Category Archives: Travel

Nanjing, the Capital of a Republic

A danger of travel is that we see things at wrong time, before you have the opportunity to build up the necessary receptivity so that new information is as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chains. – Alan de Botton

This time, I visited Nanjing during the weekend, and I had some preparation to get the receptivity, and tried to use a connecting chain to guide what to see. The topic will be the government of Republic of China, a historical term in mainland China, and a current term in Taiwan.

I went to the following places:

  • The presidential palace
  • The Executive Yuan
  • The Legislative Yuan
  • The Judicial Yuan
  • The Control Yuan
  • The Exam Yuan

They are scattered into different places across the city, but to follow a path to visit every single one of them makes a great day.

Nanjing is a city with great histories. Many of the memories were painful, just like the feeling of Berlin. It is also moving very fast. I didn’t expect to see a building 450 meters high (due to my ignorance, I didn’t know that). Many years ago, I would say Hangzhou is a much better travel destination than Nanjing, and now I rediscovered the city and claim it to be better to spend a weekend than Hangzhou. Here is why.

  • Nanjing is only 1:40 hour away from Shanghai. Hangzhou is less than 1 hour but the difference is not big.
  • There are 70 G-trains between the two cities everyday, making it more convineint to get there. The fastest train is only 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Nanjing was capital of 6 dynasties, and the recent Republic of China. There are a lot architect and stories there. Hangzhou is a little bit less “historical”
  • Nanjing’s transportation is amazingly good. The two metro lines (one connects at the Railway station!) completely beats Hangzhou. It was nightmare to wait for taxi at Hangzhou railway station.
  • In the recent years, Nanjing suddenly became more modern than Hangzhou, with some very nice shopping malls like Deji Plaza at Xinjiekou.
  • The mountains of Nanjing is more approachable.
  • For many people in Shanghai, Nanjing is obviously a less visited city than Hangzhou, so worth the time.

I will visit Nanjing soon during weekend. A weekend escape in Nanjing is just a very good experience for me – high-speed train, Hanting Hotel, plus Metro tickets are good package for me.

A Travel Document Just for Taiwan

People in China have to have a lot of documents, from the government.

Besides National ID, Residential Permit Booklet (Hukou Booklet), which everyone has, there are two special documents that are interesting.

One is Pass for Travel to Hong Kong and Macau. That is a special document with the same format and content as a passport, but just for travelling to Hong Kong or Macau. Mainlander still needs a visa, but it is politically incorrect to call it visa. It is a notation, and you have to get it before you travel.

The other document is Pass to Travel to Taiwan. That document is specially created for Taiwan travelers, with similar visa mechanism, although people don’t call it visa. The interesting point is, since mainland claim owner of the Taiwan, traveler need to get a visa from the local Entry/Exit Administration to be admitted to stay in Taiwan for 15 days (a claim of ownership), and submit the same document to Taiwan to get another notation. Anyway, although it is a very complicate process, at least there is a process for individuals to visit Taiwan.

These documents are chained one after another. With National ID, Resident Permit, and photo, you get Pass to Travel to Taiwan. With that, you get Taiwan Visa by China, and with that, you get Taiwan Visa from Taiwan. It takes about a month to get everything ready.

I am going to get one, and have it ready. The freedom to travel feels so good.

We Design Our Life, at Least for Travel

I met with many people during the trip, and many of them were so interested in China, so that they even sent their kids to Chinese language school, but they never went to China. I asked why, and they said, they were thinking about it. I always encouraged them to come to China – anyway, it is just 12 hours of plane ride away.

The interesting story of Two Monks’s travel story suggested that well preparation, and a lot of money does not guarantee a monk to get to Nanhai from Sichuan. The one who take action made it.

Related to this, I found it interesting to see how visa effectively prevent people in China to travel. We need visas to almost everywhere in this planet. This is the excuse many people, including myself, use not to travel. But the counter argument is, people in the States don’t need visa to most of the places (Well, they need it to come to China), they don’t travel as we thought. Taiwan is a new travel destination for some provinces in China, including Shanghai, but we don’t travel much often to Taiwan (at least for me). To zoom in to closer places. Tibet does not require visa, but I have never set foot there.

