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!