Apr 10

The final round

It’s been a while but we’re back with more jibber jabber! The too few hours of sleep are starting to weigh down on all of us but I managed to find some time to post this diary entry, so here goes…

On Saturday we visited the famous TianAnMen Square. The evening before we already went to take a peek as Koen wanted to see it “by night” but apparently the square closes at some point in the evening and there wasn’t any particular interesting view at that time. So on Saturday morning we hopped on the metro, when we arrived the square was teeming with tourists. Thank god the square is really big. It also had a lot of merchants trying to sell hats, fake watches, the “red book”, … You can see the history of the square is still a touchy subject, everywhere there are surveillance cameras, guards, …

Continuing into the Forbidden City, we had some fun with Hanny’s Group T flag while he was getting the tickets. All sillyness aside we checked out some of the cultural relics that were shown there. While we were there we socialized with some medical department students of some university of Taiwan.

In the late afternoon we went shopping at Silk Market. This is a large building with about 5 floors with small shops with goods ranging from clothes to shoes, to accessories, … The funny part here is that their starting prices are ridiculously high, luckily you can get 1/10th to 1/4th of the price with 10 minutes of bargaining. Apparently we are ‘tough negotiators’ according to some sellers. Then again, I’m guessing the Americans don’t know that they can get a much lower price right here. Obviously all the brand things are fake but then again for 20-40 yuan per T-shirt you don’t really care. I bought a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt for 40 while the original in the cafe itself was 200. Funny that on every floor there is a notice that you should not buy non-authentic merchandise. Some of us also bought a cheap travel router for 100 yuan.

The next day we took the bus to the Great Wall. During the busride we passed by a copy of Disneyland where its construction got shut down. Anyway, when we arrived at the wall the other groups were slowly but surely arriving as well. The first time all 4 groups of Group T were together in one place, a lot of people I can tell you. The Chinese visitors didn’t have a clue what the ‘invasion’ was. In the end it didn’t live up to the hype around the Great Wall.

After the mandatory group photo we had the option to climb one part or two parts. Due to time constraints we only climbed the ‘hard’ part which had an elevation of about 400 meter.

In the afternoon we were free to do whatever we liked. Dieter and I went to check out a cultural district but unfortunately it was quite disappointing as there were only regular shops. We did find a Seven Eleven store where we had our dinner for a measly 12 yuan, baked rice and dumplings.

Since the moment we arrived in Beijing we decided we had to visit the Hard Rock Cafe here because we kinda forgot to go to the one in Shanghai. So that’s what we did in the evening, after a good hour of walking we managed to find the cafe (thanks to 3G internet and 40 yuan of cell phone credit). We went to have a drink with 11 of us, it was quite expensive though. A fun addition is that there was a promotion where we received a Hard Rock cafe branded glass for free.

Since some folks hadn’t eaten yet and it was almost late in the evening we walked to the Bar Street/District (near ‘The Tree’). Here there were streetmerchants that sold satés (food on sticks) at 10 yuan for 5 as well as all drinks were 5 yuan. You could get a decent meal for less than 20 yuan.

This morning we finally went to Rigol. At first we watched an introduction movie about the company, after that someone of the company held a powerpoint presentation, unfortunately their English wasn’t that great nor was the slideshow particularly interesting. The best part of the company visit was the fact we were allowed to go into their production building. Seeing some giant Siemens machines making PCBs was pretty fascinating. However, there was still quite a bit of manual labor. Funfact: we had to wear coats, hats and shoe protectors but the doors were wide open and they led us through a dusty courtyard, talk about keeping up appearances ;)

In the afternoon we went to have lunch at a Korean BBQ restaurant, which was nice but apparently quite expensive. After that we decided to check out the Hutongs (sloppenwijken). Word on the street is that they might be fake and judging from what we have seen (Audi’s driving through the narrow streets, a fiber optic cable splitter, …) that might be the case.

For dinner we went to a Burger King and came back to the hotel afterwards. The journey is coming to an end and my feet are starting to dislike all the walking. Tonight I’m going to try and have a good night’s rest for a change so the last evening can be a long one and I can, in turn, sleep easily on the Airbus 380.

Well, that’s all for what is probably my last diary post about China. Just as a funfact I’d like to add that we now have over 10,000 photos so it might take a while to weed out the ‘bad’ ones and publish the good ones online.

You can find some over at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cp2012ea

More diary entries and status updates can be found at https://chinaproject.groept.be/dagboek/?editionID=12#group39 

Apr 07

Still some more news

Today we’ve visited Technicolor, a company you’ve all have seen at least a couple of times during the intro of about any major movie in the theaters. It was quite an interesting visit if I do so say myself. We had the chance to check out their R&D labs and have a chat with two engineers who were working on gateways and set-top box things (like the Telenet Digibox/digicorder). Afterwards we had lunch with one of them.

Next up was the Temple of Heaven park which we had way too little time for. In about one hour and a bit we rushed through the park and we saw just one temple (then again, we’ve seen so many already, nobody seemed to care much anyway). Too bad for the tickets because the others were paid for as well. Nick did buy some Badminton like things which we played with Koen while waiting for everyone to assemble at the exit. But all this hurrying was because of the Acrobatics show.