There are so many places in the world that I want to travel, but I didn’t have a clear plan for it, and there is no action to it. Sometimes we need excuse to push us there. I am so lucky to use board meeting as a driving force to go to the Silicon Valley every half year, and that is so rewarding for me and for the company.

There are many other things, like running a company. There must be a lot of things to do to run a company well, and to allow more freedom for the people in it and be more creative, and taking bolder approach. The decision is also on our hand, not others.

We can design our lives, at least for travel, and at least for immediate relationship around us.

Daylight Saving Time – My Way

During this west coast travel in the States, I started to think about daylight saving time (DST), in my own way.

The whole idea of daylight saving is, there are many more additional hours of daylight in summers than winters. Since we always define 12:00 as noon when the sun is at the highest position, there are two hours of more daylight in the morning, and in the evening.

The other fact is, people tend to extend activity to the evening, instead of morning. The evidence is, lighting (candles, or electronic) are most used at evening than in the morning. Most people just don’t wake up in the morning, lit the light, and do something. Modern activities, like movies, sports, entertainments, after work life, and even education tend to leverage the hours in the evening.

Based on the two facts that listed above, it makes sense to shift the clock and leverage the additional hours. There are two ways to do it. Either make morning longer by shifting the main time frame toward evening or make evening longer. Obvious the later is more promising.

So the way people do it is, adjust the clock clockwise by one hour.

To help me understand it easier, I would visualize it as “Follow Japan”. For example, today, the sun came out at around 5:06 AM. If we follow Japan, the new time would be 6:30 AM. The sunset for today is 6:57 PM, and it would be 7:57 PM – bingo! more time in the afternoon without affecting early raisers.

That sounds such a good idea, but it turned out that it does not help the energy saving that much as people thought. I am happy that China finally abandoned the confusing shifting. Why?

Actually, if you want, you can do it yourself. The basic idea is, in summer, the Sun is raising up earlier and earlier every day. When the sun started his work in the morning, you are still sleeping. If you just adjust the schedule and be up with the sun, you are running your own daylight saving time. Very few people realized that we can and should change our schedule according to the sun. Why always wake up at 8:00 AM? We can do it at 6:00 AM, which is identical to 8:00 AM in winters. I would take the chance of the early raiser habit jet lag gave me to try it out.

 

 

What We Can Learn from Travellers

Travel is a habit changer, and a mind changer. From time to time, I acknowledge the benefit of travel, and its positive impact on me.

Break the Boundary of Time

Travelers may have different sense of time than the residence. I waked up and wandered around the Bund at 5:30 am today, and saw many travelers – who else wake up so early to get to a tourism location? When I was in the valley, because we are running out of the daily schedule, 9:00 am is not that a sharp dividing line between pre-work to work. Sunday and Saturday are not that different, than work days.

Break the Boundary of Location

During travel, “far” places are much further than local people. A typical trip to China means Beijing/Shanghai/Xi’an/Guangzhou and maybe Chengdu for most foreigners, and for others, Tibet and Xinjiang are must visit for many American, which is still a dream for many people, including myself.

When you travel, since you have setup the orientation system for yourself, you may wake up and drive to places considered far-away. Driving down to Los Angelas does not sound too crazy to me, and driving across US is also attractive. In the area, a meeting in the City (San Francisco) can be arranged adjacent to a meeting in San Jose. That is just like arranging a meeting in Shanghai and Suzhou, and maybe another in Hangzhou. Totally crazy but I don’t feel anything wrong about it when I travel.

If you apply that to Shanghai, meeting in any of the district should sounds close, and you should do it.

Break the Reasons You Don’t See People

When I travel, I may just shoot an email to an old friend and tell him/her that I am in town and how about catch up? The only reason to catchup is because we haven’t seen each other for at least half year (my travel schedule). Visiting a place every half a week or a year is good interval since it is not too long that you barely accumulate any friend, or too short that you become a resident. The other party enjoy the same thing.

In Shanghai? That sounds a little bit awkward. You don’t see people just for the sake of seeing people (It IS a great reason), so people may stay away from each other without face to face time for many years. Sometimes I feel people in the city is further than people in the city.

