Let’s see. All about China from my hotel room at the NanYuan Hotel in Ningbo, China about 40 minutes south of Shanghai by air. It’s 805am Wednesday here so it’s 805pm Tuesday there.
The flight from MIA to ORD was uneventful. Everything was on-time — something unusual for any flight I am on. The flight from ORD to PVG (Shanghai’s Pudong Airport) was also uneventful although unspeakably long. It’s just too damned far too travel. Way too far. Although this flight was shorter than the LAX to China route we took last year, I think I prefer the LAX route. Why? Well the ORD route gets you in around 2pm instead of 7pm so you can’t really go right to bed and your body clock is even worse than normal on such a long flight.
At any rate, there isn’t much to report about the in-flight service. The food was okay, the seats were okay, the films left a bit to be desired but that’s my personal tastes and is no reflection on American Airlines (who I normally don’t like).
We arrive in PVG about 1 hour late due to a strong headwind that made the flight a bit bumpy. I don’t sleep much either. We land and are among the first off the plane which is great. We breeze through Health Control — and they’re even friendly! There’s none of the white coated medics patrolling the line, we get to passport control (immigration) and even though they’re friendly it’s slow. Really slow. Obscenely slow. Nearly 90 minutes in line for us and by the time we were done I’d imagine the people behind us had to wait 3+ hours. Entering a communist country is no piece of cake, let me assure you. They want to study everything. My officer was friendly and even almost smiled 🙂
Our bags were already at the claim and in a pile on the floor because it took so long. The problem was that we were so busy watching the carousel we didn’t realize our bags were already there. That killed a half-hour for no reason at all. We finally figured it out. Customs was a breeze really — perhaps 60 seconds. Our ride wasn’t there — Karen had warned us the hotel hadn’t confirmed our reservation. We found someone from the hotel who arranged a car for us (another 30 minutes) after some language issues. The car ride to the hotel from PVG took nearly 90 minutes due to the Shanghai’s traffic. China is reporting the population of Shanghai at nearly 20 million people now (a big increase since my last trip a year ago) with nearly 10,000 cars per day being added to the road — most in front of us. [This was in the China Daily I read — they must have anticipated this blog post.]
We finally arrive at the hotel. It’s very nice and overly obsequious service which most people (but not Greg and me) like. You can’t even press an elevator button without someone running to do it for you. Check in was a breeze (Le Royal Meridian Hotel) and the hotel is only two weeks old with some very cool rooms. I have pictures which I will post on my Flickr Blog when I return. Nice views, etc. I must report that the food at the hotel was VERY sub-par and Greg agrees with me on that. The JW Marriott Shanghai has much better food. I fight to sleep that night with little success.
The next morning (Monday) we hire a car to take us to our first visit and that was RMB2400 — wow! The exchange rate is about 8 to 1 so divide by 7.78 to convert to dollars. Interesting ride but idiot me left the camera in the boot so no pictures there. We’re warmly greeted by our host after we navigate the private security force at the main gate. Boy are they a huge company — nearly one MILLION square foot facilities. Like all Chinese companies, everything is hot because due to electricity shortages nobody is running the AC because they’d rather have it for their operating machinery. I will skip the factory visit details because you don’t care. We take the car back to the hotel and are barely in time for our next meeting.
There is a nice table and chair that look inviting, so Greg and I decide to sit there and wait for our host to arrive. Well, I’m talking to Greg and don’t notice the chair is on an island and has a small shallow lake around it with very very very very very still water about 1/2″ deep. Of course, I stand in it to the amusement of everyone. This proves the Chinese CAN laugh at you despite their culture. The next meeting was only a few miles away but still a 45-minute car ride. I will spare you those details. We go back to the hotel, eat, and decide to take a walk down Nanjing Road. After being accosted by pimps and prostitutes so many times in the first three blocks, we give up and go back to the hotel because we’re so not enjoying it.
What follows Monday night may be one of the worst nights of sleep I ever had when I wasn’t sick. It was horrible. Although in bed around 1030pm, I don’t fall asleep until after 2am and by 315am I am up for good.
I should mention I am unable to send email properly and this has been a problem the entire trip. Bellsouth doesn’t allow email relays from Chinese ISPs. My work ISP is having trouble too, but I file a tech support ticket and they find a way for me to use Webmail. Even AOL’s webmail is mostly accessible: webmail01-03 don’t work but I did manage to find out webmail04 is not blocked in China right now, so that’s how I’ve been sending e-mail. Also try to view a GoogleVideo Dave sent me but that’s blocked in China and clearly says so. My laptop has Norton Firewall installed and I am constantly getting intrusion alert warnings. Scary stuff. BBC News website is totally censored and not accessible. Google’s ‘view cached’ is off. Even the TV news is censored by moments of silence in certain stories, especially those involving Chinese news.
We take a taxi Tues AM to the airport (the local Hongqiao airport and not Pudong) and are very apprehensive about it, but it turns out to be a breeze and even some limited English signs. Boy, are these local flights crammed. I am unable to fully sit in my chair it’s so small, narrow, and close to the one in front of me. I use my mobile and try and get Karen to change the flight Wed to business class but it’s full because of the Chinese holidays. Ah well, we arrive in Ningbo’s beautiful new airport and it’s uneventful. Except our ride isn’t there. I am unable to get my mobile to connect to anyone — ultimately learning you need an extra ‘0’ to dial a Chinese mobile.
A nice Chinese lady uses my mobile to call the factory and find out where our ride is. The guy said I didn’t answer his email (not true because I even have his reply) but if we take a Taxi to Yuyao he will pay. RMB300 out of my pocket as he doesn’t even greet us at the gate. The meeting is not auspicious, and we leave for the hotel not long after knowing we won’t do business with these people. Our second appointment is on-time and goes much better. We return to hotel, have an Italian (yay) dinner, go for a walk, and buy chocolate (double Yay!) and return to the hotel where I sleep from 9pm through 6am — a long time for me.
It’s Wed AM and I decide to type this blog entry despite the repeated attempts (according to Norton) to hijack this computer. I also am curious at the fact that Blogger is giving me fits and won’t allow me to post. Not sure if it’s real or temporary block. In a few moments I have an appointment, so I’ll finish here.