Going to China, Language Reactivation, and Other Mischief

Greetings from Kunming, China, land of Pu-erh tea! I’ve been offline for a week and feel fantastic.

Kevin Rose, Glenn McElhose, and I are up to no good and having a blast. The above video is the first of several to chronicle our experience exploring the incredible world of tea in China, so be prepared for footage no foreigners have seen before. Not into tea? Don’t worry — it’s an inside look at strangers in a strange land, culture shock included.

This volume covers our trip preparation, Pu-erh tea cakes, and basic Mandarin language reactivation. There is a separate Random episode coming that includes more on language and textbook analysis.

This afternoon, we will head to Beijing for a bit of Bladerunner-style fun and exploration of Olympics-inspired modernization. I haven’t spent real time in the capital since 1996, and I expect the changes will be a shock to the system.

Bonus: If you missed it, here is the How to Tim Ferriss Your Love Life video (6 minutes long) — by request — which details how I outsourced all of my dating as an experiment. Have a sense of humor and enjoy how ludicrous (but effective) the methods were.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with over 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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158 Replies to “Going to China, Language Reactivation, and Other Mischief”

  1. Glad to hear you’re all discovering some great teas & telling the rest of us about it. (Can’t seem to play the video but will try again later.)

    I’m spending 2 months in Lijiang learning Mandarin & working on illustrations; there are Pu-erh tea shops everywhere. Some feature local teas from herbs & flowers if you get tired of Pu-erh. There are maps about the “tea & horse caravan road”, and apparently Lijiang was an important center of trade between India, SW and eastern China. Tea was an easy-to-carry commodity, and while not as valuable per gram as, say, opium, it’s long been a good business catering to connoisseurs. You can still see Tibetan influences in local temples, and the unique Naxi architecture and people make this a pleasant place to be – especially outside the theme-part atmosphere of the central Old Town.

    Enjoy your time in Beijing, looking forward to reading more about it & your journeys there.

  2. EAS protein? My experience has not be good with that brand (taste, quality).

    I look forward to the updates and the info about language learning!

  3. This is a wonderful time to go to Yunnan. The weather in the summer is absolutely lovely.

    “I haven’t spent real time in the capital since 1996, and I expect the changes will be a shock to the system.” Haha, if you’d been since 2006 I’d expect that changes to shock you — you’ll be lucky if you recognize anything other than Mao’s ugly mug. My wife and I spent a weekend visiting friends in Beijing a few months ago, having not been since before the Olympics, and we were shocked.


  4. I’m so envious! I just finished reading Vagabonding (after seeing your recommendation thereof in your book version of Random) and immediately picked up the some books recommended by the author. The one I’m reading now is all about China. I’m so jealous!!! 🙂

    I hope you guys have a great time. Look forward to more chronicles of your trip.

  5. Yunnan is great!

    Traveled there back in 2004, if you have the opportunity you should visit Lugu Hu (Lugu lake), beautiful area. People living there are interesting too, small ethnic minority group that is one of the only known remaining practising Matriarchal societies 🙂 haha You can ask your guide about it.

  6. Watching that video, I kind of felt a weird mixture of jealousy and admiration for you guys, mixed in with a little “they’re nuts”!

    Have a great trip!

  7. Looking forward to seeing the videos you produce in China. Pimsleur and Michel Thomas are excellent recommendations. They were very influential in the development of my learning Chinese podcast. Didn’t you also spend some time in Taiwan?

  8. I’ve just begun my Japanese tea research here in Fussa. It’ll be fascinating to see the differences and similarities between your finds and mine. Good luck and have fun!

    Also, thanks for the Takeshita-Dori recommendation, I was surprised you didn’t mention how wonderful Yoyogi Park was.

  9. Oh, I forgot one thing. I am a practitoner of martial art, specifically Yong Chun. If you want to meet some masters of Yong Chun Kong Fu in Beijing, I’d like to help. All the best.

  10. Tim, welcome to China. I am fan of you. I am an enterpreneur myself in Beijing, the city that you are perhaps visiting today. I wonder if there are any chances of meeting you here. for a drink or something. If there are , then please call me. My cell number is 133 1121 9646. Cheer. Take care. By the way, I am practitioner of Marticial Art, specifically the Yong Chun Kong FU. If you are interested in meeting some masters here, I would love to faciliate.

  11. I look forward to seeing the Random vid on language. Also, it would be great to hear your thoughts on traveling/living in China vs. Taiwan.

    While I have a soft spot for China, I have come to realize that Taiwan is a far better choice for those wishing to learn Mandarin and martial arts. Though there have been superficial steps to restore what was lost, the cultural revolution did a pretty thorough job of destroying the cultural heritage that attracts foreigners to the Middle Kingdom. Fortunately, these jewels live on in Taiwan.

  12. You’ve got some good Mandarin! The trip should be great.

    I did the old boxers and underwear trick while backpacking through Europe.

    And I guarantee you’ll get diarrhea.

  13. Hey Tim, I would love to hear some solid recommendations on learning Japanese. I know it’s one of your more fluent languages. I’ve visited the place already once this year and loved it. I’m planning to move there next year as part of my one-year-per country plan and would definitely appreciate any advice you can offer.

  14. Hey Tim,

    Loving how your practicing what your preaching and doing something with a focus (exploring the incredible world of tea in China) on your trip. I’m currently on a mini-retirement and writing from the South of France and have been inspired to do the same.

    Have a blast!


