Wrapping up my Beijing Trip

I am back from Beijing, via train. Here is a short summary.

Train is Good

As I described earlier, train is efficient for business travel. But I realized there is one criteria for it to be efficient: you have to be able to sleep very well on the train. Like me, I am always sleepy, and I can sleep from the time I get to bed on the train until train is approaching the terninal station. For my friend, Jia, the trip is not that pleasant – he wakes up every one hour or sooner during the trip.

In Beijing, In Meeting

I am in Beijing, and I am in a bunch of meetings.

It is critical to arrange meetings ahead of schedule, so you don’t have too many things to do at the same time, or have a big block of time has nothing to do.

It is especially important, in this case, to pre-arrange dinner and lunch, at least location, so you don’t end up have lunch by yourself – like this noon.

Shanghai to Beijing? Train is Better than Air

kTonight, I am going to Beijing, and will be back on Wednesday night. Previously, my trip was all via flights. After I tried train the last time, I decided to switch all my trip to Beijing to train in the future. Why?

Time Efficiency

Although train takes much longer than flight – 12 hours vs 2 hours, the biggest advantage of train is, it wasted your time at night, especially deep night, instead of train.

Most fast trains between Shanghai and Beijing travel between something like 19:44 PM at night, and arrive at the other city at around 7:00 AM the other day. For busy business persons, it is ideal.

By Air

I, for example, have to plan for a night or morning to take flight. My typical schedule by air looks like:

1. Flight from PVG to PEK at 9:00 AM, arrives at 12:00 PM. Have a meeting in the afternoon, and night, and fly back the next afternoon at 7:00 PM, and arrive at around 10:00 PM (tired day).

– or –

2. Flight from PVG to PEK at 7:00 PM, arrives at late night (tired and taking taxi to hotel), spend the night at hotel and have meeting the other day.

For a 1 hour meeting in Beijing, typically you need to take two day off from work.

By Train

For train, it is different. My new schedule is:

1. Work full day on Monday, and have my last meeting at 6:00 PM. I even have dinner with others before I go to train station at 7:00 PM

2. Get on train before 7:44 PM, and sleep on the train – maybe talk a little bit on the train with travel partnres.

3. Wake up in the morning at 7:00 AM, and take metro to where my first meeting is.

4. If I don’t have other things, I can travel back at around 7:00 PM in Beijing, and arrive in Shanghai the third day morning.

5. I can directly come to work on Wed morning (this trip has more things to do, so I stay two days, and get back to Shanghai on Thursday).

In that typical trip, it seems there is no travel cost – if you count in terms of work hours. It is just like three continous working day in the same city.

Besides that, you saved all your hotel cost.

I will try my first travel like this and report back about how well it works.

How’s China in Global Financial Crisis?

This may be the million dollar question that everyone what to know the answer. Many friends and readers asked me about how will China perform in the next few years when the global financial crisis is spreading. It seems for sure that US will suffer from the recession in the next few years, and so do many other countires. What about China?

To be honest, I don’t know. I am confused myself.

The last time I have the feeling of confusing was during the SARS period: everyone is asking how serious SARS is, but even I am not sure whether I should believe in what is reported in TV (I was very sure that I should not believe, but if you don’t believe it, that is your source of reliable information?) However, just as the SARS period, although I cannot confirm the over situation, I am 100% sure of what I see from my own eyes. In this time, I hoep I continue to act as eyes and hears for people who are not able to be here by him/herself.

Consuming

It seems to me the consuming in Shanghai is not impacted. Restaurants still have enough customers, and you have to wait in long line at almost everywhere at dinner time, especially on Fridays.

The shopping malls are still full of people, with long lines at check out area.

Real Estate

Real estate price seems to drop a little bit, but only on the newly built house side. For second house side, the price is there, but there is no volume. The price for second hand house are stuck in the middle. Recently, there are a bunch of aggressive controller method from the central government regarding real estate market, like lower down the tax, and lower the down payment requirements… It seems to me that the Chinese government has learnt from US experience, that if house market crashes, the whole economy suffers. If the previous 1-2 years, the government is busy pressing house price down, now they are working hard to keep the house price stable (not up, but definitely not down).

