Tips and Hints for the Upcoming Asia Trip

Dear MIMers,

The big Asia Trip is fast approaching. We leave Portland, Oregon for our 3-4 week Asia travels in less than three weeks. To help prepare for our upcoming trip, I have gathered some helpful tips and hints from MIM alumni and included some things that I have learned from traveling to Asia for 3-5 weeks at a time over last year.

What is unique about this trip is that we are traveling to 3 countries and 4 cities in three weeks, and for those of us who signed up for a fourth week of travel we will be traveling to 5 countries 7 cities in four weeks. We will be in each city only 4-6 days at the most and we will be spending much of our time on the road or in airports. It is a difficult trip to pack for since we will be gone for such a long duration of time in cold weather doing a variety of activities such as business visits, factory tours and sight seeing. For those of us who will be going to Cambodia and Thailand in the fourth week, we will be going from very cold weather to very warm weather, making it quite a packing challenge with the 44 lb (domestic) luggage weight restriction.

  • Two dark dress suits (dark is more appropriate than lighter suits) should be enough to get you through the three weeks of business visits. A student made it through three weeks with just one dress suit, however, if you spill something on one suit it is nice to have a back up while waiting for it to come back from the cleaners.
  • Be prepared for cold weather in China, S. Korea, and Japan. Current temps range from 12-48 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that those who will be in Cambodia and Thailand in the fourth week, temps have been ranging from high 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Make sure your dress shoes are super-comfortable because you will be wearing them nearly every day. If you have room, two pair of dress shoes might be a good idea so you can rotate and give your feet a break from the same pair every day. (Bring band-aids for blisters.)
  • Pack any over the counter and prescription medication you might need (medicine for a cold, upset stomach, headache, etc) as you might have some difficulty finding U.S. equivalents.
  • Bring all your favorite toiletries you cannot live without. For example, even in a metropolitan city like Shanghai it is difficult to hunt down something like contact lens rewetting drops (I was forced to buy a whole starter kit at a higher cost since it was the only thing available). Name brands that you might be familiar with may have different ingredients in it as a friend of mine found out when a name-brand face product she purchased in Beijing caused her to break out in a rash. In China men’s deodorant is usually available as roll-on only, not as a stick.
  • Carry a little packet of tissues, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, etc with you at all times. Toilet paper and paper towels (and sometimes soap) are often not available in bathrooms in China. Napkins are also sometimes not available in restaurants.
  • Bathrooms in many parts of Asia are very different from western bathrooms and toilets. Many places only offer in-floor potties (you must squat to use these). Note that it is a little tricky for women, especially when wearing pants and nylons.
  • Be prepared to hand wash your clothes and hang them to dry in your rooms. We are on the go a lot and it is difficult to make time to drop off/pick up the clothes at a laundry facility (laundry service may only be open during certain hours and since we will be on the go a lot so it may be difficult to make it during hours of operation). Self-laundry service (laundromats) may not be available and hotel laundry services are not inexpensive. Bring laundry detergent sheets for hand washing clothes in the hotel sink/tub (like Purex, available at any grocery store, which will pack well in a Ziploc and not spill on anything) or find something like soap flakes from REI that backpackers use.
  • 100% cotton clothing stretches after wear and laundry services do not use the high-powered dryers that we are accustomed to in the U.S., so do not expect your jeans and cotton clothes to shrink up and regain their shape. It is a good idea to bring clothes that have some sort of stretch to retain shape. Nylon-blend (or synthetic-blend) clothes are good because they are warm and dry very quickly.
  • Crystal body deodorant “Original Stick” is great at getting body odors off your clothes – just rub it over the body odor smell on your shirts and jackets (no residue will be left behind). You can probably pick this up at New Seasons or Whole Foods. If in a pinch…Oregon Ballet Theater’s wardrobe specialist uses vodka in a spray bottle to get out odors after each show until costumes can be dry-cleaned.
  • You may want to consider getting a good camera for all the picture-taking opportunities.
  • Electrical outlets and voltages are different than in the U.S. for each country we will be traveling to. Generally speaking, U.S. electrical plugs should fit in Japan’s and China’s outlets, but in Seoul the outlets only fit two cylindrical pins so you will definitely need an adaptor to plug in cell phones, laptops, etc, in Seoul. You can look at your plugs and it should tell you what the voltage range is for that piece of equipment (you will most likely be able to plug in laptops, cell phones, and camera battery chargers without a converter), but things like hairdryers and electric shavers will most likely not work or get damaged.
  • There are such thing as a “laptop lock.” Every laptop should have a little hole on one side where you can insert the lock. The other part of it will wrap around a piece of furniture. Although reports have been positive (no issues with laptops stolen from hotel rooms), this might be good for peace of mind. It will not stop anyone from stealing your laptop if they really want it, but it might slow them down…and they will look pretty strange hauling a chair or dresser drawer attached to a laptop through the hotel.
  • Be prepared for overstimulation—there is a lot going on in Asia and you will be surrounded by people at all times. Not only will most of us have roommates in tiny hotel rooms for 3-4 weeks, but we will also be spending most of our waking hours together in lectures, on the bus, at business trips, sight seeing, and meals. Note that personal space is not the same in many other countries as you might be used to in the U.S. That being said, if you look like you are foreign, be prepared to be touched and grabbed by vendors in China.
  • Pace yourselves. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of “Asia,” seeing new and exciting things, and being with all your fun MIM friends. However, it is a 3-4 week trip and running yourself into the ground early on is only going to make you susceptible to exhaustion and possible illness.
  • Please do not make your classmates wait on you in the morning. Make the bus on time and do not make everyone late for the business meetings. **Anyone who is late must buy donuts for the whole crew.
  • Much of our time will be spent on a bus traveling to and from business visits and sightseeing. Be prepared by bringing snacks, reading material, iPods, whatever else you need to keep yourself occupied.
  • Although the weight restriction is 50 lbs total for 2 checked bags total flying from U.S. to Asia on Delta Airlines, note that domestic flights within Asia tend to have a weight restriction of 44 lbs (20kgs) total for 2 checked bags. You will get charged significant amounts of money for each kg that you are over in weight AND, you will have to leave your passport at the airline desk, leave the line, cross the airport to the payment counter, pay in cash and/or foreign currency, then return to the airline counter to show your receipt of payment (and wait in line again). It is a real hassle to deal with overweight fees and will hold up the group.
  • If you are a blogger or social networker, note that in China Facebook, Twitter, Google’s BlogSpot, and WordPress are among some of the sites that are blocked. However, you might be able to access some of these by your cell phone (cell phone service but not necessarily through wifi access). Gmail does work in China and so does Gchat/Gvideo chat to keep in touch with friends and family.
  • If you do not have a Skype account now, you might consider setting one up for yourself on your laptop/and or your cell phone if you plan to keep in touch with others back home. This will allow you to call and/or do video chat for free calling mobile phones and for approximately 1-2 cents/minute calling landlines.
  • For calling/texting within each country…to avoid high cell phone costs you may consider switching out the SIM card in your cell phone with a locally purchased one in each country. Note that your phone must be “unlocked”—it must not be programmed to work with only one cell phone company. (While in Vietnam for three weeks I purchased a cheap cell  phone and a SIM card for $25 USD each, which enabled me to keep in touch with my friends/coworkers whom I was traveling with.)
  • Most sights are relatively inexpensive (i.e. 2-20 yuan in China for entry fee, with the most expensive being approximately 50-65 yuan for the great wall with additional 25 yuan for extra options like the cable car and toboggan).
  • BRING YOUR PSU STUDENT ID – It is valid traveling around Asia at most places that offer a student discount.

