Every year Spil Games Asia and its daughter companies go on a 2 or 3 day outing somewhere in China. The past two years we spent our outings in Zheijiang, but this year we went a bit further and spent our company trip at Huangshan in Anhui province. For various reason not everybody could go, but in the end about 50 colleagues joined us. We left Thursday around 5 PM and the buses arrived in Huangshan by 11:30 PM. Although we all had to get up at 6 AM some people decided to make the most of the outing and did not go to bed before 3 AM. That did not make their Friday easier!
Friday morning the buses left at 7 AM to the foot of the Huangshan mountain range, where we had to change buses and were taken to the cable car station. Because I am training for the Hong Kong Trailwalker I decided not to take the cable car but run up to the top station of the cable car (900 meters altitude difference). Some other people also decided to join, and we set off with about 15 people to run/hike to the top. Some gave up after a few minutes already and took the cable car anyway, but about 10 made it to the top. One of the people from Zlong Games, Wang Xinguo, actually ran with me all the way to the top (he was probably in better shape than me, it seemed less of an effort for him than for me), the others arrived about 1-2 hours later. We made it to the top in 1hr30min (with our backpacks!), completely surprising our guides because they had never seen people do it in less than 2 hours. I was exhausted, it was basically climbing stairs with hardly any straight part in between, something I am not used to. But I recovered quickly and a few minutes later I was already hiking to the next peak with the people who had taken the cable car.
After a good lunch we decided to make a 4-5-hour hike through a deep gorge. The hike was supposed to be difficult and quite dangerous, but looking back now I felt it was quite doable. The group fell apart quickly (only half of the people actually joined, the rest went to the hotel to rest), and I hiked together with my wife for most of the trip. The views were beautiful, literally a stunning landscape. I knew it would be a nice environment, but I had not expected such beautiful natural scene. My wife and I hiked at a relatively fast pace (I was surprised about her shape, although she did not have it easy) and we managed the hike in just over 3 hours. We took a shower in the hotel (the Shilin hotel, at Beihai on top of the mountain) and waited for the rest of the group to arrive before we had a nice dinner. After dinner we had a foot and leg massage, which was heavenly after such a long hike!
On Saturday most people got up at 5 AM to watch the sun rise from a nearby view point, followed by a Chinese breakfast (I brought some croissants and Camembert, I still cannot eat preserved vegetables with porridge early in the morning). At 7:30 AM we hiked up to another cable car top station and the group went down from there by cable car. Wang Xinguo and me decided to run down with a guide and arrived at the bottom in exactly 44 minutes, setting another record (at least according to the guide, who hikes up the mountain 7-8 times per month). The guide told us the total distance is about 9 km with almost 1000 meter altitude difference, a bit more than we had climbed up. We could have done it at least 5-10 minutes quicker without our back packs and if there had not been a lot of people and porters climbing up the mountain while we were running down. It was a fun run, but because we ran so quickly also a bit dangerous. At some points the mountain is really steep and one wrong step could be fatal (literally). But once you’re into your pace it seems to go automatic and you don’t realise what you are doing. At the bottom of the mountain I called my wife, who told me the group had not even arrived at the cable car station yet! We had to wait for over an hour for them to arrive.
The run was followed by a very early lunch: at 10:15 AM it was the earliest lunch I ever had. I was not very hungry yet, so just had some soup and green tea. I gave a speech to the whole group, thanking them for the good achievements. Zlong Games is doing a pretty good job and has probably become the biggest flash game studio in China (please correct me if I’m wrong), with an output of 1-2 new flash or shockwave games per week. More and more games are now also designed in-house (before all game designs came from our team in Holland) and the aim is to eventually do all games from the design until the final tests in-house. I told the team that my aim is to make Zlong Games the best flash game development studio in the world. Not an easy task, but with the team and our in-house training it could be possible. The websites are also doing extremely well (see my blog post here for example) and here the aim is to become number one in China. We now already reach 50% of all gamers in China every month, but the end of the growth is not yet in sight.
After lunch we visited an old water town, Hongcun. A nice old town that was remarkably well preserved. Too bad there were too many tourists (the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was partly shot here) which spoiled it a bit. But as usual, if you take a side street from the main streets you don’t see a tourist anymore. Because of the pleasant weather I felt very comfortable walking around this old town, where time had literally stood still: people still wash their clothes in the river and prepare food on open fires. A bit like walking in a museum. After the visit to this water town the buses went back to Shanghai, and just after 10 PM everybody was back in the city. I had a great time with our company and look forward to our next outing!
More pictures of Huangshan and Hongcun can be found here.