Media

When my friends about whether people in China are optimistic about the future of economy or not, my answe was: “People are still very optimistic, since the media propogada is all good news”.

When you browse the headlines of major newspapers (if not all the newspaper), it all stated that “China is confident to keep high growth during the hard time for the world”, or “Impact to China will be small…”.

The other interesting news I got from one of my friends was, key financial magazines have been banned to reprint news from Financial Times, or Wall Street Journals.

Industry Experts

When I talk with normal people around me, they are very optimistic, just as newspaper headlines can be. However, when I talk with industry expert, from economist, to fund managers, to government officials, they are not that optimistic. Some of them are “scared”. One of them said, I have been working in this field for so long time, but I have never been so scared.

My 2 Cents?

Me? Just as one blind man around the elephant, I have no idea about what it is going to be. Let’s wait and see…

Ways to Delete Your Comments

From time to time, I receive request to delete a comment they have made on this blog. There are not many. I would say about 10 – 20 request so far.

The major reason of the delete request is, when they search for their name on Google or other search engine, they found their comments they made maybe long time ago. They no longer feel comfortable to see the sometimes “silly” or “out of date” comment on this blog. So they drop me an email to ask me to delete them.

It is fine. And I am willing to help.

However, there are also other people who take another approach.

So please, reply to me and ensure me everything will be very soon deteled

Otherwise, I am forced to contact a lawyer.

The format was included in the original email.

Hmm… I still help to delete one comment that match his/her email address. For many other comments he/she mentioned, it is just a comment with the same “first name” and it obviously belong to other people, I just leave it.

We are here to help but many people mention lawyer, or other strong words in the first email. I just don’t feel comfortable. Who cares about lawyers, just because someone else with same first name or you, or your friends posted a comment on some blog under the term and condition of the blog?

Eatery is Really Small Business

After the National Holiday, I started to take bus to work, so I got the opportunity to walk along the Tianping Road (天平路), and pass many breakfast eatery shops. That is good since it solved my breakfast problem.

The interesting thing is, they does business in an exteremely cost sensitive way.

For example, I buy the pan egg cake 鸡蛋饼. They will cut like 1/8 of the whole cake as you asked them to do. Then they will weigh it on a weigh, and tell you: total price is 0.9 RMB.

Sometimes I just take the cake and said: keep the change. Interestingly, most of them will insist to either give the 10 cents to you, or insist to cut a very small piece of egg cake, and put it into your plastic bag.

For people like me who pays attention to capital market, and bigger P&L than them, I just didn’t get sensitive enough for the 10 cents – it does not matter, but I realized the breakfast eatery business IS that small business that the small amount of money matters, and they built their reputation of being reasonable and do not cheat by the small piece of cakes, or the 10 cents.

Different mind set, and I have all my due respect for them.

Pollution in Taihu (Lake Tai)

During my trip to Xishan, I passed Taihu. The beautiful lake – the third largest freshwater lake in China.

To be surprise, Taihu changed a lot – because of polution.

Because of the nitrogen and phosphorus discharged by the chemical and fishing factories around the lake, algae overgrew in the lake like crazy, further decreased the water quality.

Look at the picture I took below:

Did you see the green thing on the surface of the water? That is the overgrown algae. It made the water looks dirty.

It is said that 20 billion RMB will be spent to cure the polution.

China has sweared to avoid the “polute first, and then clean” way – the “capitalist way”. However, the reality is the opposite.

Check out what Taihu used to be in these photos:

Suzhou Taihu Mercury Club & Marina

P.S. I once ride back to Taihu by bike.

Xishan, an Island in Taihu

As I forecast yesterday, my family went to Xishan, an island in the middle of the Taihu (Tai Lake). It is connected to the land via a big Taihu bridge.

