I took a cab from the hotel to Central Station where I caught the Central Line to Fukyu. As with the London Underground, the Central Line is marked red, no doubt Marty Schwimmer will be having a campaign to deal with this. I changed at Fukyu and again at Swetrash. After, maybe 45 minutes I disembarked at Li Lui in Shanzhen, and discovered that my extended Chinese visa had ran out in April. I was sent upstairs where there were three adjacent windows. At the first one, I was photographed. At the second I paid 168 RMB and at the third I received change and a three month visa. I went back downstairs and queued at the same window. This time I was waived through. The entire exercise took less time than passport control at Ben Gurion Airport on an Israeli passport. Apparently it helped that I’d been in and out of China on a number of occasions. First time visitors apparently get sent home.
China is different from Hong Kong. In Hong Kong the taxis drivers sit on the right and drive on the left side of the road. In China, like the rest of the world, they drive on the wrong side. Taxi drivers in Hong Kong can manage to find places if you say name slowly. In China, you really want the concierge in the hotel to write out the name of the hotel and to pick up a business card with the hotel’s name on it so you can get back.
There are similarities, of course. Nasal Diphthongs and unidentified frying objects. Massage parlours offering real massages. Shops selling leading brands at fabulously high prices and markets selling fakes at fabulously low prices.
I was ‘helped’ by a porter who took my luggage through and found me a limousine. It was fun being conned, and the cost, though 10 times what it should have been, wasn’t a lot of money. I took the limo to the Marriott hotel for the 6th Chinese In-House Counsel Patent Conference that I am proud to sponsor. Each year I attend, I note that the lectures and questions are more sophisticated. Unlike the Disneyland of INTA, here the participants listened to the talks and took notes. I had previously told the organizers where to obtain them, and was delighted to have Kosher meals provided, courtesy of Chabad. The hotel suite in the Marriott was about the size of an average Israeli apartment. The free standing bath tub had Herodian proportions. My body, mind and soul were in different time zones, and at 2 AM, unable to sleep, I watched the Woman in Red. I could identify with Julia Roberts as my hotel room was like the penthouse in the film.
Watching films at night meant that I nodded off during the lectures. However, the tea breaks were a good time to stock up on caffeine. After determining that neither dragon fruit nor dragon’s eyes are not made from real dragons, I enjoyed these new fruits, and also munched on raw vegetables. There were simultaneous translations from English into Chinese and from Chinese into English. For me, the highlight of the conference was a session with a panel of three IP judges. These were wearing short sleeve shirts and seemed relatively young. One wore an orange tee-shirt. Informal, even by Israeli standards, the session was a candid question and answer with the audience. One participant was good naturedly told that she should have got a better IP lawyer. A complaint about why damages in China were lower than in the US was, correctly perhaps, deflected into a criticism of the size of awards there. A judge noted the number of cases he has to hear in a year. It was sobering to realize that another dozen or so parties would not get justice due to the event. The final discussion got a little het-up and the senior judge started shouting. I could not follow what the issue was. It started in bifurcated Germany, and involved something pharmaceutical. The simultaneous translation used words like farm instead of forum and wasn’t familiar with all the abbreviations.
Unlike INTA, it was clear that the Chinese participants had come to learn. Everyone attended the lectures and many took notes.
On Friday afternoon, I moved on to the Comfort Inn which is in the center of Chanzhen and perhaps 2 minutes away from Chabad, where I spent the Shabbat. This hotel was most noteworthy for its closeness to the Chabad House, but was clean and comfortable. The beds were wider and softer than the Bishop’s Lei in Hong Kong, known for its proximity to the Jewish Center. The leceptionists were used to Jewish customers forgetting their electronic keys in their rooms and were very understanding. I originally intended checking out after sunset and going on to Zhuhai, and even with paying for two nights, it was about the third of the cost of the Marriott.
Chabad Chenzhen is a shteibl. Much less formal than Heichal Ezra, the Sefardic community in Hong Kong. There were notices that they rely on donations, but no appeals and no auctioning of the aliyot. The rabbi’s wife was friendly and so were their four little children, the youngest Esti, born in Chanzhen on Purim. She reminded me of my fathers joke of why I have two siblings only – that every fourth child is Chinese.
The Shabbat meal was around one big table Friday night and around a smaller table for lunch. We felt that we were guests of the Rabbi and his family. It was homelike and very pleasant. Most of the guests, both those living in Chanzhen and those visiting, were Israeli, and the language heard was Hebrew. People carried to and from Shul. Many who attended the dinner did not attend the service earlier and left before saying Grace After Meals. The Rabbi was very laid back, offering a Jewish experience to his guests without making demands.
Three enormous Lazy Susan turntables on the table were used for salads, and Friday night supper consisted of salads and fish followed by chicken, rice and kugel. The dessert was cake and fresh fruit. The challot were baked on the premises. There was plenty of whiskey as well.
Shacharit, the morning service, was supposed to be at 10 am, but we waited until 11 to start, and until 11:30 for the tenth man to turn up. Whilst waiting, we ate some very good cheesecake, which seemed a little sacrilegious before Shavuot. At 1:30, after finishing the additional Shabbat service, we went straight into the afternoon service. It was rather like Rosh HaHashana. Lunch consisted of salads and fish followed by cholent and then more cake.
As it was the 32nd of the Omer, we had a spirited rendition of Bar-Yochai.
I left in the morning, taking the ferry to Zhuhai where my client’s personal assistant met me from the boat.
I am writing this from my 5th and final hotel this trip. Unlike my previous stay in Zhuhai where I stayed as a guest of my client, and the hotel room had a private toilet with a wash & blow dry multispeed post defecation procedure, the present hotel is equally palatial, but the toilet uses the type of system that printed copies of prior art are so useful for. Also, instead of complimentary giveaways from Durex, there were novelty balloons with vibrating elements in the bathroom. One of my hobbies is creating balloon animals. Not really sure of the original purpose as the packaging was written in Chinese, I enjoyed myself fabricating one of these into a reasonable animated likeness of a rattlesnake.
In general, it seems that within each jurisdiction the luxuriousness of hotel accommodation correlates better with cost than does the cost of IP services.
I have bought presents for the wife and kids, and some silk ties for staff. I am off to visit a client tomorrow.
The pace of growth and change in China is something else. My client drove me back to the hotel and pointed out a train station for the bullet train. I mentioned not remembering it from last year. He responded that last year there was a restaurant there. Imagine, a fully functioning super railway in less than 12 months. According to the client, Chinese high-tech is less conservative than in the West and are more amenable to switch to better and cheaper technologies. It seems that China is not only a massive market, but also an engine for change. Apparently the Chinese education system and mentality does not lend itself to creativity though. In this regard, apparently the Taiwanese who lived under Japanese occupation and influence, are different from the mainland Chinese. I am not here long enough to understand the cultural upheavals. It is clear though, that Chinese communism is a go-get-it capitalist system and it is also clear that Chinese television is similar to that in the West, with similar reality music shows. Not everything is rosy though. I will have to wait until I am back in Hong Kong to post this, since WordPress is unavailable. It seems that in the US there is a fair amount of monitoring of private emails and chat rooms, even if there is less censorship.