Day 16 – Journey Home
After we checked in, we checked our places and neighbors in the plane. Some people were very happy having a seat to the window so that they could sleep in peace. Brano had too little space for his legs and got relocated to another seat where he fell asleep almost instantly. The flight went okay; we only had a small delay waiting for transfer passengers at Zürich. When we arrived at Schiphol, the level of stress increased as we had to wait a little while for our suitcases. Luckily however, all suitcases ended up on the belt. After everyone received their suitcases, some students were finally reunited with their worrisome but especially cheerful parents. A handful of students have finished the journey towards home by train.
After all, this was the end of a beautiful learning experience where fun and “education” played a central role. We want to thank the committee for organizing this great trip to China.
Day 15 – Last Day in China
The group split up into several smaller assemblies that made their way to different spots. A big part went to the Olympic stadium (known as the Bird’s nest). Some others took a view into the Summer palace, which used to be a very peaceful part of land, including several traditional buildings and a big lake. But on this Saturday it was very crowded with, mostly, Chinese tourists. Luckily there were good spots to relax in the lawn with a view over the lake. The more adventurous ones went to both and also took a glimpse in an ancient Hutong, a traditional Chinese village consisting of narrow streets or alleys.
Around 7 p.m. we gathered to have our last diner. In a highly exclusive restaurant we enjoyed a pre-ordered meal in the company of Mingze Hou. He is a Chinese guy, working in Eindhoven, who helped the committee in organizing the activities. After Mingze was thanked, Brano and Qi Han took the opportunity to thank the committee for their effort, also by giving the committee members a Chinese notebook.
The evening ended in the bar of the hostel, were the funniest pictures made this trip were shown on a screen. This was a very enjoyable first review of our impactful experiences in the People’s Republic of China.
Day 14 – The Great Wall Mutianyu
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall. The Mutianyu section used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. It was first built in the mid-6th century, in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) construction of the present wall began. In 1404, a pass was built in the wall and in 1569, the Mutianyu Great Wall was rebuilt and till today most parts of it are well preserved. In the 1980s it was reconstructed again and this is the wall we were going to see today. The wall consists mainly from granite and it is 7–8.5 metres high and the top is 4–5 metres wide. Watchtowers are densely placed along this section of the Great Wall – 22 watchtowers on this 2,250-metre-long stretch. Both the outer (Northern) and inner (Southern) Wall are covered with merlons, so that shots could be fired at the enemy on both sides (a feature very rare on other parts of the Great Wall).
Finally after a two and a half hour drive we arrived at the village at the bottom of the mountains near the wall. As soon as we got of the buss we felt the burning presence of the clear sky and sun. It was a beautiful day maybe too beautiful for climbing. The guide advised us to take the cable cart upstairs to save our strength for climbing the wall instead of the mountain towards the wall. The wall consist namely of 4000+ steps. The view was magnificent and the weather as well, there was no smog or abundant Chinese blocking our view. For Chinese standard it was quite calm and we had enough space to travel a significant part of the wall. We had three hours to explore as much of the wall and its views as possible before grouping at watch tower 10 for a group picture. There were some difficulties with this because of an injury and fear heights. After the almost group picture we set out the toboggan, a single rider bobsleigh like downhill track. After a dreadful slow downhill race (Chinese are chicken shits) we arrived at Mr Yang’s. Some of us set out to buy some souvenirs at the stall around the village others went to the restaurant immediately. The lunch at Mr Yang’s was great it seemed that Beijing had a more western acceptable taste.
Around 3:30pm we arrived at the hostel and were granted a small contribution of the committee to buy some dinner. Some were daring enough to try the street-life dinner-style, while other chose a more safe approach, franchise food or restaurant food.
We agreed to group at 22:30pm to go and explore Beijing by night for the first time. Together we set out to Club Red. Upon arrival the question arose: are we at the right kind of bar? It seemed as if we had arrived in a gay bar with a dancing pole on which guys showed their moves. After a while we decide to go and find a better club and found it just across the street. We swarmed the podia and started claim the dance floor. Mingze was kind enough to bargain for us and drastically reduce the beer price. It was a good last party night.