Here is the island – Xishan 西山:


View Larger Map

Here is the the island in the bigger map in the Taihu:


View Larger Map

The Area

Many weeks, Wendy and I was wondering where we should go to spend the weekend. In Shanghai, we have became hopeless to find any place new or to spend the night. We love Hangzhou, and Suzhou.

There are not many new things in the city of Suzhou. Our interest is mainly around the Taihu area.

This time, we decided to go to the island in the Taihu.

Xishan

Xishan is the largest island in the Taihu (Tai Lake, the second largest lake in China). It is connected to the land with a large Taihu Bridge – three sections connecting three islands.

We went to a place called Mingyuwan Village 明月湾村. Many of the buildings in the village were built in 1700s.

We stayed there for one night – 100 RMB (13 USD) per room per night. We went to their orange farm, and hand-picked 14.5 kg of orange. We paid 29 RMB for it (4 USD).

Transportaiton

Getting there from Shanghai is easy. Here is how we got there:

Yan’an Elevated Expressway

-> A9

-> A30

-> Take Daying Exit 大盈出口

-> West on Beiqing Road for 8 km 北青公路

-> Suhu Expressway 苏沪高速

-> Suzhou Ring Expressway 苏州绕城

-> Take Xishan Exit 西山出口

-> Take Taihu Bridge 太湖大桥

-> Follow about 10 signs to the village.

We took about 2 hours to get back (3 hours to get there because of traffic jam on A9).

It is funny that the expressway from Suzhou to Shanghai just stops at the border of Suzhou and Shanghai. Suzhou is waiting for Shanghai to continue the construction but Shanghai just responded coldly. There is almost no cars on the road at all. It is said that the Shanghai section will start construction soon.

Happy Birthday to Me

I am 31 now.

Look at this entry: Happy Birthday to Me. At the time I started blog daily, I was only 25. I cannot believe it.

It was a busy week. I could hardly stop a little bit to think about my birthday, and really take time to do some reflection to the past 31 years, and write something. I didn’t get the chance to stop and rest a little bit yet.

Wendy, Yifan, me and my parents are going to Xishan in Suzhou (not far, just one and half hour drive) for two days. Will be back on Sunday.

Work hard. Play hard.

That is me…

Happy birthday to me.

P.S. Thanks Wendy for preparing the trip for me, and Jia for sending the first birthday greeting to me.

Winter for Startups is Coming

Winter is coming. It is not the winter in the weather and seaonal sense. It is for startups.

With the financial crisis gets worse in US, which is no longer news, the recent reaction in Venture Capital market in Silicon Valley is huge. Signaled a bunch of emails and meetings by top VC firms and others, everyone just realized what the slight change in temperature means: it means the arrival of winter.

We saw Sequoia’s Get Real or Go Home presentation.  We saw Alan Patricof’s Chill Out memo. Ron Conway wrote an email Get Ready For It To Suck which is simply a resent one that he wrote in 2000. Benchmark’s Adapt and Live Lean memo went out, and finally John Borthwick’s Don’t Panic – Profit memo. (I got the article list from Feld’s Thoughts)

My 2 Cents

I feel lucky that I am experiencing a winter myself as a participant. There are Internet bubble burst around 2000 and 2001. I was not directly involved – work in Microsoft does not seem to exposed me to the change in that deals.

This time, I finally have the chance to face the environment change, and then make decisive decisions to adopt the change. This is very different senario for me than the last time.

I also believe it is the best time for real Internet companies. By real, I mean people who loves Internet, and want to do something, instead of just gambling. Great companies are those who come out of the shadow of a big crisis. I think we are very well prepared, and we even designed to have a warm hot-pot on the table when it is snowing outside.

Bus is Faster than Car

After taking bus to commute in the morning for a little bit more than a week, I realized that buses runs faster than private cars in Shanghai. Even included the time to park at the station, passenger off-load and load, it is still faster than private cars. It takes about 40-50 minutes to arrive in Xujiahui, or 1 hour at peak time. There are several reasons to it.

