Epic 2020 China Field Trip Part II in 36 Segments…

Drivel Starved Nation;

For those contemplating joining us in China for the Bridge City China Field Trip, here are 31 points to consider;

  1. Arrival: As mentioned in my previous post on this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog, you need to be in Shanghai on June 4th.  The latest you can leave the States is June 3rd.  It is a long trip, so you may want to leave on the 2nd.  Regardless of your decision, please inform Karen (karen@bridgecitytools.com) so the tour team at Harvey can make your hotel accommodations. The hotel that will be selected in Shanghai will be stellar, and near the Bund.
  2. Arrival/Departure Airport:  The Shanghai airport code you want to use is “PVG”.
  3. Water: You do not need to worry about drinking the water at the hotels that are arranged for you.  That said, bottled water is always in the room. You do however need to bring your own toilet paper.
  4. Toilets: If you have never been to China before, everywhere we go, there will be “Western” style bathrooms.  Whew!  And, toilet paper is included, which makes my previous statement a big, hilarious lie.
  5. Airline Miles: If you are sitting on a pile of airline/credit card points, this is one of the best ways to spend them by flying business class.  Airlines typically value their miles at $0.01/mile, bit when you are able to use them for business class, the value can soar up to $0.40-0.$60/mile.
  6. Business Class: I have flown business class to China on all of my trips and can say hands down, Air Canada’s 787 business class is the best I have experienced. The others aren’t bad, but Air Canada’s is better.   There is just something about traveling overseas in a bed that interests me. CAVEAT: Neither myself, nor anybody at Harvey is receiving any financial benefits from this trip. It is just a fun way to experience China worry-free.  You should be able to purchase a round-trip coach ticket for well under $1,000.  Purchasing a business class ticket should be around $3500-$4000 round-trip per person.
  7. Documents: You will need a passport and a China tourist visa.  This link will help guide you through the process.  If you do not have a passport, it can take several weeks, the visa can usually be obtained in a week or so.  You need the passport first because you have to send it to the visa supplier. The tourist visa is good for 10 years.
  8. Money: The cheapest way to exchange US dollars into RMB is at the Shanghai airport.  Just about every bank in the US charges extorts fees for this service. On my last trip to China, I had zero need for cash, EVERYTHING was done via my credit card. You will also see that in China, nobody carries cash, everything is paid for via cell phone.  They are way ahead of us here, so that is interesting. WeChat is the preferred way to pay in China, so you need to install it before you leave the states. Just in case, I recommend that you exchange $200 USD at the airport into Yuan (RMB).  Also, pick a credit card that does not have foreign transaction fees.  And when asked, always choose US dollars as your method of payment.
  9. Luggage: If you want to travel without checking luggage (like me), all of the hotels have same day/overnight laundry service. All of your clothes will come back 2 sizes undersized, so this is a great way to accelerate weight loss… What do you think, is this a lie; yes/no?
  10. Food Expenses:  Our three dinners together will cost you nothing.  I am hosting one, Jack Xu is hosting one, and we are splitting the third. Food in China is really affordable and you can get a meal for under $20. Keep in mind, breakfast is included each day with your hotel bill.
  11. China Land Expenses:  We have three bullet train rides and the prices I am posting are per person and the range is coach to 1st class.  Shanghai to Beijing:  $80-$140  Beijing to Nanjing:  $65-$110    Nanjing to Shanghai: $20 -$35  Do not buy this tickets, we will get them for you and they may be cheaper when purchased in China.
  12. Hotel Expenses per Night:  Budget $200/night. Shanghai and Beijing will be around $250/night and Nanjing around $150/night — this will average to approx. $200/night. Keep in mind, this includes breakfast.  Once we know the official attendee list in March, we will let everybody know the actual costs, and related hotel details.
  13. Incidental Expenses:  I cannot answer this, as I usually don’t buy anything while I am there.  So this one only you can answer.
  14. TRIVIA TIME OUT:  There are over 1,000 buildings in Shanghai over 30 stories tall.
  15. Taxis: You will need to take a taxi from the Shanghai airport to our selected hotel.  DO NOT allow one of the private taxi drivers that pester you on the way to baggage claim to take you anywhere. FYI.  I believe the taxi ride is around $40.
  16. Hotel Transportation: When we know the hotel, you will need to take a screen shot of the hotel website on your phone and this is all you need to show the taxi driver who will likely not understand English. (Don’t worry, we will send you everything you need.)
  17. Tipping: You can read all about tipping in China here.
  18. Attire: Dress is casual, you are on vacation. Walking shoes are a must.
  19. THE FOOD!  Oh my, China has over 5,000 years of culinary experience. It doesn’t matter what you like or don’t like, you will always find something that is incredibly delicious.  All of our dinners together will be typical Chinese group dinners where the food keeps coming to this giant lazy Susan. As the dishes pass in front of you, you take what you like.  If you are not chopstick literate, western style pitchforks are always available. Spoons too. And if you are really picky (LIKE RUTAGER WEST), you can always sneak out and find a KFC or Pizza Hut. I tend not to eat things like pig nostrils or donkey lips, so I always ask our gracious host, Jack Xu what to do. When he says, “Don’t eat that” I don’t eat that.  You can do that “don’t eat that” too.
