Wild Wild East Story with Devin Ehrig

Michael MicheliniBusiness, Ecommerce, Lifestyle, Living, Podcast, Travel1 Comment

In this week’s show, we try to lighten up the whole situation a bit here so we have a fun one with Devin Ehrig who is a really good friend of mine. He’s speaks Cantonese Mandarin really well and he is well versed in different parts of China and Hong Kong. We talk about good old times in this crazy ventures in China before the virus and I hope you appreciate and enjoy this.

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • About Devin

    Meeting at Jamon’s house, a common friend’s house party. We met in Chengdu at a Startup Weekend back in like 2012 I think – and have been great friends, how did you first get to China?

  • How did you learn Chinese- both Mandarin and Cantonese

    Your language skills are amazing, seriously!

  • “The New Wild West”

    Is it China, Asia? Share some insights about this “New Wild West”

  • Chat about some stories from your blog

  • Warm Baijiu in Shenyang

    We connected on a social media post – and your story about drinking warm Baijiu is amazing, we can link to the post on the show notes but can you share it here

  • The Shandong Ship sails

    Your first story about traveling in Asia

  • The Jews of Kaifeng

    Finding the descendants of local Chinese Jews

  • The future in Asia

    What do you see happening in the next 5, 10 , 50 years?

  • About your campaign!

    I put some money in – what is this campaign all about

  • How people can get involved/ and connect?

    What are ways people can get in touch?

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Episode Length 55:20

Thanks Devin! It’s been really cool to have that little capture of history from you and I wish you all the best with your book. And for our listeners out there who enjoyed this and wanted to show support, please do so. I always want to see these books and these projects get me

Thank you for listening. We’ve got amazing guests lined up coming out. Few great ones and I’m really excited to share and if you guys appreciate it, maybe you can consider our membership, our events, maybe send a little thank you message to us or share this with your friends.

Download Options

Listen in Youtube

Show Transcript


[00:00:00] Episode 293 of the Global from Asia podcast. This is a fun one. Chatting, try to lighten things up with the whole crazy coronavirus. Talking about the old days in China, some of the, some of the adventures and stories of a friend of mine with his new book and wild wild East stories. Welcome to the Global from Asia podcast where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down into straight up actionable advice.

[00:00:29] And now your host, Michael Michelini. Thank you everybody for tuning in. Just had a friend, just had a call with a friend of mine in China, Chinese friend, Chinese seller. Wilson Blues. It was a little, put them out there and he’s just stuck at home just to say, like, all of China’s like basically just sitting at home and I’m recording this right before Valentine’s day on February 13th, 2020 and we’re just not sure.

[00:00:59] You know Cameron, Cameron Walker we had last week, we put him up and ahead of the schedule cause we were just thinking, Hey, this coronavirus might go away and we don’t want to talk about it in interview when this stuff’s over. But it still seems to be going. And, uh, I was asking Wilson about the factories and he says they’re not really allowed to be open still and things are still kind of sitting and waiting.

[00:01:23] So, and then my wife chatting to her a little bit, you know, daily, wechats, honestly hard to be honest. I was looking at my flights, I was checking flights, sending her screenshots on WeChat of some flight options. And I think, you know, she’s like, just stay where you’re at. I mean, doing some stuff with alpha rock, actually, we’re rebranding virtuous graphics and sub prime label studios, a new studio center.

[00:01:46] If you watch my vlog, you might see some of the images prior to getting an interview with that story, that desperate, intense, really intense man. Really, really intense here in the last month, working with the alpha rock and relaunching this photo video studio for the Amazon sellers, but it’s just been an intense.

[00:02:06] Really intense, hot or no, never been really so challenged. Wendy says they’re even, they don’t go out, her daddy used to go to market and get food. Now they’re ordering everything online. They say they got about a week’s worth of food at home, just doing video calls. My wife and kids and aunts and grandparents all jammed into a two, two different, two bedroom apartments.

[00:02:28] But, uh. Anyway. Well, I’ll keep you guys updated each week of that. This week’s show is a fun one. Try to lighten up the whole situation here, but basically, uhm, Devin, really good friend of mine. We’ve worked together and he did some amazing things. Um, he’s been, he speaks Cantonese Mandarin really well.

[00:02:50] He’s, he’s so, uh, well versed in different parts of China and Hong Kong, and he’s back. In the U S right now, and he was writing a book, and I’m hoping to help him out here. You know, I’ve backed his book online and across crowdsourcing platform, forgetting the name there, but we’ll link it up of course, on the show notes, and he takes some of the, some of the parts of the book he’s working on and we have some fun just talking about good old times in this crazy ventures in China before this virus and over the virus goes away.

[00:03:23] And hopefully these stories will keep happening because right now I think most people are not enjoying these, uh,wild stories, so you can get a little preview of some of that and Oh, get, he’s also gives you some insights about his road trips and things he saw as, and Jewish people in China. And I hope you appreciate and enjoy this.

[00:03:43] Thanks Devin for sharing. And let’s tune in. Are you looking for something to do in November, cross border summit, fifth annual, or bring it down to Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 19th and 20th actually, we’re stacking even more value. We’ve got a pre event 

[00:04:00] mastermind for those who want to upgrade to a VIP ticket and we’re going to add some workshops after on the Saturday, November 21st, 2020 so it can be up to four days and we’re even adding some tours of some markets and.

[00:04:15] Some factories in the surrounding areas. Got some local Thai people on our team now helping us out. If this all sounds really interesting, cross border summit.com/thailand still has an open tickets as of recording, but save the dates. If you are 

[00:04:30] a GFA VIP member, you will get first access and of course, disc-, special discounted prices.

[00:04:35] So thanks again for listening to the show and I hope to see you at the event. Okay. Thank you everybody for tuning in to our Global from Asia Podcast actually here and Devin has been on my list of guests to get on the show for, I dunno, since the beginning. Maybe. Finally, finally again, it happened almost 300 shows, but we have, we’ll have a Devin on the show.