Public Transportaion Bus has Special Lanes

On Zhaojiabang Road, the right most lane was designated for bus. It has yellow line seperating the lane from the rest.

When I drive my car, I just feel many private cars still often violate the rule, and run on the lane, but when I am on the bus, I feel it is still much faster because of having relatively less cars on the lane. At red stop, when the car lanes have backlog of 1 km, the bus just go ahead and run – run – run until very close to the red light line.

This save the bus much time.

Bus Drivers Drive Wildly

Bus drivers don’t follow the traffic rule as strictly as other car drivers. They just drive wildly, and policemen tend not to care about them. Why? I saw some cases when the policeman stops the bus, and the whole bunch of people on the bus surrounded the policeman and protest to ask the policeman release the driver.

Taking the 20 meter road of Jin Xiu Road 锦绣路 and Pujian Road 浦建路 for example. The bus stop was very badly designed. They have a stop at the right side of the road, which is the 5th lane from the left, but most of the buses need to take immediate left turn after they leave the stop. The problem the bus drivers face is, how to pull the car from the inner most lane to the outermost lane in 20 meters – that is only about 4-5 bus longer. The real situation is, in the morning at rush hours, all the lanes are packed with cars to like 1 km long behind this point. If I drive the bus, I may need crush some cars to get there.

The bus driver always have ways. They pull inside the lanes just as if the other cars does not exist, and the solid white line between the lanes do not exist. It is the car driver’s job to stop in a rush, or forced to another lane. Anyway, every morning, and for every bus, they can manage to do it. I is a chaos situation, just like a big fish jump into a small pond.

For some bus drivers who cannot get to the left turn lane, don’t worry. They simply use the right lane or the straight forward lane to turn left at green light.

The other example is, on Pusan Road 浦三路, I always find my bus running on the left side of the yellow lane, which is running opposite to the traffic… I agree, that is faster.

Chinese Government is Like a Company

Chinese government works completely different from the US government – at least from the organizational perspective. It is more like a company than US government.

US Governments are like Companies

In US, there are so many governments that are like the many companies in the market place. There may be bigger one like Federal Government, or the State Governments, just like the Fortune 500 companies. There are also many smaller one, like city government, or some water supply governments…

These governments does not necessarily reports to each other. They are just like peers.

Chinese Government is like One Company

The Chinese government is one hierarchy. It is like this:

The district head report to city mayor.

The city mayor reports to province head.

Province head reports to central government.

It is maybe one of the largest organization in the world – besides the Chinese army.

All the government officials have an internal “level”. It is just like the level in US companies. People may have different roles, but the level system is consistent across all the Chinese government, including state-owned companies.

That is the reason a government official can often (always) be assigned from the province head of Hubei, and then to the mayor of Shanghai. A mayor’s next role may be the CEO of a state-owned enterprise.

This is something that many people in US does not understand.

Back from Jiangyin

Spent the Friday night in Jiangyin, Wuxi, China. Robert Cao from YLF hosted us in his Germany Beer Festival. Had wonderful time there. Just get back from the trip. I will be back to talk more about it after I make up some sleep.

P.S. Jiangyin is at the south of Yangtz river, 2 hours from Shanghai.

SVB Bank is like a Family

Just get back from SVB Bank Wine Tasting event. SVB (Silicon Valley Bank) is a very special bank. Based on my experience with them, they know what they are going to do, and have some great people in the team, and of great culture. It is like a family.

The event happened in Le Platine in the Xintiandi area. The venue is a very nice place for such private meetings. They mixed their partners, VC clients and entrepreneurs. The first part of it was not very interesting (I just want to be honest with myself), but the last part, I had the opportunity to talk with Hairong Ji from Focus Media (I learnt he was in SJTU for 8 years), and David Wu (my school mate of the same department. SVB folks joined the talk after they sent most of their guest out.

