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Dude, Watch Your Luggage In China. And More.

Posted in China Travel

To say I am paranoid when I travel would be an understatement.  To say I am pleased when I find some justification for my paranoia would also be an understatement.

Let me explain.

When I travel, I am on constant guard for two things.  One, getting sick.  And two, getting ripped off.  Last year I put in well over 100,000 actual miles on one airline (and countless additional miles on other airlines) and I never had a thing ripped off nor did I ever get sick enough to miss a thing.  I am pretty sure I can say the same thing for every year going back at least five years.

I attribute my physical and fiscal health to my paranoia, which involves me constantly doing the following:

1.  Absolutely never relinquishing my one carry-on bag (I usually put my tiny briefcase with my MacBook Air in that one bag) to anyone.  Not to the cab driver who wants to put it in the trunk (I always take it into the cab with me because I can always imagine either the cab driver or me forgetting it in the trunk and then the cab driver driving off without either of us having any method for reaching the other).  Not to the porter at the hotel (I am constantly reminded of a friend who once who got the wrong bag delivered to his room by a porter in Seoul and then did not discover it until a few days later when he opened the bag in the United States to see that it contained the clothes of someone of the opposite sex.)  And not to the airline stewards who want to shove it who knows where.  No, dammit, my luggage always stays with me.  And now I have further proof of why this should be the case. Lost Laowai Blog recently did a post, entitled, Warning to watch your carry-on luggage, thieves take to the air, detailing how common it has become on China flights for gangs to steal luggage on planes that are in the overhead bins too far away from their owners.  Fortunately, I never sleep on airplanes.

2.  Always keeping enough money in two different places on my person (one hidden) whenever I leave the hotel.

3.  Not going to brothels or anything that might be a brothel.  And avoiding any neighborhood at night that might look sketchy.  I also always travel with the address card and phone number of my hotel, usually in multiple places on my person.  It also never hurts to have a few local friends on quick dial on your cell phone in the event you get lost.

4.  On the health front, I drink bottled water wherever I travel, no matter how safe the water supply.  Call me nutty, but I am of the view that all water contains bacteria (true fact) and that anything but my home water contains bacteria to which my body is not accustomed.  I also never ever ever eat at a buffet.  And though I am well aware that most street food is perfectly safe (and that Anthony Bourdain and others insist that it can be the safest food of all), I avoid it entirely.  I do that simply because my not being a local means that I do not know enough to know which stalls are good and which are not.  The same is, of course true of restaurants, but with those I go where my local friends tell me to go or I simply go to those that are clearly popular and thus have a rapid turnover of food.  I also make it a point to exercise every day while traveling (I try to depart mid-morning so as to get a work-out in before flying) and I also make it a point to get a full night’s sleep and to eat three full meals a day.

Having said all this, I don’t want anyone to think I’m a stick in the mud because I always make an effort to enjoy myself wherever I go.  I just find that doing the above enhances my enjoyment, rather than detracting from it.

What do you do to stay safe and healthy on the road?

  • Modest Musssorsky

    Dude the circumference of the entire earth is 25,000 miles, are you sure you flew four times that on just one airline, plus “countless” other trips? Or are you confusing miles and kilometers? Either way that’s a huge carbon footprint you are leaving behind you.

  • http://twitter.com/theeastasiaco East Asia Co.

    Dan: I feel sorry for anyone who has to travel with you. It sounds very stressful

  • China Newz

    You have to watch your personal belongings on public transportation, too. If you set things down next to you like your briefcase or bag. Have heard that thieves work in teams and have slick moves to distract you from watching your personal belongings.

  • Modest Musssorsky

    Dan I checked the distances – it’s 5,735 miles from Seattle (where I think you’re based right?) to Shanghai. We can round that up to a 12,000 mile round trip. Doing over 100,000 miles in one year means you are doing a US-China round trip on average once every month. Either you’ve exaggerated rather or you live like a maniac.
    Which begs the question: If what you claim is true, how the f*ck do you deal with the jetlag? That’s the real big question about intercontinental flights you didn’t address.

