Goodbye Shanghai, Hello Hangzhou

Fiona Jochum

Last night we attempted to strategically pack our bags, after having accumulated a few extra belongings from our days in Shanghai!  Then, we rose bright and early and ran into the organized chaos of the Shanghai railway station. The voices of hundreds of travellers and the calls of the intercom ricocheted off the walls creating a deafening sound around us.

At precisely 8:05 AM, the high speed train rolled out of the station, and we were still trying to figure out how to fit the luggage of 30 people in the limited overhead compartments of the car.  Once everyone was seated, we all breathed a sigh of relief and gave a little cheer. We were all going to make it to Hangzhou safe and sound!  Our first glimpse of Hangzhou definitely spoke to its alias, "Garden City".  However, before we had a chance to explore the streets and enjoy the natural beauty of the city, we headed off to visit E-Commerce giant, Alibaba.

In Hangzhou, Alibaba has a campus of modern office buildings and perfectly manicured grounds.  We were welcomed into the reception hall, which was built to host the 2016 G20 summit and has been used to introduce the leaders of various countries to Alibaba.  We are the first group of young professionals to have the opportunity to visit the Alibaba campus.  It was a pretty amazing experience!

Alibaba is a company with a strong vision of looking at the world in a unique way and creating equal opportunity for everyone to prosper using an online network.  Each new employee has to go through an initiation and perform a handstand before they are welcomed into the Alibaba community.  The reasoning behind this is that you see the world from a different perspective, which can lead to new ideas and solutions.  Our hosts wowed us with advanced technology.  From a hallway that immersed us in a starry sky, to a fully digital storyboard guiding us through successes and future plans, we heard the story of Alibaba loud and clear.

With the increasing amount of time we all spend on our phones and using the internet, along with the desire for convenience, it is no secret that the world of E-Commerce is the way of the future.  It is important for Canada to engage in these opportunities, so that we, too, can reach new markets and connect with consumers globally.  Thank you, Alibaba, for hosting us today and sharing insight into the world of E-Commerce!

When our bellies started rumbling this evening, we ventured out into the street in search of some Chinese cuisine.  Rumour has it, the family run, cozy, aromatic noodle shop down the street was the place to be.  And, oh, this is so true!  A young lady brought us trays of meat and vegetables and followed behind with a sizzling hot bowl of soup.  Before the soup had a chance to stop boiling, we quickly added all the toppings and with a couple swirls of our chopsticks, everything was piping hot and ready to eat.  It was said that this was the best meal of the trip so far!

Bursting at the seams, we made our way back to the hotel and passed some women dancing in a fitness center parking lot. I mean, in the fresh evening temperature of 35°C, who wouldn’t want to exercise outside!  As we stood observing the scene, we thought, “why not join in?”.  This is what I love about music and the arts: it doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can still connect and communicate through sound and movement.  We had a great time dancing the evening away with the ladies and gave them Canadian flag pins as a small token of our appreciation. 

Today was the perfect welcome to Hangzhou, and we can’t wait to see what the next few days have in store for us!