  15. Have a good trip, the interior of China is one of my destinations for a mini-retirement;)

    I hope one day find you in a trip around the world. 🙂

    Have fun 🙂

  16. Knew you guys would be having a blast, great to hear it. I’m taking a mini-retirement in Shandong province at the moment – 3 months of learning kung fu and Chinese kickboxing with Shaolin masters. China’s great too, a real antidote to British living.

    Looking forward to the updates. Enjoy the rest of the adventure.



  17. Sounds like a cool project. Never been to China, but ny friends who have go on about the cultural differences. Turns out Chinese food in the U.S. has little resemblance to the real thing. Sometimes with shocking results!

    One question. Will you be using local water for making teas, or did you bring your own? Even my limited experience in Europe was a testament to our regional sensitivity to the water supply!

  18. TF, you should upload your personal library to LibraryThing or some similar site. It would definitely be interesting to a lot of people I bet. You could blog about it and do some comments on your favorites.

  19. Hey Tim!

    Looks like you’re having a lot of fun in china! Hope your arm isn’t too bad. It looks like you broke it. 🙁

    There is a lot of history in china, hope you get to indulge in some of that too!

  20. I look forward to the bonus footage on language. My entire family has just jumped into our first Rosetta Stone attempt: Latin American Spanish. So far so good–seems pretty effective with my 13-year-old son. I think two years from now we’re going to try putting it into full use and trying to live overseas for the whole summer, perhaps teaching English as a way to pay some bills while we’re there. I’ve regretted putting off language acquisition until I’m 43, so I look forward to any suggestions and shortcuts that you can offer!

  21. Hey Tim,

    This is probably your best video yet. I’m sure you know why…it’s entertaining and there is a fun twist to it rather than just staring at one person. Good job keeping “watchers” (assuming reading words makes us “readers”) interested. From a marketing standpoint a video like that could be very powerful.

    In other news…I found out about a weekend ago that I cannot outsource my degree. Turns out online outsourcing companies have policies regarding the “This is in violation of the integrity of another company” and shutdown my ‘job’ offers. I think next time I’ll get a private team to work on a project of the sort.


  22. Hi Tim –

    You might want to take along some hydrochloric acid tablets. They are like bleach for the stomach! And they work!

    Protein cannot be digested without sufficient hydrochloric acid. This acid is responsible for nearly sterilizing food in the stomach, so insufficient secretion can result in bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Finally, hydrochloric acid promotes a friendly pH for the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the small and large intestine

  23. Awesome trip Tim. Being offline is an added bonus I find.

    Just like cutting out TV and newspaper, it’s absolutely necessary sometimes. Your mandarin makes me jealous.

    Gotta carve out time to learn another language like Spanish!

  24. Your video and upcoming trip inspires me to get back out there on the global travel circuit. You have a terrific journey planned.

    Sending you warm wishes, Tim, for lots of elbow healing (bad staph!) Looking forward to video from you all on your trip.

  25. I am sure you’ll have a fantastic experience!

    If you are interested to do a driving holiday to see more of the Chinese Outback, you might want to check out http://www.ontheroadinchina.com

    Have a blast and I think your Chinese will improve tremendously after the trip, although its pretty good from hearing you speak in the video above.

  26. Tim, I envy you.

    My Dad was born in China, his parents migrated there from Russia. I’ve always wanted to go visit. Are you going to start you’re own line of Chinese Teas? Tim’s Teas 🙂 I’ll buy the first box!

    GMC Jr.

  27. I just graduated high school and I lived in Shanghai the past two years because of my dad’s job.

    A week ago me and my friends went back packing all over China and it was a wonderful experience. We went to Beijing as well as Xi’an to see the warriors. The great wall is absolutely amazing.

    I wish my Chinese skills were as good as Tim’s as we ran into a bit of trouble in Beijing as we were robbed in an alley. Although we only lost 20 dollars so it wasn’t too big of a deal. To be honest I wasn’t that fond of Beijing as I found the people to be generally rude.. compared to Shanghai at least. Although my judgement is based after the robbery so I can’t say my statement is completely accurate. If you have the time I definitely advise stopping by in Shanghai 🙂

    It will be interesting to see how the your guys’ adventures turn out. I hope your elbow heals quickly Tim! Try not to put on too much weight 🙂

  28. Dude! I don’t know how much you’ve looked into it but the BEST way to keep your Chinese fresh (and memorize it in the first place) is, in my opinion, Supermemo ( http://supermemo.com/ ).

    It’s flashcard management software that usies spaced repetition based on grades you give yourself while going through the deck.

    So cards you know well get spaced further away (like once every month or year even), while cards you have trouble with stay closer to the front (like every few days).

    I made a video explaining it back in the day:


    The only thing that sucks is that the version I was using wasn’t really designed to handle Chinese langauge, so the characters looked a little chunky. Other than that it’s AWESOME!

    There are some other programs that utilize the spaced repetition as well, but I don’t have any experience with those.

    Anki is one:


    For Chinese language tools, I would also recommend the Pleco dictionary:


    The dictionary is AWESOME and it has built in flashcard management software, but I still liked using Supermemo better.

    Quite honestly I think the ultimate Chinese learning/language tool would be a PDA with Pleco and Supermemo installed (that’s how I used to role. 🙂 )

    I checked out the Pimsleur for Mandarin, but the level is too easy once you start getting to higher levels (I went straight to level 3 and it was too easy).

    Also, all you have to do is add ARRR to the end of everything and now you’ve got the Beijing accent MASTERED! 😉 lol

    1. Miltownkid,

      Great suggestions! Supermemo is a great program, albeit a bit clunky from a UI standpoint. The logic is sound.

