Flowing through China

Tips for Foreign Travel

1) Prepare way in advance with your paperwork. If you’ve traveled around Europe or Canada or Mexico or a lot of these easy-in-easy-out places, you don’t have to worry about visas. But getting a visa is kind a pain in the butt… it takes a while, and you have to mail off your passport to parts unknown. This always makes me very nervous! I pay extra to get the Fed-ex service to minimize errors! Also, it may surprise you, but you never know what countries require a visa! Like, for example, I wanted to leave the Sydney airport for 4-5 hours during a long layover, and they would not let me out of the airport! I didn’t know I needed a visa… how annoying! I thought that Australia was just kind of like a floating Canada where people are even more laid back. I was wrong.

2) Go with the flow. The more you get into a distant land, the more different everything becomes. Schedules, food, drivers, basic communication, and more can seem at odds with your customs. (BTW, that is a secondary meaning of “Stuck In Customs” — but that is an element that no one ever gets… that’s okay I can see why it’s kinda out-there). Anyway, if you stop thinking about how “different” it is in terms of “better/worse” — and start thinking about it in terms of a “different” way of doing things that is not necessarily better or worse… then that makes everything easier. Imagine you are on a Star Trek away mission — studying the culture like a scientist. And, well, you better just stick to the prime directive since they may not have yet discovered warp technology.

3) Don’t worry so much about speaking the local language. Don’t let your lack of knowing the language scare you into not going or staying in the hotel room! When you travel to a lot of different countries, it’s just impossible to know all the languages. For example, I know barely enough French to get around, but that doesn’t help me anywhere else in the world! And it barely helps in France! There is an international language, actually. If you just open yourself up to a conversation, you can communicate almost anything. It takes a lot longer than usual, but it’s certainly possible.

4) (If you are American) don’t be an annoying loud American. I know I may catch flak for this one… but it is kind of a big thing to me. Earlier this year, I was on a train from Montpellier, France to Barcelona, Spain. I was sitting with my wife towards the front of the train. There were a lot of empty spots, but we were sitting in assigned seats. The other passengers in the car were from Germany, Japan, Thailand, and a few other countries. Anyway, a loud, obnoxious American woman came in and said, “Oh my God! Look at all these empty seats! I talked to that woman at the ticket counter and she said there are no seats!” Then, one of the Germans (who understand trains very well, mind you), said, calmly, in English, “The train makes many stops, and people get on and off, so these seats will probably be full by the time we reach Barcelona.” To this the American woman said, in a rather shrill way, “Well there are seats available right now! Well that’s the French for ya!” My wife and I just buried our heads in our hands…

5) Plan loosely. Don’t Griswald-up your schedule. It’s really hard to hit exact timetables and fit a lot of stuff in… just be calm and leave plenty of “getting-lost” time! When you get dropped off at a destination, have them drop you off “near” the destination, then find the rest of your way there on foot. You’ll see all kinds of unexpected things. If you’re feeling stressed… just channel me and my favorite Buddha quote: “It’s better to travel well than to arrive.”

Daily Photo – Her Tears Flowed

Today we have a new one from Beijing. I’m happy to say the art movement is alive and well in Beijing! There are still issues here and there, to be sure. For example, I heard that there was one artist in particular who had his studio torched by the government in Shanghai. That really sucks! But, despite that nonsense, there are still plenty of areas of artistic expression. It’s not as wide-open as the west, but it’s better than ever (and only going in one direction).

One afternoon in Beijing, I went to a huge artistic area, much like SoHo. It’s called the 798 Art Zone. 50 years ago, it was a huge military factory, but it’s been converted to about a hundred funky art studios, galleries, quirky restaurants, and more. Very cool! Inside one of the larger exhibition halls, I found this interesting piece. Water worked its way up through tubes and would slowly leak out of the eyes of the statues.

China High Dynamic Range Photo

More from China

And, sticking with the theme of this week, here are some favorites from China!