    • http://www.chinalawblog.com/ Dan Harris

      Okay, so my own curiousity caused me to go back and check and here’s the deal:

      Houston (2)

      Dallas

      Tampa

      Los Angeles (6)

      New York City (2)

      Washington DC

      Chicago (3)

      Portland, OR

      San Juan, PR

      Philidelphia

      New Orleans

      Anchorage

      Beijing/Shanghai/Bangkok/Yangon/Tokyo/Hong Kong (4)

      And boy are my arms tired….

    • toppist2

      Congratulations! You win the ‘most pedantic post of the month’ award for the entire internet in every language written by humanity. Your posts are the gold standard exemplar for taking issue with a minor consideration and running with it until you seriously annoy people just wanting to read comments ON THE SUBJECT.

  • ScottLoar

    Although your visit is often the excuse needed by the locals for a boys’ night out do avoid evening entertainments, no matter the booze and heavy meal or the late evening’s seductions. Over an ever expanding gut you’ll come to regret the first and more quickly those consequences of the latter.

    Before getting into a taxi have some knowledge of the proper direction, distance in time, and approximate charge. Always have addresses in the local language.

    In a foreign culture we often try too hard to avoid offending the locals but never suspend your common sense, experience of life, or sound business practices no matter who argues “we do things differently here”.

    And 100,000+ air miles a year is spot on for someone traveling, say, from the mid-continental US to the Asia-Pacific Region regularly. Lots of us do it, it’s part of makin’ a living.

  • ScottLoar

    C’mon now! Yours is just a simple platitude and impracticable. Passport? Money? Credit cards? Electronic data? Notebook? One’s integrity? All are necessary to travel and a bitch if lost.

    • Stephen Woolverton

      Scott, sure, these things would be “a bitch if lost” but not the end of the world.
      Loosing one’s life would be the ultimate loss. Yet we still travel. Stephen

      • ScottLoar

        Then according to your illogic the probability of “loosing (sic) one’s life” precludes travel since one isn’t willing to lose it, or I think you intended lose and not loose.

        Again, yours was a silly platitude (look up the word).

        • Stephen Woolverton

          Scott, Thanks for pointing out my grammatical error. Yes, lose.

  • Modest Musssorsky

    Dan’s schedule last year as he finally published is nowhere near enough to do 100,000 air miles. It was just four Asia trips and the rest running around the US. That’s normal, not exceptional for a US based executive travelling to Asia. But its not 100,000 miles. Maybe if you include “bonus” air miles that airline give you as a loyalty incentive, but that’s a different thing from actual miles over the ground covered.

    Anyway, lets move on. As there were just 4 US-Asia trips, the constant jet-lag thing isn’t once a month as was implicated, so that question is void. My next question is what bonuses did you get from loyalty to that one airline and all those attractive incentive programs? Worth it or not? Free flights? Holidays? Hotel upgrades? Or a load of airline sales pitch baloney?

    • http://www.chinalawblog.com/ Dan Harris

      What are you talking about? I had well over 100,000 actual miles. Well over. See my estimates below. As for jet lag, I take 1/4 ambien the first two days upon my return from Asia and I’m fine after that. Thanks for asking.

      Houston (2) ~ 9000

      Dallas ~4500

      Tampa ~5000

      Los Angeles (6) ~6000

      New York City (2) ~12000

      Washington DC ~6000

      Chicago (3) ~10500

      Portland, OR ~500

      San Juan, PR ~7000

      Philidelphia ~6000

      New Orleans ~5000

      Anchorage ~3000

      Beijing/Shanghai/Bangkok/Yangon/Tokyo/Hong Kong (4) ~40,000

  • Modest Musssorsky

    Dan you quote all those destinations as individual and back miles from Seattle to come up with 100,000 air miles. You’re telling us that you flew to Houston, Dallas, & Tampa all separately and the same for New York and Washington and you didn’t double up on any of those trips and take in, say two or three cities in the same run? Man if so you need a new travel agent.

