I’ve been traveling for about the last week! It’s amazing how coming back to my neighborhood feels like coming home. While traveling with just a backpack feels pretty incredible, it’s also great to be back in Beijing.
Annie, Phil and I took the fast train to Shanghai on Thursday. Phil had a friend he had met while traveling in Kashgar earlier in the semester, so we met up with him. Turns out, he owns a factory that makes “rapid prototypes” for companies like Ford and GE. Who knew… so he picks us up from our hostel, drives us to this bar that overlooks the Shanghai skyline, bought us drinks, and we all hung out on the rooftop. There was a hottub up there. The view was insane:
The next day, we drove to Xintiandi, which is an upscale outdoor shopping area. I was amazed how Western it felt. It kind of felt like walking around Old Town in Alexandria…. such a strange feeling. There were upscale Western restaurants and Starbucks. It was especially strange because this is the place where the first congress of the Communist Party of China was held. There’s a crazy little museum. Apparently the first meeting was busted by the police, so it was continued later on a boat. Interesting history, very intense museum. Here’s a picture that will prevent me from ever being elected as president of the United States:
Next, we headed to Tianzifang, which is an area with a lot of small shops and galleries. The area was built around the 1930s. The district was artsy and fun to walk around on a rainy afternoon.
After that, we headed to our friend’s factory. Now I feel like I have a much better idea of what it means when something is “made in China.” The factory was small, only about twenty employees. They can make almost anything though… from a car to a soymilk machine. Basically, the companies send a design, the programer codes instructions to the machines, the prototype is produced. If the parts are complex enough, they are assembled elsewhere. It was so interesting to hear Xiaoyi talk about how he grew his business. When he first bought it, it was failing. He started procuring business through cold calls, cultivating relationships, and gradually built a network through positive relationships with different companies.
The next day we took a bus out to Hangzhou. IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL! There were moments during the day that I was just in awe. We went to West Lake and then to Longjing tea fields. It made me really happy that green tea actually comes from such a gorgeous place. Earlier in the semester, I asked my Chinese friends where I should buy good tea, and they told me “Hangzhou.” I kind of meant more like which store in Beijing, and not a city five hours away, but now I get it! We got some dinner (and drank tea of course) and inadvertently ordered an entire chicken (head, feet, and all). Yum.
The next day, we did Zhouzhuang, otherwise know as “the Venice of the East,” which at first made me a little skeptical…don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous, but not particularly anything like Venice! (How insane is it that I’ve been to both places within 6 months?) We took a gondola ride and wandered around the alleys all day.
Then we got on another 高铁 (fast train) to Nanjing. After missing our first train by a few minutes (oops) and doing the classic running through the train station, we wandered until we found our hostel.
We went to the Presidential Palace that afternoon, which has a ton of history from Sun Yat-sen to Chiang Kai-shek. The next morning we went to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, which was incredibly sobering. 30,000 people were killed in about a two week period when Japan invaded in 1937. I felt like I have a little bit of a better sense of the complicated relationship between Japan and China, and the impact of the invasion on the city.
Next, we headed to Purple Mountain to hike up to Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum (we had kind of a morbid day). Sun Yat-sen is considered to be the father of China, similar to how we view George Washington. The view was stunning.
Before we left, we headed to Xuanwu lake to see even more beautiful scenery (if that’s possible).
Such a great trip.
Next up is Taipei! I’ll be leaving on Monday to see Debby.