If you have any suggestions, tips, and hints to share for the upcoming trip, please do not hesitate to leave a comment on this post!

We will all get to see the Forbidden City as well as many other famous sites in China. (I included this photo here because it is much nicer to look at then the one following it...)

Just a heads up so this is will not come as a shock to those of you who have not traveled in Asia...Women, be prepared to use these kinds of toilets out and about in China (in Japan and S.Korea you will often have an option of a western toilet).

These are detergent sheets that won't leak in your suitcase and work well for the travel we are doing on this trip. One sheet cut in half is good for hand washing clothes in a sink.

Sample of laundry fees in China (in yuan)

A good place to get your pasta fix in Beijing! ;)

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6 Comments

Filed under Ali's Entries, Asia Trip, Common Questions

6 responses to “Tips and Hints for the Upcoming Asia Trip

  1. Doug

    More Pro Tips from an MIM alumnus:

    The hotel in Seoul had outlets on the desk in the room labeled “US Plugs” (or something similar) that had good ‘ol familiar electrical power, but those who need things like hair dryers in the bathroom may have problems.

    iPhones and others can be turned to “Airplane mode,” which turns off the cell connection. Wifi can still will work, though. Saves on battery, too.

    Each of the hotels has cards that say “Take me to ____ Hotel” in the native language. This is especially useful in China, where going by taxi is convenient and drivers rarely speak English.

    Seriously, prepare to wash clothes in the sink. At least a couple of the hotels had drying lines built in to the shower. It’s better than paying for dry cleaning, believe me.

    Also, don’t do what I did and neglect to bring comfortable non-dress shoes. Especially if your American shoe size is men’s 12. Those are impossible to find in Asia.

    Lastly: avoid baijiu. Trust me.

  2. Great post! I hope you all are super excited to go to Asia as it will be the trip of a lifetime. A few notes about Cambodia – and tips from an MIMer who went last year (that’s me). It was HOT the end of March. April is the hottest month of the year and despite being their dry season it is still humid. The day we toured Angkor Wat it was 109 degrees Fahrenheit.

    My single best piece of advice for clothing in Cambodia – buy it and wear it. For girls anyways, if you go to the markets in Cambodia you can haggle (you will be well practiced after China) and get these wonderful cotton sundresses for about $5 each. Buy a dress in the evening, wear it the next day and buy another dress for the following day. $20 you have 4 days of clothing and cute comfy sundressed to bring home.

    A couple places though – specifically the Royal Palace in Phnom Pehn and the inner most part of Angkor Wat require your shoulders to be covered. Bring a lightweight short-sleeved or top/cardigan that you can put on over whatever you have for the time you are in these places. Then take it off when you leave if you don’t want to wear it all day.

    My last Cambodia tip is to find a REALLY good friend who is going right back to the states after Shanghai and only has one suitcase. I packed one suitcase for the first 3 weeks, and put a duffel bag in my suitcase. After 3 weeks of shopping and cold weather, myself and another friend going to Cambodia put our wool coats, some souvenirs and suits into the duffel and a dear friend was willing to lug it back to the states for us. Make sure you arrange this AHEAD of time and you trust the person to follow through with this responsibility. But it was well worth it.

    I’m in Shanghai now! Hope to see you all hear and get to know some new MIM faces.

    TRY baijiu – only for the picture of the look on your face when you do. The trick is to stop drinking it after ONE sip. :) Other than that, listen to Doug’s advice.

    Julia

  3. Pingback: Master of International Management Asia Trip 2012 | Portland State MIM

  4. Pingback: Living out of a Suitcase for 3 weeks?! The Asia Trip Packing Guide | Portland State MIM

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