[00:04:58] Thank you so much for coming on today. Awesome man. Thank you so much. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve been, we’ve been talking about this for ages and it’s great. We finally got it. Yeah. Yeah. So I can’t remember when we first, how long ago? It was, 2010, 11,12 something like that. And, uh, I’ve come to a friend, Jaman’s house, and then we, we, we connected there and then we spent some more time at a startup weekend in Chengdu.

[00:05:21] I remember? I remember. I remember that that was a, that was kind of cool cause we’ve met, it was definitely a Thanksgiving dinner party cause Matt and Jaman used to throw those awesome Shenzhen dinner parties. And uh, I think. And it’s either you or maybe it was Johnny G, or maybe it was John, John Gallagher, if you remember.

[00:05:41] Uh, he was, he was around town for a while. And, uh, somehow somehow we all will kind of manage to connect there. And, uh, and then in showing you, you were there for startup weekend and then I was there on business. Okay. Somehow we’d gotten introduced and we read the book or remember. Yeah. Yeah. I remember had been there.

[00:06:03] I mean, I think it was my first time to Chengdu. So you were like, you were showing me around a bit. It was fun. And even then, especially now, you have so many stories, which just, which is always the fun part of Asia, or China especially, um, which we’ll talk about today, but it seems like it’s, you know, I, I, uh, I’m excited about your.

[00:06:24] Your campaign, you’re working on your book wild, wild East story, is that correct? Uh, yeah. You know, I just, I just labeled the new wild West, but we’ll, we’ll, we’ll jump into it in a minute. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s the same thing like what you’re talking about. It’s always fun to be able to just, you know. Sort of post that period in your life as I guess it’s kind of the same for a lot of us who lived in China a long time and we kind of were kind of like, like past that, that real almost wild phase of the way that China was and the way that.

[00:06:58] You know how it’s kind of shifted with the technology changing and now it’s fun to get to the chance to reminisce and go back. You know, you meet people who kind of came to China through doing their MBA degree for a year in 2015 and you just go, man, it was so different before. I mean, especially now, I remember we had talked about it even a few years ago.

[00:07:19] You said you were in Shanghai and they’re all corporate guys. Foreigners now with like talking in English everywhere. Basically like not even feeling like the China experience. Yeah. The French quarter, you miss will be in somewhere in Southern California and half the half the areas. I mean, it’s, uh, uh, it’s funny.

[00:07:39] It reminds me a, the two some, most similar places I found where, uh, if you’re in Hong Kong in Wan Chai, but on the old Wan Chai side. So like Queens road East. Backed by Pacific place three, French investment banks are there. So if you come out at like 10 or 11 o’clock a by, by, this place, three tower, in the morning, you usually see like a bunch of French bankers will sit in there like having their espressos and smoking cigarettes and you know, talking with each other and hearing French spoken of day and then that, that’s a lot of parts to the French quarter in Shanghai.

[00:08:09] These days send you kind of come down and people who they’re working with. Be outside, and you know, you may as well be in, in some part of the U S or some part of France for at least for that little snippet. Yeah, but you’re quite the opposite. I mean, your flu, I’d say flew out. You’ll probably be more modest, but you speak really.

[00:08:30] Really good Mandarin and Cantonese. I’ve seen it myself many times. Um, and I think you said you, you spent a year in Shenyang where my wife’s hometown. So we also were reconnecting on that before the interview. But I got to thank you for, for sharing, for sharing your story going up to Shenyang on the podcast, cause I hadn’t thought about.

[00:08:52] Ages had been so long since I, since I went back there, I went, it was one of the first places I lived in China for more than a year. I studied abroad there at Downing university. And, uh, and really that was my first kind of deep dive into, into mainland China. Living there and so it was cool when you were talking about in chunks of videos, I started thinking back, I was like, wow.

[00:09:17] I was like, you’re, you’re really in the a, you’re really in the Heartland now when you get up to cities like Shenyan, it’s not Shenzhen. I mean, some people were saying I should stick around cause my Chinese, you know, you have to basically, there’s no English there, right? There’s no French quarter or Shanghai.

[00:09:36] It’s so funny. There’s a, there’s a district in Shenyang called Shita and then in, in that, in there, there used to be like a North to South and East and a West Tal, like a little pagoda around the, around the old build city capitalist. She taught a Western pagoda has become this ethnic Korea town. Oh yeah, all of that.

[00:09:56] That Northern part of China, the Northeastern part, it’s, it’s probably the most, one of the most multiethnic, multicultural parts of China. Although it’s not, not always, obviously on its face like that, and Koreans, ethnic Koreans make up a huge portion of population and yeah, we would. We weren’t. We were always, always there.

[00:10:16] It’s one of the late night spots. You go get your Korean barbecue, you sewed you and you go to  and stuff like that, and that’s one of the university students would go hanging out back where we were when we were there. So great. A fun spot. Yeah, it’s definitely true. It’s the, we didn’t say, yeah, but Dongbei, which is East, North or Northeast of China, the chicken head, right.

[00:10:38] It’s the head of the chicken. I always think of the China country

[00:10:46] go too far, maybe further Northeast. Um, yeah. But yeah. So, yeah, I mean, I think today there’s so many stories, and I just like, maybe, you know, you put some on your blog, we’ll link that up. We’ll link to your, uh, your 

[00:11:00] campaign and everything you’re doing, but where, where, where’s, uh, you know, the new, the new wild West, you know, I guess that’s why I don’t know about you, but that’s why I came, you know, to the calling of opportunity, the calling of, you know, uh.

[00:11:14] New, new, new chances, you know, I guess maybe like my answers came from Europe to America. Is that what you mean? With the new wild West kind of idea or a little bit, I mean. There was definitely an element of that, 

[00:11:30] and through the, through the nineties and through the early two thousands when, when guys like us, you know, we talk like world timers a little bit.

[00:11:37] Really, there was the whole generation to two generations of hand, China hands before us that were even older old timers who saw their parts of the transition. But I th I think, you know, at arc time we still kind of caught that last wave of this, this transition where, you know. It was China was never the wild West in the sense of it was lawless.

[00:11:58] There was always laws, there was always rules. But then there’s trying to transition to this economy. Things had to change, and the way they changed the way they got implemented just created this vacuum of experiences sometimes where people came, at least for me, I met people that came from all different reasons.