      Dai hoer jian! Never did get good at pinyin after GR 🙂


  29. Don’t know if it’s the ones he made personally, but Borders in the UK is currently putting Michel Thomas method cds on sale at 75% off (£17.50 rather than £70). Might be worth putting the word out for anyone who’s looking for them.

  30. More adventure than vacation – I love it! – Although that’s kind of far to go for tea guys – you’d be surprised what they’re keeping at Starbucks these days –

    Loved the video too – can’t wait for part 2 –

  31. Been in China since early May..just got back from a tea museum down in Xiamen and saw this post. It is indeed a small world. Unfortunately bandwidth strangling means I’ll get to enjoy your video in a decent amount of time, but I look forward to hearing your thoughts on a return to China and any personal experience with Mandarin. I’m still a pretty basic student, been doing business out here off and on since mid-2005, finally decided last year that I had to get serious about the language or there wasn’t a chance of fluency on the horizon. Wonder what your thoughts are along those lines.

    But cheers to good times and good tea in the Middle Kingdom. If you all happen to pop by Xiamen or Fuzhou there’s someone ready to give you a proper tour (and share some good drink…picked up some loose leaf black tea that apparently only comes from this region..not fluent enough to translate the packaging)

  32. Sounds like a great trip. I’ve only been to Hong Kong before, but would love to explore the rest of mainland China someday…probably not on a tea mission though.

    Another place to consider for future vagabonding the Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang in the Himalayas. It has remained unchanged for 1000 years and has just recently opened up to foreigners. Friends of mine (www.whichwayto.tv) recently hiked to the captital of Lo Monthang and had an interview with the king in his palace – first time a tv crew ever interviewed him in his palace. It is going to be a stupendous documentary!

    Best of luck with your arm. Have fun guys.


    PS- Out of curiousity, why bother to learn a difficult language like Mandarin when you would most likely get little practical use of it throughout your lifetime? Do you do it just for fun because you love language learning?

    1. Hi Craig,

      Nice tip! I studied Mandarin because it was a hop and skip from Japanese, or at least I thought. The writing system similarities made the jump easier for me than most.

      Be well,


  33. Hey Tim,

    Have you read Investment Biker? Jim rides a motorcycle acrooss China while investing simultaneously…

    How do you say “Four Hour Bbq Duck Week” in Mandarin?

  34. Tim

    Looking forward to your upcoming video’s. As usual you blog has a surprise for it readers. Take care of your elbow. The best you and the guys.

    Leonard Irwin

  35. More people on here need to know about Pimsleur. It is one of the most effective organic methods to kick-start your knowledge of a language. I wouldn’t even bother with Rosetta Stone because Pimsleur works so well.

  36. Tim,

    Nice to hear you are coming to Beijing. I’m a foreigner staying in the capital for the past 6 years. Previously I enrolled with a Ba Gua Zhang true master and we train on weekends in the Ri Tan Park. He has lived/ trained in WuDang Mountains (home of BaGua, TaiChi) and has learned the true form of the art. If you are interested, we can make arrangements to pay a visit with him, make a connection and maybe he’ll allow you to film some of his arts. He is also famous for Chinese Herb Medicine.

    Please Call me – (86) 139 117 57213




  37. SO GLAD you’re taking an e-break!

    I just spend a 10-day vacation with family and only blogged once. It felt so good!

    I love reading and writing blogs, but think the e-break is much needed and well deserved every once in a while.

    Have fun!!!

  38. Tim,

    I’ve been in taiwan learning mandarin for 9 months now. (partly inspired by your book!)

    Are you learning to read / write characters or just pinyin?

    ??! ????! (literally: Gas up,! one road steady wing, / Go get em! May the wind be at your back!)

  39. This reminded me, would love a post on preparing for and managing jet-lag (or travel-lag in general) – or even a post on getting good sleep at large. Have fun & travel safe!

  40. I was just in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong a month ago. I had a wonderful experience at a tea ceremony, very awesome.

    Maybe you’ll get around to the Ming Tombs and Great Wall?

    Live it up & have a blast!

  41. Trip to China. OMG, I’m really hoping my blogging work will kick off fine so I could have extra money for my real passion…enjoyable travel and room service. I’m pretty sure Tim’s gonna have a ‘posts surge’ during and after this trip. This thing just ups your creativity. Well, that’s what it does to me.

  42. @ Craig Tobin

    “Why bother to learn a difficult language like Mandarin when you would most likely get little practical use of it throughout your lifetime?”

    Learning languages, including Mandarin, needn’t be difficult if done properly. All you need is time, lots of listening and reading input, a good spaced repetition system, and a child-like willingness to experiment and make mistakes. It does NOT require endless hours in a classroom, memorizing grammar rules and vocab lists, and doing annoying exercises and drills. Language is a physical skill, not an academic subject.

    And speaking Mandarin, especially now, is EXTREMELY practical. Although there are nearly a billion students of English in China, their language education methods are extremely ineffective (it is based on the elements I listed above). Few emerge from years of study able to communicate in the language, so speaking (and reading/writing) their language gives you a huge advantage in today’s global village. And it makes traveling or living there all the better!

  43. Tim, I just got back from China!

    I took a boat up the Mekong from Thailand to Jinghong, and took a sleeper bus to Kunming. I wasn’t able to spend as much time in Kunming as I would have liked to, and unfortunately didn’t get to do the tea thing. However, I was able to spend a few hours with a young tea shop owner from Yunnan while in Shanghai. He was my Pu’er hook-up.

    After Kunming I headed to Nanjing, then to Shanghai. While in Shanghai I accompanied a friend to the Westgate Mall on Nanjinglu where a branch US embassy office is located. I walked past your Doppelganger, who was sitting on a bench and eating a snack. It was a double-take moment for sure.