    • http://www.chinalawblog.com/ Dan Harris

      What you say makes no sense. Take Houston for example. I went there once to speak at Rice University’s business school and I went there another time to meet with a client on a matter many months later. Was I supposed to have foreseen the subsequent need to go there and have just stayed? Last of all was Dallas where I went to meet with potential lawyers for a Chinese client that had been sued there. Was I supposed to have foreseen that lawsuit and stayed in Texas the whole time? Was I supposed to have told Rice that I couldn’t go until I had need for a client meeting in Houston and a lawyer meeting in Dallas. With all due disrespect, you sound like you have no idea whereof you speak.

  • http://www.chinalawblog.com/ Dan Harris

    Somebody emailed me this list, which makes good sense:

    I have been traveling the globe for quite some time now. Through trial-and-error, I have come up with the following travel rules that help me to not only survive all those trips but also to enjoy them. Here is the list.

    1) Do a cardio before taking off to the airport

    2) If above is not possible, go for a run after arriving the destination. This helps to combat jet lag

    3) Plan ahead, try to book a hotel that has a gym or easy to walk around

    4) Pack efficiently, pack light. Do combinations of clothes

    5) Always carry your jewelry with you. Do not pack them in the suitcase

    6) Do not eat fast food regardless how tight your schedule is – it is better to skip a meal than to eat fast food

    8) Pack a few energy bars in case you don’t have time to stop for a meal

    9) Always take a bottle of water on the plane. Try to drink plenty of liquid during the day

    10) Always get out of the seat to stretch if your flight time is longer than 5 hours

    11) Try to make business travel fun if you are staying over a weekend. Take at least half day off exploring the city (especially in Japan, Europe where it is safe, easy, and enjoyable to walk around) & try local food whenever possible

    12) Buy a top brand suitcase, especially those with lifetime warranty. They not only last forever, they also look smart

    13) Take it easy, go with the flow especially when there is a flight delay or canceling. You life does not depend on it

  • Modest Musssorsky

    Whatever, but you’re racking up an awful huge carbon footprint and traveling thousands of air-miles on what appears a client at a time. It just doesn’t seem very efficient in these environmentally conscious times, and I don’t think the maths add up either. The perimeter of the entire US is less than 9,000 miles meaning you’re telling us you basically flew four times to Asia and back and then six times around the entire United States to get to 100,000 air miles covered. But tell us about subsequent airline air-mile benefits you must have gotten. Do they really exist or not? Like did you get any cool free trip to Hawaii or anything? Or are air mile rewards a load of baloney? You should be able to tell us that at least. And which airline has the best deals in your opinion. That’s what really counts.

    • http://www.chinalawblog.com/ Dan Harris

      Approve.

  • Modest Musssorsky

    So no airline deals you can tell us about for traveling 100,000 miles? I guess just the usual cramped seats on an MD40, USD25 to check in any luggage and you have to pay for your inflight snacks and drinks, right? That sucks.

    • http://www.chinalawblog.com/ Dan Harris

      The big perk is that I get bumped to first class about 90 percent of the time. I also get double miles (not actual flight miles, mind you) on every flight. And even when not bumped to first, I always at least get “economy plus.” I also get to board first. Maybe most importantly, is that I get to go through TSA pre-check, which usually has less than 3 people ahead of me and does NOT require me to take my laptop out of my bag, my shoes off my feet, or my jacket off my person.

      • Modest Musssorsky

        Not many US domestic flights actually have first or business class so I guess it’s the head of the queue deal and boarding first deal for your frequent flying. Not much of a trade. I find it a pain having to carry dollar coins and small bills just to buy a sandwich and a coke. And why our airports continue to charge a buck for luggage carts when no-one else worldwide does is beyond me. Cash is still king when it comes to American airports and airlines. They’re backward and falling behind. Poor you. It’s better in Asia.

  • nathan

    Thanks for this interesting and practical post. I’m completely baffled by the hostile reaction to it. No good deed goes unpunished.

  • Brandon Scott

    Great post. I like your tips!