By Saurabh Saxena
As an entrepreneur, I had always been intrigued by everything that I had heard about the Chinese: their work culture, growth stories and business acumen. So when I got the opportunity to be at China and meet some of the companies there and be one of the speakers at YourStory’s The China India Story in Beijing, I was thrilled!
The trip started in Shanghai where I spent a couple of days. The agenda was simple – meet people, meet founders and investors immersed in the Chinese story and explore the culture and food.
From Shanghai to Beijing to HongKong – the trip was an experience like no other. I, for one, am totally smitten by the infrastructure on display; the thoughts of the entrepreneurs and investors alike on what differentiates the Chinese markets from Indian ones and the sheer magnitude of the domestic consumption economy in China and the ambition of it’s entrepreneurs. Language barriers to communication aside, this trip has left me wanting for more.
1) China’s uber architecture & infrastructure is breathtaking.
The skyline in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are a sheer reflection of China’s financial progress and business mindset. It’s the infrastructure that gives you the very first impression of a place you visit. This was out of the top drawer.
An interesting view point shared by most people I met there was that it was the relentless focus on infrastructure by the government and also the manufacturing sector that got the effects of the growing economy to benefit a much larger section of the society. Come to think of it, it is a very interesting thought. Service sector (like in India) while capable of growing the economy; tends to benefit a more ‘educated’ set of people. Manufacturing and infrastructure on the other hand benefit people across a larger skill set, not necessarily gained through formal education alone.
2) The food is amazing and what we get in India in the name of Chinese cuisines is highly Indianised!
From what I had read before, I knew that China has 8 different cuisines and a couple of them (Sichuan and Hunan) are known to be very spicy. But never had I thought of anything to be so loaded with chili! One can imagine how hot it must have tasted – but it was irresistibly delicious! There is something about using the full chilies as against chili powder that we are used to in India – it renders the dish hot but doesn’t really leave you with a burning sensation in the mouth (if you can avoid biting into one of the chilly pieces).
The meat was tender and completely soaked in the sauce; making it a juicy and flavorsome meal. I believe it was a very simple recipe, one that can be turned out with very less ingredients and very quickly too. And yet it tasted so good!
I am often amazed at how simplicity wins over, even in food!
3) Streets are where the best local food is – often!
You’d agree that it’s the best way to explore any new destination. The experience of eating food that’s made right in front of you with multiple spices and sauces can’t be matched with anything else. It was a pain though that I couldn’t communicate in their language. Most of the locals have no spoken or written communication skills in any other language other than Chinese and it doesn’t help that Google’s services aren’t working for the most part of the Chinese Mainland.
All this with a locally brewed beer elevated the food experience multiple notches up!
5) The local bars have plenty of character…
Hong Kong is famous for its nightlife and bars. This one had these loyalty mugs for customers and a stewardess that remembered most of the patrons.
I visited Blue Marlin in Beijing with an acquaintance, Shan who hailed from Tamil Nadu and had spent the last few years in China completing his engineering and working on various real estate projects there. Situated in what the locals call the ‘Diplomat Street’ – this place was full of expats. The live band was pretty good and so was the food and the company.
7) Train travel brings the journey alive
It was an exciting commute from Shanghai to Beijing on train. The speed, the convenience and the comfort of the train were brilliant. Both Beijing and Shanghai airports are known to have innumerable delays in flights and hence the train seems to be one of the most reliable ways to commute. It helps that the train infrastructure is very well maintained and is almost airport like.
8) Local culture and art is immersed in everyday life
Beijing’s 798 Art Zone is a fantastic place, famous for unique art installations. Many large business offices are located in the vicinity too.
I got a chance to witness this local street performance. Loved the artsy colors and music. The vibe was great!
9) The Lama Temple visit
The Lama Temple (Yonghegong) in Beijing was absolutely serene and peaceful. The temple is famous for a huge statue of Buddha which has been carved out of a single trunk of a Sandal tree.
10) Loved Hong Kong’s majestic geography!
Looking at the Hong Kong topography from up above, one cannot help but imagine what can be made out of an island.
And those were some of the many memories I got back with me from China. It’s fascinating how visiting a new place can open the lid on so many new experiences. It can leave us inspired in so many ways!
About Saurabh Saxena
Saurabh Saxena is the founder and CEO of Holachef. You can follow him on Twitter at @saursax