Day 13 – Forbidden City
At 10 we arrived in Beijing, where a bus was waiting to take us to our hostel. Immediately a difference with the other visited cities was noticeable: less tourists, more noisy and a real ‘china’-feeling. The buildings are less high and the road wider. Our hostel is located in the north and is in a beautiful Chinese style where the rooms are situated around a courtyard with picnic benches. After freshen up and a brunch we left the hostel for the first exploration of Beijing city.
We headed to the Forbidden City with the metro, where we got lost in the enormous amount of people. The area of the Forbidden City was a no-go area for citizens for a long time; a visit without invitation resulted in immediate execution. Nowadays it is almost fully publically accessible and this was clearly visible in the mass of people within the walls of the city walls. We were all quite impressed by the size of the area and the number of buildings that were once all part of the emperor’s (home) complex. After the Forbidden City, we went to the Tiananmen Square: the largest square worldwide which played an important role in the history of Chinese leadership and revolution. In our opinion, we experienced the ultimate China-feeling on the square. The enormous size, propagandistic movies on huge screens, soldiers marching around, and the large buildings around the square made us feel like walking around in a communistic country. To imagine that over a million people can gather there to listen to the speeches of their leaders was a bit strange.
After the impressions of the afternoon, we went back to the hostel, but first we had to eat. Used to the Chinese food, we were not afraid to step into a small restaurant without an English menu whereby Han Qi composed a nice meal for us with dumplings, beans, sweet pork, dumplings, fish, tofu and more dumplings. When we entered the place, three tables of Chinese men were already sitting, eating and especially drinking there. This resulted after an hour in a loud shouting of drunken Chinese cheers and shouts. To give you an impression, it could have sound like ‘hoohoohoochoioioiheheheechoo’ on high volume.
After our meal, we went back to the hostel. No clubbing tonight because we have to get up early tomorrow, but relaxing, chatting, and playing games, playing pool and drinking a (little) beer. The committee had a little surprise for the birthday of Rudy and had bought a birthday cake, which we all had a piece of. After that we went to bed to be fit for the day after.
Day 12 – University and Train to Beijing
We woke up not that early, the morning was cloudy and smoggy. The morning started by packing our suitcases so after the university visit we could directly go to the train station. After hearing some interesting stories about the night before, we left the hotel at 11 together with our hosts from the university. After a nice walk we arrived at the university campus, located in the middle of the city. We were welcomed with an outstanding lunch in the university’s hotel, accompanied by the head of the School of Environment and Energy and a few PhD-students. Some of us were still not used to the Chinese food, but after trying every dish on the table some of use found out that they can get used to this cuisine. Although, others still have some doubts about the ‘black eggs’, prepared in mud. With satisfied stomachs we could start the formal day program with the staff of the University. It was very nice to notice they appreciated our presence at the campus. A poster that announced our visit including a ‘TU/e’ logo was placed on several locations on campus. Also the extensive lunch as a start, the snacks and drinks during the day and the ‘west-adapted’ dinner showed their hospitality and will to build up a good relationship.
The program was filled with some nice presentations from both universities by different directions and levels. There was a big difference between the both universities but it was still very interesting to learn something about the new developments in the technological sector. Material research and systems were discussed during the presentations of the Southeast University. The PhD student from Germany told us some useful information about living in Nanjing as a student and the possibilities to develop yourself. China will be the new technological center of the world. Visiting the other parts of the campus ‘dropped into the water’. We have seen some parts of the library and made a group picture.
After visiting the library there was time for an informative program, namely a ‘Pizza meeting’ between Dutch master students and Chinese master and PhD students. This to share different experiences of both universities but even more to share the experience of the both different lifestyles. The Chinese students are more subdued and serious (most of their effort is put into improving their knowledge), the Dutch students are more ingenious and flexible. The best example is the study trip organized by OfCourse, a Chinese student should never take the initiative to organize this.