  20. Dinners in China are really fun.  Everybody has a great time, there is much laughter and lots of “toasts” for all kinds of grateful reasons. Combined with incredible food, they are the most memorable large group dinners you will ever experience.  SO DIFFERENT than the cold-war family dinners many of us experience at holidays….  Just sayin’.
  21. BACK TO THE FOOD: Don’t be surprised if you are asked to get up and pick out the fish you want to eat. Everything is that fresh. Vegetables too. I don’t eat a lot of meat and I love the food.  Pork is the preferred meat in China, but you can, in many places get steaks, etc.  Typically on our group dinners, Jack orders everything, and if you have a special request, it will honored. Trust me, nobody leaves hungry.
  22. Beverages: Wine, beer, water, soda, etc, are all options at dinner.
  23. WARNING!  This is a big warning, so I hope you are paying attention;  every meal ends with a celebratory bottle (or two) of the Chinese liquor, Baijiu. This is definitely an acquired taste in my opinion.  Despite being the most popular liquor on the planet, I think it tastes like a combination of transformer fluid and synthetic castor oil.  But that is just me.  Mark Strahler, the new BCTW president warned me at my first dinner in China that if I drank that stuff, I would belch it up for a week. He lied.  The aftertaste lingered for about ten days. Lie, yes/no?
  24. BREAKFAST!  Chinese hotels compete with each other on their complimentary buffet breakfast offerings.  This is the best way to start a day in my opinion. Of course there is the obligatory omelette station and the omni-present tubs of fried bacon and hash browns, but there is so much more.  Locals make soup at the soup station, there are cheese stations, dumpling stations, lots of veggies, lox fixins, and the most incredible juice bars.  I love the watermelon juice.  It is one of the best parts of being a tourist in China.
  25. Language: In most places, you will be able to speak in English, and if not, Jack, or other Harvey employees, will translate for you. So don’t worry about the language barrier. It would be nice to learn a couple of Chinese phrases however and you can begin here.
  26. Photography opportunities abound.  You can bring a good camera, but truthfully, your cell phone will likely do a better job since we are always on the move. I own a bunch of camera gear and use my cell phone in China exclusively. You decide.
  27. Buying Stuff: Yes, there is lots of stuff to buy for yourself or loved ones back home. We can help you not huge mistakes.  That said, the $5 Rolex watches are a steal.
  28. Do Not Bring Marijuana to China. You will go to jail.  If you think Bridge City Tools are expensive, try getting out of a Chinese jail with a drug charge over your head.
  29. Medicine: Do bring stuff for aches and pains, and always bring Imodium no matter where you travel overseas. I doubt you will need it but it is good to have just in case.
  30. Emergency Medical expenses: Check with your health plan. Because of my travels to Asia, Europe, Africa and hopefully Mars someday, I bought a policy that will get me home fast in a worse case scenario. You can research this yourself, I selected a plan from Allianz that is good for one year no matter where I go for under $500.  If you are a walking petri dish of fatal diseases like me, this is a good deal.
  31. Safety:  China is one of the safest places I have ever been. Take normal precautions against pick pockets (never an issue with me, I put loaded mouse traps in all four of my pockets. I only had one incident that happened twice where I landed in the ER buckled up in pain.. do the math.)  That said, NEVER, as in EVER, allow a stranger to talk you into a tour, a buggy ride, or a massage.
  32. Fun: Guaranteed.
  33. Side Trips:  If your are extending your stay, and desire further details, please let Karen know, we will get you detailed information from the fine folks at Harvey Industries.
  34. Opinions: Most people who have never been to China have an uninformed opinion that is typically negative.  I invite you to leave your opinions at home and find out for yourself what China is all about.  This is the true, mind expanding reason why people should travel.  Things are never as you believe without seeing for yourself.  Do you think China makes crappy stuff that is sold in America? Probably, admit it. Why? American buyers insisting on the lowest possible price. Why?  Because in our culture, people like us, insist on choosing price over quality. We are the reason.  Oops, did I just let my opinion leak out? Probably.
  35. Internet:  The Chinese government controls the internet. It’s really not a problem unless you are hooked on porn, Google, or any other site that is considered nefarious. And don’t count on your VPN working either, although it might.  Do check with your cellphone service provider for an international plan that will allow you to call home without getting soaked.
  36. Lastly, Communism:  Everybody that I have met in China bitches about the government — just like here. What you will learn is that people around the globe share the same aspirations for opportunity, happiness, and family health. The people of China are not communists, the Chinese government is run by a minority of demagogues, just like here.

I hope this gives you enough information so you can join us in June!  As always, ask away if I overlooked anything.

-Still Your Favorite Tool Potentate



4 comments on this post:

  1. Hi John,

    Seriously contemplating this trip. Couple questions: what are the airport call letters we should be arriving at; approximately how much will the hotels cost nightly and most importantly, will the Chinese women find my mannerisms and sense of humor endearing?


  2. Hi John,

    Any general idea what the trip costs will be once in China, budget how much per day, for room, board and incidentals?

    Gina Roberts

  3. Rutager,

    I just updated the budget considerations on my blog.
    As far as the Chinese women understanding your manners and sense of humor, I don’t think this will be an issue as you will likely be spending all of your spare time trying to find hamburger joints.


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