Hong Kong from the Peak

China High Dynamic Range Photo

The Wormhole (Shanghai)

HDR Photo

Lonely Boats in Hangzhou

China High Dynamic Range Photo

Tron (Beijing)

HDR Photo

Cartier in Shanghai

China High Dynamic Range Photo

The Bund

China High Dynamic Range Photo

Shanghai in the Morning

China High Dynamic Range Photo

Morning Fisherman on the Li River

HDR Photo

Red Bridge in Late Afternoon

HDR Photo

I Found Pandora from Avatar

HDR Photo

  • casusan

    These are all great Trey – am looking forward to more of these from China – know your trip was extended! Great travel tips to – I know I need to ‘go with the flow’ more often! ps I think the wormhole is on here twice- thanks for sharing!

  • – thanks for the nice trip advises 🙂
    – this are all very interesting images belonging to a place and culture quite difficult to comprehend for an European but trough your images you shed a new light on all this [or a new dynamic range to be more precise :)]
    – BTW: you repeated the image Wormhole;

  • Great travel advice, Trey. This past year I photographed in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Cambodia and in India and had wonderful experiences in all of these countries. A nice advantage as an English speaking traveler is that English really is the world’s language, so you usually don’t have to search very hard to find somebody who speaks your language. It’s always good, however, to learn basic words such as “hello” and “thank you” in the local language of the countries that you visit as a sign of respect. A smile and a friendly nod go a long way, too. One potential problem while traveling can be aggressive hawkers (people who try to see you stuff on the streets). The best way to handle them is to completely ignore them. It feels rude a first, but if you look at them or talk to them they will hound you for a long, long time. When you ignore hawkers, you actually do them a favor by letting them know that they better go after someone else if they want to make a sale.

  • Whoa! I love that shot of the heads on the wires – very sci-fi! Reminds me of that much-maligned movie ‘AI’ – very cool!

    That travel advice is bang on. I particularly liked the Star Trek comparison which I will definitely use on future missions.

    My main travel advice to everyone would be this :-

    ALWAYS check in for your flights online prior to travelling whenever it’s possible for you to do so.

    The reason for this that all commercial flights can now oversell the flights by 10% of the aeroplane’s capacity which means you might indeed have booked a flight but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are guaranteed a seat on the flight – unfortunately I learned this one the hard way during a trip to Houston in 2009 and it messed up our travel plans. If you can’t get access to a computer (i.e if your country of departure hasn’t discovered warp technology yet) get to the airport as early as you can, get a boarding pass, get through security, go directly to your gate. Make sure you have something to keep you amused while you wait at the gate – contrary to what you might have heard, the bar is not an option under these circumstances!

    I used this flight advice on my trip to NYC and had no issues – apart from being moved from an Air France Airbus A380 to a smaller vessel which made me grumble at the time but in hindsight was a good thing as it turned out a Qantas A380’s engine had exploded while we were on our way to NYC and that all those vessels had to be grounded due to a similar fault!

  • Excellent images.

  • Love your photos of China, very cool stuff! Great travel advise. You are right about language. I was on a business trip with a couple of co-workers in Japan several years ago, we didn’t speak Japanese. We spent our first night in downtown Tokyo and went out to look for a place to eat. We ended up in one of those small noodle shops. The waitress greeted us at the door and invited us to come in, she spoke no English. We had a wonderful meal with a very gracious hostess, and we were able to communicate despite our language limitations. We all had a great time!

  • Simon Morris

    Stunning images, especially the various cities taken at night… amazing! Sound travel advice too… made a mental note for the future 🙂

  • Dad’s Dad

    Boom-Great travel advice. Two couples of us went to a small town outside Le Mans for dinner one night. Were able to order our dinner by making the sounds of the animal we wanted. The tough one was fish.

  • Number 4: I’ve thought the same for a long time. There does always seem to be some seriously obnoxious American with volumes several levels above anyone else no matter where you go. I have had slight changes in perspective the more I travel however.

