I’m writing you today from Ningbo, China as I am on my last day of a long business trip. This trip has been a whirlwind trip as I stayed in five different hotels and will have taken 9 flights. It is a funny feeling waking up and not remembering where you are. This is my second trip to China in the last 90 days. I was hoping to miss the hot weather hitting the Midwest this past week but China has almost the exact same weather right now, hot and humid. While most public buildings and offices in the U.S. have air conditioning, that is not the case in China. Fans are everywhere and remind me how spoiled I am back home sitting at my desk at a perfect 72 degrees everyday.
Taking pictures on your phone will help you from getting scammed when traveling –
I take pictures of almost everything when I travel. This trip my son Matt and I were riding in a taxi in Beijing. We took a taxi to the silk market and the fare was a reasonable 30 yuan (CNY). On the return trip however, I saw the taxi driver press something on the meter and when we arrived back to the hotel the fare on the meter was 50 CNY. This did not smell right so when we got out of the taxi I simply walked around the car and the driver got out and we handed him the 50 CNY. At the same time I took a picture of his license plates and also of him and the taxi. This immediately caused him to offer to give back all the 50 CNY to us as he was worried we would turn him into the authorities. We told him that the last taxi ride only cost 30 CNY and he almost forced us to take back 20 CNY, which we gladly did. Now I always take a picture of the taxi license plate to make sure they treat me fairly.
Here are some of my observations (the good,bad, and ugly) about this trip to China:
Hotels in China are outstanding and cheap –
Most of the time when I travel to China I use my SPG points to stay at Starwood properties ( Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridian, etc). This trip however we went off the beaten path and stayed at hotels like the C and D Hotel in Xiamen and the Plaza Hotel YuYao in YuYao. These are 4 star hotels with outstanding facilities and an amazing staff. Sometimes what the hotel does not have in facilities they make up for with service and support. All of these hotels cost about $100 a night. Not bad for a 4 star hotel experience.
Chinese love American brands-
American culture which includes music, movies, food and clothing is promoted heavily in major Chinese cites. KFC, McDonalds, and Starbucks are everywhere. Budweiser beer is at many restaurants along with Coca-Cola and even Pepsi and Snickers candy bars. Buick cars are everywhere. It feels like the Chinese think it is cool to be American. (Maybe our politicians should think the same).
Speaking English is a ticket to the good life in China –
Traveling in the major cities and a lot of people speak English as their second language, especially in hotels and tourist related industries. Chinese who learn to speak English have great opportunity to advance quickly up the job ladder. Speaking English is quickly becoming the language of the world.
There is a lot of money in China. –
The highways are full of new Range Rovers, BMW’s, Mercedes, and Audi’s. Buick are very popular as well. In the last five years I have seen a major shift of the cars on the highway. Gone are the days of run down cobbled together motorized rickshaws. Now a drive down the highway looks the same as driving in Nebraska with newer cars (but no pickup trucks).
The Chinese economy is not as rosy as you read about –
Last year I could look out my hotel window and see 1000’s of China’s national bird (construction crane). This week there are very few along the horizon. This trip I have seen hundreds of empty skyscrapers and commercial buildings. There are even ghost towns where thousands of people move out of a town to follow jobs that have move elsewhere. The good news is that their truly is now a middle class in China. They will be the economic driver of the country in the years ahead and cause the politicians to listen to them even more.
Traffic laws in China are really just suggestions –
Traveling by car in China is an experience that will drive many Americans crazy. Chinese drivers will drive on sidewalks, pass on the right side shoulder, merge lanes without looking, do a U- turn in the middle of the road, drive down the wrong side of the road and many Chinese pay no attention to it at all other than a friendly toot on the horn. I almost get an ulcer riding in a car in China.
Half the new cars in China must be electric powered –
The Chinese are now requiring that 50% of the new cars must be electric. This is to deal with the terrible smog throughout the country.
Facebook and Google are illegal in China –
But if you use your mobile phones LTE or 3G service instead of Wi-Fi you can access them easily.
Hotel breakfast buffets in China are a work of art –
Wow the Chinese really know how to make breakfast.
Everyone here actually loves the U.S. Dollar –
Officially businesses do not accept any currency except the CNY but practically people love to have you pay them with the U.S. Dollar.
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 worts 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.