China - Shanghai Edition, with New Balance

Hi everyone.

Guess what.

We're going to Shanghai.

It's gonna get all corporate and classy 'round here.

Pretty much like this.

 We start by taking a ridiculously early and fast train from Beijing to Shanghai. This is the day where the exhaustion really starts to set in. Yes, we climbed across the mountains along the Great Wall of China, but damned if 5 hours in a train doesn't drain you. Doesn't help that we go straight from train, to bus, to lunch, to tour, to COMPANY VISIT all before we even get to the hotel. Not nice.

Anyway - fast train. This was pretty exciting. 

All a bit aeroplaney inside. There's a new word. Me being all educational again.

The fast train was exciting until the realisation that's another 5 hours squished into an aeroplane-like-structure and it actually doesn't seem to go that fast.

Even though it kinda is.

I think we expected cartoon-like blurred landscape, whooshing past the Chinese countryside at the speed of light. Alas.

In any case, here is come random Chinese countryside:

It's very green, when there are no buildings, and there's a lot of construction going on, when there are. As you (should) know, China is a developing country, and it sure is, in the sense that there's land being developed everywhere. And I think everyone knows this in an abstract kind of way, but you don't realise what it physically means, or the scale of it, until you come here. You'll probably notice the construction theme in all my photos. China could definitely be renamed The Country of Cranes. Ahaa there's a double cultural meaning there too, as in the bird, I'm very good at this.

Lunch: terrifying. 50 yuan for this....

I still have no idea what it was. I shall describe it in terms of texture, because that's all I had to go on at the time; from the top left across: squishy, meaty, leathery, sloppy, plus rice. 

Later: Shanghai train station. Because the Chinese clever and actually plan their cities out somewhat, instead of ahhhhh! city!! Ahhhh! put some stuff here!!! and oh crap we forgot this!! put one of those an hour away ahhh! (cough Sydney Melbourne cough), this massive train station connects to the main airport; so you can fly in, and a short walk takes you to a train and basically anywhere in China.

New bus! You know how in most classrooms (because the bus was, in a way, our classroom for this subject), there's the unspoken rule that everyone has their place; this was kind of the same thing here. People sat in the same section of the bus (though why people sat in the back is beyond me as it always closely resembled an actual sauna) and our stuff usually ended up on our seats, marking it as our own. 

Here's the tour and lunch part of the day. 

Some people call Shanghai Asia's New York City, and besides having a skyline almost as fantastic as NYC, you can see why. 

Building aerobics? Wall cleaners? Three Stooges comeback? No one knows. 

Go to the super fancy Nanjing Road and Plaza 66 and you'll see why others call Shanghai the Paris of the East.

Found: Mallory's favourite person in the world!

Lunchtime is where we found an extremely excellent Melbourne-style Australian-run sandwich/salad place called Wagas. 

Things that make me happy.

Shanghai's fascinating because it was once owned by the French and the British, who, like they have in practically all corners of the globe, have left their distinct marks. There are suburbs of the inner city called the former British and French Concessions (the government will fine you if you forget the "former"); they're very fancy and very lovely. 

While the former British Concession is marked by massive stone banks in the financial district, the symbol of English imperialism (of which I'm sure there'll be photos later), the former French concession features alleyway housing complete with terracotta tiles, whitewashed walls and French windows, with the streets lined by these beautiful trees.

I was really surprised by the amount of shops and Chinese brands that feature mainly English characters, not Mandarin ones. Obviously the international brands are going to remain the same, you can hardly translate "Louis Vuitton" into Chinese, but even clearly local stores have English names. If I found a native speaker who was interested in the same topic, I'd ask whether brand names even work in the Chinese language, or is it simply too pictorial and literal? Can you have word puns? References? Words and phrases that evoke specific emotions and thoughts? Maybe not, and maybe that's why companies just go with an English title.

Look! A sudden construction site appears! They say of China's interesting things development-wise are happening in tier 1 and 2 cities, but the tier 1s still have a say in the matter. 

Guess what! Shanghai built an exact replica of the Wall St bull. But it has one, it's balls aren't bigger (that's what I suggested)....actually, technically I was right, because the entire thing is made bigger than the one in NYC. 

I didn't get time to take a photo with it - but now I'm thinking maybe I missed the opportunity to be the first blog to feature photos with both bulls? Maybe I'll be the first to simply talk about them both. Yes.

In other news: Shanghai continues to be lovely.

But now it's time to get back to work. Let's go.
Go go go.

That afternoon the company was New Balance, whom I hope you've heard of. Our speaker was Qing, the Regional Marketing Manager for Asia Pacific. Which means she's in charge of Australia, too. 
More shiny boardrooms. 

Qing in the middle there. 
She had a lot of interesting insights to give us about how their company works in China compared to the rest of the world. A few additional things to note:

  • New Balance is actually 107 years old, is known as a "heritage brand" and invented some of the first footwear specialised for running people (I personally don't know of running people, but I hear they're out there). Nike, Adidas etc have other kids of stories and emotions attached to their brands, but New Balance is really focussed on making the best shoes for runners.
  • Twist: there is no running culture in China. Really. People don't run for exercise. A couple people in our group went out for run one morning here in Shanghai and they just got people looking at them like they sprung another head. So, how exactly does one operate as a specialised runner's shoe with no running culture? 
  • Answer: here, New Balance is more of a fashion shoe. They have this thing going with young, pretty, quirky women pairing their hip looks with their sneakers. Qing showed us a 5 minute promotion, which was like a mini movie with a love story, and humour, and close of shots of their sneakers, and other Asian things not many of us understood. But it's clear the youth here lap that stuff up; they love it (I tried to find the video to show you, because it's kinda interesting; but I couldn't. I even tried, which is China's version of youtube, but honestly, you go there and try to find something that specific, good bloody luck. 


All professional.

Finally making our way back to the hotel. More pretty Shanghai to see.

This is the People's Square. The centre of the city. It's the point where all the subway lines spread out from, so I dub it the centre of the city.

Though nothing can really beat NYC's skyline as a whole, I dare to say Shanghai has by far the coolest shaped buildings in the world.

I don't even know what it is, but I love it.

Back through the French connection, there are all these little French style houses nestled at the base of glass skyscrapers; they're all set for demolition, which is sad, but they are all kinda falling down. 

Old and new again.

Chinese Military Medical University. That sounds like.... the hardest place to be on earth. 

Hotel! 3 star Australian basically means 5 star in China, so it usually turns out pretty well.

Yaaaaay. Fun fact: beds in China are really, really hard.

Room with a half-arsed view.

Later that night.

Went out to dinner with my study group, because we needed to start getting into the business side of things.

And by business, I mean wine. 

Bec, Kim.


Joanna and Wai Sin.

All of our grog and questionable meats.

Bec got happy. 

Operation Don't-let-Bec-run-into-the-middle-of-the-road.

VoilĂ , first night in Shanghai. 

The proceeding ones will feature more work and less alchohol, I promise.

Well....we'll see.

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