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 Booking.com, 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:
CYCLING V. CHINESE
- 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.
- Chinese is way more niche. Although billions of people speak it, none of them are white cyclists in the South Bay.
- 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.
- Chinese teaches you that you are stupid. Cycling teaches you that you are delusional.
- Cycling makes you hungry. Chinese food makes you happy.
- China is overwhelming. Cycling isn’t, unless you start training with power.
- Cycling has like 12 disciplines. Chinese has like 100,000 characters.
- Chinese is to cycling what astrology is to chelation therapy.
- Bike races are fun to do but boring to watch. Me speaking Chinese is fun to watch but horrible to experience.
- Since I switched to a bread-based diet, I’ve gotten really fat.
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