These visit gave insight in the difference between the Dutch and Chinese students, whether the Dutch students mostly collaborating together in groups, the Chinese were more focused on their own work (laptop). Despite the unique chance to study at a great University and the strict regime they also had some bad habits, namely surfing on QQ (Facebook) and looking movies instead of studying.
Finally it was time to discover ‘the adventure of the night train’. By entering the train we directly felt some hard feelings about the travel comfort during this night. Piling up the CME students was a fact and comparisons with the feelings of squeezed animals was already made. Luckily it was Rudy’s Birthday tonight!
Day 11 – Visit municipality of Nanjing & Urban Planning Exhibition Nanjing
Our day started with the all too familiar dumplings and rice for breakfast although some of us visited the starbucks for a more common western breakfast. When we were gathering for our visit to the municipality of Nanjing some of the commissionaires, read Eric and Jakko, showed up too late because the temptation of Nanjing’s nightlife was too great that night. Although Ilse didn’t join the nightlife diehards she was also delayed. All of them drew a lot of attention with the pink ducky tie and the orange lions head. At the hotel we were picked up by Vincent Liu, he is staff of European and African affairs of the municipality of Nanjing. His job is to assist company from abroad to settle in Nanjing. After a short walk we arrived at Nanjing’s city hall where we met the president of urban planning and the project leader of environmental planning. They ushered us into a luxurious conference room where we received an introduction by the president of urban planning. Within this introduction he explained the spheres of China’s governmental system which were national, provincial, municipal and districts. In his introduction he also explained that the purpose of this meeting was not merely to inform us but also to create a dialogue to exchange knowledge about urban planning from both countries.
After the introduction a lecture about Nanjing’s situation and ambitions was given. The main objective in a nutshell was to find a balance between rapid new urban and suburban developments and the preservation of Chinese historical and cultural heritage. Besides that the focus was also on creates a sustainable and healthy living environment. To sketch an idea of the situation: for the next two years 11 million square meters of green building are planned and their aim is to supply inhabitant with green areas within the range of 500 meters or 5 minutes walking.
Soon we started the discussion which was a questions and answering session. First we discussed the interaction and relations between the spheres of Chinese governments. We learned that most of the decisions about urban planning and future development where made by the national government and that they are mandatory for the lower spheres. Although mandatory there is space for interaction and discussion between the spheres. Since the cities in china are developing remarkably fast we discussed the dilemma between rapid development and qualitative development. It turned out that the government are now starting to realize that they have to focus more on quality and durability instead of speed. Lastly we talked about the ratio between private and public investments. We learned that the majority of investments are public.
After this intensive and also exhausting meeting (especially for the diehards among us) we crossed the streets for a lunch. Han Qi advised Vincent Liu to have a non-Chinese lunch because Brano Glumac was craving for different tastes. The lunch at the taco restaurant was very nice and all of us were ready for the afternoon after it.
Shortly after we visited the Nanjing Urban Planning Exhibition we were guided by an enthusiastic Chinese young woman. Her presentation was like a the rapid Chinese way of urban development; fast, efficient, top down and without to many possibilities for question, interaction or small talk. Her presentation clearly showed the history, present and future of Nanjings in terms of urban development and planning. Especially the video about the future of Nanjing was very ambitious and maybe even utopic at some points. Despite this mind blowing video some of us could not resist the temptation of sleep.
When we left the exhibition we had some time for ourselves and we visited the ancient wall of Nanjing. Most of us enjoyed the island in the lake and climbed the wall while visiting the Jimingsi Temple which is an ancient Buddhism Temple build in the early 6th century. Since Nanjing represents the 7th tallest building in the world some of us could not resist to climb this landmark and they ended up in the city’s highest club and restaurant.
Last but not least we had a lovely traditional Chinese dinner from the Sanxi region which we all enjoyed greatly. We all finished our day by exploring the nightlife of Nanjing ones more. With our exotic European dancing moves some of us had a close encounter with the Chinese girls.
