Monday, May 19
Our trip over the next couple of days had mostly university and company visits on the schedule. Personally, I preferred the cultural sites, but I was still glad to have the opportunity to experience school and work cultures outside of the US.
Our first visit was to the University of Business and Economics in Beijing (UIBE). While here, we were able to tour their business library and get a general overview of what it was like to be a student. This visit was short, a little more than an hour.
Immediately after leaving UIBE, we headed over to the Central University of Finance and Economics. We mingled with students and discussed differences between our universities and they took us to a restaurant located on their campus.
Out of all of the places that we ate in China, this was one of the most memorable because of the type of food that they served us.
Well, I tried tripe (cow stomach) for the first time... not knowing what it was. Not terrible, but I was taken aback when I found out what it was. I consider myself to be open when it comes to food, which is a contrast from my younger years when I was a picky eater. They had a lot of pork dishes and some chicken dishes, but the food was very unique in taste.
We left lunch and headed over to the Temple of Heaven, a complex of religious buildings housed in Beijing. Most of our time here was spent taking pictures and observing the architecture.
Once we left the Temple of Heaven, we were excited to head to Pearl Market for shopping! I was not sure what to expect since this was our first shopping trip... I was actually a tad bit disappointed by the selection. Yes, we were able to find knock-off products such as shoes, bags, suitcases, etc. and bargain, but I didn't really like the products. They also sold pearl products there, hence the name (necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc.). I ended up going to the bar located within the market with some of my peers! They sold both American beers and Chinese beers and I decided to get a Corona w/ lime out of a habit. In hindsight, I should have probably gotten the Chinese beer so that I could live in the moment, but luckily, the very next day I was given the opportunity to have a taste.
Tuesday, May 20
Our last full day in Beijing! It was definitely bittersweet because I had so much fun there, but at the same time... I was ready to move on to Shanghai. At this point, I could not believe that we had been there a week!
Our schedule for the day included two company visits. The first was to Z-Park, which is China's equivalent to Silicon Valley. We were given the opportunity to tour China's Digital TV and observe some of their technology offerings. The tour included viewing the movie theater, karaoke lounge, and video games located within the building.
Our second company visit was to Yanjing Beer, also located in Beijing. It is one of the largest breweries in Asia and notable because it served as a sponsor for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Upon arrival, we watched a video highlighting the company's partnership with the Olympics. We were then led on a tour of the brewery and ended with free beer samples! We all had the opportunity to buy cases of beer to take back with us. I'm not really a beer drinker so I decided against it, but it was a unique visit that I am glad that we were able to experience!
Wednesday, May 21
We checked out of the Traders' Hotel Beijing and headed immediately for the train station. We were scheduled to take the high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai - my first time on a train of that magnitude.
The distance from Beijing to Shanghai is a little more than 800 miles and it took us a little less than 5 hours to reach our destination.
For comparison purposes, that is almost equivalent to traveling from NYC to Atlanta. I remember seeing us reach speeds of 202 km/hour or about 125 mph, but the train is able to go up to 300 km/hour or 186 mph. I was asleep for 4 out of the 5 hours, but I was able to walk the length of the train when I woke up to stretch my feet. It reminded me of Amtrak (we were in business class) and there was a snack bar located in the middle of the train. The ride was seamless, I barely felt any motion at all! Nothing like the DC Metro or Amtrak, in which you feel many jerks and movements.
We arrived at our hotel, The Bund Hotel Shanghai, that night. I went to check out the room - it was even nicer than the one in Beijing - and headed out with a group of people to grab some food. The area around the hotel consisted of a lot of stores/shops that mostly sold clothes, produce, liquor, and suitcases (so random). There was a lot more activity surrounding our hotel in Shanghai and needless to say, I was impressed already.
After we got back to the hotel, I started to unpack and prepare for the upcoming week.