This spectacular show was quite amazing. One can ask if any of those people had a spine because they could twist their body in the most unnatural shapes. We were not allowed to take photos but Jef and Dieter were there as well so take a guess at how many were taken… yes, close to two thousand photos. According to Donaat that’s about 1 image every three seconds.

For dinner the group split up as some folks wanted to go to the KFC (for the seventh time or so) while others wanted to go have Chinese food. I found myself going with the group of Koen (Pelsmaekers) who wanted to see Tian’AnMen square by night. Unfortunately it was already closed, luckily it’s on the program for tomorrow.

Again we split up in smaller groups, in the end with six people we returned to Wang Fu Jing (near the Food Market) and had dinner in Sevenana, which seemed to be some kind of Chinese semi-fastfood restaurant. Lastly we walked on the Food Market street again and decided to take the metro to the hotel.

As it seems a lot of us are tired we decided to stay at the hotel for the night and right now we’re with seven people on Dieter and my room again (people be stealing wifi!) playing with Katrijne’s new Mahjong set.

Tomorrow, as said before, we visit the square as well as the forbidden city. In the afternoon we’re going to go shopping in Silk Market, where I’m hoping to find some hilarious Chinglish shirts for a ridiculously cheap price.

Apparently the electronics markets sell travel routers for 95 yuan, we’re probably going back there to buy one ourselves as Jonas and Donaat bought one and it seems to be working quite well. We’ve alzo decided to visit the Beijing Hard Rock Café, I haven’t been to any of those so I’m looking forward to that as well.

Apr 06

Goed begonnen in Beijing

De laatste dag in Xi’An waren we vrij tot 16u30, ideaal om nog eens wat plaatsen in de stad te gaan bekijken. Electronics malls waren er genoeg, zo ver je maar kon zien consumer electronics (gsms, tablets, foto gerief, …). Onder de middag zijn we dan bij de lokale fastfoodketen, Bicco’s, gaan middageten.

Daarna nog verder gaan zien bij de Drum en Bell Towers, toen werd het stillaan tijd om richting hotel terug te keren maar toen hadden we een klein probleempje… Blijkbaar had geen enkele taxi zin om ons terug te brengen, waardoor we een dik uur hebben zitten rondlopen in de hoop er eentje te vinden. Uiteindelijk waren we grandioos te laat, na een aantal telefoontjes zijn we dan rechtstreeks naar het treinstation gereden waar we de groep hebben opgewacht (we = Jef, Dieter en ik).

De nachttrein was iets comfortabeler, de toiletten waren hetzelfde principe zoals de vorige maar deze keer was er deftige airco waardoor je geen hoofdpijn kreeg van de geur.

Toen we een dikke 13 uur later in Beijing aankwamen kregen we te horen dat de bus dacht dat we om 1u in de middag zouden arriveren in plaats van om 8-9ish. Daar een half uurtje moeten wachten op de bus, terwijl een convooi gedetineerden zien zitten die juist moesten instappen in ferme ‘politiebussen’. Bewaakt door een hele hoop politiemensen en stevige wagens met rambumper en schietgaten, alles erop en eraan.

Even in het hotel opfrissen en daarna samen met de groep gaan eten op restaurant. Daar kregen we te horen dat er een stroompanne was bij Rigol waardoor het bedrijfsbezoek niet kon doorgaan. Dan maar geswitcht met het Summer Palace waar eigelijk niet veel te beleven viel.

Rond 17u kon er dan gekozen worden voor electronics shopping of de food market bij Wang Fu Jing. Daar was wel het een en ander te vinden qua eten met onder andere octopus, zeester, hond, kat, …

Nabij de food market was er ook een international bookstore waar we even hebben rondgeneusd. 2 boeken gekocht aan 20 yuan het stuk, een koopje!

Toen het al wat later werd waren we van plan om hotelwaarts te keren, de metro stond op het punt stilletjes aan te sluiten. Hoe het komt dat in een wereldstad zoals Beijing de metro er de brui aan geeft tussen 22 en 24u? Maar goed, we zijn tot aan onze stop geraakt, die eigelijk nog wel een eindje stappen verwijderd is van ons hotel. Jammer genoeg in het terugstappen zijn we verkeerd gelopen en niemand waar we het aan vroegen wist juist waar het hotel was (zelfs de taxi chauffeurs niet). Na een klein uur ronddwalen in de suburbs van Beijing hebben we toch een taxi gevonden die ons redelijk dicht kon brengen tot aan een punt waar we het herkende.

Zo zie je maar weer, eerste dag in een nieuwe stad is altijd eens plezant om in verloren te lopen (zelfs met GPS). Nu hebben we de kleine straatjes ook eens gezien. In de omgeving van ons hotel is het wel superrustig, je zou niet zeggen dat we in een hoofdstad zitten.

Morgen staat het bedrijfsbezoek aan Technicolor op het programma, als de stroom daar niet uitvalt natuurlijk ;)