Chengdu on $3.70 a day

I went ahead and bought a ticket for my second trip to China. It cost $460 round trip, which sounds cheap until you consider that almost $250 of the ticket is for taxes. You wonder how anybody makes money flying a new Airbus from LAX to Hangzhou to Chengdu for $200 bucks.

Because I don’t think they’re making it up in foreign exchange. Mine, anyway.

I went looking for a place to stay on, filtering immediately for “cheapassedest first.”

I came up with the Chengdu Dreams International Youth Hostel, which cost $37 for ten days. The next step up got pretty costly; $53 for ten days at the Chengdu Tribe Youth Hostel. Was it worth an extra $16 to swap out dreams for a youth tribe? Would there be drums and a sacrificial goat? Decisions.

This trip will be about four years after I started “studying” Chinese again. I have never worked so hard for so long and ended up with so little to show for it, except in cycling. If I had to rate my spoken Chinese on a scale of one to ten billion, with ten billion being “average” and one being “Why in the fuck are you still doing this?” I would rate myself at about three. Again, cycling comes to mind.

Which makes for a good comparison chart between the two:


  1. Cycling is way more expensive; there is really nothing cycling related you can do for $37. China has a price point for everyone, no matter how cheap.
  2. Chinese is way more niche. Although billions of people speak it, none of them are white cyclists in the South Bay.
  3. Cycling is safer. When you screw up horribly you get a bad brain injury and spend your life in a hospital bed. When you screw up in China just a little bit you spend your life in prison.
  4. Chinese teaches you that you are stupid. Cycling teaches you that you are delusional.
  5. Cycling makes you hungry. Chinese food makes you happy.
  6. China is overwhelming. Cycling isn’t, unless you start training with power.
  7. Cycling has like 12 disciplines. Chinese has like 100,000 characters.
  8. Chinese is to cycling what astrology is to chelation therapy.
  9. Bike races are fun to do but boring to watch. Me speaking Chinese is fun to watch but horrible to experience.
  10. Since I switched to a bread-based diet, I’ve gotten really fat.



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fatty (2)


6 thoughts on “Chengdu on $3.70 a day”

  1. $37 used to be enough for a Chinese-made inner tube. With the new tariffs, maybe half a tube now.

      1. Damn, it took me 25 hours to think of something pithier, but better late than not at all: $37 used to buy a cheap Chinese tubular, now it’s only enough for a Chinese tube.

        1. $37 used to buy a Chinese tubular factory, now it pays the monthly salary of an American at Amazon shipping $137 Chinese tires.

  2. Wow Wanker. I admire your modesty. There’s a lot to take in there. Not sure which is harder to look at, the double gut or the man boob. Your a helluva a writer though.

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