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Wednesday – Hangzhou

This morning Dan, Jon and I boarded the train to Hangzhou. The south railway station is extremely modern – very clean, spacious, and beautiful. It cost 44 RMB for a ticket for a two-hour train ride. Of course everything but the numbers are in Chinese, but we managed to figure out that we were on car 1, seats 54, 55 and 56. We thought that car one should be at the front of the train, as we passed 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2. At car 2, we were told that car 1 was between 8 and 9 though. Lesson learned – just show someone your ticket right away.

The train was not as modern as the station. It had two levels and every seat was full. There was this curtain by me that had mildew or dust or something that I was allergic to in it. I didn’t want to breathe. You see people wearing surgical masks around occasionally. I was told it was to help filter the pollution, or to prevent them from spreading their cold. I wished I had one then. In the US you would get hundreds of stares, but here it is fairly common.

In Hangzhou, we took a taxi into town. Grace sold her first large video board there, and it was being fired up. Once in the taxi, Dan called Grace and had her tell the driver (in Chinese) where to go. This also is very common, among Chinese as well as foreigners. All businesses have a map to their location on their business card or any other printed material.

We met Pete Johnson, Stephanie, Grace, Gary Gregg (US tech), Larry (Chinese project manager), and William (Chinese tech) there. The sign was almost totally up – two blocks of modules were out, but William replaced a power supply and fixed some wires and it was totally up and running. We only have one standard animation for China – it is the Chinese flag rippling. It looks good but we just need to have more variety.

The display is on a building still under construction. It will be an entertainment complex, with discos and KTV (karaoke). It is owned by a very important man, Mr. Lu (I think). He actually saw our displays in Macau and sought Daktronics out because he was impressed with them. We are also proposing a ProAd display for the other side, so a couple hours were spent discussing this proposal, pricing, etc. Mr. Lu met us at the hotel in the afternoon. We sat in booths looking directly at the display and discussed the possibilities for it, along with content creation. He did not speak any English so Grace translated everything. There are actually two other owners, who came later, but he is the decision maker.
Mr. Lu owns several restaurants throughout the city. He took us to one near the hotel. It had a waterfall flowing down two stories of smooth rock, with a glass staircase going upstairs. We were shown to a private room. There were a couple of special dishes that would cost hundreds of dollars back home. One was abalone, and the other was some type of mollusk that have to be alive until the chef cut it up, minutes before it was served. Another interesting dish was whole smelt fried. It was hard to get the meat without getting bones using chopsticks. Many of the dishes with fish have the entire fish including head and tail.

We also drank several bottles of sweet, warm wine. It was used for toasting with the miniature wine glasses. I learned there is a certain way you must toast with important people. The non-important person must always keep their glass under the important person’s glass as they toast. So, when Mr. Lu toasted Dan, they clinked their glasses together, Dan’s under Mr. Lu’s. Mr. Lu then made his lower, then Dan did, etc. Basically, the important person is lowering the glass trying to say they are not important, but the other person insists that they are.

The only time Mr. Lu wasn’t the highest glass was when he got up from his seat and toasted Gary Gregg. He said Gary was very important and he must be very smart (referring to him helping put the display up.) Mr. Lu’s driver then took us to the train station.

The 8:30 train was sold out, and the next one was at 10:00. A group of people with red shirts said, oh, the busses are this way. They led us to a group of mini-vans! We said no way and started to leave. They started bargaining with us, and we said we’d pay 400 yuan for a ride to Shanghai if they had a big van. They showed us, but wouldn’t give us the price we wanted.

So we went back to the ticket counter and discovered only hard seats were left on the late train. These people kept trying to bargain with us and get us to take their transportation. We said we’d only take a real bus.

Somehow they managed to find a real bus. We agreed to the ride for 60 yuan each and left at 9:10. It was a charter bus that probably took a group of tourists from Shanghai to Hangzhou, and the driver was going to make a few bucks on his way back to Shanghai. Dan said the vans they were trying to give rides in were probably company vans and they were basically stealing from their employers.

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