[00:12:16] You know about the only type of person I ever really. Met in China was the stereotypical kind of Asia file person, the person who would study Japanese in Vietnam in may, and then just kind of end up in China. I, you know, most of the, maybe in Beijing or Shanghai, there were some more than, but in places like Shanghai

[00:12:34] It was more like, Oh, I’m working to this, the regional factory outlet manager and I need to go live here for two years to inspect our JV partner. Or Oh, you know, I’m here doing my research on some esoteric part of Chinese history of this one period and this is where I need to be. And so it was always kind of a collectic mix of people compared to, you know, for college age.

[00:12:57] Individuals like ourselves. When we, when we first came out there, you know, your, your, your friends, your classmates worry if they liked Asian was Japanese, Japanese, it was maybe Korean a couple of years later. And, and you were kind of the oddballs as for baking, China’s a destination. So I liked that, you know, there, there was this element of, of a wild West because of this back UME created in the context of.

[00:13:20] Overlapping and changing, uh, regulatory and economic systems. There was also that weird sort of laissez Faire and lots of people from lots of different places coming into to try and do something in the context of that. And I just, yeah, as, as I, as I left China and Hong Kong and moved back here to LA, I was just thinking about it and I was just going, you know, lumps are, lots of people have lots of stories about.

[00:13:49] About their time within their, you know, it’s the two of us are hardly the only Americans or foreign people in general who moved to China live. But that being said, we both have had lots of experiences and observed a lot firsthand what it’s like in it. And if, and if we were a high school kid now from the U S who went on like an exchange program to China for a summer, what they will see is completely different than what we would’ve seen then.

[00:14:12] But somebody else before us would have seen. It’s true. And so, you know, that snippet of time as things change, you know, it reminded me kind of of the real wild West, that that snippet of time where people live like wild West. There was a before and after and it was the real wild West and America was more of a transitionary phase as well.

[00:14:30] And that’s what really got that, you know, came to mind when I was thinking about it. Okay, great. Yeah, I mean, it’s totally true. We also were just joking a little bit, but it’s, you know, about the French quarter of Shanghai or Wanchai Hong Kong. But even back then there was differences of what part of China or Asia you ended up, and I have to admit, I was the ignorant American before I came.

[00:14:52] I, I even said it yesterday in the Philippines event. I said, I kind of mixed up Philippines and China when I was American then the U S I didn’t know, like, you know, uh. All these differences, but especially in China, like talking about Shenyang, Shanghai, Hong Kong, those are all far apart and, and, and totally like kind of different experiences.

[00:15:12] Even at the same time, even the same years, uh, that we were there. They were different perspectives for sure. Like you, you know, it’s, it’s, I think, I think for me, definitely the, the, the. The grounding in education about sort of Asia for most Americans really in that high school level really just wasn’t there.

[00:15:36] You know, you had your world history class once and a lot of things happened all around the world and that was that. Okay. Back to back to your regular subject. So, so what contexts do you have to, to, to understand the region? I had a little bit of an advantage because I grew up in Hawaii. So, you know, if you say the Philippines specifically, and why we know where the Philippines is, I mean, that’s their kind of sister, but in a lot of sense, historically, as well as culturally, there’s a lot of crossover in that.

[00:16:08] But then, you know, you know, that same comment doesn’t hold true for Shiyan, Longzhu or Taiwan or somewhere like that, you know, that may as well be thrown a thrown a dart at a dartboard blindfolded. It was that same processes you showed up and you just, you just started learning back then. You know, China’s internet.

[00:16:31] By the time I was there trying to have the internet, and it was still way more open than it was now. You could get your Google and your Facebook and everything, which is, which is weird to think about, but you know, even then there wasn’t that great of information. Everywhere. You didn’t really have YouTube yet back then, and you blocked YouTube on.

[00:16:50] I was there. It was, YouTube was blocked, but Google worked and Facebook work for awhile while I was still there. But Facebook  YouTube, I guess there was a lot of videos they didn’t like, so

[00:17:07] it was a, yeah, it was, it was weird. Like just back in those days, the way that you met people was by you know, first connecting through kind of local expect communities or maybe through your work or through your school, getting to meet a couple of classmates and it was, it was just an interesting way. You kind of had to organically feel your way through it back then.

[00:17:29] Yeah, I’m the same like a, I’ve said it too, like I got, I got my information about China business, like at bars with ex-pats and like crazy chain smoking KTV Chinese businessmen like, and I had to balance the two because Chinese business, we always say, you don’t need to do that. That’s a waste of money.

[00:17:50] You don’t need to pay the tax. You don’t need to file this paper. And then what the expat businessmen I met at the end. In Macaulay’s, you know, in the Irish bar, he’s like, you’ve got to take this serious. You can get deported. You got to file everything correctly. You gotta have a company, you gotta hire people legally.

[00:18:08] And I got a Chinese guy like. That doesn’t matter, man. Just pay him cash and don’t have a company here. And it’s like, I’m not, I’m just trying to like balance these two extremes. You know, that’s how I learned. Cause you know, my, my first, my first introduction to some of the ways that this worked, uh, it was, it was at school, right?

[00:18:27] And so we were exchange students at, at the outdoors, like I was saying. And, uh, we were the first group of exchange students from America at  university had some foreign exchange students. So they’d had some German students. They had a lot of Russian students coming down, as I’m sure you’ve seen in the Northeast, is a lot of Russians in the 50s a lot of the people who were in school in the fifties back when China and Russia with mountain, we’re still kind of close together before they split, they all learned brushing instead of English.

[00:18:59] Cause that’s where they were. So, so there were there, there were foreigners, but they, uh, for Americans, we were kind of the first group that, that had ever come to the university to, on an exchange. And so the systems in the school didn’t match up. Right. So, so, so right away, our curriculum that our Chinese teacher in Oregon had put together for us to, to go study, you know, very, very painstakingly laid out and careful Downing university was his on the monitors.