  44. Hi to all,

    some sugestions

    1. la du zi if you get it (or better when..) the best solution is crechers and coke (i am not a fan). I have no idea why it works but it does.

    2. chinese reactivation- i just simply listen to chinese while doing other things and do not bother to be active. At least thi si what works for me. I also do the movies in the same way.

    Have fun in china.

  45. hey tim,

    my perspectives changed after reading your book 4HWW. i am actively exploring ways of generating income.

    what;s your view about referral marketing?

  46. Hey Tim. Enjoy ur book and blogs.

    Some of those staff infections can be very nasty. Many are resistant to antibiotics. The CDC in Atlanta gets thousands of strains per yr that no antibiotic can touch. While antibiotics kill a range of bacteria, it also compromises the effectiveness of ur own immune system- one Immunologist I studied estimates it at 80%. If the pathogen is not in the killing range of the antibiotic- it could make for a bad outcome on ur infection resolving quickly. It would be wise to ad some natural medicine to kill bacteria and to enhance ur immune system.

    Raw garlic or freeze dried capsules of garlic that preserve the allicin chemical at about 8-12/day would be appropriate. In a petri dish it kills most bacteria and antibiotic resistant ones too. Pfizer was trying to make the chemicals in garlic a prescription drug.. Oregano oil is another good herb to straight kill stuff. Some herbs for immune enhancing and lymphatic drainage would be a good idea- Echinacea, Yerba Mansa, Red clover..

    For fast healing of a wound (as with an infection), you really would want to enhance anti-inflammatory chemistry. Different research show that injuries/ wounds can heal about 50% faster than normal. Curcumin, bromelain, grape seed, green tea, and fish oil would be some of the top things to use.

    Your right on wanting to use probiotics. Some of the antibiotic research done using stool analysis shows that you need at least 16 billion/day of lactic acid producing probiotics, so you don`t end up abnormal bacteria and candida growth in the intestines. That would majorly compromise ur immune system amoung other things.

    I had a great time in China back in 2003. I went with a group of chiropractic physicians to ZiGong in the Sichuan province. We were educating and instructing the hospitals and healthcare officials on how to incorporate chiropractic into there healthcare system. Their approach at the hospitals is far superior to what we have in the U.S. in my opinion. They don`t have to practice defensive “anti-lawsuit” medicine, the doctors were focused on restoring people to health as quick as possible vs. treating symptoms/ diagnosed disease, and they made great use of natural medicine at the hospital.

    Have a great time out there. Wish I was going! Stay out of those karaoke bars!

  47. hi tim!

    i’ve just been accepted onto a chinese summer school and all the info people are sending you about language and places to go has been really useful for me, thanks!

    iv’e just graduated so have bought a one way ticket, and am about to start my first mini-retirement, at the grand old age of 22….hope you have a lovely time, and if you’re still around at the start of september, give me a shout!

  48. Wow, that sounds awesome. I was in Hong Kong about a year ago and had no trouble with “foreigners’ stomach”.

    Bummer about the elbow. Hope it heals up quickly 🙂

  49. Mr. Ferris,

    I have developed perhaps the most amazing sports supplement today. I thought you might be interested in it. It came out of my research resolving serious medical conditions naturally.

    Enjoy your trip

    Dr. Spencer

  50. Good luck on your trip! With respect to the differences in spoken Chinese between areas in and around Beijing vs. southern China/Taiwan, I don’t think you’ll have too much difficulty. Speakers near Beijing tend to curl their tongue more but the words themselves are the same, so once you adjust you should be fine. They will be able to understand you without a problem, even without the tongue curl.

    Have a blast, I heard from a friend of mine who visited Beijing last month that it’s remarkably different post-Olympics. Much more modern and will remind you more of Shanghai than 1996 Beijing.

  51. Re: Languages…

    I’m surprised on how many people are recommending pimsleur. It’s boring, slow, and in my case, inaccurate. After going through 2 lessons of Pimsleur Korean, I had my wife listen (who is a native speaker). She cracked up laughing out loud and said nobody talks like that. She said it was somewhat the equivalent of speaking Shakespearean in English. She also said politeness levels were off in some of the conversations, which could make the listener feel uncomfortable. I cannot vouche for any of the other languages… so maybe the mandarin and japanese pimsleur courses are much better. If possible, have a native speaker listen to a sample lesson to verify the authenticity before you invest time and money into pimsleur.

    Here are some of my tactics in learning a language:

    1. I carry around flashcards around in my wallet (I’m cheap bastard, so I used sticky notes that I have folded in half… korean on one side, english on the other). It’s important to carry them around in your wallet or purse because you can look at them anywhere at any time. On a side note, it makes great bathroom reading material. I make these cards weekly and when I’m done with them I put them in an accomplished box. I review the box about once every two months or so.

    2. Podcasts. I personally use http://www.koreanclass101.com. After listening a lesson a few times, I usually make my patented sticky note flash cards from some of the dialog.

    3. Music. Children’s songs are a great start, and then move on the music you enjoy.

    4. Movies with subtitles. Already mentioned so I won’t go into this.

    5. University Courses. If you dig around most of these courses and lesson notes are free somewhere online… For me, I found Sogang University course material for free 🙂 …. http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/korean/index.html

    6. http://lang-8.com/ — it’s basically a language exchange where you can review journals and have your journal corrected by a native speaker. I don’t use this a lot because of the next tactic….

