In May, two of our team members, Heleen Bax and Yorick Heidema, traveled all the way through China to explore the route, meet our plug-in points, possible sponsors, event organizers and learn about the Chinese culture. The highlights of the trip are summarized in this blog.
Number 3 in the list of largest metropole in the world is Shanghai, the first city of our trial trip and the last stop in the World Tour before heading to the USA. A beautiful place to celebrate our (more than) half way point with large events and even a Dutch trade mission.
First stop: Shanghai
The first working day in Shanghai made us realize we are here for business: having multiple meetings on a day, running between the meetings to be in time and only spending 5 minutes at the Bund to take a picture before returning to our sleeping location for a short night. But it was worth it, since we have made some beautiful plans: a congress together with the European Chamber of Commerce, an experience zone where people can view the new technologies and innovations in the field of e-mobility with EVCARD, an electric car renting company, in Nanjing, the sister city of Eindhoven, a large event will be hosted by Brabant, involving Chinese students, companies and government and also in Xi'an we will inspire students of multiple Universities to live their dreams.
During our trial trip we were accompanied by Baymax, a friend of someone who helped us out a lot with the China part of the World Tour from the Netherlands. He feels the project has a lot of potential and would like to help us making the STORM World Tour a success in China. It was rather strange to go to a new country and traveling for almost 3 weeks with someone we have never met. Luckily we could get along pretty well. He took us out for dinner with his friends the first night.
The Chinese people have a different way of planning, compared to the Dutch. They do not look far into the future, but rather look at what they have to do today and maybe tomorrow. This has resulted in some little stress moments for us, since Baymax did not wanted to book our train tickets for the next day: "don't worry about it, we'll fix it tomorrow". He clearly thought we were worrying too much, since he repeatedly said: "don't worry, don't worry". Also a Chinese habit: saying phrases twice. The positive side of the Chinese not planning ahead is that it is rather easy to plan a meeting on short notice. They are very flexible and learned to adjust. We once called someone to have a meeting and we could visit him 1.5 hours later. Soon we learned to work like the Chinese and not plan everything upfront, however we do need to know for sure that everything is arranged for our World Tour.
Another thing we quickly learned is about the traffic: as a pedestrian you just have to start walking across the street, preferably with a larger group, if you wait for the cars to stop, you can wait until the next day; electric scooters are like the Dutch bicycles: they drive through red traffic lights, drive on the wrong side of the road and are, besides on their lane, literally everywhere on the streets and traffic lights for cars are just suggestions: the first come first serve rule applies to the traffic, riding in a traffic jam is about pushing your car between two others, however this goes politely, if someone is first you are allowed to go first, without the honking like the Italians do.
More and more Chinese
After Shanghai we went to Nanjing to meet Steven Wang, Brabant representative. Nanjing is the sister city of Eindhoven, where STORM is a great way to show the Chinese people the potential of Brabant innovations. The next stops were Xinyang and Shangluo, meeting people from the University and BYD, both people only spoke Chinese. This felt rather uncomfortable, knowing they are talking about you, but you have no clue what they are saying.
Going to the west
With our electric motorcycle we are not allowed to drive on the highways in China. To experience the national roads we took a taxi at some places, from Shanghai to Nanjing for example was a nice paved road, it only had lots and lots of crossroads and traffic lights, travelling on average 50 km/h on a road with a maximum speed of 80 km/h. Between Shangluo and Xi'an lies a gorgeous road through the mountains, it had some road blocks, at one of them our convoy vehicles cannot pass through, something important to know for our World Tour!
From Xi'an onwards (1500 km from Shanghai) the toilets were different from what we are used to and people started staring at us and taking pictures of us, foreigners. Some people we have met had never seen a foreigner before and were nervous to talk to us. Also more to the west of China the English signs disappeared and we are glad we have Chinese speaking people with us during the World Tour.
While searching for lunch in Pingliang, we asked someone for the best place to eat. He appeared to have a motorshop and in the end wants to be a plug-in point during the World Tour! He guaranteed us to have enough power, he could even mobilize the whole street if necessary.
During our travel to the most western point of our trial trip, we passed through a green area: the Gansu province, where the largest on shore windfarm is located. Everywhere we looked we saw wind mills, rows and rows, a stunning place to ride with our motorcycle in September. There are also universities focused on green energies. We visited one with a research center on wind and solar energy and a University powered by the windmills on their campus, nice places to charge our batteries.
Urumqi lies in the Xinjiang province, which has a lot of Turkish influences. They have a Turkish bazaar, many Turkish shops and restaurants, it felt like we were in a different country . We have traveled about 4500 km in two weeks, most of it by train, since we need a Chinese driver's license to drive on the Chinese roads, and only one train was delayed.
Great events coming up!
It has been a great trip through an amazing country. Speaking to all different kind of people, from the CEO of large companies, to people on the street, everyone with their own story and interest in our project. We are looking forward to come back in September, showing China to our team and our project to the beautiful China!