As featured in Vapelyfe Magazine
Well, China is a beast! This was the first time that the VapeFindr team has headed out east to explore the atmosphere in the land considered the home of the ecig. The reason for our trip – the infamous IECIE event in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. For those that don’t know, Shenzhen is an industry town in south western China and is responsible for the majority of the vape hardware you see in vape shops across the world. For this reason we knew we would be seeing some amazing products over the course of the weekend that wouldn’t just be cutting edge, but might in fact be the next trends we haven’t seen yet in Europe and the West!
Our trip would depart from sunny Birmingham and take us on a 7 hour flight to Dubai, and then another 7 hour journey to Hong Kong. Backs stiff, and heads spinning between time zones, we wiped the broken sleep from our eyes and prepared ourselves for the hustle and bustle for our positioning at the imminently approaching border patrol upon touching down in Hong Kong. Needless to say we had no idea what we were in for!
Shenzhen is about an hours drive from Hong Kong airport, with border patrol and customs officers at the airport, at the border crossing in the taxi, and again on the other side of the border in China, there were so many security checks, and bag scans that I lost count. As you can imagine this would take a toll on an average passenger, but when you’re trying to travel with a laptop, 2 cameras, 2 mech mods, one regulated mod, 3 different pod systems, juice, and 14 batteries for the weekend it can get a bit tricky. Id like to think we got into a rhythm of unpacking our laptops and doing the “old swithceroo” to spread our mode and batteries into multiple trays at the bag scan checks. In reality, with the mentally draining trip clouding our decision making we just hoped for the best. To our relief we managed to get through into China with all of the vape gear we’d brought with no confiscated items and breathed a big breathe of questionably fresh, more likely musty humid air of China!
Like the true travel warriors that we are, we decided to skip checking in at the hotel for now and head straight to the expo. We were dropped off at the back of the exhibition Center with our suitcases (practically on the side of a main road) after a taxi ride from what I can only assume was the Chinese Lewis Hamilton and headed into the event. It took some time to find out where exactly we were going as there was a lot of broken English instructions and a lot of halls at the massive expo Center. Sure enough though, after following our noses, and vape company logos on tshirt we managed to make our way into what we thought was the Hall. Let me take this time to point out that this show was off the charts monstrous. We were told there were four halls to this event and the rumours didn’t even do it justice. There was what I’d call a ‘VapeJam sized’ Hall 9 along with 3 other slightly smaller but jam packed adjoining halls 6,7 and 8.
Now it’s always fun to travel abroad to these vape expos but one of the absolute best parts about doing these events is being half way across the world attending to your business and seeing a friendly face. Within fifteen minutes of arriving and searching for an Limey/Yankee connection for guidance, we had already bumped into Charles and CoilSpill’s Big Philly working with Chubby Gorilla, the VGOD team with Johnny and Zack on far east tricking duty, and then our boy Mo from Dr Vapes (who we had no idea would be there!) As usual there were stories of last minute complications, product stuck at customs, team members missing flights, you name it, everybody has a story for every show. Personally, after running a trade show myself, I find this a testament to how much hard work and dedication goes into these shows for exhibitors. No matter the amount of prep and organisation there always seems to be a few extra hurdles and hoops for every team to jump through, Yet the show must go on and thanks to people like Mo in this industry there is always maximum effort put in from these exhibitors to make sure everything is set for opening day keeping traveling visitors happy!
After doing our recon and eyed up a few of our must visit stands for the weekend we decided to grab a swift half at the plaza across the street from the show and plan our route to our hotel that was about 25 minutes away. Now this is where i must point out to anybody planning a trip to China that the chinese to not give a *insert expletive* about catering to their friends in the west. With no RNB (chinese currency) changed up, and armed with our a business credit card for the trip, we assumed we might have to skip a taxi but could hop on the metro two stops to our hotel. Well you know what they say about those who assume – they make and ‘Ass’ out of ‘U’ and ‘Me’. It was at this point we realised that Visa is not too big in China. Correct in our assumption that taxis only accept cash, we headed down the winding trail to the metro trains only to find that no machine would accept any major credit cards and with broken english and constant mentions of “WeChat” we found ourselves screen shotting directions on to our phones, walking for an hour along the side of the busy streets with suitcases and clouds trailing behind us. As if this wasn’t bad enough, after not eating for 10 hours we also do declare that even the mighty Mcdonalds requires a WeChat app (linked to a Chinese bank account) in order to get your Big Mac on. A mistake we will not make again let this be warning to anybody heading to China – Cash is king!
The next day, after changing up some cash we were ready to hit the big event. A short and interesting metro ride later we arrived outside the venue that looked even more impressive than the day before and couldn’t believe the amount of visitors streaming into the IECIE. After more bag scanners and pat downs we made our way into the venue and had our pick of the halls. We decided to start off in Halle 6 as this seemed to be one of the smaller halls that we’d earmarked for clearing up a few questions on the direction of the industry. As we’d walked round the day before we had our suspicions confirmed, noticing that there was an overwhelming amount of heat not burn technology going on in this hall. As previously mentioned, if there’s an emphasis of this in China, this is surely a sign of things to come in our industry. Supply meets demand, and after seeing a majority of companies having at least one heat not burn device at their stand it is slightly concerning that this doesn’t seem to be discouraged by the recent controversy around products like the IQOS.
To our relief this emphasis on heat not burn was less widely seen in the following three halls, with the main stands being the likes of Youde, Aspire, Vaptio, GeekVape etc. It was great to see all of these guys on their home turf knowing what a presence they have on the rest of the vape world, but it was equally refreshing and exciting to see some newer and smaller companies that had products that will be bringing an even wider variety of choice for our industry. One of these companies was ONVS who had some fantastic pod based products that held up in the ergonomic and functionality departments, but also met the criteria of sleek design and branding that the Western world always enjoys. Other products that we really enjoyed were the STIG disposable pods from VGOD, and the ZOOR from DAZE. The ZOOR device especially caught my eye as a very sleek, stylish, closed pod system that had an impressive selection of flavors that are the best i’ve tried so far. On top of this, i was told there would be an option for an open system for these. Definitely something to look out for when they launch a TPD’d version of this device in the next few months.
We could go on and on about the amount of products we saw, vapepens that vaped….and was a pen, suorin shaped devices that could charge on wireless phone charging pads, the impressive 18650 battery banks from XTAR that really are a great little purchase, but at the end of the day we just enjoyed meeting new people and catching up with friends to share our love for this industry. Seeing James from RigMod (standing at 6’5) riding around the show on a long board and hooking us up with his brand new RigMod Descendant mech and Atty. Meeting David at iJoy who spoke to us at length about how Shenzhen operates and the crucial part this city plays in our industry. Goofing around with our friends Callie, Jackie, and Ty from Vape Wild, and sharing a 6 pack of beer with a very tired Johnny and Zack from VGOD at the end of the show, This is what vape events are all about – Our community.
At the end of the show we said our goodbyes and headed off for a couple of days or R&R and shopping at the Ladies Market in Hong Kong. After a long weekend in Shenzhen i can say i’m all China’d out but it definitely is a place worth visiting if you ever get the chance. The trip home involved a 24 hour transit time and thank goodness we were all stocked up on pods for stealth vaping opportunities.