I woke up this morning

earlier enough to watch the sunrise over the lake in Wuxi China. Admittedly, it was a nice way start the last day of my five-day long trip. Let me back up for a few minutes and explain why I was in China in the first place.

For more than a decade, China has supplied a significant number of our products for what is now my day job. We primarily work with three different suppliers, two of which are located just outside Shanghai. Since I started with the company just under two years ago, I’ve made it a point to visit two out of three of those suppliers on a regular basis. This trip was my third trip in the last eighteen months.

The flight

is enough of a deterrent for most. Sitting inside a metal tube packed full of explosive fuel for fourteen hours each way isn’t the most fun filled experience one can have. After landing at Shanghai’s Pudong airport, our Account Manager was waiting with driver in the wings to take us to our hotel in Shanghai. For the record, I made the trip along with our CEO. Also, for the record, our Account Manager isn’t an average Account Manager. He grew up outside of Hong Kong but has since moved to the U.S., speaks three languages that I’m aware of, and is a Harvard alum. He is a very bright man.

After checking in to the hotel and freshening up, we enjoyed a nice sushi dinner and light conversation. If you’ve attempted one of these trips before then you know that the first afternoon/evening is the hardest. The only thing you want to do is hit the bed but it doesn’t do you any good when it comes to adjusting to the time. The first six hours on the ground in Shanghai are always the hardest. After a cup of cha (tea) when walked back to the hotel. Fifteen minutes later, I was out like a light.

Thursday morning started well

I managed a solid eight hours of sleep without interruption so by 6:00 AM I was feeling pretty good. I squeezed in a few hours of work, had breakfast, and then we were off with our Account Manager…Ricky is his name. Ricky and our driver graciously took us to the Shanghai television tower. The observation deck would have been enough but lunch at the revolving restaurant a couple hundred meters up added to the fun.

For the next roughly two hours we made our way to Changshu. Northwest of Shanghai by about two hours, the drive to Changshu provides a bit more in the way of a feel for China. Glimpses of smaller villages, typical housing, and a day to day life are narrated by Ricky as he throws in current political and economical happens with a touch of Chinese history on how or why something is the way it is. The time in the van passes quickly.

Arrival in Changshu

is more on the modest side. The Crowne Plaza is what you’d expect to find in the U.S. minus English. On each of my trips, I’ve noticed the farther from Shanghai I go, the less English is spoken. It makes sense and also serves as a good reminder that I’m a long, long way from home. After checking into our rooms, we meet in the lobby and head to dinner with Ricky, our driver, the chairman of the company that manufacture’s our product, and his wife. The entire evening is an exercise in cultural immersion, tiring translation for Ricky, and more rice wine than I’d care to admit.

For more on the second half of my trip and my thoughts on what any of this has to do with FI/RE, stay tuned for 2018 China Trip Part 2…