I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students the other day about doing business in China and Asia in general. As always, the subject of food and alcohol came up. I explained the business banquet and the rules of consumption, which in my experience are:
- There is no such thing as a glass of wine with dinner. If you say you don’t drink for religious or medical reasons, they will accept that, but if you start drinking, you are on a bus with no brakes, next stop Hangover Town.
- Everyone smokes, everywhere, all the time. Whether or not you smoke is irrelevant. At table, in the restrooms, in elevators, they will smoke. There will be smoking at dinner, and the further the drinking goes, the more smoking and the more they will encourage you to smoke. If you are a professional athlete, not the place for you. On that note, Chinese cities probably aren’t the best place for you anyway.
- You should eat anything put in front of you. As above, unless you have solid religious or medical reasons to say no, you WILL be eating whatever is ordered, especially if you are with me. No sissies at my table.
These ground rules established in the audiences’ heads, I recounted the epic drinking contests, food poisoning, hangovers, food poisoning, blackouts, and yet more food poisoning. You might think that with this track record I would be gun-shy trying new things but it is exactly the opposite. The most exciting cuisines in the world are in Asia, and good food is everywhere waiting to be tried. Including honey bees.
On my last trip to China, the highlight was donkey meat – best red meat I’ve ever tried. The Chinese have a saying, 天上龙肉，地上驴肉, “tiān shàng lóng ròu, dì shang lú ròu”, or “the best meat in heaven is dragon meat, the best meat on earth is donkey meat.” I have to agree.
PassageMaker‘s Director of New Project Development, Dave Learn, is an adventurous traveler and an exceptional photographer. I live vicariously through Dave’s Flickr page, and his photos of his recent trip to Mongolia inspired the title of this post.
David Dayton of Silk Road International, a good friend of all of us at PassageMaker, says that there are really several different Chinas. The interior (where 400 million people live on a dollar a day or less) is a different world from the conspicuous wealth of the Bund in Shanghai. You need to get out and experience all that the Chinas have to offer, and the same applies to Asia in general. A friend of mine once said the cuisine is the principal art form of any culture, and nowhere is this more evident than Asia, and China specifically. So if you are going to go to the trouble to journey to China, do NOT eat all your meals in the hotel or at McDonald’s. Get out and risk food poisoning, because the rewards are worth it.