Day 4 – Easy going in Venice (or so)

With the weather being a bit cloudy today (still warm though) we had an easy touristy day. After brekkie we drove over to Zhujiajiao, the famous water city west of Shanghai city. Hans, our lovely guide (btw: Thanks again, Hans, for being such a great guide and for correcting the flaw on yesterday’s blog), gave us a nice tour (unfortunately – due to Sunday – a lot of other guides did the same with their groups, which were a lot larger than the 2 of us). Anyway, it was definitely worth the trip, we had a great time walking through this ancient city (1700+ years old) – with maybe the one obstacle of the smell of cooking tofu all over the place.

We started at Fangsheng Bridge which in translation means “Release Animate Being”. This very much based on rebirth believe, with an interesting touch when carried out today:

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You can buy a turtle to release it into the river 10 meters away – where it will be caught again for your next purchase….an everlasting circle not aiming at rebirth but at constant revenue for the dealer 😉

Despite the cloudy weather, the following pictures should give you an idea of how beautiful this place is – you might want to mentally remove the crowds:

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In addition to the canals you can also see some interesting art & architecture pieces (first pic shows a bowl made of one single piece of jade):

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…as well as the often reclaimed mix of ancient and modern (take a look at the shoes):

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As all places we’ve seen so far, this one also is one for great food:

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…oops – sorry – wrong picture…food now:

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When we left this nice place (one more pic:)….

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…we basically went into real touristy mode, i.e. we drove back to the hotel for a short relax time, then went over to the part of the French Concession we did not see yesterday to just walk around and enjoy some teas (Oolong tea first, then hop tea). Funny enough – we really did not know – we ran into the Shanghai Fashion Week:

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As everywhere on this planet, large groups of young kids try to get a view of their fav VIP – especially here at the VIP entrance (no, we did not stay).

It’s a really nice neighbourhood, as explained by Hans very European, very price but we also had a good dinner and found a really nice brewery with a very nice wheat beer. 

We’re now back at the hotel, one more night in Shanghai, then we’ll take the fast train to Yichang where we will board our ship for a few day cruise on the Yangtze.

Stay tuned for updates

/Chris

Day 3 – Learning

Another great day in Shanghai.

In the morning we went down to Yu Garden again to this time have a guided tour through this amazing park. Our really great guide gave us quite some background on the Chinese garden art (have a look at the pics below). The pictures can’t really capture the beauty of the garden, you really have to see this yourselves, but maybe you get an impression and a trigger to make the trip.

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The following picture shows three limestone. The one in the middle has 70 holes “drilled” by natural water flow, all connected – so if you pour water on the top it will spill out through all other holes or – if you light an incense cone on the bottom the smoke will come out through all – funny piece of nature.

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We also learned why dragons in Shanghai do only have three fingers on their claws – 5 fingers can only be seen in Beijing, reserved for the emperor; having a dragon with 5 fingers somewhere else would have been considered as a threat and punished severely…..

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Also notice the pearl in the dragon’s mouth – this is where the dragon get’s his strength from. The frog beneath the dragon’s mouth is waiting for his own food (the dragon’s saliva)

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The following pic (actually showing our nice guide Hans on stage) shows an impressive piece of architecture. It’s the theatre in the garden, built by leveraging on quite some nice physics to have a great sound quality: It stands half on ground, half on water, the water reflects voice back to the building in the back of the theatre which in return echoes back so the actors on stage can be heard extremely well.

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Do you see how the female bows her head while the male prances? These figures were made a few hundred years before the Yu Garden was created – times have changed a real lot since then 😉 

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Can you see the small pavilion to the upper left? This one used to be the highest building in Shanghai – at a hight of 14m.