[00:19:29] So that’s how he, he bridged the connection for us to be there. And, uh. We showed up at the transcript, registration office, you know, then the administrative office where you go get yourself registered for courses and all that stuff, and they didn’t have a functioning computer. Everything was done on typewriters and little like, like almost like a like receipt type paper, you know, like like wax paper where you fold it apart and you keep a copy and we showed up and they look, they’re like, well, yeah, we don’t have anything registered and you know, we don’t know what we’re going to do.

[00:19:58] My friend and I who came with me,so, so are we supposed to think, Oh yeah, you know, you got to pay your fees and if you pay your fees then you can take your course. So eventually after like three or four days of discussing, you know, of having one of our professors’ friends from the U S talk to talk to somebody else, they eventually came back and they were like, Oh, okay, okay, we’ve got it sorted now.

[00:20:18] Here you go. And they handed us, our actual transcripts to last semester and we went. Well, we didn’t do class yet, and the only rule is no problem. It’s through there and we weren’t . So we just take this then and we’d go to class like, yeah, don’t worry. You know, it’s all okay. Well you’re hoping your professor helped us.

[00:20:37] So basically we got a whole pre semester. I mean, it worked. I speak Chinese, so I got what I got out of it. But that whole, that whole sort of like disorganized. That was, that was, you know, we can’t complain and we thought, okay, well we’re two students. You know, there’s a program, there’s the things we used to have, uh, the foreign student dormitory.

[00:21:00] They used to bicycle chain, the torch shut at night, uh, against by fire code violations. Right? But they, they said it was to protect the foreign students. They didn’t want anybody coming in or out, but all we had to do, we figured out pretty quick was to buy a pack of Marlboros. You know, one of those big ones, the little guard in front who had the bike block, we wouldn’t register.

[00:21:21] So we just give them a pack of Marlboro cigarettes each night, and then it was like an open door for

[00:21:30] all those. All those types of things were just like the ways that we, that we got around stuff and how it works and yeah, you know, that that grounding when you first land in the country and go, it’s, it would’ve been different if you were at like Beijing university or something like from university on Shanghai or something.

[00:21:49] He was probably like that in like the, in like the late eighties early nineties but then, because those are very well known universities and very enter, you know, seeking of international recognition, they, they, they. But a lot of their systems in place earlier, but when you went to Shenyang even in early two thousands.

[00:22:06] That just wasn’t a destination. People, you know, it was, you were in a backwater. You were in a place that that wasn’t the attractive spot for foreigners to go to. Which again, I think it benefited studying the language. I don’t think it did you enough benefit to go network with a bunch of rich kids at Beijing university who wants to build their English, might’ve known politically, maybe business-wise.

[00:22:26] Sure. Maybe you build a couple of relationships that would last you through time. You know that I’m not saying that, but to learn the language. You know, most of my classmates in Shenyang, none of us, none of them were the, you know, the Korean classmates, for example, they, they, they failed their English test.

[00:22:41] That’s why they ended up studying Chinese and coming from Korea to Shenyang, you know, so, so for them, they, you know, the only way for the Korean, the ethnic Koreans could talk to the Koreans and Korean, obviously, but the only way they can talk to anyone else was to learn Chinese. So even amongst our classmates.

[00:23:00] We had to speak Chinese to each other just to, just to do our homework, just to communicate, to make friends, which for the first like three months, we have this weird Patois. It was almost like something on a like old Macau where everybody’s speaking a different language and sort of hammering that into some kind of bipolar that everyone understands.

[00:23:17] But eventually, you know, proper Chinese started to take over and that, and I think that really in the end did contribute a lot to being more comfortable Speaking and working in it because what choice did you have? Right. I’m sure. I, I don’t know. I mean, yeah, if everybody around you can only speak Chinese.

[00:23:35] I mean, I spent some time in Dongguan with some factories and that’s also one of my Chinese accelerated cause I had nobody to speak English with. I had to do that to get food and to like not get, like not get in trouble at a nightclub when I like. Dance with the girl that was, um, mafia guys like girlfriend or boss’ wife and wanted, you know, that’s when I started figuring out my Chinese. Dongguan, Oh, Dongguan.

[00:24:04] I don’t think the world’s going to see another place like Dongguan again. I don’t know, maybe somewhere in Nigeria or something. Now, I don’t know

[00:24:14] that anybody ever drag you to the Prince hotel. The ones that don’t go on. I don’t think so. It was this gigantic, like six story monstrosity pull of like just just elaborate the karaoke rooms. Oh man, it was, let’s go to the next, the Jews of Kaifeng. What? This isn’t one of your blogs, you know, and the descendants of local Chinese Jews.

[00:24:43] I don’t know if you want to share. So when I, when I was studying in Shenyang, I got a grant, uh, I can’t remember what it was. It was something like, it wasn’t a road scholar grant, but it was a uni quiver type of like a study program where you get a grant to do some, some, some special research and, and, and you put a project together and you go, you get delivered back in like a series of seminars and stuff.

[00:25:09] Sorry. It’s been a long time. I don’t remember what it was, but that was the idea. And so for me, uh, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m part Jewish, my background and I, and from my, from my family side. And so. I was just doing some research and I learned that there are, are, and have been ethnic Jews in China since the song dynasty or, or before.

[00:25:30] I mean they, some of them followed the silk road into China and, and they intermarried. They, they, they looked like koi Muslims, you know, their, their, their facial features are all Chinese by now. But you know, at a family cultural background, they still follow kind of their, their own lineage and had heard about that.

[00:25:47] In the, you know, I just told you about the weird transcript registration system. One of my good friends, uh, was Australian and they were at the end of their high school term. So you know, in their summer period, they came to China for a year as their, their, their gap year and they got to spend a year in China.

[00:26:03] Well, this is a really great friend of mine. Um, he’s actually going to contribute some stories to the book to the two of us are, we’re back in touch now, so he’s got his notes on this stuff also. So we’re going to, we’re going to hopefully be able to get some of these, some of these stories back in the summer.

[00:26:17] We decided we were going to travel. And as for me to do part of my project, which revolved around trying to understand and research these ethnic Jews living in China. We said, well, why don’t we make our way to the city of Kaifeng where they were supposed to be and, and we’ll do it. So we decided we would leave for two and a half.

