Saturday, 29 October 2011

Made in China I by Japan (Tobacco International) aka Camel

Because I've meet a bunch of nice people from all over the world I will write this post in English. So pardon my French and use google translator for my shakespearian English. First of all, how I end up in China…I was lucky-lucky. I’m a smoker and I end up winning a trip to Shanghai offered by Camel (JTI).
This is not a paid advertising material and if any of you don’t smoke, good for you, save your breath and don’t comment here about what’s good or bad with the tobacco industry. Coming back, there is karma. I won this  trip but after that I lost an airplane ticket to Bangkok, thanks to the shitty website and policies of Turkish Airlines. Don’t use them, they suck big time. Anyway, back to Shanghai where I arrived after a long flight (2.30 h to Amsterdam and 10.30 hours to Shanghai). KLM still rules so the flight was ok. 
Day 1
The guys from Camel meet us with a first surprise, a chinese traditional medicine foot massage. Different than the Thai foot massage, the chinese version is more soft, relaxing and precise, it was good and I will come back on this subject. From the massage we jumped directly in some old motorcycles, the Chinese version of the Russian version of the Germans BMW, .. don’t ask. 
An excellent dinner at the Xian Nan Guo restaurant (100 usd for 6 persons) was followed by a short nap in the huge bed of my room at the Ritz Carlton…before the first party of the week. It was a full, intense 1st day of discovering Shanghai and partying hard.. I needed the endurance of a Camel but thanks god, I’m forever young.. 
Day 2
It was a big and pleasant surprise for me. A meeting and a photo session with Sun Jun, a famous Chinese fashion photographer. 
The meeting took place on the outskirts of Shanghai in the Yuyuan park with some beautiful gardens, a real example of the Chinese feng shui. The result of the photo session conducted by Sun Jun is this.
 I took my time to shoot some Chinese models in the set up and the result is here.

Dinner was at Maya, a Mexican restaurant in a residential area of Shanghai where the expats are keeping the place alive. Good food and lots of marguerita helped us taking a short walk on the Bund by night. A must see, go no later than 10 pm so you can catch all the lights on the skyscrapers.
It seems that the cost of illuminating the buildings each night is around 150,000 usd / night.  The night ended in Muse, one of the most famous night clubs in Shanghai. A White Russian was 55 RMB (8 usd), no entrance fee. The club was nice but I’ve seen a lot of show off and therefore the atmosphere was so and so. The Bucharest student clubs are still kicking ass..:-)
 Day 3
I never heard before of GodsKitchen  and their DJ/clubbing concept but the venue where the Camel guys took us to learn how to mix and turn off and on some lights (aka VJ-ing) was really cool. It seems that our teacher, Paul Thomas, was a famous DJ but how I told him….Oh my, oh my, Rock&Roll will never die ! And as you can see he was thrilled singing with me, no need for the DJ set 
Day 4
China has a tradition regarding the bicycles, many chinese are using them. So I tried to paint in black a chinese bicycle but I had a big problem. The bicycle was already black. And that was good, like a Harley Davidson commercial says, we believe in wearing black because it doesn’t show any dirt or weakness. So my Trekk orange bike will have a black (and some silver as my signature) chinese brother.
Day 5
Kung Fu lessons at a famous tea house in Shanghai! Being a happy hippie hipster, I choose to enjoy shots after shots of…Jasmine tea J and leave the fighting to others
In the evening, Karaoke! Oh boy, I rule ... by sucking if I can say so… The duet with a chinese pop star, her soft voice and my metal growl was so painful to hear that everybody said I could easily and successfully compete in one of our shitty TV shows…only if I stop..
Day 6
We choose to visit a water village, Zhujiajiao, near Shanghai (1 hour driving). It was the Chinese version of Burano, the small island near Venice. Definitely deserves a visit.
In the evening the grand finale, a farewell party with all the winners in The Mint Club (amazing view from the rooftop), the agencies and the Camel guys.
It was an extraordinary experience and as an advertising professional I can say that I was impressed by the creativity and the effort shown by Camel and their agency.
A few words about Shanghai:
It’s amazing what the Chinese did in 20 years. Shanghai is a vibrant city, a lot of skyscrapers, state of the art technology and definitely a lot of megalomania. 
The new coming global power which is China flexed its muscles and showed to the world what can do. In front of the Bund where all the western buildings from the colonial era are a reminiscent sign of the past, the chinese built an amazing financial center with some crazy skyscrapers. 
The contrast is amazing but also relevant, a clear message to the rest of the world. 
The French concession is a green classy and beautiful neighborhood.  A lot of restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls and an excellent subway network, all these are making Shanghai the symbol of the future China. 
The city deserves a 3 day visit but no more than that is necessarily. As a backpacker, pay attention to the accommodation, it’s not cheap. 
Honorable mention : The Lost Heaven restaurant, the bazaar near Xintiandi (don't do shopping or eat there), obviously The Bund, the Art galleries at M50, Yueyang Hotel, French Concession, Noodle Bull and Hot Pot restaurant, the Old Town (bargain hard for shopping, pay no more then 1/3 from the asked price)
Regarding the real China and travel tricks I will give more details in the next post dedicated to Beijing.
PS : all the credit for the pictures in this post goes to the Camel team of photographers