    7. Marry a native speaker. Yes, it’s extreme, but it gives you much more motivation. I actually didn’t plan on learning Korean, but after I got married, I wanted to be able to communicate with her parents. It’s great because they want to learn English, so we have conversations on the web cam a couple times a week. My wife is always busy, so I normally have to learn on my own, but it’s nice to have someone verify what you are saying when you decide to bust out some korean convo. I just wish she would teach me the swear words, dammit!

    Anyways, I wish everyone good luck. ???!!!!

  52. Hi Tim,

    I admire you and your ability to grasp languages so quickly. You mentioned the vis-ed study cards. I was wondering if you have used their “Conversation Cards” or “Think Sets” for studying languages, and if so, did you find them to be effective? Would you recommend them?

    Thanks – have fun, be safe!

  53. Here is Kevin Huang from Beijing. I am now a college student in Beijing. If you are still in beijing now, please call me at 15810610269. I could be your tour guy if you want. But if you have already left, then show what you have visited in Beijing so that I can point out what you missed that you shouldn’t have.

    You mentioned that you might be shocked by the changes. Truth be told, even Beijingers are shocked by what BJ has achieved in the past 13 years. I truly believe you will like it here, and it might be a place of potential if you wanna do some business in China.

    Have a nice tour in China. Take photos, leave your footprints here. This is a land you will miss.

  54. Hope you all have a great time, Tim. In 2005 I spent a few weeks in China, mainly in Beijing and Shanghai. Fantastic place to visit.

    If you’re heading to the Great Wall, I recommend avoiding the closest part to the city (an hour and a half away). Venture an hour further afield and you’ll practically have the wall to yourself, it won’t be artificially renovated, and you can shoot some video without masses of tourists in the way.

  55. Nice video.

    Liked all the tips about supplements/medications to take.

    Also good recommendation on Michel Thomas – I find it the easiest to use for beginning language acquisition. Lonely planet phrase guides are also good for the basics and very portable.

    I’m in Japan now on a sake tasting mission. Amazing how many types there and the profound differences.

  56. Hi..guys looks like you could use a doctor…im an ER doctor trained in Emergency and Trauma Surgery and i LOVE to travel and i LOVE adventure. Do you need a personal doctor for free to be your travel companion?

  57. Hi Tim,

    First of all, I apologize for the off topic inquiry. I looked through your list of topics and thought that I would find a relevant thread in “mental performance” but didn’t find anything specific.

    If a question isn’t relevant to any specific post where should I post it next time?

    As for my actual question, I tried implementing your speed reading techniques but found the technique of focusing on only two words at a time difficult to maintain. I find my eyes wandering slightly as the words toward the middle become blurred out/outside my vision. I compare it to the effect received when focusing in on something with a camera and the background or surroundings become blurred out. Is there any way around this? Should I just focus on not moving my eyes at all beyond the two focus words and everything will fall into place as my mind gets used to this new form of reading?

    I can see 3 words left of the first focus word and one word right of it, but there are usually 2 or 3 words between the first focal point and the second focal point (3 words from the right side in) that just fall out of my vision.

    I am VERY slow at reading academic material despite my large vocabulary because I have a serious issue with regression and lack of any comprehension/feeling like what I read goes out as I’m reading it. So I’m hoping these techniques will help speed up my reading. So far your method of using a pen to trace my path of reading has eliminated regression and increased my reading speed by a lot but my comprehension is zero at the moment. I currently read a pathetic 1 page every 4 (FOUR) MINUTES, but with the use of pen tracing I’m up to a page a minute though without any comprehension whatsoever, yet. lol. I’m guessing as my mind adjusts to the increased speed of reading and low regression comprehension will start to kick in on its own.


  58. 1 Recommendation and 1 question. First the Recommendation: If you are filming a lot on location, you might want to consider a distinct audio field recorder and one of these binaural microphones if you are in situations where you aren’t necessarily filming people talking but rather atmospheres. They can also come in handy if you need to be a little more discreet (BTW, I have no profit motive in recommending these to you):


    Now my Question: In your estimation, which are the most reputable and “prestigious” Universities in China? Taught in English? I am considering getting a masters degree (likely in something related to Linguistics / Psychology) and I wanted to double task by Immersing myself in China, so that I can come out of it with a mastery of Mandarin or Cantonese. Any suggestions.


  59. Keep up the great work. I love your videos and they are so fun to learn something new from you. How is the elbow keeping?

  60. This sucks. I just got back from beijing last week after studying abroad for 6 months. I would’ve gone to Kunming too for a teaching job had my visa not expired.

    I’m curious- was the program you did at Beijing Normal the precursor to the Princeton in Beijing Summer program? I did that last summer during the Olympics.

    Also, do you consider it worthwhile to learn all those ancient sayings and proverbs that Chinese people have to remember throughout school? My Chinese has reached a level of fluency where that’s all that’s left to learn, but I hate rote memorization (which is all you can do for these), and I’m gonna learn other languages so I figure all those old sayings won’t stay deep in my memory anyway.

    appreciate your thoughts. Have fun.

  61. Re: Languages.

    I agree with Kim ji_chang’s comments that Pimsleur can teach you some strange forms of the language. I have used it for Chinese and while I have it very useful some Chinese friends say that the language it odd. I am using Medlock Method Chinese at the moment. It uses similar principles to both Pimsleur and Michel Thomas but teaches more vocabulary and is faster.

    I have also started experimenting with the Anki flash card program. It’s an open source program that doesn’t cost anything. It works on the Leitner system of flashcard review. Meaning that the cards are divided into “decks” depending on how difficult you find them. You get spaced review with the more difficult cards coming up more frequently. As you start to remember the vocabulary and phrases the card comes up less frequently. Only been using it a week so far, so I can’t say whether it works or not. Has anyone else used Anki or somethng similar?