[00:26:36] Oh, it was almost three months in the end. We just left. We, we, we didn’t so much. Ask permission. We just told our teachers, yeah, we’re, we’re going to go. And we did,

[00:26:51] we met up in Dalian and he went a few days before he was a, he was dating a Russian girl sitting down in Dalian. And you know that Russian quarter in Dalian? Yeah. I spent some time there. Yeah. And he, uh, so we, uh, he, when he wouldn’t feed us before and then, and then I, and then I caught up with him in Dalian and, and we started.

[00:27:10] And we’ve, we’re like two and a half, almost three months. We basically just backpacked our way from the Northern part of China all the way, slowly through different provinces until we finally had high nun. One of the main stops was, was in Tai Fung. And uh, and so when we got to Tai Fung, we got our goal.

[00:27:29] We said, we’re going to go find these Chinese Jews and we’re going to, we’re going to learn whatever we can about them. Now, if you go online and you research, especially with, with the state of Israel, you know, sort of over the last few years trying to breach closer economic relations with China and that thing, there’s been a lot more.

[00:27:47] Academic research and also sort of religious organizational approach to, to, to help, uh, bring some of these ethnic Jews to Israel to learn more about their heritage. So there is some massive now, but this was back in the early two thousands people. There were a couple of scholarly articles written, some, some journals that had, had published about it, but really this was something, this is a very small kind of esoteric bit of Chinese studies.

[00:28:13] And. Yeah. We found them. As you read the story, it was a, it was pretty wild. We didn’t expect to do it. Uh, we had no idea what we were doing, you know, armed with, you know, student university, student levels of Chinese, uh, you know, just sort of bouncing around and  province, uh, as, as you well know, Hunan is kind of the butt of a lot of jokes of Chinese people.

[00:28:41] If you picture, if you picture the Northeast. Is sometimes characterize a little bit like the deep South of China, or sometimes a little bit like kind of the Midwest, like Detroit, like hardscrabble, that kind of thing. The Alabama that like the details, the backwater that’s kinda hung on and, and, and it’s, um, so back then it was even more so than, than it is.

[00:29:05] It was even less open than it than it is now. So, yeah, just, you know, to kind of crazy college age, you know. My wife running around trying to find Jewish people. It was, it wasn’t just an experience. You can imagine that. Yeah. That, I mean, I’m just thinking how far. Dolly and you were doing that train car? No.

[00:29:29] So what we did is we, uh, we basically did a lot of the overnight sleeper buses. I remember back in the day, they used to have those buses and you’d hit a pothole and you’re laying down and all of a sudden you hit the,

[00:29:48] yeah. So what will you do is we would, we would go to a city. Right. And we would get there in the morning from the night before we explore, we’d learn about it sometimes we didn’t know we were going a lot of the time. Right. We had a general direction. We would look at a map and we’d go like, this. Any, what’s your next ticket anywhere kind of within this.

[00:30:06] And then, you know, usually the ticket seller lady would be kind of laughing her ass off after seeing two foreigners speak like that and the spectrum. What about, there we go. Okay. And so we get the night tickets. And then so each, each day we’d finish off and then the evening we’d try to sleep on the sleeper bus and then show up at the city, the next city the next day.

[00:30:27] Right. So occasionally it didn’t work. Occasionally we had to get a ittle, a little, a little like a dormitory style sleeper room, or everyone was probably got a hotel room and we couldn’t find it. Some of the little towns didn’t want foreigners to stay in hotels, you know, they still are kind of like that, but back then they really, some of them really didn’t want to register with the police.

[00:30:46] You know, it was sketchy as hell in a lot of little backwater towns and trying to back then. So, you know, every once in a while we did, we’d have to get a hotel when we couldn’t find anywhere else, but for the most part, we were able to just kind of leapfrog every night and see a new place. And it was, yeah, I mean, you know, talk about a way to really see a country.

[00:31:08] I’m sure that’s amazing way. I mean, way better than those highways. It’s a super highways. I mean, those are expensive too. I don’t know if they existed then, but you know, you can drive, you know, those boring, really, uh, worse than American highways. Like just nothing. You don’t see anything. Just pay tolls.

[00:31:27] I’ve been in those. You know the feeling now, right? Like back in the day in the Pearl river Delta, going between factory towns, you’d be, you’d be switching cars, you’d be putting on fake license plates to get through the soul booths and doing all that great stuff. Nowadays you just get on there, you get on one highway, you can, you do 10 a day and be done, and you’re connecting even more now.

[00:31:49] More trains and highways for sure. Well that, that, that, what’s that? It’s that they call it the Chinggway that, that, that light rail that connects, uh, Guangzhou South to, uh, Gongbei, uh, port outside of Macau in Zhuhai. Okay. So now you can actually, you literally can take a train, cause used to be the, the, the high speed train from Hong Kong connected to Guangzhou first.

[00:32:14] And that was one of the first, you know, cross border train connections in China cause even Shenzhen at the time that was built was still a lot smaller than it is now. And so you could always get on that fast train from Hong Kong, you know, in two and a half hours, get to get to Guangzhou and do your business there.

[00:32:30] But the Southern side of the Pearl river Delta, there was nothing, right? There was only one person. There was the human bridge. And God help you if you got stuck on the afternoon traffic getting across the human bridge. That was, that was a couple of hours sitting there cause the whole Pearl River Delta had to cross that bridge and like three, four o’clock in the afternoon and now, and before that, the Southern side you, there was a, there was, there was nothing.

[00:32:54] I mean you, I remember once getting to Macau from Guangzhou, I had to, I was at work in Guangzhou, we finished from like five or six on Friday. And a buddy of mine had his band playing in, in Macau, and it was at like nine or 10 and so I left from a , from Hanyu just outside of just outside of Longzhou. And I literally was like motorcycle and the, the old black licensed taxis, you know, the old one license taxis.

[00:33:26] I was hopping village road to village, where I think I went through like 10 different taxi cars before, after like four or five hours, I finally ended up in ju HAI. Yeah. And I was able to cross the border and nanny and goes and goes and go see part of the concert. Like it was insane. Just, just like driving up to the, to the one border, switching cars, the guys negotiating, right.