Day 10 – Eco city, university, farmer city and football match
After visiting the eco village, we went to the Nanjing University of Technology. Because it was a free day, not many students where on the campus. During the tour over the big campus we saw the gym. In this building we played badminton with some Chinese students. After that we visited the swimming pool.
Further, one of the contact persons knows a finished project of this University. It is a farmer village. The farmers who are living over here get a dwelling in trade of their land. All these plots will be used for urban development. Nowadays, these farmers are working in especially factories in the surrounding area.
In the evening some people went to a football match of Jiangsao Sainty, the football club of Nanjing. The match was in the Olympic stadium of Nanjing.
Day 9 – Ghost City
We had to present ourselves as possible buyers to make it seem like we were interested in buying any of the newly developed houses. As many were wearing shorts and t-shirts we weren’t dressed as real businessmen. When we entered the main building with a large maquette of the construction project, we were approached almost instantly by various brokers that wanted to sell the accommodations. The brokers were dressed formally despite the sunny 27 degrees weather outside. After taking a quick look at the maquette, we were offered some tea and invited to go visit the area. We first went to a villa. These were designed as Mediterranean semi-detached houses. We went inside a model house and the first thing we noticed was that the speed the houses were built with affected the quality in a negative way. We saw cracks and footprints in the concrete structures, holes in the plaster and when we touched something we got scared it would break off. Different sized villas exist ranging from 165m2 to 227m2 with prices from 1.5 to 2.5 million RMB. The house we visited costs around € 300.000 which is quite cheap compared to the Dutch equivalents.
We then took a short walk through the area and saw some gardeners maintaining the greenery. The area was also fenced together with barbed wire and glass shards. Camera surveillance was also heavy, and as we agreed only Guido was authorized to make pictures, we could not make any pictures ourselves but some of us did anyway (obviously out of sight). We then visited a model apartment which was situated in a separate building. These apartments ranged from 400.000 RMB to 600.000 RMB. This was also the reason why Erup city is a ghost town, since the average employee in Nanjing earns around 2.000 RMB per month. Chinese can generally borrow a maximum of 10 times their yearly income from the bank. Far from enough to be able to acquire an apartment. Another remarkable thing is that if you want to buy an apartment you’d have to pay when you sign the contract, however you have to wait 9 months before you can move into your new apartment. An 80m2 apartment in the inner city of Nanjing costs around 1.4 million RMB, compared to 400.000 RMB for an apartment in the ‘ghost city’. A big disadvantage of living in the new isolated city is that no metro station is planned and the trip to Nanjing centre takes 10 minutes by bus, followed by a 30 minute metro ride. On the way back the bus driver hit the mirror of another bus. It was our first accident in the busy Chinese traffic.
In the evening we had an authentic Chinese dinner together in a restaurant close to the hotel. There were some misunderstandings with the food ordering (one group received too few dishes). However, with the help of Qi Han, problems were solved quickly and we managed to order some extra food. Some people had some energy left after the dinner and went for a run. Most people took it easy and enjoyed a calm evening.
Day 8 – Ming’s Tomb
Day 7 – Wuhan
The next morning we had a traditional breakfast with dumplings, warm orange juice and fried ice. During breakfast it turned out that the rooms where not as comfortable as perceived on first sight. Especially the tall ones among us had to squeeze themselves under the shower because the ceiling was less than two meters in height. Eric found a clever way to deal this problem by lifting the ceiling with his head while showering.