    Good luck with your trip and hope the elbow doesn’t give you any trouble.


  62. I spent two week in Yunnan about a year and a half ago traveling by backpack… you guys are in for some amazing experiences… it’ll start with the people and statues of Kunming and although the traffic will thin as you move out, the sights won’t slow for a second.

    As an active guy and a decent athlete myself, if I can give one suggestion: when you inevitably come across a basketball court in some remote village, shoot around with the villagers and watch them light up.

    There is a reason it was the only sport Mao didn’t outlaw during his time… they love the game

    Enjoy guys… I’m looking forward to seeing and reading the highlights

  63. Well, I should probably be certified as an authorized 4-Hour Workweek Coach because I have been recommending the book to most everyone I know and many that I don’t. Two of my friends have already made life altering changes in just the past two weeks. So, thank you Timothy Ferriss for the inspiration.

    I’m definitely not the type of person who needs to be strong armed into change, but the questions that continually plague me throughout the book are, “How do I travel with my dog? Will these places tolerate a bossy Jack Russell?” I’m sure others have accomplished much greater with less thought, so I’ll just have to figure it out.

    Concerning the staph infection, which is pretty serious, the antibiotics deplete the body of Vit K, copper, sodium, Vit B6, B12, zinc, amino acids, calcium, folic acid, magnesium, and potassium. Also, I like to get protein from sea vegetables, which I’m sure will be in great abundance in the Asian countries. I personally would use Chlorella powder in large quantities in a green smoothy. Yum!

    Have a wonderful time!

  64. Dear Tim, quick speed read indicates (I think) that you don’t mention the total eclipse of the sun, Shanghai and around, 22 July. Please don’t miss it!

  65. Hey Tim,

    I can’t get the video to load. It seems it either A) is inaccessible within Beijing, B) my computer is whack or C) the video is temporarily down?

    Is the video still up?

    If you’re still in Beijing by the way, I recommend hitting up the Yaxiu (pronounced Ya Shyew) Markets to try a bit of super low priced shopping and getting first hand practice on your bargaining skills 😉

    I’ve mastered my Chinese Contract negotiation skills through there, and I imagine you might love to get some hands on experience.

    If you’re down, I can take you there, and teach you a few tricks i’ve learned. Email me if u’re interested.

  66. LOOT- something to have on your China checklist. When I was there a few years ago, I was amazed at all the cool stuff you could get. Unfortunately we got trapped by inclimate weather in some small mountain town in a Tibetan area and were only afforded one evening in Shanghai for shopping.

    While in the mountain town (cant remember the name), My friend bought an ancestral Chinese sword from a local. The thing weighed like 20lbs- it was probably used many times to cleave someone`s head clean off. At the border, we got our guide to tell the officials that it was just a cheapy knockoff. (not allowed to transport artifacts)

    In Shanghai, we got a pearl merchant to open up his store late in the evening for us. My friends have been there on numerous occasions, so they new the ropes. They started buying dozens of strands of pearls at a time; large strands, small ones, oddly colored ones. I ended up buying like 50 strands of pearls. In the magazine on the way home- the silver pearl bracelet I bought was selling for $6,000- I bought it for like $55!

    When I got home my wife and kids were breaking into it like pirate loot. They had a great time with it. Here`s my tip- stash some of it away. You will have great gift giving for loved ones for the next decade!

    Good luck

  67. Where are you now? Keeping away from twitter killing you?

    I just spent 5 months in China and heading back on Monday from Mongolia to venture into Tibet then into Yunnan and Sichuan as well. Do the Tiger Leaping Gorge if you have a chance.

    Also, if you want to unique experience and one of the most fantastic train journeys, take the Trans-Siberian from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. A- freakin- mazing ride. I wished it would never end. Best part – Americans don’t need visas for Mongolia.

    Looking forward to future videos and your attempts at Mandarin in rural areas…


    Friendly Planet Blog

  68. So did the fivefingers shoes go to China too? If so, how did they perform? Any interesting reactions that were different from the universal “oh look a crazy foreigner”?

  69. Before I say anything else, I gotta admit, the new look is bad ass. You look like a Jason Statham. Anyway, good luck on the trip! I have a few pals that are studying abroad for their last year of high school over there in Hong Kong and part of me still thinks I was stupid for not jumping at that opportunity.

  70. I’m going to go ahead and be obnoxious today by saying, where are the previews for your sequel to the Four Hour Work Week. You still have the old version on this website. You should have your blogging friends giving out free chapters and building a pre-launch list.

  71. Hey Tim and fellow Hooligans,

    Hope you have a blast on your trip. I personally haven’t been to that side of the planet just yet, even though I have a few old friends living in South Korea.

    Hope you guys have a blast and enjoy the tea,

    1. Hi Nate,

      I actually sold the company in January, but I’ve used the product since before it was commercially marketed. I have three bottles at my home in SF and now use it mostly pre-workout and for reducing effects of sleep deprivation.



  72. Best wishes in China or wherever. Look forward to catching up on your return. Hit me up when you come thru chicago. have some pretty sick updates and jargon to keep the planets orbiting.


  73. Wow, that’s a lot of bacteria in the elbow! Hope it doesn’t slow you down at all in China. Sure it won’t.

    I had a guy from San Francisco stay at my place a month or so back through AirBNB. He’s a young entrepreneur, and said he sees you every now and then at the local coffee shop. I felt that much closer to the world of Tim Ferris. Ha!