    For one, Americans are everywhere these days and if you’re on a train in Europe, say going from Montpellier to Barcelona, you’re bound to be overrun by them. As an American I’ve become quite conscious and critical of my own country folk and I’ve found that I dismiss obnoxious behavior of other nationalities as simple cultural differences or that I’m in their home and they have the right to act slightly objectionable. For example, I’ve seen near disrespectful behavior from local field trips at Machu Picchu and it’s hard to completely dismiss the treatment of visiting women to places like Egypt as simple cultural differences.

    It’s all a matter of perspective and I think it’s healthy to be self-conscious about your own people. Cheers! Another great collection Trey!

  • You have such great pictures. Thank you for such a Blessing!

  • Gail in Montana

    Thanks for sharing more photos from China, Trey. I found a couple I didn’t already have besides the heads schene. Great job, have a great Thursday!!! 🙂

  • Mike

    My deepest apologies to both you & your mother. I have no recollection & had no intention of sending that tweet. I think it was a reaction to a late night glass of wine and a sleeping aid, never recommended. Sad lesson learned.

  • Thanks all!

    Alexandru – wups! I fixed that — sorry… I’ll have to get mad at the guy that did that (me)

  • Ralph

    As usual, really enjoy your work, learn something and feel inspired. Regarding “SHANGHAI IN THE MORNING”, “THE BUND”, “TRON (BEIJING)” were those take from a building? Did you shoot thru a window?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and work – appreciate it.

  • Jim

    I still believe the shot you entitled Pandora is one of your best images. Just so different and perfectly framed. I have really enjoyed you holiday blast of images and look forward to seeing so many more in 2011. BTW Thanks for the tip on Silver Efex Pro and your review.. what an amazing piece of software. Here is my first attempts. ZION and the John Shaw Memorial Tree…. thanks again.

  • Very nice photos, Trey. I especially like the city photos that are taken just after sunset (presumably). Do you have a preferred WB setting for these nighttime shots with mixed light sources?

    Happy New Year!

  • Simply amazing. Specially Tron(Beijing) one.

  • I felt a similar moment of shame for an Ugly American when I was a boy traveling with my parents in Jamaica. A loud-mouthed man denigrated every local in such a vile way that I still remember it freshly now 35 years later. He didn’t seem to notice that my look of disgust was for him, not the locals who I found to be very friendly. On the other hand, that event really reinforced my desire to be respectful to every place I visit just to try to undo the damage of that one ugly American.

  • Alex Sharp

    As a resident/visitor to China (have lived in Shanghai for last 8 plus years) have been to almost all the places that you have captured and portrayed so beautifully and your images inspire me to do more travelling in China whilst I still can…..so many other countries in close proximity though.
    In fact I spent Christmas weekend in Osaka.

    Agree that some (not the majority) Americans are overly loud but please believe that there are
    citizens from other countries, that I shall not name, that are equally obnoxious and loud.Most probably not seasoned travellers???

    Trey, thanks for sharing your passion.

    Alex,(South African) Shanghai, China

  • Z

    Excellent tips!

  • Steve Scranton

    Trey — couldn’t agree with you more re: #4. My job is based in Germany, and I’ve had the great fortune to travel extensively through Europe over the past 4 years. You can absolutely pick an American out of a crowd by their VOLUME — forget speaking, Americans even laugh louder than the Europeans. I’ve experienced many cringe-worthy moments similar to your train experience while living here. My family and I do our best in our day-to-day interactions to show that not all Americans are “Ugly”.

  • Very nice pictures as always !
    Espacially the Cartier shop the blue/red/gold colors are impressives !
    I also wanted to tell that you improve your pics from the begining of HDR where for me all the pics were looking so unnatural like paintings but now that look so great ! (perhaps, my eye are also a bit more receptive to hdr ;))

  • 35mm

    ike garlic, to much photoshop ruins the end product – can anyone actually take a decent photo anymore without over-enhancing it – none of these photos represent the true subject – what a hyped bunch of crap – the art of photography is lost on digital over-saturation – in spades in this case!

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