Going to China, Language Reactivation, and Other Mischief

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Greetings from Kunming, China, land of Pu-erh tea! I’ve been offline for a week and feel fantastic.

Kevin Rose, Glenn McElhose, and I are up to no good and having a blast. The above video is the first of several to chronicle our experience exploring the incredible world of tea in China, so be prepared for footage no foreigners have seen before. Not into tea? Don’t worry — it’s an inside look at strangers in a strange land, culture shock included.

This volume covers our trip preparation, Pu-erh tea cakes, and basic Mandarin language reactivation. There is a separate Random episode coming that includes more on language and textbook analysis.

This afternoon, we will head to Beijing for a bit of Bladerunner-style fun and exploration of Olympics-inspired modernization. I haven’t spent real time in the capital since 1996, and I expect the changes will be a shock to the system.

Bonus: If you missed it, here is the How to Tim Ferriss Your Love Life video (6 minutes long) — by request — which details how I outsourced all of my dating as an experiment. Have a sense of humor and enjoy how ludicrous (but effective) the methods were.

Posted on: July 12, 2009.

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157 comments on “Going to China, Language Reactivation, and Other Mischief

  1. Glad to hear you’re all discovering some great teas & telling the rest of us about it. (Can’t seem to play the video but will try again later.)

    I’m spending 2 months in Lijiang learning Mandarin & working on illustrations; there are Pu-erh tea shops everywhere. Some feature local teas from herbs & flowers if you get tired of Pu-erh. There are maps about the “tea & horse caravan road”, and apparently Lijiang was an important center of trade between India, SW and eastern China. Tea was an easy-to-carry commodity, and while not as valuable per gram as, say, opium, it’s long been a good business catering to connoisseurs. You can still see Tibetan influences in local temples, and the unique Naxi architecture and people make this a pleasant place to be – especially outside the theme-part atmosphere of the central Old Town.

    Enjoy your time in Beijing, looking forward to reading more about it & your journeys there.

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  2. This is a wonderful time to go to Yunnan. The weather in the summer is absolutely lovely.

    “I haven’t spent real time in the capital since 1996, and I expect the changes will be a shock to the system.” Haha, if you’d been since 2006 I’d expect that changes to shock you — you’ll be lucky if you recognize anything other than Mao’s ugly mug. My wife and I spent a weekend visiting friends in Beijing a few months ago, having not been since before the Olympics, and we were shocked.

    ?????

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  3. I’m so envious! I just finished reading Vagabonding (after seeing your recommendation thereof in your book version of Random) and immediately picked up the some books recommended by the author. The one I’m reading now is all about China. I’m so jealous!!! :)

    I hope you guys have a great time. Look forward to more chronicles of your trip.

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  4. Yunnan is great!

    Traveled there back in 2004, if you have the opportunity you should visit Lugu Hu (Lugu lake), beautiful area. People living there are interesting too, small ethnic minority group that is one of the only known remaining practising Matriarchal societies :) haha You can ask your guide about it.

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  5. Watching that video, I kind of felt a weird mixture of jealousy and admiration for you guys, mixed in with a little “they’re nuts”!

    Have a great trip!

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  6. Looking forward to seeing the videos you produce in China. Pimsleur and Michel Thomas are excellent recommendations. They were very influential in the development of my learning Chinese podcast. Didn’t you also spend some time in Taiwan?

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  7. I’ve just begun my Japanese tea research here in Fussa. It’ll be fascinating to see the differences and similarities between your finds and mine. Good luck and have fun!

    Also, thanks for the Takeshita-Dori recommendation, I was surprised you didn’t mention how wonderful Yoyogi Park was.

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  8. Oh, I forgot one thing. I am a practitoner of martial art, specifically Yong Chun. If you want to meet some masters of Yong Chun Kong Fu in Beijing, I’d like to help. All the best.

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  9. Tim, welcome to China. I am fan of you. I am an enterpreneur myself in Beijing, the city that you are perhaps visiting today. I wonder if there are any chances of meeting you here. for a drink or something. If there are , then please call me. My cell number is 133 1121 9646. Cheer. Take care. By the way, I am practitioner of Marticial Art, specifically the Yong Chun Kong FU. If you are interested in meeting some masters here, I would love to faciliate.

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  10. I look forward to seeing the Random vid on language. Also, it would be great to hear your thoughts on traveling/living in China vs. Taiwan.

    While I have a soft spot for China, I have come to realize that Taiwan is a far better choice for those wishing to learn Mandarin and martial arts. Though there have been superficial steps to restore what was lost, the cultural revolution did a pretty thorough job of destroying the cultural heritage that attracts foreigners to the Middle Kingdom. Fortunately, these jewels live on in Taiwan.

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