    Thanks for rocking out this blog. Keep up all your great work of making life more efficient.

  74. Hi Tim,

    On a different note. Have you been able to follow the TED-conference in Oxford, from China?

    Some promising quotes allready on the site:

    ” I thought it might be helpful to cut five years from retirement and intersperse them in my working years.” – Designer Stefan Sagmeister on taking sabbaticals every seven years.

    best, Cleo

  75. SUBJECT: Solution to finding a girlfriend

    Hi Tim:

    Have you examined your dilemma from a perspective other than engineering? I could help you with this if you like.

    Consider the possibility that women are intelligent enough to know when theyare being treated like lab rats during one of your life “experiments” particularly without having consented to such. How might you feel had you been manipulated into contributing time and life energy toward something only to find out that the other person involved was conducting an experiment – something from which to remain coldly detached and above all intending to refrain from making personal investment?

    In conduction of clinical research, there are ethical protocols for collecting data involving human subjects. Although some of it seems extreme, the these protocols are meant to protect human beings from exploitation.

    My sense of humor is extraordinary; very dry and droll. I’ve raised two boys, both of whom were out of control. Let me assure you, my sense of humor is extraordinarily well-developed and surprisingly intact. If anyone would find your shenanigans amusing, I would. However, it’s not funny to use people.

    With great admiration,


  76. Hey tim, i hope the trip is going well btw i dont know if you seen this yet but Google has a new APP system in place called Google Wave.

    figure i give you a head’s up is this system time waster or a time saver i dont know yet

  77. [Please be nice, always boss. Now, on to the question…]


    In some ways I’ve heard Mandarin is easier to learn than Japanese.

    Your thoughts Tim??

    I’m using Pinyin and I have a feeling the reason you used GR had to do with Princeton??

    1. Chinese grammar is infinitely easier than Japanese, but Japanese pronunciation is much easier (similar phonemes to Spanish), as is the writing. I’d pick whichever you’re most passionate about. If you have friends who are native in one, I’d probably go with that.

      Jia you!


  78. Hey Tim,

    Hope there are too many problems with accessing social networking sites. We’ve had youtube blocked for a long time now here in Shanghai.

    I’m ecstatic to see more exposure on China, especially with some focus on tea. Pu-erh has gained a lot of media coverage, but there are many other great teas to check out – probably cheaper as well. I’m a big fan on Qimen Red (Hong??tea, which is produced near Anhui province. If you have time for a detour, I recommend checking it out. The tea villages in Hangzhou are also pretty cool. Longjing green tea is the #1 produced tea in China. Also recommended.

    I’m sure your guide will take you to some cool spots. I’ll be checking back to gain some insight into where I might want to go.

    I’ve stationed myself in Shanghai now for what has become a quick 2 years almost. I hope the videos and posts will encourage more people to explore the beauty China has to offer.

    Have an enjoyable trip and remember, ???? (ru xiang sui su) = when in rome, do as the romans do ( the equivalent translation of course).

    Re: Roger Ost – If you only want to learn spoken mandarin fast, go to a city in the northeast of China (Harbin is a good place). The mandarin is standard, without local dialects. Fastest way I learned was by going outside and talking to people; I even ask them questions that I already knew the answer to so that I could listen to the way they say it.


  79. Hi Tim,

    it’s my 18-month goal to learn Mandarin from a friend and the methods you suggested, and then to take an immersion course my school offers in Shanghai. I’m also looking forward to taking a tea vacation of my own, so I look forward to watching you’re updates. I always enjoy your blogs. stay well.

  80. Tim.

    If you get a chance, try to go hiking/trekking through Tiger Leaping Gorge while you are in Yunnan. You can get buses from Kunming to the gorge that will take a few hours and can usually stop overnight in Lijiang or Dali.

    The gorge itself is definitely an adventure worth having. Allow yourself about 4 days to walk the return trip from the mouth of the gorge where the bus will usually drop you off at a mini market (be warned this is not a souvenir market – heh but there are lots of delicacies to try) with lots of local tourists. The locals only stay at the markets though and don’t usually venture further onto the trekking routes in the gorge. Take the low path in and take the high path out. You can find guides I think in Kunming or Dali/Lijiang if you want (or just get the map of the gorge when you get there).

    Oh also, when you get to the end of the gorge (theres about three teahouses there in close proximity), you will have the option to descend into the gorge to the river. Descent is by foot and from memory takes about an hour or two. My advice is to come back up by the route you took down. We decided to take the “alternate” route up – which was well marked at first but became easy to lose the track and we nearly fell off a cliff as the ledge of dirt started crumbling under us. heh. The descent route is safe though. Ahhh memories 😉

    Supplies-wise you should be ok. There are several teahouses along the trekking route (perhaps about every 10-15kms) so accomodation should be realtively sorted (you just pay when you get to the teahouse as there is plenty of room). They also have a cooks who can provide simple traditional food and each place I stopped at had their own spin on “firewater” (the local wines made from ingredients grown nearby)

    Anyway, I hope you really enjoy your trip. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer. Just email me.

    Just finished reading your book too (in Sydney). Great work dude!

  81. Oh also, if you do stop in Lijiang and Dali there are heaps of things to do, but make sure you climb the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. There is a little tourist bus that will take you there with the locals. Don’t buy any horse rides etc from the lady in the bus. You can pay the mountain villagers to give you a guide +/- horses. They don’t speak any english so it’s an opportunity to practice your mandarin. The horses are optional. I walked. My fiancee rode a horse. Leave early in the day so you can ascend beyond the start of the snowline (which takes a few hours to reach on horse or foot) and hopefully make the summit. I recommend going on foot. Anyway that’s my $0.02 🙂

  82. From Yorkshire, the best county in England!

    Tim ~ working through your book at the mo. May I advise a trip to South Korea, quite a different kettle of fish to China, is the most wired in the world and has some great mountains! If you do please drop by a fantastic little bar/cafe called Cafe Nicolia http://www.cafenicolia.com ~ very hospitable friends. Regards.

