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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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A Different View of China – Part 2

Comments (8)

Last week, I wrote post on A Different View of China from a close friend of mine who is spending the year traveling around the world with his family (wife and 11 year old daughter).  I think he’s got a delightful rhythm to his thoughts and sent me another rant which I feel compelled to share with you.  Remember – my friend has been on the road with his family since the beginning of the year so his thoughts are certain to be tinged with facing “the travel wall.” If you want yet another view, Rick Segal is also blogging about his trip.

I’m sick – lost my voice and I’m sitting in a room at the cheng do sheraton – they’re all the same to me now. (Wife) is surfing the bet and (daughter) is bathing. I ran out of books a few weeks ago – I’m now reading agatha christie that I borrowed from one sheraton – Ill leave it at this one when I’m done. Its not stealing if I move it one sheraton to the next is it? The foreign book stores don’t have the best selection.

It’s not that china is bad – there are just so many other places better to visit.

I love chinese food – but every restaurant is chinese food – and service is something they haven’t quite nailed yet. There are few if any other types of restaurants.

No nice cafes on the boulevards – no al fresco dining – just store after store selling the same stuff. How do they make money – there is zero difference between storefronts and product mix.

The streets are all clean – but traffic is crazy – traffic lights are more of colorful decoration than guiding signals.

The solution to every problem seems to be – more people.  Want to seem like a swank hotel – put a dude in a basement mens room that no one goes to to turn on the water and push soap in your hands. No bulldozer to dig a ditch – 5 dudes with pick axes.  We went in a private car to a restaurant and we parked in a new underground lot with about 60 parking spaces – there were eight people working there (one to push the button to hand you the ticket, another 2 to direct you where to park – another to collect the ticket and run it to the cashier,  two cashiers, and 2 security guards – the rate was 30 cents an hour to park and it was 40% full.  Crazy stuff wherever you look – on one area a million people jammed selling the same dried fruit for 80 cents a kilo and across the street a sleek high rise of condos is going up for millions of dollars a unit.

There is no middle ground – dinner tonight I’m sure will suck if we eat in the hotel and cost 80 bucks – 50 feet from the hotel door we bought the best food we’ve had in 9 days for 70 cents (3 loaves of bread and 8 dumplings! – 4 people were working at the stand – our hotel costs 350 US a night). The problem of eating on the street is you don’t know what you’re gonna get and you’re pretty sure it wasn’t prepared using the most hygienic techniques.  So what’s a dude to do – pay up for crap or risk it.

The parts that are built up are very modern and seemingly well kept. People litter a lot but there are just as many working to pick it up.

English isn’t widely spoken outside of the hotels and tourist stops – and there is no way to fake your way into a word like in Spain or France.  If you speak English you can earn 3 times more money giving tours.

I don’t fear china’s economic might – yet. They have to address a serious class gap, energy and pollution issues, and an infrastructure that can’t keep pace with demand.

(Daughter) just found the complementary condom in our room and was playing with it. It was red. She was telling me what it was for – she got it wrong – I’ll have (wife) handle that part of her education.

On that note – I’ll stop rambling.

And – a few minutes later…

The condom wasn’t complementary – it was 11 dollars! But we also got some tampons and disposable underware for (daughter) to play with:)

  • BBC

    Tell your friend to leave China straightaway. It’s not for him. Having said all this, I enjoyed travelling to China, or else I would have gone to Switzerland.

  • Steve

    Best quote – “So what’s a dude to do – pay up for crap or risk it.” Strangely it applies to so many other things besides food.

  • anon

    the difference between third-world and first-world is the country’s ability to handle its garbage.

    Your friend isn’t worried about China (neither am I) but when he gets to India, he’ll realize that we have decades before we fear that economy.

  • http://olifante.blogs.com olifante

    $350 for a hotel room? $80 for a meal? In China? That’s insane!

    I spent a whole month travelling around China last year, and most places you can find decent, clean rooms for 100 to 300 Yuan, currently $12 to $36.

    I paid $12 a night for an OK double room in Beijing not far from Wangfujing Avenue. I paid $24 a night for a nice double room in Shanghai, 5 to 10 minutes on foot from the Bund. The most we paid was $84 for a great double room in Hong Kong with a wonderful view of the bay.

    As for food, we routinely ate for $2 per person or less. Oh, and we never booked a room — we just walked into hotels and asked for their prices.

    As always, you can pay a lot more if you want to, and occasionally we did want to, but if you have any bargaining skills and are willing to shop around, China is currently VERY affordable.

    I also disagree with your friend’s impressions of China, but to each his own. China’s biggest problems for western travellers are in my opinion spitting, table manners, and the constant need to bargain (at least outside Macao and Hong Kong), which is a bit tiring but you get the hang of it after a while.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/reneeenvy/ renee

    i’m a chinese student. i quite agree with what olifante mentioned above.

  • http://www.chinalawblog.com China Law Blog

    You are obviously not hitting the right places. I stay in Chinese (not western) 5 star luxury hotels for $60 to $100 per night. I eat unbelievably good food for $5 to $10 a meal, at really nice restaurants. Last time I was in Shanghai I stayed at a Western hotel becuase of its location and meeting facilities. Breakfast was $30 and an excellent lunch around the corner cost three of us around $20.

  • Kcho1348

    I can live in Beijing for $25.oo per month with a room and decent food. On the other hand I can spend $2,000.00 for one night at a KTV joint….

  • Janette

    This article has been translated into Chinese here:
    http://chn.blogbeta.com/139.html

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