Last week I was lucky enough to be invited on a trip to Shanghai for the official launch of Vans in China.

They set up a showroom, invited retailers and media, and brought out Legendary Z-Boy Tony Alva, and artist Pnut to help celebrate the launch on June 19 and 20.

It's no secret that the current Chinese retail landscape is many shades of grey, but Vans, which is now operating out of VF Corp's Hong Kong office, is looking ahead to a time when the market becomes more black and white, and is positioning themselves to be as entrenched in the market there as they are in the States.

This was the first step – Check out more photos and the ongoing story by clicking HERE.

This is where I parked, and by a miraculous twist of fate, my car was still there—unmolested—when I returned.

LAX Airport

LAX Airport

LAX is always crowded, and there's always ten different languages being hollered.

vans trip to china

That's because in the span of an afternoon, there are flights to ten different countries.

Doug Palladini and Chris Overholser

Vans' Marketing team—Chris Overholser and Doug Palladini—were all set to go. These guys are travel veterans, with comfy pants and Ambien. I brought headphones.

Doug Palladini during Vans trip

Being a travel veteran means you can send emails even after your section is boarding.

Airbus for Vans trip to China

When someone says "airbus," certain smells spring to mind, but this thing was more of an "air train," and we flew business class, so that was more like "air limo."

boarding the airbus on the way to China

This is the last photo I shot for the next 13.5 hours. It's a business class thing, I'm sworn to secrecy.

Vans trip to China

Upon arrival we were greeted with signs we couldn't understand. I like making up my own interpretations. This one means "Check out these seats, you may sleep here if you wish."

Vans trip to China

This one was important enough to print in English. Leave your blood products at home, people.

Vans trip to China

After a 13 hour flight, this is a more accurate depiction of what things looked like.

Vans opens stores in China

Currency exchange. We got about $700 RNB for $100 USD.

Palladini exchanging money. Yeah, it's out of focus, sue me. I was up all night watching Kung Fu movies and drinking Tsingtao in an effort to assimilate to my new surroundings.

Vans opens stores in China

This is Pnut. He's an artist, having his first smoke in China.

Vans opens stores in China

Pudong airport architecture. I think that's a bar.

Vas opens stores in China

In the van en route to the hotel. From left to right: Palladini, Alva, Kristy Van Doren, and Joe Eberling. We met up with Joe in the airport, he was coming from Beijing. He's lived in China for 20 years, and is for many the go-to guy. The go-to white guy, at least.

vans opens stores in china

In my hotel room there was a surprise left for me. It's always a little creepy when someone's been in your hotel room expecting you, but when they leave gifts it's not so bad.

vans opens stores in china

We had our own little room at some fifth floor fancy restaurant and everything. From left to right: VF Asia's finest—Matt Morgan, Jenn Kong, and Mitch Whitaker (they were our hosts and took great care of us), Doug, Chris, Pnut, Alva, and Kristy. Jenn took care of the ordering, and selected enough food for an army.

vans opens stores in china

This was our view from the restaurant. That's the Huang Pu river.

vans opens stores in china

Pnut, Giant chandelier, Tony, Jenn.

vans opens stores in china

The view from my hotel room. I don't really know why I shoot these photos, but somehow I always do. Maybe it's so you can share the experience with me.

vans opens stores in china

In China Red Bull comes in a funny can, but that doesn't stop Pnut from downing them by the case.

vans opens stores in china

vans opens stores in china

And you thought you needed an SUV.

vans opens stores in china

Rooftops.

vans opens stores in china

vans opens stores in china

Pensive Tony Alva.

vans opens store in china

Chris, Jenn, and 75 other people set up an entire vans showroom for the launch party. It took 2 days, but they transformed an empty room to a boutique. It was 105 decrees (Fahrenheit) and there were lots of vapory chemicals involved, and people kept shutting the windows. I think it's because it's more fun to build a store while you're high.

vans opens stores in china

Matt, Doug, and Tony taking a break.

While we were hotboxing glue, these guys were carrying some really heavy shit up the stairs because it wouldn't fit in the elevator.

In the Starbucks we went to (there are tons of them, just like in the States) there was a guest book. A casual flip through revealed this gem, which I am going to use as a literary device called "foreshadowing."

Matt and Tony with Tim in the middle. Tim's one of the OG skaters in China and has a mean frontside flip. Thanks for showing us around, Tim…

This is one of a thousand malls in Shanghai alone. Suck on that, King of Prussia.

Yeah, they're fucking everywhere.