  83. I’m looking forward to hearing how your trip goes- I’m going to be taking a “mini retirement” in Dalian, China in the northeast soon, only it will be six months at the minimum. I’m hoping to receive some great advice for living/traveling in the country from your trip so don’t let me down Tim! Also, if you need a place to stay and I’m up there for January 2010-June or so, know you’ll have a free place to chill if needed.

  84. Hi Tim,

    For some reason the hotspot tool you mentioned earlier it not working out.

    Here in Guangzhou still no facebook and youtube.

    I’m to desperate I guess.

    @ roger, my experience: learn words, and practice with as many Chinese people you can find. Do not, I repeat, do not try to be perfect.

    Have a lot of patience, speaking Chinese is an experience.

    have fun!,


  85. For getting around the Great China Firewall, forget about proxy servers, they get blocked all the time. Try a VPN. UltraSurf works well and it’s free, and for 50 USD per year Witopia can’t be beat. Just Google these names for the websites. Note that if you are already IN china you cannot access these home pages.

    As for learning Chinese, most serious students who live here recommend ChinesePod which is based out of Shanghai. Their newbie lessons are free. Very good lessons that use real-life, everyday phrases and expressions. And they cover real-life topics that you’d normally run into living here in China.


  86. Tim-o

    I have a friend in Perth, Western Australia who teaches you how to speak Mandarin without a pen and paper…! and he gets you speaking basic mandarin sentences within half an hour.

    He was inspired by a teaching trip to China, and upon his return quit his job as an engineer to start teaching ppl Mandarin and consequently has built a business out of it; last i heard he lectures at business universities.

    I highly recommend his services if ur in need: alexfoo1@yahoo.com.au


    P 🙂

  87. Hi Tim,

    I am Mandarin teacher and running a Chinese language center in Guangzhou. I am very interested about your language study methods. Can you come to Guangzhou?


  88. I can’t stand Pimsleur. Michel Thomas is okay, but I can do without it. I prefer to get a basic course (teach yourself, colloquial) finish that and then move straight to native materials…

  89. Hey Tim!

    Just want to say that I LOVE the background image in Glenn McElhose footage, the poster for ‘FREE Laura Ling and Euna Lee’. I am so glad they were returned safe!!!! Thanks for showing your support! Can’t wait to see your next video!

    (you guys are a great trio!)

  90. I have recently read your book, and it hit me like a brick. Really opened by eyes on living my life NOW instead of waiting until I am older. I am 34 years old, and been self employed for the majority of my duration.

    I have recenlty transitition into info product creation, and on a whim (without even thinking about it) booked a trip a hawaii in April 2010, and then decided that was too long to wait so I booked on Jamicia during Thanksgiving.

    I am going to live life on my terms from now on!

  91. I your elbow healed well by now.

    I have never seen Bladerunner but I know it’s supposed to be futuristic. If you need help remembering your Chinese, you could also use r osetta stone. Might be too late for that though. But for future reference, it’s a good idea.

  92. Well, this is a very late comment, but I saw the word “puehrh” and you got me. I LOVE puerh, but I’ve never been to China. I just order the mini bricks from puerhshop.com and brew them in my cup using a teaball strainer. I’m sure that’s not the proper way! Bottoms up.

  93. Tim,

    Not sure if you’ve covered this elsewhere; is Hakka necessary to familiarize yourself with in Hong Kong or will Mandarin get the job done? Also, any recommendations on learning characters? I’m kicking off a mini retirement by traveling from Hong Kong to Shanghai and I want to be prepared.

    You’re a true inspiration Tim. Can’t wait for the new book!


  94. Hi Scojo,

    Cantonese is spoken in Hong Kong, not Hakka. You can get by in HK with English and Mandarin, as most people speak a bit of both.

    I’d therefore suggest that you learn some Mandarin as you are going to Shanghai after. Have look around my website (medlockchinese) if you are looking for free Mandarin lessons.

    (Sorry if that sounds a bit spammy)


  95. To learn Mandarin grammar and vocab rapidly, I used the free podcast by Serge Melnyk available via iTunes.

    Try it out. I think you’ll like it.

  96. Was that a copy of Nelson I saw on your bookshelf?

    One of the best dictionaries ever printed. And you have the red version.

    Kudos to you, sir. Kudos.


    Tokyo, Japan

  97. When I saw your note “Blade runner-style fun”, was like “wow”. Not many people get my Blade Runner reference when I talk about the feeling in big Asian cities.

  98. Tim,

    I never thought that I’d be this much influenced by you until I’m writing this.

    With all the natural beauties and San Francisco-like weather, Kunming is an easy place to fall in love with. So much so that I’m starting a study abroad service company to help foreigners locate to Kunming to study Chinese. Fingers crossed!

    On Mandarin reactivation, I was inspired by your 80/20 principle and started an e-Chinese learning platform.

    If you have any down time, I’d love to speak to you and get your thoughts on what I’m doing.



  99. Tim, your Chinese pronunciation is really good! Also a good method that helped me a lot to learn this language is pattern drills. It means instead of learning single words you learn complete sentences. Chinese expressions can have many different meanings, so learning them in context helps you memorize them faster, and you can immediately start using these sentences for communication with other people.