Day 11. Zhangjiagang - Hangzhou - Nanjing. Tuesday 30th Oct.
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Today was back to full work mode with lots of travel to get to a factory in Hangzhou before heading to Nanjing. But first an 8am breakfast and 9am goodbyes were in order. Bo, Miss Lee and more of the Zhangjiagang Government staff came to the hotel to thank us and wish us well. Of course we returned the same sentiments! The plan was for Bo to accompany us to Suzhou where I would go on my own to visit two more solar companies while Mike and Ann went on to further tourism destinations.
It didn’t go quite to plan. The driver got lost. I narrowly missed my planned 11am fast train (my own fault really) and had to wait until 1pm for the next seat which put a HUGE amount of pressure to my meeting schedule for the day. I was in almost constant SMS contact with my representative for the day’s company in Hangzhou. My new arrival time was to be 5pm - too late to have a full meeting so she suggested postponing till the next day. I said that was not possible as I had a meeting planned in Nanjing - and by the way I had to be IN Nanjing before midnight when my hotel check-in closed (which was a further three hour fast-train trip away). So she got to work. By the time I met her in Hangzhou she had planned our late meeting and booked my train ticket to get to Nanjing before midnight. Oh and wanted to pay for the train ticket as well (I insisted on paying). How great is that?! Once again - the joys of a traveling work-trip in China!
The company itself was small with about 50 employees that had two focus products. LED lighting and off-grid solar controller, inverter and battery systems (which are contained in a neat case on wheels). I met with my rep and her manager along with a Russian employee who sat in to learn more about solar. The system looked good and they were able to start one up which appeared to work well.
There was a 1, 2, and 3 kW version. There were issues in terms of KPE's needs however. The company was still trying to get them to work for grid-connect situations and was currently talking with a German company to source a missing-link component. This should be addressed by the end of 2012. There are also no plans for a 5kw version, the systems do not have Australian certification and the company prefer to use Lithium batteries which increases costs perhaps out of reach of the Australian market. None of these issues are insurmountable and the company is keen to address them all for their larger market in Europe anyway.
The process forward was that I would send digital copies of our on-ground sales requirements and the company who would continue to address all issues except Australian certification. Reason being unless they can have a confirmed customer in Australia they won't apply for certification (which was of course common with all of the companies I'd visited) - so we would need the technical solution confirmed and priced before certification could start which may take some time. All good and well.
Once the meeting finished I was rushed to a local bustling and quite good restaurant that had some pretty “challenging” things on offer to my weak stomach. I let my rep and her Russian colleague choose for me and enjoyed another (understandably slightly rushed) banquet before the company driver took me to the fast train station for my trip to Nanjing. I got on the train with ten minutes to spare. This was a sleeper train but there was far more conversations in each of the cabins than sleeping. No one spoke any English which was perfect.
I ended up eating take-away chili chicken feet (yes real chicken feet) with Heineken beer with a young local dude who of course spoke no English at all. It was a fun trip.
I got to Nanjing and immediately liked it. The huge elm trees everywhere through the city reminded me of Melbourne. Actually it hit me so hard I started thinking about Chinese/Australian city equivalents (as far as I’d experienced). They were:
• Beijing is like Canberra. Obviously being the capital - but also because it has a "capital" feeling and is VERY master-planned.
• Shanghai is like Sydney. Glitzy and huge with a strong emphasis on rail transport and a messy road system. But a lot of fun.
• Shenzhen is like Perth. Newer boom-town without as much history/soul as the northern cities, but a dynamic and exciting place to be.
• And Nanjing is like Melbourne. Not just the trees. Nanjing has a more conservative feel then Shanghai and feels like a university city. People wear darker clothes and it feels well educated and, well, a little cooler.
Of course each of the Chinese cities are many many times the size of their Australian “equivalents”.
...and sorry I don't know about the rest. Maybe next time.
So anyway. My hotel proved very hard to find. Mainly because it wasn't really a hotel at all but one of a series of high-rise apartments available to rent out like hotel rooms. It was a genuine Chinese apartment, and felt like a perfect way to end my trip to China - living in an actual apartment.
Bed at 12:30am.
Day 12. Nanjing. Wednesday 31st Oct. >>