After breakfast and packing our bags, a bus arranged by Grontmij awaited us to bring us to the New Energy Institute of Wuhan. Getting our entire luggage inside the bus was quite a challenge and eventually we had to use a couple of seats as storage. The size of Wuhan struck us by surprise because it was much larger than we expected; it took us almost two hours to reach our destination and all of this time we travelled through urban areas. Wuhan is the scientific and educational centre of China. With its many universities and research institutes 1,2 million people out of the 10 million inhabitants are students. Around noon we arrived at the New Energy Institute where Mr. Li Bin and a beautiful Chinese lady welcomed us. Mr. Li Bin is the country manager for Grontmij in China and provided us with a very nice presentation of the development process of both the building and its surrounding area. The New Energy Institute design is inspired by the Calas flower and it is designed to be a zero emissions building with many techniques for sustainability such as solar panels, wind turbines and rainwater usage. The building will be finished in October 2013 and it will be used by renewable energy institutes with laboratories and offices.
After a quick look at several scale models of the building and its surrounding, Mr. Li Bin accompanied us to our next destination; the European Center in the East Lake High-Tech Development Zone which is called Optics Valley. A well-prepared lunch was served, and directly after Mr. Zhao Jia Xin, the president of the European Center of Optics Valley (ECOV), and other ECOV employees joined us. A short introduction about the company was presented and showed us that ECOV is the service communication platform institution specialized in advising European enterprises entering central China for development, and the vice versa; advising companies in Hubei Province entering Europe. Next we went into dialogue and we had some discussions. Communicating was not as usual, because talking with Mr. Zhao Jia Xin required an interpreter. This way of communication gave an extra dimension to the question and answers session and increased our awareness of being abroad once again. After a short photo session initiated by Mr. Zhou we rushed back to the Hankou train station to catch the train for Nanjing just in time.
Day 6 – Royal HaskoningDHV
Everybody woke up after a night with expensive drinks and impressive views at Cloud9. We had breakfast at 8 a.m. and at 9 a.m. everybody had packed their bags for the trip to Wuhan at the end of the day. First the visit to the DSM campus was on the program.
This campus was designed in collaboration with Royal HaskoningDHV and therefore, Larry Li and … from Royal HaskoningDHV took us on a bus to the campus. The campus exists of three buildings. A ‘blue’ material sciences building, a ‘green’ life sciences building and an office, “our three beautiful beauties”. The tree buildings form the headquarters of DSM Asian pacific.
After a short introduction from our side, Ronnie from DSM presented the work of DSM and his work on the buildings. Larry of Royal Haskoning DHV further explained the specifics of the building design and the structure of Royal Haskoning DHV. He stated: “I treat a project in the way I treat my baby”. Also, he was proud of achieving the LEED gold certificate in 2009. With this building, Royal HaskoningDHV was the first to receive this, where we applauded for.
After a small break, we got a tour through the building of DSM. We have seen the necessary facilities of the labs, how they deal with ventilation, safety and floor layout. Some doubts about the fresh air were mentioned by the students by making comparisons between the needed air in the labs and the ‘fresh air’ produced by the Chinese employees. It was hard not to laugh. This morning trip ended up with a nice picture with our new network in China in front of the DSM campus.
It was time for lunch and sun. So ‘living the good life’ was a fact. Once back at our hostel, the group split up to spend free time. Some were enjoying the sun, while the committee took some time to review the first days. The sun was very strong and therefore, drinking a cold beer was the best way to spend our time.
At 4 p.m. time had come to travel to the train station where we left Shanghai. Our next destination was Wuhan, the former capital of China. It is remarkable that one can familiarise itself with such a large city as Shanghai in such short notice. Once at the train station we prepared ourselves for the four hours high speed train voyage and we bought ourselves some drinks and food for the trip. With a dazzling speed of almost 300 kilometres per hour we approached Wuhan while the sun set in the west.