[00:33:45] Cause you’ve paid your feet so you’re not gonna pay any extra. So then they’re negotiating, trying to get the best price and you’re, you know, you’re, you’re just like each border hopping, hopping, hopping. And so you can finally get down there. We had organize things like a time warp too. I’ve done similar, like don’t go on.

[00:34:00] I was between Dongguan a lot in Hong Kong for for a year or two and yeah, you just feel like you’re going through this time-lapse you’re seeing or like in these dirty factors. One time. I was doing the eCommerce fulfillment project and I had a client from UK and he, he was just like, fashion guy. He came to visit us and don’t want it to at the end e-commerce center.

[00:34:21] And he’s like, Hey, Mike, you want to go to this fashion party with me? And, uh, and, uh, long, uh, Lane Crawford and el-. All right. I’m like, but I’m in like a, you know. I’m little dirty at the time, I had like a hoodie and jeans, like no problem. So we just went, you know, we drove to the factory van, you know the drops you here, then a taxi, and then we had to cross and we had to take a subway and then, and then I’m in this like posh, high end fashion networking party.

[00:34:52] There’s my life. Give me a second. Hold on. It’s okay. It’s okay. So basically, yeah, I was like, totally. And then they thought, Oh, like some Mark Zuckerberg, I don’t know if you still hear me because I had like a, like a gray hoodie on and jeans.

[00:35:08] Totally. I mean that, that, those are the types of things. And, and you know, you’ve got that all across the country pretty much, pretty much everywhere. Everything functioned like that for so long until, not quite overnight, but it kind of felt like overnight. It didn’t. And, and you know, the highways got connected.

[00:35:28] Uh, first credit card payments became a thing and everybody got credit cards. Cause I remember for a long time you wouldn’t dare even a domestic Chinese credit card is gagged when you wouldn’t dare spend, you were guaranteed whatever money was or credit was attached to that account. I know. And then, and then slowly it became a real thing.

[00:35:46] And then almost just as quickly as it became a real thing. You know, we chat got launched. Yeah. You know,  was a big thing way before we check name that didn’t have payments and stuff, and then, and then all the so quickly it went from this kind of just not disorganized, but almost again, I always viewed it as, as, as just just disparate systems.

[00:36:09] There’s these, all these legacy ways of doing things that will get piled on top of each other and then all of a sudden instruct. It’s like, okay, that’s gone now. Everything’s going to be ordered and do it this way. And, and you know, you just, you scratch your head, sometimes you go, will it change so fast that, you know, it’d be sad if, if we really lost something about how the old way, you know, and how it used to work.

[00:36:35] Exactly. I mean, I miss the old times. I think, uh, it’s kind of going into the next point. We’re getting towards the end. There’s so much to talk about, but fleet, we can, we can do this for hours. I know you can go on forever, but I mean, we also, you know, I’m sure, you know, I’m looking forward to reading your, your, your book, you with your campaign will definitely, definitely.

[00:36:54] But maybe, what do you see? So, yeah, it’s all these rapid changes and it kinda got rid of. A lot of the old expats I feel on the new expats coming. I guess there was multiple generations, but what do you see the next, I guess I don’t know if you want to pick Asia or China specifically, but what do you see in the future?

[00:37:10] I don’t know, five, 10 50 years? I mean, maybe give us some insights. What you see happening, continue is keep going. Like what we’re seeing. Let me, let me think about how to, how to answer it, because. I feel, you know, you know, you’re like me. We both, you know, have had more than just business relations in China, had friends, family, you know, things.

[00:37:38] There’s an element to China. I think that  that you enjoy and that you love and you respect more than that. That goes much deeper than just pure, okay, this business, let’s go make money and it’s a false. You know, it’s an easy thing because, because China can be very mercantile, it can be very transactional.

[00:37:59] You know, a lot of times people themselves and their relationships can be very kind of transactional. When you compare that to the way that Americans or Europeans might talk about things, it’s not though that’s a, that’s a little bit of a disingenuous way to put it on the surface. It can seem like that at times coming from our perspectives, but it’s not.

[00:38:17] And you know. I, I think that, you know, elements of family and, and, and, and, and who are, who are people, I don’t think that that ever is [00:38:30] going to change. And I think for people that love China, you love it. You don’t love it for all the political and economic changes and all the discussions. There’s something deeper about why you love it.

[00:38:43] And that revolves around people and the people you’ve met and the people you build your relationships around. And I don’t think regardless of what happens, that’ll, that’ll ever end up changing. That being said, the other, the context in which people live and how they live their lives has changed dramatically.

[00:39:01] And, uh, for me. Aye. Aye. Aye. China is a very, it’s a very uncertain place right now. Longer term, and there are elements of the way that China’s been changing that I, that I like to see. I like to see the fact that laws are. You know, theoretically getting more clearly enforced and more regularly enforced. I mean, again, why does somebody, Chinese tried to send their kids overseas to study?

[00:39:28] I mean, you know, you can argue propaganda wise that, no, that’s not the case in our universities. We went up and all that stuff, but you know, there’s more Chinese students than ever before in the U S right now. So, you know, LA is pretty much Chinese Peaky get a lot of, some of the districts now compared to when I was younger, so, so it’s a, you know.

[00:39:49] You can make arguments, but at the same time, there are reasons why those trends happen. And I don’t know. I, I try to, I try to be an optimistic person, but at the same [00:40:00] time, you know, we were talking about with coronavirus, so look earlier before we got started, just, just, you know, you see some of those same patterns of, of the way the system.

[00:40:09] Is ammo things, you know? So, so what’s going to happen there? A, I don’t know, with trans specifically what I think it means for the rest of Asia, you know, I think China is economic and political power rise drove the rest of Asia to get attacked together. And it did that in a few ways. I think in some ways, you know, in some countries, like, like Japan, uh, and, uh, it, to a lesser extent in a, you know, places like South Korea or Taiwan or some other areas, uh, places that were more economically developed, I think they, they.