Break the Balance Between Thinking and Doing

This is actually not just travel, it is vacation vs working time. In working time, most of the time, we are doing things. Doing is an important part of a company or person, but lack of thinking for too long can be a problem.

Travel is dedicated thinking time. Even people who swipe the street gets to think when they are travel. You talk with people – think! You see the street view – think! You check-in hotels – think! You are forced to think and react to the more unfamiliar world, and you think more.

This is one thing we definitely need to learn from the travelers.

Others

Surely there are many other aspects of travel itself – the culture immersion, the new skills you learn, but at the end of the day, you are still yourself, and the impact in how you behave is more important than the real knowledge.

 

How Many Times I Visited the Bay Area

I am asking myself the question:

How many times I visited the bay area?

I asked because I was asked, many times.

The first clue come from the United Airlines frequent flyer program. Although I don’t always fly United, it is a good place to get started. Then the blog posting is another very powerful way to trace back. Finally, combined with the US customer stamps on my passport, I basically have some idea.

The short answer is, 16 times in the silicon valley, plus few other trips to Seattle, Chicago, and New York. That is a lot in the last few years.

Nov 11, 2002

Dec 06, 2004

Apr 18 2005

Dec 05, 2005

Jun 05, 2006

Nov 09 2006

Dec 03 2006

Sept 06 2007

Sep 13, 2008

Jul 02, 2009

Feb 20, 2010

Jul 05, 2010

Oct 13, 2010

  • Timber Cove, Sonoma October 20, 2010
    Why I barely wrote anything during this trip? It is because it is a very simple trip just to attend one meeting (YLF). From airport to meeting to airport type of trip.

Feb 08, 2011

Jun 25, 2011

Sep 27, 2011

Jan 13, 2012

Jul 14, 2012

Back from France-Italy Trip

It has been a while. I was on road – Cannes, Nice, France, and varies cities in Italy. Here is a brief schedule of what happened in the last 10 days. Just FYI if you plan the same trip. I will share more photos later.

6/20 Fly from Shanghai to Dubai to Nice, France
Stay in MMV Resort
Registration of Cannes International Creative Festival
Have coffee with the delegation
Attend the Cannes Lion Award ceremony
Have dinner at restaurant near the Dame

6/21 Google Lecture on Social and Mobile
Tour in SandBox
Lunch at Geston restaurant near the bay
Tour in the afternoon in Cannes
Long dinner at basement of a small restaurant in the old town.

 

 

The Most Unprepared Trip Ever

I am about the leave for Cannes, France. This is the most unprepared trip I had ever had. I was in full day meeting for two days, and till now, I don’t know exactly where the place is, how to get there, which airline of flight, and what we are going to do there. Wendy is working to put everything together, which I am completely not aware of.

Is it a good thing? If it is, by what means? Not? By what means?

There are time that a trip to the local zoo can make me excited for days. Then the excitement was replaced by a city trip, or international trip. I had never been to France, and the Cannes Creative Festival is new to me – what it is about? No idea. When running on the fast track of any thing, you would like to keep the direction, and I will be much more delighted to be able to get back to office than getting onto a trip to Paris, Nice, Cannes, Barcelona, Madrid, and Rome. I just realized how hard people change their daily life, unless something force them.

 

World As I Travelled

I wrote about the Chinese provinces I visited. It is the time to do a summary about the world as I travelled – the foreign countries I set my foot on. The life is a long journey, and many people believe it is endless, and they always have a chance to visit every country of the world. Not likely to happen. If that is something I really get interested, set a plan for it.

Again, as the rule of the last time, transition without a night stay does not count. That promptly remove Korea and Japan from the list.

  1. Singapore
  2. Malaysia
  3. United States
  4. Germany
  5. Netherlands
  6. Cambodia
  7. Viet Nam
  8. Australia
  9. Canada

A very small list compare to many other people at my age. Need to continue to find opportunities to get there and interact with people, to build more knowledge about the world, and continue to shape my thinking.

Chinese Provinces I Visited

Xiaoliang wrote that majority of people in Israel visited 12 countries before age of 35. Let me count how many Chinese provinces I visited.