Day 5 – Yuyuan Gardens
Today was the international day of labour, and it seemed as if the entirety of China had come to Shanghai. It started early in the morning when we were woken by a bombardment of firework, a ‘welcome’ alarm for our little hangover. We gathered on the roof to set out to Pudong again to visit the World Financial Centre and its observation deck. With its 474 m height the observation deck was certifies as highest observatory of the word (in 2009). With its characteristic shape the tower is lovely called the ‘beer opener’. After a tight squeeze in the metro we arrived on the other bank and walked over the elevated footpaths towards the tower, enjoying the view of the skyscrapers. At the arrival at the tower, we were checked by the (already familiar to us) security before entering. Before going up, we had to go to the basement which showed Disneyland-like proportions of waiting rooms and shows about the construction of the skyscraper and Shanghai. We saw an astonishing summary of the growth and geography of shanghai compared to other metropolitan cities, showing the sudden explosion of the city since the nineties. Hereafter we were sent into the elevator and were rushed up to the 87th floor to be sent up again to the observation deck. The view was superb, the sky was clear and there was little smog. After a long photo session we grouped for a group photo and took the elevators down. We squeezed ourselves in the metro to head to the Yuyuan Gardens.
When we got of the metro the yellow sea of Chinese people did not dissolve and we were trapped in a slow chaotic movement out of the maze of corridors. Even in the streets the mass did not decrease it was clear that the majority of the Chinese had a day off. When we finally managed to get to the gardens, we were starving and massively stormed a food stand across the entrance and ordered large amounts of fried spring rolls and dumplings. Sometimes it is hard to see what the content of the Chinese fast food is which we can buy on the street, but we get more and more familiar with the taste and enjoy the Chinese snacks.
The gardens themselves were beautiful and an oasis of rest trapped in a city of anonymous chaos. We, as group of tall Dutch students, attracted attention from day one and many Chinese people make pictures of us. However, nothing could have prepared the Chinese for the event to come. A significant part of the group had stumbled upon the possibility to dress themselves with traditional Chinese costumes. We changed into the costumes and headed out in to the gardens to take pictures of the absurd dresses and hats on our bodies. We soon found out that the Chinese visitors in the gardens had even more fun and interest in us than we had. A small crowd gathered around us taking pictures of us. Suddenly we decided to give these people a show of Dutch humour. We started to run around in the garden screaming and surprising visitors all around the park, pissing their pants from laughter and some of fear. The rest of the group posed like experiences pop stars in front of the paparazzi of Chinese people and kept laughing. The show ended abruptly when the shop owner wanted the clothes back. However, some of us we almost unable to return to the shop because people were pulling on their clothes to get them to take a picture with them. After enjoying the laughter and telling the story afterwards, we returned to our hostel in taxies to avoid the masses.
Although we were tired from the party evening yesterday and the culture during the afternoon, most of the group wanted to have a taste of the luxury and decadence of this cosmopolitan place. So we dressed up and went to Cloud Nine, a lounge bar at 87th floor of the Jin Mao tower (the second highest tower of Shanghai). With beer and champagne we enjoyed the view of Shanghai by night. However, the prices were as high as the building so we didn’t stay very long. The evening ended by taking a cab back to the hostel were we laid down and rested.
Day 4 – Queensday
After the company visit we went to the Royal Urban Planning Exhibition Centre. While we’d just heard about Shanghai’s lack of urban planning, this enormous building was completely full of information on the city’s urban development. The scale model of the city centre of Shanghai, around 25×15 square meter, included some Dutch heritage (i.e. John Körmelings Happy Street on the World Expo 2010), uncountable residents towers, numerous flyovers and of course the impressive skyline in the very middle. The Exhibition Centre also showed an animation plus a model of the gigantic harbour, 27 kilometres out of the coast. Since 2010 this harbour left Rotterdam behind in being the largest harbour in the world. The Exhibition was mind boggling because of the astonishing pace of the city development. In 1930, one of the buildings on Peoples Square was the highest in the Far East, now the thirty stories building can only make you smile while seeing it being surrounded by some of the tallest buildings in the world.