[00:40:47] They, they looked at a mix of like benefit and threat that was caused by China’s rise and it forced them to kind of kind of change. Japan benefited greatly. I mean, you know, in the 90s you know, from Hawaii, we would visit Japan and see things and in the, in the 90s you know, and it was the doldrums of the Japanese economy.

[00:41:04] Like when I was kidding who I, we have the whole economy collapse. I mean, I mean, in the big Island we got wiped out. Japanese financial crisis hit like, you know, hotels were there for 10 years sitting along the coastline, long lead drive, like, so we, we saw that, right? It was you, you saw it in a lot of places.

[00:41:22] Australia saw it in Hawaii. We saw Japanese financial crisis. It hit hard. And the, you know, when, when Chinese started spending money in Japan, again. They’re, you know, naturally the economy started to pick up and people then as the economy picked up, you know, younger people always going to invest in and be entrepreneurs and make their own businesses too and things, things start to change.

[00:41:45] And I think China drove a lot of good change like that. I think China also played statecraft and you see that more in Southeast Asia. You see that in the Philippines a lot. With kind of the Chinese class of wealthy Filipinos, kind of kind of latching onto China is a, as a, as a source and a business partner and you know, to sometimes see the benefit of, you know, other classes of Filipinos, and this is a detriment.

[00:42:08] Same thing’s going on in Cambodia now in Thailand. You, you, you see this, this, this, this great China entering the great game, trying to shift its power by using money and resources to last as these economies in. And you know, again, on one hand you’ve got amazing. Changes in wealth across all of Asia. And on the other hand, you’ve got the rise of conflicts like the South China sea and, and how do we define international law in this new, in this new, rising safe.

[00:42:34] And so I think as, as China’s economy and its, its, its system starts to see some pretty, some pretty intense, uh, you know, conflict derive around it. I think a lot of these. Regional Asia economies are also going to kind of solidify and move and as, as, as foreigners, as investors, as entrepreneurs, as people like ourselves.

[00:43:06] I think. You know, sort of not being stuck in, in the ways that we would do things before become really valuable or lose yourself. You spend a lot more time in the Philippines now. There’s, there’s things going on there. There’s, there’s stuff happening. Southeast Asia, there was a ton. Vietnam, there’s a lot of stuff going on.

[00:43:25] Will that last 10 years? Like, like is it the beginning of a, of a wave now that that got its first starting power from sort of Chinese money? Or is it. Chinese money starts to shrink back and then 10 years later, money says, we don’t know. You never really know. You can read about it, you can understand it, but ultimately, if you’re somebody who is not being an academic, if you’re somebody who’s, who’s, who’s making an investment and putting years of your life.

[00:43:52] Really even more than money, you know, doing the next 10 years of your life in an area, trying to figure it out. Those are the type of gambles and choices you’ve got to make. Right? And you follow those big trends, and then you look at the little opportunities that are created and you kind of move in. So, you know, I’m not sure.

[00:44:07] I think, I think, uh, in the big, broad context, I think the center of wealth from the East coast to the West coast of the U S has, has already begun at shift. And that will continue shifting. You know, and I think, I think we’ll, we’ll see kind of the old European bits of wealth. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll kind of stay clustered around where they are.

[00:44:31] And I think in the U S that there’s really going to be that political, political wealth, gravity shift towards the West coast and business from the West coast and from the Western seaboard to Asia will be a big driver of where the world’s well. Kind of aligns itself over the next 50 to a hundred years.

[00:44:51] So that big, that big kind of Atlantic towards Pacific shift I think is definitely happening. It’s underway and you know, regionally, what does that, what does that mean? Cause you know, us and Canada are Pacific powers too. So I think there’s going to be way more micro opportunities coming into place between.

[00:45:13] North America and distinct markets in Asia. So, you know, like Taiwan to LA  to Seattle, you know, uh, you know, Bangkok to San Francisco, like, like these kind of look your, your traditional nomad [00:45:30] stuff, man. Like  Bangkok, like it’s not crazy. Like 15 years ago you might not have thought about it, but now I don’t think you can ignore it if you really want to find that next.

[00:45:42] Kind of late and opportunity to get into. So for me, I’m using the time back in LA as a, as a chance to kind of reflect on these things and really align and look and say, well, worse where some of the new things I think, I think, you know, guys like you guys like me, we, we’ve had the, we’ve had the fortune, the good fortune to be able to spend our lives, you know, in a different place.

[00:46:06] And, and, and understand. Both what that means to spend our lives in Asia, to understand a bit about the differences in regionally in Asia and the different cultural contexts that can come in. But also we’ve, we’ve had a chance to break out of our own kind of single way of viewing something from North America and, and experience that on the ground somewhere else.

[00:46:31] And we could do it again if you, if we did it once, we could do it again. So if that next spot pops up in East Africa over the next 10 years. You know, again, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, one more time back on the horse. It’s the same. It’s the same ride. But we, we’ve lived through that once and then now if we can leverage that old experience and take that into something new, I think you know, it, it’s an adventure.

[00:46:53] And that’s what you look forward to doing. Yeah, I agree, man. This is exciting. And, uh, I mean, there’s lots of talk about, I wanna make sure we spend some time talking about your campaign, you know, in this book. What’s the story here? So, uh, yeah. So, you know, like, like I was saying, I started this project to get some of these stories written down and collected, uh, mainly so that I could share, I mean.

[00:47:19] My viewpoint is not definitive. There’s many, many viewpoints and in a lot of people have had more experiences than me and, but I did have my experiences and I saw them and learn from them the way I did, and I figured, you know what? It’s high time I use this. I use this opportunity to put them together.

[00:47:38] And, uh, at the same time I said, well, what’s a, what’s an interesting way that I can keep myself engaged to do it? Cause I, as you also know, you’ve published a bunch of books yourself, which are really great by the way. I loved, I loved the, uh, the, that, what was the title again? Uh, e-commerce. Gladiator. It was fantastic, man.

[00:47:58] That was really well done. And so, so, but you know how challenging it can be when you’re doing other stuff to get yourself. Like motivated to actually get in there so that that’s, that’s where my go fund me came forward. I was like, well, you know, one, I hadn’t really done a crowdsourcing campaign myself before, so I was like, well, let me learn how to do it.