A few more random takes from this morning in Yu Garden – we do have quite some more (and some of you might be forced to see them when we meet back home)

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Next stop today was a (bit touristy) Chinese tea ceremony – but still great. Learned about different teas, how to present, how to boil, how to drink…we always liked tea, but we got a new perspective today (and some interesting, if not really great, new tastes)

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It’s been quite interesting seeing the flowers flourish in the hot water (plus a real great taste)

Continuing our education on Chinese culture we drove to the Jade Buddha Temple. No pictures in the Jade Buddha Chamber allowed, but here you can see a few from the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings and the Grand Hall:

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Last educational session today was a quick tour in a silk factory. We were kind of impressed learning that there’s basically a 100% use of the “material”. Silk threads from the cocoons are of course used for the silk itself while the larvae are used for different economics like animal food or ingredient for Chinese medicine or beauty products. Of course this requirse the death of the larvae…

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Now we really needed to relax for some time, so we drove over to the French Concession – beautiful place, great mix of old and modern, great shops, nice food stands, bars & restaurants, very open community, 

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…plus a very interesting way to serve drinks:

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….and I almost forgot the museum opposite side of the road:

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Final stop today was the Shanghai circus – not allowed to take pictures during the show though….so here just one inside the lobby:

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The show itself was impressive, although we’re both not really circus fans. I actually believe some of the folks on stage can’t have bones in their bodies – or made of a very flexible material.

 

That’s it for today – tomorrow we’ll go to see the Shanghai “Venice” – stay tuned

/Chris

Day 2 – Surprise

Well, sometimes one gets lucky. Today was the official start of our tour. I need to admit, I was a bit worried about the size of the group, i.e. we just didn’t know how many people we’d be for the next 12 days. Early afternoon we met our tour guide – and learned that we’re the only 2 😉 Great surprise!

But before we met with our guide we took a short stroll through Nanjing Road (main shopping road):

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Really interesting area – with a few nice spots to sit outside and have a coffee or drink – or just sit:

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Always interesting architecture to view:

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At the end of the road a small art park. Saw some great sculptures there:

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Talking about culture: German culture found its way into Nanjing Road (Couldn’t resist)

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Walking back I saw for the first time in my life how construction work can be done differently – including the necessary safety equipment. Later we also saw the pile of material for the next construction. Honestly: I like that!

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Plus a real great balcony opposite side of the road:

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Later today (after meeting our guide) we had a quick tour around the city including Shanghai’s Wall Street and a short walk on the Bund:

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The view on Shanghai’s Skyline from the Bund is terrific as you can see on this pic:

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We then decided to drive over to Jin Mao Tower for a breathtaking view from 88th floor (340m):

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I especially like the view from the observatory in the inside of the tower:

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Final pic for today’s post (who can name all three towers?)

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So, this was great – we are really looking forward to the next days.

/Chris

Day 1 – Relaxed

We had a great afternoon. Went to see the Old Town of Shanghai for some time, just walking around. The combination of ancient and brand new is just terrific. Took some pics:

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This is the old Tea House in Shanghai; pretty crowded place around it, but absolutely worth visiting. 

Later the afternoon, following a friend’s recommendation, we went over to the Captain’s Bar to enjoy the beautiful view across the river:

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Now sitting in hotel bar, getting ready for tomorrow

(Apologies should not all images load – quite some trouble getting them uploaded….)

 

/Chris

Arrival

We made it. After a long, but uneventful trip we arrived at our first hotel in Shanghai about an hour ago. It’s been great leaving Germany at winter temperature and then arrive in Shanghai at what I consider a really warm end-summer breeze. We will take a first stroll soon and after that I will try to find some time to post the first set of pics

 

/Chris

Quick update

Due to a longer lasting tendinitis that started basically the week after my last update on this topic, I have so far not been able to work on this project. My arm is better now so I expect to be really working on the project when back from our honeymoon that starts this coming week.

Good thing: My uncle has agreed to do the painting – so as soon as I’m back from China we will sit together to decide on the final layout.

/Chris

Honeymoon In China

Finally!

After deciding for the direction of our honeymoon 18 months ago, shortly before our wedding, we’re now good to go. We’ll take off for Shanghai this Wednesday, stay there for a few days and then take the route via Yichang, Chonqging, Xi’An to Beijing. We are really excited!