Some of the group members left the Peoples Square area to experience a ride on the unbelievable fast Maglev train, which boosted 430 kilometres per hour. Others enjoyed a stroll (and powernap) in the beautifully maintained park next to the Exhibition Centre. Our rude Dutchies dared to lay on the perfect kept grass, which looked like a massive green carpet. Soon after the field was filled with locals joined us in enjoying the sun. Unfortunately an hour later police showed up to order us away. It turned out not to be allowed to enter the lawns…
After having diner in various smaller groups, we gathered again in the hostel to celebrate Queens Day at a local students party. All dressed up and even joined by an orange lion, we made a real attraction on the subway trip to the party location. At the party many Dutch exchange students, Holland lovers and other interested people made the evening to be international, fun and filled with Dutch songs from Doe Maar, Marco Borsato etc. Even though being away for only a few days, being surrounded in such an orange surrounding makes you aware of so many small aspects that make you feel part of a society or culture. It is amazing to experience that all this way from home the Dutch identity is so easily expressed and shared with others. After the Dutch party, most people made it over to Club Sky to finish the day in style and here and there experience China even further.
Day 3 – Bicycling Tour Shanghai
The first day of the Study Tour 2013 in China started after the first night in Shanghai. The beds were quite hard and the day before was very busy and intensive. But dispute that, the briefing of this day started at 10.15 AM. After the committee finished the briefing we left the hostel at 10.30AM to the metro station. After traveling with the metro for approximately 10 minutes, and a lots of walking instead of traveling with this metro, we arrived at the place where we would pick our bikes. Together with 24 bikes the Chinese guide of the day was waiting for us. We tested the bikes to check of the these bikes were okay to make the tour comfortable and safe. The “Tour de Shanghai” was starting from this moment! Dispute our experience and knowledge about cycling, the unexpected happens. After 100 meters an accident already occurs within our peloton. Erik Vijverberg our most experienced and practiced cyclist has been involved with a one-sided crash. The first question everybody asked him/herself was how was this possible? Is the bike on the wall within the house of Erik’s only for the show? Fortunately the damage were only some scrapes and scratches.
The cycle tour led us to the small traditional alleys of Shanghai as well to the new business part of the town. This was an very impressive and a nice way to see (but also feel and smell) and learn more about the city Shanghai. We did see a lot of traditional Chinese culture and specific Chinese buildings, but we also had to look at the new characteristics of this impressive city. The only thing that separates these two areas in Shanghai is the well-known river Huangpu/the Bund.
First we saw the “normal” streets of the city Shanghai included with a big amount of cars and electric scooters. The first thing we noticed was the many honking towards and backwards between the various participants in the traffic. After this we went into some small traditional alleys where lots of Chinese families live in small houses. The laundry is hanging across the alleys so it was sometimes necessary to bend or to move away for this. Also the smell was not always pleasant to smell. But besides that it was quite an experience to see how these people live with almost nothing. After these streets we ended up at a small market where various Chinese products were sold. Here it became clear that this tour was not only an experience from our side but also for the locals it was quite an experience to see a large group of westerns cycling on their market. After cycling through the old part of the Shanghai we went to the new business district of the town. This part was built since the 90’s. Here we saw a lot of modern office buildings that we admired the previous evening during the boat trip on the river.
After the cycle tour we would visit the World Financial Center Tower. However, this did not happen because of the poor visibility trough the amount of smog! We still hope to visit the center later in the week. But no worry because we did not get bored, Shanghai has lots of impressive things to see. So after the canceling of this activity we went to the Golden Temple called the Jing’an Temple. The half of the temple was under construction but there was enough to see. Some of us made some wishes by trying to throw a coin into a wishing well well others did this by lighting some incense.
At the end of the day we all eat with each other in a traditional Chinese restaurant. This was a nice moment to evaluate the cycle tour and all impressions of the day.
Day 2 – Shanghai
Because we made a step in future time, the start of these second day is somewhere between Zurich and Shanghai. Caused by the time zone, the victim of these day(s). To the point… the start of the day was in the plane by a good game of ‘Who is the man’ (the game was related to the TU/e 😉 ). Beside this entertainment the flight to Shanghai was well, with less sleep, but lots of possibilities to get to know each other better.
