This is the story of our run through five Asian cities in 14 days that we just did. It’s a story of two distinct, yet ever connected, experiences as I spent the majority of time in meetings (23 to be exact) and KR got an appetizer-sized taste of each city we visited: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, and a suburb of Tokyo. I suspect this format will serve as the template for future travels as we continue to combine business and pleasure in fast paced trips hunting for partners.
The trip’s purpose was to continue building LACI’s Global Innovation Network (GIN) linking innovation centers in key markets around the world. We’re attempting to knit together key cleantech markets in order to create a global ecosystem in which companies, technologies, mentors, capital and best practices can easily flow from one to another. After this trip we have over 16 GIN members in the U.S., Mexico, Germany, Italy, Finland, China and Japan.
We were part of an official government delegation as LA’s Mayor and 85 Los Angeles business, academic and government leaders paraded through Asia. While we had our own itinerary, we intersected with the official group at each city and stayed at the same hotels. All in all, it’s a good thing to be part of the Mayor of the Second Largest City in the U.S. The timing couldn’t have been better as the week before we were in China the President and the Chinese leader signed an historic green house gas agreement that put clean technology and their commercial opportunities front and center of attention.
KR has never been to Asia and I’d only been to Shanghai and Beijing this summer, so we were newbies. KR had the same lack of interest before visiting as I, but that quickly dissolved as we got closer and closer to take-off time. By the time we boarded for the 14-hour trip to Hong Kong, KR had four guide books with lots of pages earmarked. I was looking forward to the 14 hour no-interruptions keyboard time.
Here’s the trip’s itinerary:
- November 14th: LAX to Hong Kong. Fourteen-hour flight and a lost day means we spend November 15th in the air. Get into Hong Kong late the 15th.
- November 16/17/18: Hong Kong. FW does five meetings, KR checks out the Occupy Hong Kong protest site.
- November 18: Late night flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai. Spend 30 minutes trying to explain the address of the hotel in English to Chinese-only speaking taxi drivers at the airport. We get lost and arrive at the hotel late. But its worth the wait.
- November 19: Shanghai. By far and away the best hotel. FW has a slow day of only two meetings. We go to our first official reception that night.
- November 20: Early morning flight from Shanghai to Beijing, then six meetings that afternoon and dinner with a Beijing friend that night.
- November 21/22/23: Beijing. This is the Big Day for GIN as we have an official MOU signing ceremony and five meetings. KR gets a guide to see the Forbidden City and we see the Great Wall on the 22nd. Wow!
- November 23: Beijing to Seoul in the afternoon and a long ride from the airport to our hotel in downtown Seoul. KR and I notice immediately there’s a good vibe to Seoul. This is by far and away the most expensive hotel we’ve stayed. I make the mistake of having a coffee in the lobby and almost choke on the $14.00 cost.
- November 24/25: Seoul. FW meets with big Korean companies and for the first time doesn’t come away with a GIN partner. We have a great night out in Seoul. We wander the streets in a neighborhood we don’t know, nor do we know where it is. Our kind of experience.
- November 25: Late night flight to Tokyo and a 1 ½ hr drive to a technology park in a Tokyo suburb. Get there really late, but just before the bar closes. FW has three beers before dinner:)
- November 26: Tokyo. Meetings and tours in the morning, catch a taxi to the airport late that day. We never make Tokyo proper.
- November 26: Tokyo to Honk Kong to LA. Arrive LA the night of the 26th.
By the end of the trip, KR and I are a well-oiled, well-used travel machine. We got our hop, skip and jump groove-on. We didn’t lose one thing (although FW came close, leaving his computer in a hotel in Hong Kong) and never had any real problems beyond occasionally not knowing what airport we were in and not being able to remember the previous day’s activities.
There is no quick way to show some pictures, so here’s the long photographic journal of our trip.
KASHIWA-NO-HA (SUBURB OF TOKYO)
THE END AND ANOTHER BEGINNING