Hello from Guangzhou, China
I’m writing you today from Guangzhou, China, as I am on a short three-day visit to the Canton Trade Fair in Guangzhou with my son Matt. The Canton Fair takes place twice a year and is the largest trade export fair in the world. Manufacturers from China and Southeast Asia come here to display their goods to buyers from around the world. You can buy anything from umbrellas to golf carts at this massive event. I usually come twice a year and use it to buy things for a couple of businesses I own. This is also where I come to dream big dreams and see how big and how small the world is. There is nothing like it on Earth.
Staying at the Westin in Guangzhou feels like I could be in Kansas City – Yesterday, I was having lunch in the hotel lobby, and I realized that Western business and culture is really taking over the world. Everyone speaks English in the hotel. The menu and food would almost be the same as many restaurants in many upscale hotels in the U.S. The rooms are outstanding, with amenities like Colgate toothpaste, Coca-Cola, and Budweiser. Almost 50% of the TV channels were in English. If someone blindfolded you and delivered you to the hotel lobby, you might think you were in Kansas City.
Here are some of my observations (the good, bad, and ugly) about China and Hong Kong on this trip:
There is a lot of money in China. – The highways are full of new Range Rovers, BMW’s, Mercedes, and Audi’s. They sell more Rolls-Royces in China than in the United States.
Electric vehicles are everywhere in China – They are easy to spot as they all have green license plates.
McDonalds is everywhere – I was standing on a corner waiting for a taxi and saw 3 McDonalds within 2 blocks of each other. 7 Eleven stores are on every corner as well.
US airlines haven’t returned to flying to China yet – China just opened up a few weeks ago to foreign visitors without having to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. This means I had to fly to Hong Kong and train to Guangzhou.
China still requires a COVID test 48 hours before entry – Interestingly, no one ever asked us to produce the test when we entered the country.
Speak to a taxi driver to find out what is really going on in Hong Kong – It only took a 10-minute taxi ride to find out that the locals ignore most of the political issues of China taking over Hong Kong. My taxi driver said that most of the money from China still flows through Hong Kong, and that is how they maintain their power. He also said that Hong Kong is extremely safe, with the biggest risk being pickpockets.
The Chinese economy is slowly rebounding after COVID. Pre-COVID, I could look out my hotel window and see 1000’s of China’s national birds (construction cranes). This week there were only a handful to see along the horizon.
China is being replaced by Vietnam, Thailand, and other Southeast Asia countries as the low-cost place to manufacture things with manual labor. Labor prices have gone up so much and so fast that low-skilled labor is now cheaper in other countries. Add to that, Chinese plants now avoid U.S. tariffs by shipping parts to Thailand, assembling them there, and then ship them to the U.S.
Where have all the bicycles gone?- The middle class is rising fast in China. On my first trip here 20 years ago, all I saw was bicycles. Ten years ago, it was all mopeds and motorbikes. 6 years ago, it was E-bikes. Now the roads are filled with cars, cars, and more cars. Traffic jams are everywhere 24/7 – Too many cars, not enough roads.
Use Uber in Hong Kong and Didi in China. Using these ride-sharing apps will make it easy to not use cash when paying for your rides.
Get ready to be fingerprinted when traveling to China – When people arrive in China, they might be amazed to find out they are now fingerprinting everyone entering the country. One of the best things that China has done in the last few years was allowing U.S. citizens to buy a 10-year visa instead of having to buy one every year.
Here is a tip to get to your hotel in China when your taxi driver does not speak English – Most taxi drivers in China do not speak English, so when you jump in a taxi at the airport and tell them you want to go to the Westin they have no idea what you are saying. When this happens, I simply pull out my phone and call the hotel. Most hotels have staff that speaks English and Mandarin. I simply hand the taxi driver my phone, and the hotel clerk then gives directions to the hotel. Works every time.
Luxury Hotels prices in China allow you to travel in style and not break the piggy bank – The service, food, and facilities of all these hotels are some of the best in the world. One hotel told me they have 4 staff members for every room in the hotel. Even with this amazing service, the prices for a 5-star hotel in China is 50% less than the same brand in other countries.
Very few people speak English in China but everyone speaks English in Hong Kong. If you’re not staying at a “Western” hotel in China, you may have a lot of difficulty finding someone to speak English.
There is no place like home – Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” said it best. The most obvious thing an American realizes when you travel to other counties is what a great country we have to live in. Despite all our warts and wrinkles, the USA is still the best country on this planet to live. (in my humble opinion). I feel so lucky that I was born here and was given the opportunity to succeed or fail in this great land. There, indeed is no place like home.
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