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This also means during the next few weeks I will focus on this tour rather than blogging/tweeting business 😉

Not sure yet on quality of network coverage during our trip, but assume it will be suffice to post from time to time (at least I should have some time to write – even if publishing could come later)

Anyway – now back to my officially final working day before this exciting vacation – stay tuned for updates.

/Chris

The BizCloud Traveler

Recently I found myself in the position to explain “The Cloud”, the advantages & disadvantages, how to get there and how to identify technical, geographical and functional requirement – this very much for non-techies. Thought I could share my latest analogy:

Being a frequent business traveler I have identified quite a number of similarities between cloud services and hotel services:

  • A cloud service is similar to booking rooms in a hotel where number of rooms and consumed additional in-room services might be uncertain at the the time of requesting the services, but I do know I need access to the hotel
  • I might also be interested in door-2-door services, i.e. get from home to hotel, have a rental car available for spontaneous trips and at one point in time really want to get home again
  • I expect the hotel to cover some basic needs and have those covered by the basic charge
  • I definitely want the hotel to be flexible in regards to my potential upcoming request and am willing to pay a fee for additional services (while still hoping my loyalty program covers at least some of my additional requests); I also accept fees will go up when ordering services out of standard hours or non-standard services
  • I know I will pay for some services I won’t use (e.g. I never managed to use more than 2-3 tea bags per night – in a lot of hotels you get up to 10), but I also understand the service provider (i.e. the hotel) has done the maths for finding the right balance between satisfying the contractual obligations and teasing me into using additional services (“You like the tea? More available at the front desk”) vs losing a customer by including unnecessary items into basic charge

Some obvious statements

  • I want to feel secure in the place I stay – in room and also when walking in the neighbourhood
  • Different hotels offer different choices and levels of quality for certain services
  • Every traveler has different likes, requirements and financial capabilities
  • Services offered from hotel as well as services requested from any traveler might change even during stay
  • Let’s say I originally booked a “just good enough” room, find a precious valuable for my wife on the local market and intend to protect that => “Can I have a safe with adequate insurance coverage?”
  • Let’s face it – it might even be I just don’t like the hotel and want to move to a different one in a close location
  • Searching a room just for myself is way easier (and can be done by myself) than organising a meeting with a few people (that’s where assistance from secretary/PA and travel agency comes in); it’s getting even more complex if a large crowd needs to be gathered for let’s say a conference – that’s where professional conference services take over. (And I’m not yet even talking about the real complex topics like arranging visa for certain countries etc)

Travel scenarios

  • If I travel to a place I’ve been before I tend to look for either my favourite hotels or – of not available or plainly too expensive – check the area I like for something similar – and yes, i of course do this before I travel; I am also pretty adamant on having a confirmation from where I intend to stay before I depart – for some regions / countries on this planet it’s actually a requirement to have the confirmation to get the visa done.
  • In case I need a visa or work permit I will also engage the right professionals – i.e. the ones who give me a guarantee on success before I take next steps like contracting with the client
  • In case I travel to a place I had not been before but know my employer has an office not too far away I might decide to stay close to that office (because I know the hotels around or because we have a great discount) and accept having a slightly longer ride from travel target to hotel or back
  • In case I need to go somewhere I have no clue about I will ask some folks – that’ll include people I know having been there as well as the travel agency to get me a good price for the recommendations received from friends, colleagues and customers

Business Travel Conclusion

  • When on business travel there’s a clear objective for the business part – and I also tend to have one on the travel part reflecting / mapping with the business requirements.
  • I want to be secure, I want my belongings to be secure (insurance for in-room storage of electronic devices and passports, no surprise like another guest in the same room…)
  • I want the accommodation to be flexible to my needs (early arrival, late departure, unplanned check-out, taxi call on time, conference room for x people on request….)
  • Basic stuff like “split my bills into business and private items”
  • If I am a loyalty program participant I expect the hotel to have both my addresses (business and private) on file
  • I expect my travel agency to fully comply with my corporate rules on security, costs, locations..

