the VIP Pink Princess Room. As Barry would say, we are cheap greedy capitalist pig bastards. In the end, we just joined our friends on the patio of the German restaurant and drank beers. A fun night!

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Day 6 – Shanghai, Fog, Pearl (tower) and Tailor

5am, everybody is up and packing. And after all the shopping we did, this task is not easy, especially when you have a 20kg weight limit. Once the packing done, another challenge appears: how to fit all our suitcases in the bus? When we arrived there was no space left: our luggages were filling every available space in the trunk. But now that some people brought 1 or 2 suitcases, the trunk is way too small. However, we managed to get everything (and everyone) in the bus: hurray!

At the airport, despite a very good packing in the morning, some of our classmates had to pay fees for having an overweight check-in luggage. With my 20.3kg, I barely avoided this extra cost.

The plane ride was used by most to catch up on sleep. For those who were awake, a strange breakfast was served. Everyone ate the sandwich look-alike but none was brave enough to ate the weird looking egg (even some of our Chinese neighbors were reluctant and decided it was wiser to let it on the plate).

Once arrived in Shanghai, deception hit us: it was extremely foggy. So foggy that before we touched the ground I thought that we were still up in the clouds and far far away from our final destination.

After a short bus ride during which a new boys band The Backseat Boys (note for self: never ever take the boys back to sing karaoke) was created, we arrived in the complex where we are going to stay here. It is a place where officials and companies come to get a formation from the Chinese government: huge gardens, nice fountains, and nice hotel rooms.

After a lunch far better than everything we ate the last day, we left for the Pearl Tower. From the top, you are supposed to have a wonderful view of the city. But as it is foggy, we do not see anything. Nevermind: we are MBA students and therefore are full of imagination and creativity. That is why we came up with this wonderful idea to take funny pictures of us. Among the top ones, people kicking other people out of the tower, people laying on the glass floor, and people falling from the tower on the glass floor. Fun times !

After a nice dinner at our hotel, the tailor came and we were all able to order custom made suits, dresses, skirts and other shirts. We are all now waiting for the first fitting with impatience!

Then, some of us went for a quick tour of the surrounding
neighborhood. Sadly, around our hotel, no massage place and no karaoke.

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Day 5 – Business Meeting, Food and Karaoke

It was already Monday and time to get back to business: learning business practices in China.

We left our hotel in the early morning and drove to the Bank Of Montreal China headquarters. On the way there, Edy made us dream and fantasize by telling us that there was a Starbucks in the building and that if we were to arrive early we would be able to stop for coffee. The coffee drinkers were happy and I was very enthusiastic at the idea of having a hot chocolate. All was fine. Except that we did not arrive early – at all. And so, all our dreams faded away.

At the Bank of Montreal, we listened to an inspiring talk by Roger Heng, the president of the BMO China, about banking in China and the Chinese currency.

Time flew by and we went to lunch. We have been fairly satisfied with the places we have been so far, but I have to say that we all agreed that the place we had lunch was our least favorite. It was in the basement of a building with absolutely no sign saying that there was a restaurant there. Second, there were only tourists eating there, most of them being on an organized tour (we guessed that from the matching hats they were proudly wearing). Third it was a buffet. Buffets are great. The only issue is that you can honestly wonder for how long the food has been out there waiting for someone to eat it: clearly not ideal… Finally, one of the dishes resembled dead fingers. Nothing more to say about this subject,as I do not know anyone brave enough to eat that. As I am a nice person, I am not going to talk about the state of the washrooms in the restaurant. Unfortunately, we madethis discovery after we had finished out lunch. You can thank me later!

In the afternoon, we stopped at General Electric Healthcare. After a brief presentation of the company, a discussion about its activities and a session of Q&A, we did a tour of the factory. We then saw how the terrifying machines used to scan brains or bones were made. We were done before any of us realized it.

Because it was way too early to go for dinner, we were allowed some free time in the neighborhood of the restaurant. What did we do? While some of us (not me for a change) were asked for a photo-op by giggling young Chinese girls , others went to buy some more stuff, some decided to earn the title of the bravest eater of the 2012 China Trip and atea fried scorpion (for those who are wondering, it is crispy and tastes like the outside part of shellfish according to the scorpion eater) and others just went wandering in the streets, beer in the hand.

Dinner was far better than lunch. We ate a Mongolian hot pot. It is like a fondue except without cheese. You have this huge pot full of water in the middle of the table, where you cook all kind of raw food, from fish to meat and vegetables.

After that, it was still pretty early. It was our last night in Beijing before flying away to Shanghai. Therefore, we had a pretty active night. Some went back to the Silk market to spend some more money, some met friends and went back to the HouHai district, and others went to get full body massage while some of us went to karaoke. After spending ten minutes to make people understand that we wanted to rent a room for singing, we arrived in a comfortable private ten person’s room. While some of us tried to figure our how to use the karaoke machine, others went to get beers. Then it is a lot of singing. If it is raining in Beijing today, it might be our fault: we killed songs by Bon Jovi, Ricky Martin, Blink 182, Far East Movement and completely destroyed La Bamba. A really,really fun time that we unfortunately had to stop quite early given the fact that we had to wake up at a crazy hour (5am) the next morning to catch our plane to Shanghai.

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