  1. Heilongjiang
    1. Harbin. I visited there as interviewer when we went there to recruit from Harbin University of Science and Technology
  2. Liaoning
    1. Dalian. Visited there many times for business, and jus for tour.
  3. Beijing
    1. Visited this city for at least 30 times. The most frequently visited city other than my home city.
  4. Shandong
    1. Jinan once, Qingdao for many times, all for tour, and Yantai once, Weihai once.
  5. Jiangsu
    1. All the major cities like Suzhou, Nanjing, Changzhou, Wuxi, Huzhou… I always wanted to visit Yangzhou
  6. Shanghai
    1. This is where I set my home at.
  7. Zhejiang
    1. Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Ningbo, Zhoushan…
  8. Fujian
    1. Quanzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen for many times, because of the Drum Wave Island.
  9. Guangdong
    1. Guangzhou, Shenzhen for many times. But not other cities.
  10. Guangxi
    1. Guilin – the traditional tourism city
  11. Yunnan
    1. Lijiang
  12. Hainan
    1. All the major cities, and stayed for at least one night in each city during our around Hainan tour in one spring festival: Haikou, Sanya, Qionghai, Dongfang… Sanya is my favorite beach destination, and I have been there for almost 10 times.
  13. Sichuan
    1. Chengdu – for many times
  14. Anhui
    1. Hefei. Just once.
  15. Jiangxi
    1. Nanchang for a brief night to attend a company party of Microsoft
  16. Henan
    1. My home town. I visited most of the cities for many times: Zhengzhou, Luoyang, Kaifeng, Nanyang, Pingdingshan, Xinyang, Anyang…
  17. Shaanxi
    1. My other hometown – Xi’an, Tongchuan.
  18. Hunan
    1. Changsha, and Loudi.
  19. Hubei
    1. Wuhan – visited their to deliver a course for software park once.

Provinces I have never visited are:

  1. Jilin
  2. Xinjiang
  3. Ningxia
  4. Inner Mongolia
  5. Tibet
  6. Qinghai
  7. Tianjin
  8. Shanxi
  9. Guizhou
  10. Hebei
  11. Chongqing
  12. Taiwan
  13. Gansu
How about you?

P.S. Passing by in a train or plane or bus means I nerver visited.
P.S 2. Transit airplane or visit without a night stay does not count for “visited”. How about you?

Why We Like Hotels

We finally arrived at hotel at Nanjing, after 7 hours of driving. “We love hotels” Wendy and I agreed, not to mention our little hotel lover, Yifan. He just started to run around and play with all kinds of things.

Here is the question: why we love hotels?

It is empty. There are drawers but nothing in it. There are enumertable number of items even in the washroom: soap, shampoo, lotion, tooth brush. There are desks, but basically nothing is readable on it. There are TV – yes. If they remove the TV, it can bring more sense of emptiness.

Emptiness brings peace in mind. There are so little options and you put all the pressure above a solid umbrella: I am travelling and I cannot do things. I am at hotel!

The emptiness, to an extend of boredom and loneliness is a perfect emotional status for our busy life.

Besides emptiness, it also provide cleanness. Even the most picky full time housewife cannot create the cleanness comparable to hotels. The towels are always folded as a flower and the cups are always covered with a nice while paper cover. Everything is in order – at least at the moment when you step into the room.

Understanding the reason, we actually have the hope to recreate the experience somewhere and some time in the other part of our lives.

PS: one problem – a mobile or iPad will completely destroy the wonderful status.

The Advantage of Traveler

1. As traveler, every in town loves to meet you since you are there just few days out of the year. For people in their own city, you’d better think of really good reasons before you call.

2. Traveler arrange their time according to whathe/she want to do, not what others want him/her to do. Most of the time, the traveler’s calendar for the days is blank initially waiting to be actively filled. For people in town, they have to deal with routines even their calendar is blank.

3. Traveler has the sensation of time. Every half an hour matters. For people in town, the life is endless without hard deadline like the return flight traveler’s have.