[00:48:20] I said to, I have this project, I really want to get it done. I want to put it out there to share with people. How do I, how do I get myself motivated and how do I set goals for myself and make myself do it? And this was a great way to approach that. And then three, how do I, you know, if I can get people excited, if I can find out some legs that, who wants to support me, if there’s something they can share or something to go on, you know, I’m not asking for a lot of donations.

[00:48:48] I, I, I’m just, I’m just asking for. If people like it, and this was something there, you know, if you contribute back in also people who’ve got stories, I want to invite them to kind of come in and share them as well, and, and just, just see what I can build around that. That whole sort of community aspect of putting a campaign together and seeing what I can drive.

[00:49:08] And that’s what I did. Exciting, man. So, all right. Um, and then we’ll link it up on the show notes. Is there other website. Well, websites are, I mean, others are there. There is, there’s, I mean, I’ve put together a little Wix page to be honest, I haven’t, I bought a domain, uh,

[00:49:29] I think it was the wildwestasia.com. But I haven’t even connected it yet. Why don’t, why don’t we just use the gofundme page for now and then I’ll just keep people informed as I, as I do this. And, um. Yeah. Thanks for, thanks for inviting me on the, on the show. I love it. I do follow all your own, your vlogs and where you go.

[00:49:50] It’s a, it’s fun. I can’t wait till we can get back together again. A couple of months. So probably probably a few more months. We’ll see. ‘m at a, I’m going to be in Honolulu at East meets West at the conference. I’m on a panel with Casey, Casey. Casey. Casey and I are going to be on a panel together, uh.

[00:50:11] Uh, end of the month. So, so late next week, uh, talking about some similar topics like changes in Asia and cause you saw what happened with Rise and everything this year. So we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re sharing our, we’re sharing our stories with the fallout of economics in Hong Kong and all these issues. So it’s going to be exciting if you haven’t heard of it.

[00:50:29] East meets West 2020, uh, the Hawaii Hawaii’s venture conference. So. Yeah. Well, we’ll have some fun. Yeah, I’m taking some notes to make sure we link in for people to find, but thanks. Thanks so much, Devin again. Cool. Thanks a lot Mike! Enjoy all these guests and all this stuff happening and want to even get more GFAvip.com is our private community been working.

[00:50:55] Actually it’s 2016 and we’ve had it a little bit of a membership, but we’ve, in the new year in 2020 we’ve upgraded a forum. We’ve upgraded the calls, we’re doing different styles, and it’s so far has been people that are really enjoying it. So if you like what we’re doing, you want it to get to know us a little bit more.

[00:51:11] We have private forum with private groups even, we have these little mini mastermind groups where it’s just a few people inside. We do some calls. We have courses. We have private little meetup events happening. If this sounds cool to you, check it out. It’s a paid, paid service and it supports to show GFAvip.com thank you for considering it.

[00:51:36] Thanks, Devin it’s really cool to have that a little. Capture of history from you and I wish you all the best with your book. Of course, if you’re listening and you enjoyed that or you enjoy this, you wanted to support, I dunno if I put 25 or $50 I do that also with some other, some other guests to have their crowdfunding on their every dollar counts.

[00:51:56] I always want to see these books and these projects get me to life. Check it out on the website. We do have websites. So many you like Peter, I was talking to you in the listener and friend of mine and support what we do here with our events and everything and previous guest, Peter Chung, and he was saying he didn’t even know we had a website.

[00:52:16] He doesn’t check the website, just listened to our iTunes show or whatever podcast feed he’s listening to. But we have a huge website Global From asia.com and we spent quite a bit of time making these show notes and links of what we can on that. So. It might show up also in your podcast reader, but we try to link to different things.

[00:52:35] So if you enjoy this episode 293 there’s a link to the show notes there. And I am a, I am a mentally and physically exhausted. If you have to know, and Valentine’s day, well, Chinese people don’t follow follow it, but my Valentine’s day will just be chilling in my one bedroom apartment in Manila, Philippines.

[00:52:56] Maybe do a video call with a wife and kids and. Wave to them again, but I hope you well, that Valentine’s will be over when this show goes online, but I hope you enjoyed that with your loved one or loved ones or other, uh, caring people around you. But, uh, the plan for me as I’m on the fence still, but still sitting tight here in Manila, working hard making deals.

[00:53:23] Making businesses and a wife is, you know, stronger than me. Honestly. She’s like, don’t worry. We’re okay. Do what you gotta do. But, uh, that’s why she’s amazing and I am going to try to get some rest, but I have honestly waking up naturally at 3:30 AM every day. Like it just opened my eyes and it’s like three 30 or 4:00 AM, it’s kind of weird.

[00:53:49] Anyway. Sometimes they go back to sleep. Sometimes. I actually stay up. I’ve worked today, actually, I just, Thursday I woke up at 4:00 AM and I just got out of bed and started working. There is so much work for content. I mean doing content for Global From Asia, Mike’s blog, a little bit of alpha rock stuff, newsletters and other content, air webinars, private.

[00:54:11] You know, it’s just so much stuff. We got a private forum@cfavip.com built out a huge site there. Content content, content, content is truly content machine here. And I do that usually my mornings, you know, get up at 5:30 AM normally with the alarm, but now it’s been 4:00 AM 4:30 once in a while getting old, maybe waking up and just still going to sleep at the same time, I don’t know, seven hours of sleep.

[00:54:35] Anyway. Thank you for listening. Episode 293 over now and we’ve got amazing guests lined up coming out already. Few great ones and I’m really excited to share and if you guys appreciate it, you know you can consider our membership. Consider our events, you know, just send a little thank you message to us or share this with your friends.

[00:54:57] Get the word out about Global From Asia. Thanks again. Talk to you later. To get more info about running an international business, please visit our website@wwwdotglobalfromasia.com that’s www.globalfromasia.com also, be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed. Thanks for tuning in.

Related Posts

Tags: asia, business, career, china, e-commerce, ecommerce, entrepreneur, guide, lifestyle, travel

One Comment on “Wild Wild East Story with Devin Ehrig”

Leave a Reply