This morning we had a shorter time to get up, drink coffee, and eat breakfast as we had another very busy day ahead of us. Today, we were going to take a tour of the city center and focus on the economic development of Hangzhou. When we got off of the bus we could tell we were in downtown Hangzhou, something we had only seen from a slight distance via the West Lake. However, actually standing in the middle of it, I was amazed at the enormous size of the business district. My roommate Pablo stated that he counted over 100 cranes in the area and he stopped counting. I had heard that about 25% of all large construction cranes were located in China and now I know why. They are truly investing in their city's infrastructure trying to make Hangzhou a better Shanghai. Shanghai has the coast, but Hangzhou has the West Lake.
As we walked around the downtown area, I was stunned at the different types of modern buildings being constructed in the area. There were numerous skyscrapers and many more to come. At the center of it all was a building that looked like the sun (holding a large conference center and hotel) and the moon (holding an opera house). After an overview, we visited two musuems dedicated to City Planning. The first was an exhibition of what Hangzhou is going to look like. They are planning hundreds of more skyscrapers in the near future - perhaps building this city to hold at least 20 million people. As of now, the city holds approximately 9 million plus undocumented migrant laborers. Think about that, they are projecting this city to look like New York City. China already has 100 cities with 1 million people or more. According to this exhibition, they are telling the Chinese people "come to Hangzhou." One of the things that amazed me was that they are taking all of their shopping districts downtown and putting them underground. No more eyesores of 30 year old malls, put them underground and build a beautiful park for the people to enjoy and put the mall underground. It will save on electricity since it will be cooler and it creates a more aestheticly pleaseing city.
After being amazed by the numerous models and pictures of what was to come, we went to the City Planning Exhibition hall to see what the city used to look like to what it looks like today. I am not sure if the two are linked, but it made sense to view them both consecutively. This hall gave us an overview of the history of the Hangzhou area from pre-Shang Dynasty all the way up to the present - focusing on the economic, social, and geographical features. The showstopper here was the model of the city that took up nearly the entire third floor and from the fourth floor, one could view the city as if one was in a helicopter circling the city. It was very detailed, but more importantly, one could begin to assess the sheer size of the city sprawling in all directions. If the Chinese want Hangzhou to be the model for the rest of China (and they are known to do this - find an idea and have others copy it). The pictures may not do this model justice for how big it was. To give you an idea, it takes approximately 8 miles to bike/walk/drive from the northern part of the West Lake to our campus in the northwest part of the city. This was on the map and the West Lake is just west of center. It is a sprawling metropolis and it is not done yet.
Lunch was canteen/buffet style and it was good. I must say I missed the sign for dumplings (sadly because they looked delicious), but having it all in Chinese Characters makes it a bit harder to understand. There was a picture, but not being able to read the characters makes it a bit difficult. Lifes little challenges.
After lunch we gathered together and went to an airraid shelter. This airraid shelter is no longer being used for its intended use, rather it is a place to stay cool. People were playing cards, watching TV, and spending time with family. It was MUCH cooler than the balmy 95 degrees outside. I was told it was built in the 1940s to counteract the Japanese bombing of Hangzhou, but I also wonder if it was possibly used during the Chinese Civil War and Cold War. Although Hangzhou would not have been directly affected, it was like the shelters in the USA - built for fear. For those that want to get a chuckle, look up the duck and cover videos from the 1950s. One could probably find it on Youtube. Great look at Cold War mentality.
From here we walked through a Drum Tower and into a area of shopping - mainly for tourists. Many of my colleagues were very interested in doing some shopping and checking out the items for sale. There were some knickknacks for sure, but very interesting things as well. Pablo and I were very interested in the commercialization of Mao himself. I am sure if Mao Zedong same himself on the back of someone's backpack or handbag, he would roll over in his grave. However, this is the new China with a market economy and if this is what people want to spend their money on, then that is what entrepreneurs will produce. I was most fascinated in the 10 Yuan store. Everything in the store was 10 Yuan, like a dollar store only this will be approximately 1.50. Finally, I stopped and picked up two hand carved stamps and had my brother's and mine name carved in English and Chinese on the bottom. We are 12 years apart and both of us were born in the year of the Snake.
From here, we ventured to another market, this time a produce and animal market for locals. One could find many different spices, vegetables, fruits, and animals. Interested in watermelon? Check. In the mood for pigs feet? Got that too. How about dried duck? Yep. Frog or eel? Of course. It was very clean and orderly. We talked to the manager of this market and he said that every single thing in the store can be traced back to the exact farm or village. Think about that...every mushroom or lotus root has a barcode (so to speak) and once this is scanned, a person can quickly discover where it came from and then if there is a problem, deal with that problem. Although it was not mentioned, this is one of the first markets with this technology. Apparently the Government paid for this, but will they pay for the others? That was not discussed. We did notice that there were many Communist Party awards and propoganda in the room. This was clearly a very important market to them. Foreign dignitaries had visited here on tours throughout Hangzhou in the past. Was this new system a reaction from the Avian Flu and the recent Milk disaster? That is not known. However, it is amazing to think how far they have come with their system in a short time.
In the final part of the organized part of the trip, we visited State Street. They are an investment managing corporation based out of Boston. While this did not pertain to us, the people working there were from the University - hence our connection. We got to meet local people living and working in the city. After talking with some of them, which was fantastic to hear where they came from and how they go about their daily lives in Hangzhou, we broke up into groups to go out for dinner. We had a bit of an adventure trying to find the place, after about 20 minutes of wandering we did find it. To be fair to our hosts, it was in a very odd place, lower floor of an office building and difficult to locate. We went to a place called Grandma's kitchen and ate like kings. The food was AMAZING! The funny think about their waiting system is when they call your table number, they tell you "Grandma is inviting you to dinner." Hilarious and very clever. Our food had so much seafood, meats and tasty vegetables, I felt like I was having a going away dinner. However, this was just an average meal at this restaurant. When the bill came, one of the ladies grabbed the bill and we were immediately worried that she was trying to pay for the tab. We insisted on helping and she agreed, but she paid with her card to get a discount. She had a Unionpay card and this gave us some discount. Our bill came to about $6 a person! For all that food. All and all, it was a fantastic day. Looking forward to the next adventure tomorrow.