Why Chinese Citizen Needs Visa Everywhere

I got an invitation from Prof. Tang (via Mingliang and Hua) of National University of Singapore to deliver a talk on a seminar there. Then, I visited the Singapore visa office very early in the morning to get a visa. Every time I apply for a visa, either for United States, Australia, Singapore, or other places, I cannot stop wondering why Chinese citizens need to apply visa for almost every country existing on this planet.

Henley Visa Restriction Index

Here is the Henley Visa Restriction Index of 2010. The score means the number of countries and territories which can be entered without a visa by a citizen of the respective country

Rank Score

1 United Kingdom 166

2 Denmark 164

3 Sweden 163

4 Finland 162

4 Luxembourg 162

5 France 161

5 Germany 161

5 Italy 161

5 Netherlands 161

6 Belgium 160

6 Japan 160

6 Spain 160

7 Ireland 159

7 Norway 159

7 United States 159

8 Austria 158

8 Portugal 158

9 Australia 157

9 Canada 157

9 New Zealand 157

10 Switzerland 156

11 Singapore 155

12 Greece 153

13 Iceland 151

13 South Korea 151

13 Malaysia 151

14 Liechtenstein 147

15 Malta 146

19 Hong Kong 140

25 Israel 133

28 Brazil 130

31 St. Kitts and Nevis 121

47 South Africa 88

48 Montenegro 86

49 Russian Federation 83

51 Dominica 80

65 United Arab Emirates 64

69 Thailand 60

71 India 57

74 Bosnia and Herzegowina 53

77 India 50

84 Egypt 43

84 Vietnam 43

88 Nepal 38

88 China 38

90 Pakistan 36

92 Iran 34

94 Lebanon 32

98 Afghanistan 26

China ranks 88 in all the countries, a little bit better (but not not significantly) than Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iran, and Pakistan.

What’s up?

I am interested to know what are the 38 countries/territories that gives free visa access to Chinese citizen. I checked the list, and didn’t find too many countries I am familiar with. A note said, China was on their list mainly because they give free access to every country, so China was not intentionally excluded.

What is the reason? Can anyone familiar with this matter share some ideas about it?

My guess is, the root cause is the Chinese government. Currently, the only countries that China gives visa free status are: Negro Brunei Darussalam 文莱, Singapore and Japan. The visa free period is as short as 15 days.

Visa free status should be equal. If China requires visa for citizens of another countries, the common case is, they need to do the same, unless some countries who really don’t care about the diploma affairs.

Why China require visa? That is an even harder question to answer. I only knows the government even requires visa to its own territory like Hong Kong, Macau, and previous Shenzhen. Well, the politically correct version of visa is, the Hong Kong, Macau Pass – which can be only applied to another passport like booklet, but not passport – and adding additional burden and waste.

China also have the established Hukou system to effectively create a visa system within the country. People move harder within the country than most people moving across countries, and sometimes, it is harder to do it for Chinese citizen to move to another city than moving to another country (for example, moving to Shanghai is harder than moving to Canada and Singapore).

With that tradition, I believe it will take long enough for China to waive its visa for other countries, and longer for other countries to wave its visa requirements.

Advanced Asphalt Road Paving System

At Haibin North Road 海滨北路 of Weihai, I saw the most advanced road paving system I have ever seen.

The system consists of many big machines, lining up for about 200 meters. It completely automated the work to pave a new Asphalt road. The whole army of trucks moved slowly, but after them, the old broken Asphalt is turned into new and ready to use road.

This is how it works.

The machines on the trucks at the front use fire to burn the existing asphalt surface of the road, to make it soft.

Then a big machine dig the old asphalt out, and put it into the middle of the road.

The old asphalt will be mixed with some new.

The mixed raw asphalt will be transferred to the top to continue to heat.

Then it will be put into the road again and heated on the road.

Finally, a road roller will be responsible to pave the whole road.

Look – shining new road is ready!

They work on one lane at a time. After few hours, the whole road is ready, and will be opened to traffic the second day.

Do Travelers Feel People are More Friendly?

I had a conversation with a participant of Fortune Brainstorm Conference about his recent visit to Asia, namely, Thailand, and China. He was filled with exaggerated excitement about the places he just visited. “I was overwhelmed by how friendly people are. Hey man, you just cannot imagine how friendly they are”.

