Most people go to the beach or skiing during the winter holidays. Not me. Always up for an adventure, my wife and I traveled to China where we visited friends and family, saw the sites, ate, shopped and got lost. As always, my eyes were open for insights on culture, consumers, branding and marketing - you’ll find them in this set of posts - most starting with a bit of business, followed by some fun (and strange) trip stories. (6th in a series) Insights - If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that Dennis White and I are on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to social media. He’s not alone — a lot of people are increasingly frustrated by the amount of online socializing they’re being asked to do against their will.
I happen to be a fan. I agree there are downsides and challenges, but I find the benefits of being able to keep in touch far outweigh the costs of having to stay in touch.
Here, in a remote town in China’s ancient cultural capital, I was still able to reap the benefits of the network I’ve been building my entire life, powered these days by technology that makes it easier and easier. Not only did I find a hotel recommendation, I was also able to enjoy tons of birthday greetings via Facebook.
Trip notes - Today is my birthday. We’re in another town you’ve probably never heard of called Luoyang. With a population of about six million, Luoyang is one of the country’s ancient capitals, and Henan is considered the cradle of Chinese culture because it contains — in addition to the Shaolin Temple — China’s first Buddhist temple, the birthplace of Zen, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the home of the fabled Yellow Emperor, inventor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Today, Henan is China’s most populous province with nearly 100 million people in an area the size of California (we have about 36 million).
Except for the Shaolin Temple, I didn’t know about any of this until we got here. We came to Shaolin to see a kung fu demonstration, and I feel like we’ve stumbled across buried treasure.
We’re staying at the Companionship Hotel at the recommendation of Jessica Kirsten, who I “met” through A Small World. ASW is a private online community with fairly robust travel-related features. I posted a question about where to stay, and she was kind enough to offer several suggestions for hotels, guides, and attractions.
She did warn me that it was a Chinese-style hotel, not the international first-class we might be used to. As it turns out, that meant it was very cold and the bed was hard. Didn’t bother me, but Christie really couldn’t sleep. This was no Heavenly bed! Otherwise, it was nice and clean, and they offer loose tea in the room.
I also learned the significance of the name Companionship, as there were three cards on the nightstands with numbers to call for in-room “haircut,” which I was told is code for hookers. We didn’t call, but I did ask Shirley, our guide, to translate the cards for me. Her giggles and embarrassed look told me enough.
Okay then, another amazing Buddhist experience: While the White Horse Temple, China’s first Buddhist temple was beautiful but not particularly memorable, the Longmen Grottoes were far more interesting. Over 1,500 years old, Longmen is a series of 2,000+ caves with more than 100,000 Buddhist carvings along the banks of the Yi River. Some are tiny, the largest is about 40 feet tall. This place just feels like history.
To make the day even better, I got about 50 birthday messages via Facebook. It feels pretty damn good to be reminded of friends back home while walking on the other side of the world.