Thursday, August 09, 2007

Travel Tips For David Brin

David Brin is a great science fiction writer and he keeps a really cool blog himself. He is the only blogger I know more long-winded than myself. At the end of the month, he is going to be the International Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention in Yokohama, Japan. Before he goes, he is taking the time to do some traveling in China and attending some science fiction related events there. In his blog, he asked for some travel tips and got some good responses, like the one from this guy.

Since I was in China just over a month ago and was in Japan back in 2005, I figure I am as qualified as anyone to give some travel tips:


  • Bring a few individually wrapped packs of toilet paper with you so that you can be confident that you will be able to clean up in case of an emergency. I got the call of nature while on the Great Wall and if it weren’t for a toilet paper vendor at an outhouse things could have gotten pretty ugly.
  • Don’t worry about bringing condoms. My hotel had a nice three pack right in the bathroom if I needed it. On the outside wall of several public toilets there was a condom machine with a cute banana shaped mascot.
  • Bring an ethernet cable with you. I’m not sure about WiFi, but both the hotels we stayed at had broadband service in the room. Just don’t expect to be able to connect to sites advocating the overthrow of the PRC. I hear they are kinda touchy about that.
  • Take the subway once just to be amazed by a system where line monitors make sure everybody lines up and waits for the people exiting to get off before letting others on.
  • Don’t stand in line to convert currency. The ATM machines are bilingual and you don’t have to go digging into your stuff to show a passport and then fill out some form in Chinese you can’t understand.
  • Don’t expect to get any pictures with blue skies in them without a lot of photoshopping. In fact, if you can’t get within a block of something, don’t bother taking a photo at all. The smog turns everything a hazy gray. The key photo composition concept to remember is “foreground interest.”
  • Bargain for everything. Your opening counter offer should be 10% of what they offer or one fourth of what you think its worth, whichever is less. And walk away at least once during every negotiation. If they run after you, your last offer was still too much to pay.
  • You will never really know what you just ate, so don’t worry about it. It doesn’t kill them, it won’t kill you.


  • Same rule about the toilet paper. There is no guarantee the vending machine is going to be well stocked or you are going to have the right coins when you need them.
  • Don’t expect to be able to throw something away on the next block. There are no trashcans on the streets. The Japanese are too fastidiously clean to need them.
  • Take a bullet train somewhere because they are so cool, but expect to pay for it. We wanted to day trip to Kyoto from Tokyo, but the round trip would have cost $275 a person. Contrariwise, in China, a four person overnight sleeper car one-way from Beijing to Xian cost $45 each.
  • Pay a lot of attention to the subway map and know where you are going before you get on. You are going to get one chance to get on or off.
  • Get a really good map. There are way too many narrow alleys and crooked streets to try to walk by dead reckoning.
  • If you don’t like cigarette smoke, you are going to have a rough time at dinner. The indoor air quality at most Japanese restaurants is much worse than the outside smog in Beijing.
  • The electronics aren’t any cheaper in Japan, even in Akihabara where you are allowed to haggle, than at Best Buy. Only buy gadgets you absolutely can’t get stateside. And make sure you get an English manual.
  • Visit the Sony Store in the Ginza section of Tokyo if you can. It has lots of cool gadgets they don't sell in the states. I still have seen the US version of the Bleach game my son was playing two years ago.
  • If you need to check your e-mail or read your blogs, go to the Apple store. Just like the US, they let you surf all day for free.
  • You will never really know what you just ate, so don’t worry about it. It doesn’t kill them, it won’t kill you.
And one final tip: Keep an open mind and soak in the culture. You will remember it all your life.

Also, remember my China Sights blog where I post pictures of both the tourist attractions and the street life in China.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Any other suggestions for David?


Anonymous said...

No comment for David - have not been to China or Japan myself
Just wanted to say thank you so much for the China Sights blog. I get very excited everytime it pops up on my RSS feed and really enjoy the photos and commentary. If people are not already reading it, they definitely should start. Thanks for going to the trouble to allow us all to enjoy your journey.

Impetua said...

This is a very run of the mill travel tip, yet one that I think bears repeating. Take some Imodium (or other such remedy) with you. If you should encounter some intestinal distress, you don't want it to disrupt your whole vacation.

Also, travel size baby wipes are fantastic for all kinds of things. Unscented if you can find them unless you want to smell like a baby's bottom (albeit a clean one) all day.

And, when in Moscow check out the Metro stations. They are lovely, at least on the main line.

yellojkt said...

Thanks for the feedback, Charlotte. Based on the sitemeter stats, not many people are getting to China Sights, so I'm glad people are reading off a feed and enjoying it.

The immodium is a great tip. And don't leave it in the hotel. Keep a few on you for when the need arises.

Elizabeth said...

I've also really enjoyed your China Sights blog. I look forward to the pictures and your comments!
:o) Elizabeth

2fs said...

Oh, I could think of a few more bloggistas longer-winded than you. I could even find one, if there were a mirror in this room...