Finally around 7 o’clock in the morning (local time) we arrived at the Shanghai Pudong international airport, despite the ruff looks of some participants we passed customs without any problems quite fast (in order to protect our own safety we not mentioned their names). Before leaving the airport we made the ATM machines crazy by withdrawal all the cash, this with only one purpose, stimulating the Chinese economy, especially the local entrepreneurs.
During the bus trip to the Hostel we already figured out the difference of Urban planning in China compared with the Netherlands. Most of the people thought this is caused by the booming economic and the big demand for (industrial) real-estate. Multiple times we spotted a concrete factory in the middle of a residential area. Beside this the esthetic value at the suburbs was much less compared with the Netherlands, lots of designs (e.g. for apartments) are repeated often in the same neighborhood. Out of this quick analysis we can concluded the system of Urban development in China is based on facilitating the growth of the economic instead of creating a health market.
Eventually we arrived at the hostel, a place of rest in an overcrowded city, on the rooftop bar we can’t imagine that we are in one of the biggest metropolis of the world. After arrival everyone had the opportunity to clean up and (re)furbish their rooms. After this tough job there was some spare time, some of the students were eager to discover the city, other were more eager to test the quality of their beds.
At the end of the afternoon the chairman of the study trip board started the formal program of the China trip by an inspiring speech. Hereby the man, who should give the right example was too late, this resulted into an hour walking around in the Lions suit (Brano, it fits perfect, maybe you can borrow it next Carnaval?). This was also the start for a chaotic lesson of the Shanghai subway, for this we shall repeat the most easy but also essential rules:
- Be quick by entering and leaving the train;
- Always go to the next exit, after arrival:
- Shanghai: Exit 1; Nanjing: Exit E; Beijing: Exit A.
- If you do not have a good directional sense, follow the tall blond guys (Erik, Bob, and Tim).
After this journey into the Shanghai Subway there was some time to discover the biggest shopping street of Shanghai (which could be compared with the: Kalverstraat, Champs Élysées, and Ramblas). While the guys became exited by the shops of Gucci, Prada, and Channel, the girls went to the bar for drinking beer ;). For the formal program we went to the Bund river to make some group pictures having as background the Shanghai skyline. Unfortunately the Chinese people also spotted this event and almost shoot their complete memory full with pictures of us, especially Bob van Thiel in the Lion suit had a lot of interest (it almost looks of he was eager for attention).
At the end we made a phenomenal boot trip near the Pudong skyline by night, great landmarks were: the TV-tower, the world financial center, and the Jin Mao Tower.
Day 1 – Tour Begins!
Different strategies were chosen as on how to go through the last night. Some chose to go to bed early, others chose to accept less sleep and some even chose to stay awake for the whole night thinking they were able to sleep during the long plane flight. Still, showing up at 5.00h in front of Vertigo turned out to be a challenge which not all of us were able to handle. We knew the bus would leave at 5:30 am and wouldn’t wait for any latecomers. Not all participants managed to accomplish the task of showing up on time… It was one small dark-haired participant who had had some Campoepel too much on the previous night. Despite setting his alarm, doorbell ringing of the cab driver and missing 28 phone calls he managed to sleep through all of that. The chaos was complete when we accidently called the wrong person’s parents because of a little mix up with people who had the same name. Eventually his girlfriend could be reached on her mobile phone. She was able to drive over to his place and to wake him up in person. They managed to get to Schiphol in time, even though the bus with all others had already left Eindhoven. Lucky him…
Eventually we joined at the airport where we also met up with the second supervisor of this trip. We then went on to check in our luggage and after passing the customs we had some spare time to wander around the airport and drink some coffee. When we could finally board our plane and had to switch off our mobile phones, our trip to China was really to get somewhere.
Flying from Amsterdam to Zurich was done within no time. The amazing Swiss airport in Zurich was a peaceful haven in between the two flights. Within the relaxing environment we prepared ourselves for the flight to Shanghai, which was to take about twelve hours. For many of us, a first timer. Still, we managed. In the early morning of Sunday 28th of April, we stepped onto Chinese ground.