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Culture, Travel Tips

China – Know Before You Go

I understand Asia isn’t for everyone.  China can be loud, unorganized, overpopulated and is of course not 1st world by any stretch of the imagination.

So what’s the draw? And how do you learn to appreciate it?

There are many draws! We’ve compiled the shortlist here:

  1. Asia is cheap. And I mean really cheap, for those traveling from the US and most European regions. You can literally get a 4-5 star hotel for $25-$50 USD per night for 2 ppl anywhere in China. Hostels are $3-$10 USD per bed in a dorm or $30 for a private room. Street food is $1-$3 USD.
  2. The scenery, temples, and ancient structures are breathtaking. Literally. Some of the most amazing creations you’ve ever seen – many existing in precarious locations (a top mountains, carved into caves, underground, etc.) Nearly every direction you turn your head, you’ll be impressed or intrigued by something.
  3. The landscape is varied and at least 5 locations in China make the list of top 25 most unbelievable in the world. The Avatar mountains (Tianzi), Great Wall, Mt Huashan, rice terraces near Guilin, and the Rainbow Mountains. In addition to all this you have the ganzee river, desert, and vibrant cities to top it all off.
  4. Nearly anything is possible by way of product creation and manufacturing. There are of course barriers to entry, but it may be worth the work/effort of partnering with someone in China if you have any product design or import/export ideas. This is the place and the opportunities in this realm are more plentiful than anywhere in the world. Specifically Shenzhen is the place to be, just outside of Hong Kong. Get hooked up with a broker and they will present options for every sort of manufacturing imaginable.
  5. Chinese locals want to help you and are very happy when you make the effort to communicate. Charades are great in addition to sounds, calculators, pictures and translator apps. Just be patient and speak slowly, they really do want to help, but remember you are in their country – try at their language, it’s fun!  You will experience the kind nature of the locals this way and exchange plenty of smiles and laughs 🙂 To read about our two favorite apps – we have a separate post here.
  6. Vegetable and fruit markets are plentiful. It is like a full time farmers market all over every town and city – great quality produce at unbelievable prices. Two full bags of vegetables will cost you $3. Buy a 4L jug of water for $1 and wash them down before making a few meals out of them! It is a great way to stay healthy and support the local economy.
  7. Immense diversity is the name of the game in China. Since this is where apparel and products for the world are created, it’s one massive melting pot of trends and styles. Take time to notice all the things that exist – it is mind blowing how many varieties are out there. Many an idea can be born in your mind here just through observing your surroundings and paying attention to all the details.
  8. Transportation is abundant and affordable. Cab, subway, train, bus – they are all in every city and cost next to nothing $0.25-$0.50 for inner city subway, $1.50- $5 for most inner city can rides, $3-$5 for most 2-4 hour bus rides, $3-$15 for long distance train rides.
  9. China is the land of copycats, so there are really good local websites and apps for travel/booking. It is also extremely easy to get a SIM card for your phone if it’s unlocked. Service for 2 months here with 800MB per month, 60 local calling minutes and text cost $20. Reloading your phone with $$ is also possible at most convenient stores – family mart, 7 eleven and everyday.
  10. Advertising and utilization of lights/screens is the most extensive and advanced in the world. If you can illuminate something, they’ve done it already. Even the inner subway tubes are lined with LED screens that sport animated advertisements that you watch through the windows along the ride.
  11. They have no design boundaries or standards (in a good way). Many of the building designs you see here are extravagant and over the top. While I don’t know of the exact codes or regulations, it does seem like nearly anything goes. The wilder, the better 🙂 The construction sites here boast wild imagery of what is to come – they are all quite impressive/modern and not typical of the US styles.

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Art, Culture

Geisha Encounters

Kyoto is famous for the Geishas. But arriving in Kyoto we had no real idea of what a geisha was, we knew they were pretty Japanese women who dressed up in traditional attire, but what for? We weren’t quite sure.  David thought they were something like a traditional prostitute. Boy was he wrong. Staying at Ks Guesthouse we found a poster hanging by the tea and coffee station that explained to us exactly what Geishas are all about.

Geishas are broken down into Maiko and Geiko. Maiko are Geishas in training or apprentice Geishas, they’re under 20 years old and study how to be a professional in Japanese traditional culture. They’re taught how to entertain people with tea ceremonies, flower arrangements, and they know a lot about Japanese traditional music and dance. When they are 20 years old, a Maiko becomes a Geiko, a matured Geisha. Someone who is thought of to be skilled in Japanese Culture and Arts, they’ve reached “a higher level of artistry”.

It’s rare to meet Geisha’s unless you know exactly where to find them.  You will see women dressed up like Geishas wandering the streets of Gion, but more often than not, they are not the real thing.  Take the advice shown in these posters and you will more than likely find yourself the real thing!


Modeling in Hongdae, South Korea

I was dumb enough to take off on our world journey with long curly hair, I hated it, it was hard to maintain. It was evident that I was well over a month past due for a haircut. “I won’t cut my hair in South Korea,” I told Danielle, “these Asians don’t know how to cut white people hair.” Well, I was wrong.

One day Danielle and I decided to grab dinner at a cute Indian place we’d found on TripAdvisor. It was only 2 blocks from where we were staying and we decided to check it out. On our way up the stairs we noticed a trendy hair salon with hip Koreans cutting hair. “I’d like to try this place out,” I mentioned to Danielle.

Two days later we decided we were in the mood for Jyoti’s Indian food again. This time on my way upstairs I asked how much a haircut would be, it was only $16 so I decided, “why not?”

When we finished lunch I came downstairs for a haircut. The guy looked at me and smiled, then had a Korean girl wash my hair, then came over and started cutting my hair. The service was nice but half way through the guy was so happy with the good job he was doing he asked, “when we finish, can I take a picture?” I smiled and said “sure.”

Next thing I know we’re finished and he gets my hair washed again, then puts some product in it and starts taking pictures. He then asks me to follow him outside and take more pictures. When we come back in he shows me an ad for the salon and says, may we use your picture for an ad. “Sure, why not”, I tell him.

He promised to send me the ad by email, but after I left I never heard from him again. Glad I got to do a bit of modeling in Korea. 🙂