All good things must come to an end...|
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I'm back in Blighty now, feeling the effects of jet lag! But waking at 4am has given me plenty of time to think about this amazing journey I've been on :-)
You may already have seen my previous threads on this trip, from my pre-trip thoughts on the bus to Heathrow airport, to a summary of our visit to Xiaomi HQ and details of our excursions to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall!
In this thread I'll give a summary of the trip as a whole, and share some of the outstanding photos that the Xiaomi Social Media team took.
Day 1 - Arrival
I got to Beijing around 13:30 local time, and once I got through immigration and out of the airport I was immediately greeted by the Xiaomi welcome team. Being the only UK representative there it was a little daunting, but I met the rest of the European moderators and began chatting to the friendly French team.
We got into cars, picked up a few more moderator from different terminals and went to the hotel.
My first thoughts in going through Beijing was how massive the city is. I lived in London for a few years, so I'm used to big cities, but Beijing is off the scale! With around 23 million inhabitants, it's nearly 3 times the size of London, and the number of high-rise apartment blocks has to be seen to be believed.
We got to the hotel, I put my bags in the room and had a little look around the area outside before an evening meal in the hotel restaurant where we got to know each other a bit better and also met Nelly and Morris, two of the managers at Xiaomi who help to make our Mi Community experience awesome!
After a delicious dinner we dispersed, and I got an early night as I was looking forward to the next day!
Day 2 - Xiaomi HQ
After breakfast we got on the bus and went to the new "Xiaomi Science and Technology Park", an impressive campus of offices, R and D labs, a very well set-up Mi Store, and leisure facilities for staff including restaurants and gyms.
Set in the heart of Beijing's burgeoning Silicon Valley, this is a dream that has taken Xiaomi 5 years to realise, but is going to be the focal point for the future development of our favourite company.
After a tour we settled into a classroom for introductions and learning activities, sharing our experiences moderating in a friendly environment, and also giving our suggestions on what we can do to improve the community for our Mi Fans.
After lunch we were introduced to Fred and Stephen from Xiaomi Studios, who gave us some very interesting insights on how to how to get great videos with Xiaomi phones. Fred showed us one of the videos he filmed with the Mi Note 10, and it was incredible to think it was shot entirely with a smartphone.
Then, surprise time! Nelly announced that there was a Mi-Stery box with a gift for each of us inside. Very exciting.
Nobody could have predicted what was inside though, it was a Mi Note 10!!!!! Now I would get the chance to experience the amazing 108mp camera that tops the DXOMARK charts!
Everyone in the room was so excited, it was an incredibly generous gift after flying us all to China :-D
Once we had finished at HQ we went to a big Mi Store, where we were unable to control ourselves and bought loads of great Xiaomi gear.
We then went for a meal of around 15 courses. It soon became apparent that in China, nobody finishes the meal hungry!!!
Day 3 - The Forbidden City and Jingshan Park
On Friday we headed out to the Forbidden City, eager to put our Mi Note 10s through their paces. It was an amazingly picturesque location, and as the name suggests, an actual city - 980 buildings and 1km x 750m in size!
We were able to get some really amazing photos, and thanks to the audio guides we learned a lot about the history of Imperial China - the lives that the Emperors lived were truly magnificent, though full of arcane custom and ritual.
Next door was Jingshan park, which has a hill 45m tall, made from dirt collected after building a huge moat around the Forbidden City. At the top of the hill is Wanchun Pavillion, from which we had unbelievable panoramic views all over the city.
Fred took us on a photo walk, pausing occasionally to highlight interesting techniques and advise on how to photograph certain scenarios.
A great day, topped off with a great meal - Hot Pot, where a pot of boiling water is placed in the middle of the table and plates of raw meat, dumplings and vegetables brought to us. We cooked the meat in the water, then dipped it in a delicious sesame sauce. It's clear that in China, eating is a communal affair, and it's much more satisfying than a frozen lasagne in front of the TV!
Day 4 - The Great Wall
An early start to avoid the worst of the Beijing traffic took us to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which is roughly 600 years old. Ascending via chair lift (v scary!) we got some truly incredible views of an incredible landscape. Walking the wall is not easy work, the hils are steep and the steps, while perfectly safe, weren't for the faint-hearted.
It was totally worth it though, because walking the great wall is for most of us a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity, even some of the Xiaomi staff had never visited before.
Thankfully we didn't need to use the chair lift to get down, there was a very entertaining toboggan run instead!
Afterwards we went into the commercial centre of Beijing and saw some incredible buildings, totally covered with colourful LED lights.
And, as we'd come to expect, the day was followed with another delicious feast, where we talked about the great times we'd had, and watched a really cool video that the Xiaomi team had made of our experiences.
Day 5 - The journey home
Of course, we all had to go home at some time, but it was still very sad to say goodbye to everyone.
I have had such an amazing time, met some really great people, and had some incredible experiences.
The team of moderators were from all over the world, the Americas, Europe and Asia, but were all so friendly and more importantly completely dedicated to Xiaomi and to making the Mi Community a better place. It was really inspiring to meet such a wonderful group of people.
And that's what has always struck me about Xiaomi - they are a company that inspires their fans to a level of devotion that I've not seen from other brands.
From the lad in the Forbidden City who asked to have his photo taken with us, because we were wearing Xiaomi branded jackets to the guy from Fiji who started talking to us in a Mi Store, asking us to set up a Pacific Islands Mi Community, Mi Fans all have something in common no matter where they are from.
So thank-you Xiaomi. We truly are #BetterTogether
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