Hmm… Is it true that travelers feel people are friendlier in foreign countries?

For me, for example, I genuinely feel people in the States are very friendly, and people in Sanya, Lijiang, or Daocheng are friendly to me. According to my personal experience, the statement seems to positive. There are for sure cases when people get extremely frustrated during the trip or mistreated, generally, people tend to agree that they love the people they meet when they are traveling. Why is that? How so?

Is it because that, when we are traveling, we are a nicer person ourselves? We live more in the present, instead of captured by the tendency to ignore people, and things around us. I cannot imagine smiling to everyone in a crowded metro cart, and I even cannot imagine smiling every time I see Wendy. However, when we are traveling, our heart is so open that we would rather be nicer to people around us, just for the sake of a better travel experience for ourselves. In return, most of the people will find travelers are often easier to handle.

Is it because the type of people we meet? When we travel, most of the people we meet are in the travel industry. Hotels, buses, taxis, gatekeeper of tourism places… Their professions are to be friendly, and make it a good experience for their customers – the travelers. I would say, they are in a happy industry themselves, with daily chance to meet with nice travelers (as I described in my previous guess). Altogether, that is a different world from our current daily routine.

Is it because the time? Time plays a role in people’s mood. I basically enjoyed every trip I had in the bay area, until one day, I was caught in a trafic jam. I was driven made by the slow moving of cars on CA-237 to Miltipas, CA. Then I felt people are not nice. I feel the anxiourity of the drivers around me. It was then that I realized my experience of the area is always in the non-rush hours. Travelers are different annimals. They don’t follow the 9 to 6 rymth of the city. When everyone is rushing into the downtown with barely cleaned face, and being hungry because they didn’t have the time to have breakfast yet, the travelers, in the contrary, is already well fed with nice continental breakfast (think about the berries, and omlette!), and on a nice coach to a place 50 miles away from the city. That makes huge difference to how people feel about the city, and the people.

There are many reasons that travelers feel people around them are friendlier, and I guess that is one of the reasons why people travel – to explore something new, and better than our current lives.

Why People Travel

I asked this question again and again, why people love to travel.

Find new things?

No matter how small it is, from an electronic plug that is different from those in our own country, to a breakfast that offers something you seldom eat in home, the difference reminds us that we are in a different world. Nothing can be more boring when you arrive in a place but you really cannot tell any difference from your home.

My visit to Aspen leads me to recognize a special type of tree – Aspen. That types of tree with white and smooth body, and heart shape small leaves. I got one leaf and put it into my Moleskin notebook. I am not saying that there is no Aspen in my city (Shanghai), or in my country (China), it is not something in my daily life. Without visiting that small town, I may never observe and appreciate, and even recognize that special tree. Ironically, if I run into a another village with many Aspen trees surrounding it, I mean mistakenly feel bored, since it is like a place I have visited 6000 miles away.

During our travel, we need to discover things that remind us that we have set feet to a new land. Nothing can be more exciting than people speaking of different languages, especially those you don’t understand.

There Must be Something New!

It is boring (although efficient) to have lunch in a McDonald’s in another country. The only compensation in a McDonald’s to a traveler is, if there is any, the different settings of those particular restaurants. For example, I paid special interest in a tag line on the self-service coke vending machine stating: “Refill only for dine-in customers”. I admit I never saw this before, and that made my visit to the international food chain.

There are something so unique to a region that it can be the name card picture of the city/country, like the skyline of Pudong in Shanghai, or the Tiananmen/Great Wall in Beijing, or the the curved uphill section Lombard Street/Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. They are the landmarks and must see. Why? Because collectively, nothing can reminds people where they are, and how different it is from the daily life and the “boring” town they just escaped from. However, really good travelers enjoy much more than that. Admittedly, some places are more interesting than others in both the numbers of things you will notice (like a westerner arrives in Toyoko), or stronger in impression (like the Grand Canyon that can no longer be classified as just a canyon), most travelers can find difference along the way they travel, and throughly enjoy their trip. That is the sensation we need to build in ourselves, to allow us to enjoy the world of difference.