Analogy Conclusion

  • When I move business data and applications to the cloud I expect full compliance with internal and external regulations
  • My provider needs to cover basic requirements like access management and security
  • I want to have a provider reflecting and responding to my changing requirements
  • I want my provider to be able to respond to scale up/down requests
  • I need to have a Service Level Agreement that explains in detail the expected charges for scaling standard services or requesting non-standard charges
  • A supplier offering the majority of services in a financially reasonable fashion at a consumption based rate will have an advantage over the competition in the same area

Rough thoughts at the late end of a day – might clean up in the next days.

Appreciate your comments as always

/Chris

Real World Digital Transformation

@JDavie25 started an extremely important thread

Too many still think and act as if #Digital #Transformation topics like #IoT #Industry40 etc are pure technical topics.

#Fail !

The value resides in the intelligent combination of business & IT – well, that should be a no-brainer, but are we as IT companies, Service Providers, Consultants etc really acting on this?

There are positive examples – but still not enough. That’s one of the reasons why amongst others so many SMBs do not jump on the train yet – and are thus threatening their existence. As I once wrote somewhere: Not having access to data is bad, having access and not using it in a business appropriate way is a real waste.

We need to face it – the principles of e.g. Orchestrated Manufacturing are old, the algorithms partially exist since centuries. The real benefit comes from fast compute now being a commodity and thus everybody (theoretically) having access to it.

Whoever uses technology just for the sake of using technology will fail, whoever sells technology just for the sake of selling technology might have a quick success but no longstanding customer satisfaction journey.

One always needs to reflect the business needs and tie the use of technology to those use cases.

From high level, there are three main categories of use cases:

1) Product Improvement

2) Production improvement

3) Find a new revenue stream

First step in any exploration with a customer needs to be the agreement of where in those three categories the customer (and thus also the provider) wants to act. Never, absolutely never, do this in IT discussions – this is a business scenario where IT can (should) enable, but not lead.

Second step needs to be a real thorough #UseCase discussion. Identify a few, agree on the PoC, run it fast ( #FailFast ), reflect results and adjust. Only if one is successful with these small steps the chance for doing more comes up, so make sure to focus.

Probably all of the above is #CommonSense – so what are we missing in getting higher acceptance?

Comments welcome

/Chris

Vodafone service improving

It happened again. 

When I woke up Monday morning my LTE connection was down. I checked – rebooted the router a few times without success other than at one point in time the router completely stopped responding and decided to not even try to boot anymore. I had to go on a quick business trip so I let my wife know she’ll not have internet at least until I return and hit the road.

From the car I called up @Vodafone help line and got connected quite fast. Nice lady talking to me; I explained the situation and also mentioned that I had complained about the router quite a few times already but did not even get an offer to replace. While we chatted she found out that the LTE base station covering my area was dead anyway, so I’d have to wait anyway. I agreed, came back to the router topic and she literally said:

“I can’t just decide to exchange the router, but I have access to it, will do some tests and then decide on proceedings”.

I mentioned I could not imagine her having access to a router that’s a) not booting and b) can’t connect as the LTE base station is down, but she was really sure she knows her business. She promised to keep me informed shortly and we hang up.

As expected I never heard back from her.

Tuesday evening (my wife kept nagging about not having internet at home) on my way home I called up @Vodafone again. Another nice lady (and this time I really mean it). I explained the situation again, she looked up the history, told me she could not understand why her colleague did not keep me informed, promised a fast exchange of the router (she even called back about 10 min later to confirm the new router was on its way), directly did a call routing from our home number to my cell,  gave us a nice data volume on my wife’s mobile to use as mobile hotspot until the new router arrives and was in general helpful, pleasant and knew her stuff.

Needless to say the new router arrived Thursday and I was back online after of course doing my in-house adjustments.

So @Vodafone: Thanks for getting better in support – I suggest you do a new survey on customer satisfaction, have the names of the service staff in the survey and start appropriate actions after receiving the rating.

Cheers/Chris