China - Geeks, Tea & Lillies Edition

Guess what! This is the second last post about China. We're getting there, people! 

Hey hey hey.

It also means only two companies left to visit, on the two last mornings of the trip. 

So, this fine Hangzhou morning (it really was a fine morning, hi blue skies) we visited the Alibaba Group headquarters. Now you probably haven't heard of them, but it's likely they've heard of you. You see, Alibaba owns the internet. 

That's not really an exaggeration.

I'll explain later. 

First I get a shiny official lanyard thing. I can't read it, but I guarantee you it outlines how special I am. 


So everyone check out the Alibaba HQ! Remember before when we visited the industrial design company Hassell that we'll see one of their designs soon? VoilĂ !

So this place is great. Again, we go in, walk around for 10 minutes, want to work there. 

I have no idea what this is, but who cares, look at it.
Edit: apparently it's swing practise-er... thingy. 

Key to our actual assignment about marketing in China: the fact that companies here so efficiently meld east and west - Alibaba is steamrolling everything supposedly Western (watch out, West) i.e. the internet, commerce, capitalism, globalisation etc, but here is a little nod to ancient Chinese culture, the feng shui of these pebbles in water, there's a similar tub with white pebbles nearby. Extra twist, this was all designed by Hassell, who concentrates on sustainable building, so these tubs actually catch rainwater from the roof. 

Inside, there be greenery. 

Funky sitting places

A massive dining hall


Social things

And giant naked black men:

Wait what?

You'll remember how I said Alibaba Group owns the Internet. Here's how. Look at this shiz. 

What're you looking at? WELL. That'd be a wall to ceiling digital screen of up to the second current data of everything and anything Alibaba is doing in China. 





You see, Alibaba group is basically the bigger and better version of Ebay, Amazon and Paypal all in one.

They are going to take over the world. 
But quietly.

The actual presentation was truly great. Presenter was a pom (nice to change things up a bit) who told us the history of this really fascinating company as well as giving some professional advice of which I typed out every word. 

Another time to run back to the bus because so bloody hot. 

The rest of the day was spent being a good old fashioned tourist. Lunch, tour, shopping. Nice.

In case you forgot Hangzhou is beautiful and fancy, here's a reminder:

This place is one of the key birthplaces of the world's tea. 
Give me a minute.

So we had lunch in a famous restaurant set amongst the tea paddocks.

Already set out - strange and delicious. Here be features some delicious way of cooking broad beans I never knew existed, plus snake.


Tea, tea, tea, tea!

I'll just stay here.

Welcome to the tea museum!

The China National Tea Museum holds all information and is an ode to all things tea in China. It's pretty exciting, and a lovely peaceful kind of place. 

Grouplove. #Chester

I also learned a lot about tea. From its humble beginnings thousands of years ago when people sort of realised random leaves could make water taste funny to one of the most valuable commodities along the Silk Road. To now, where you'll find me trying to eat all of it.

Also featuring impeccably crafted settings of different cultures over the centuries and how they used tea.

See the last symbol in each is the same - that means tea! But here's how the Mandarin language can work, and I think it's really beautiful. That tea symbol is actually a worker in a tea field, with one of those hats on and holding a tray of picked leaves on their head. Like how we learned from the man in the little museum in the Forbidden city,  Chinese symbols are often a literal, symbolic representation of an idea. 

Little, lovely (very expensive) shop.

Another short bus ride and a quick wander through more fancy tree tunnel boulevards, we came to the West Lake itself once more, where we were told we were in luck. We had come just in time for the pink lilies to be in bloom, when they only come out for barely two weeks in the year. Nice work, team.

I'll just stay here too.

-happy sigh-

All the girls. Jen's photo. Or maybe Steph's. Either way, pas la mienne.

It was at this helpful point that my camera died. Usually I can manage its energy needs quite well but alas, today was too busy. It was actually a problem because not only do my photos serve as a record of my trip, obviously, but they're also my I couldn't at all remember what happened later that night at all.

However, Jen's camera did not die so to here on out, it'll be her very lovely photography (here's some more at her blog The Hungry Traveller. You know you want to). Luckily for you, because that night was an excellent one.

Another last perspective of pink lilies.

Here is Sam. Sam bought a hat. It had a fan. It also had a tiny solar panel. He had to stand in the sun for several minutes before the fan would move.
That night it was a short walk through the back streets of the hotel to the Hangzhou night markets.

A little like the dancing we found in the park in Shanghai, there seemed to be a massive line dance with hundreds of people in the square underneath a temple here, like a massive exercise class.

Join in? Why yes. Yes we will.

Sam got it.

I did not.

It wasn't a particularly difficult set of steps but I have this innate ability to not be able to learn dances by just watching people and copying them.

We also gathered a crowd with ample hilarious photo ops. It's nice to know there are several dozen strangers in China with my awkward dancing in their cameras.

Further on - beautiful night market!

First, dinner with people, Jimmy and the various appendages of a recently deceased chicken.
Much to Beck's horror.

Let's take a walk.

Here you'll find everything under the sun plus a couple of things you didn't know were even under the sun.

As well as stinky tofu. Stay far, far away from the stinky tofu.

Here is where they made nougat or something of the sort, smashing nuts with a huge mallet. 

Becoming a local celebrity.

As well as all the beautiful shops on the side, there were artisans in the middle working on their ware - glassblowers, sculptors, metalwork, beautiful jewllery, incredible porcelain plate painting.
There was a lot of Mallory + Jen waiting for me. Je ne regrette rien.

Thanks for coming along, the next one is the last! This is actually happening! 

There'll be a party. I promise.

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