I had great wine – although every time wine tastes great for me. I had a lot and get a little bit dazzle after it. As Terrence put it, not every bank can provide good wine…

I won’t shy away from my praise of the SVB, just like I am a happy customer (and friend) of MovableType. SVB team is like a family, and as a customer, I am feeling happy…

P.S. Pretty busy days, but I have made up my mind to put most of my time into the business for long enough time. So time flys quickly for me.

Visited Two Companies

Visited Aspect Gaming, and AdChina today.

Nice Internet startups in Shanghai. Had wonderful lunch with Justin, and talked in depths with Alan. Both are good friends of me. They are both in Shanghai Mediazone Tower (Wang Wang Tower) near Nanjing road.

We really should get together with great people more often and get inspiration. I do need to talk with people – my type of people need inspiration to live, and to work.

Maybe I should setup a goal to meet some great people every few weeks (if not every week), to keep my life exciting.

Software List for Newly Installed PC

I wrote about my software list for newly installed PC the last year. Since I reinstall my laptop from time to time (on average, every quarter), I keep a list of software to be installed. I don’t like software like Ghost – I just want to keep my PC as fresh as possible.

Looking back at the article I wrote before, there are not many in the list. This time, i create a longer list. Maybe after 5 years, when we look back at this list, many of them no longer exists, or we have started to use newer software at that time. A trend I observed from the last year is, most of my daily use software was downloaded from Internet (for free).

  1. Drivers – especially Video, and network drivers.
  2. Windows Update to get to the latest version.
  3. Keep Windows Messenger that comes with Windows XP (don’t want to use Live Messenger)
  4. Turn on ClearType. If in Chinese environment, change the font family for titles, and menus to Tohama from the default SimSong font – so the ClearType can take efect.
  5. Firefox, and then do not use IE after that.
  6. Sogou Pinyin IME (for better experience to input Chinese)
  7. Google Toolbar
  8. Google Picasa

I Use Public Transportation Now

The traffic jam at around 8:00 – 9:00 in Shanghai has finally reached a point that driving is slower than taking public transportation. From the first day of the new season (October, or the new quarter, or you may call it the first day after the long holiday), I decided to use public transportation to commute to work.

Public Transportation System in Shanghai

The public transportation system in Shanghai is reasonably good now. With metro lines reaching many important places (unfortunately, not including my home yet), and many bus lines, it is very convenient to use the bus + metro or just bus combination to commute.

With a public transportation card in hand, the experience is more enjoyable. Just keep your card in your wallet, and swipe it as you enter the bus, or metro, just like the bus or metro is free. Without the hassle to find coins, or changes to buy tickets, it is really easier.

Morning Routine

I have tried to take 970 to the Lan Cun Road Station of Metro line #4, and transit to Metro Line #1. It takes about 1 hour, but you have to go up stairs and down for many times.

The other way is to take the Xu Chuan Line bus, and it directly take me to Xujiahui. It takes about 50 minutes if I get on board at 7:00 AM.

I wake up more than one hour earlier and try to go to bed one hour earlier than before.

Last Day of National Holiday

This is the end of the last holiday. The holiday started from Sept 29, and ends today, October 5.

What I did in the last 7 days? I was in Beijing in the first two days, and spent the rest 5 days at home. With Yifan at home, most of the time, if all, were spent with Yifan. We went to the Lujiazui area the first night, went to Century Park, and Xujiahui at night. We also went to dinner with Yifan. Then we went to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum the other day, and on the final day, went to hospital together.

With Yifan in the family, my life is dramatically changed in the last year. I read some blogs in the year of 2002, and 2005, and found out it is almost completely another me, especially when I looked at what I did in holidays. We didn’t travel for two years.

The other day, Wendy said, with a baby, the pain in life doubled, and sweetness tripled. I generally agree. But my formula is, the pain doubled, and sweetness got 10x. I believe it is because Wendy did most of the painful work to take care of the baby, and I was only the assistant, and Yifan brought me too much happiness, like a big toy or pet (is it the right word to describe my little boy?)