Archive for November, 2009

Bye China!

HONG KONG to HANOI

In many ways, our final leg in China has been the most memorable.

Soon after leaving Macau, we managed to get ourselves involved in an organised charity ride. Riders from clubs in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangdong were taking part in the 200km ride from Guangdong to Deqing. They were so taken by our much larger journey, that we were promptly invited as guests of honour to their halfway lunch! We had never eaten so much during the middle of a day, and it proved having something in common can often be as effective as language!

We hit the hills again soon after, which ended up being the death nail for my worn chainring (the cog bit at the front of the bike). Luckily we had sent spares to Hong Kong, and after some, at times, nerve racking roadside mechanics, were back on the road taking on the hills again.

Stopping just short of Guilin, we took a day off to explore the beautiful Li River, and try our luck at finding a hotel my Dad had helped build some 30 years ago. China seems to be changing by the second, so despite our best impersonation efforts, it was not suprising that we failed on the hotel. The raft along the stunning Li River, more than made up for it though – and showed the views here are just as magical as they always have been.

Heading south for Vietnam, we were fortunate enough to meet Liang and his family. We stayed in their hotel, joined them for dinner and breakfast – the latter, involving animal insides and beer – and even had Liang ride with us on his motorbike to Luizhou (100km away!). It was a true local experience, that we both enjoyed very much. Just not so sure we would ever trade our bacon & eggs though!!

Just north of Nanning, we finally met some other independent cycle tourists – Steve an American, and oddly enough, Lung a local Chinese. We have missed these roadside encounters that were so common in South America and Europe. We talked both their ears off – even Lung who couldn’t understand English – and hoped they enjoyed the meeting as much as we did.

Passing through the “Friendship Gate” to Vietnam, we were both feeling rather sad. Somehow, the absolute “craziness” of China was now feeling familiar to us. Looking back, China not only seems like one of the easiest countries we have cycled in, but also one of the most rewarding. We will miss it.

From here, after a few days R&R in Hanoi, we will head south, beach hopping our way down the coast of Vietnam. The roads are flat, and for once, it seems the hardest challenge will be finding somewhere to buy sunscreen! Yeah I know – famous last words hey!!

All the best and safe travels!

Jules & Jess

The 200km charity riders!

Joining the 200km charity riders!

Guests of honour at the halfway lunch

Guests of honour at the halfway lunch

Snakes alive! On a shelf in roadside restaurant.

Snakes alive! Delicacies in roadside restaurant.

Not a bad looking vege garden! Rural Guangxi province.

Not a bad looking vege garden! Rural Guangxi province.

On the road to Guilin

On the road to Guilin

The Li River, near Yangshou

The Li River, near Yangshou

Jess enjoying being a tourist on our raft!

Jess enjoying being a tourist on our raft!

The views here are magical

The views here as magical as they've always been

Dinner with Liang and his family

Dinner with Liang and his family

A watermelon stop on our ride together the next day

A watermelon stop on our ride together the next day

Jess racing some school kids, near Nanning

Jess racing some school kids, near Nanning

Lung, a local chinese cycle tourist !

Lung, a local chinese cycle tourist !

The race is on - peak hour in the side road, Nanning!

The race is on - peak hour in the side road, Nanning!

China's "craziness" now seems familar - roadworks near Vietnam border.

China's "craziness" now seems familar - roadworks near Vietnam border.

China one of the easiest and most memorable places we have cycled

China one of the easiest and most rewarding places we have cycled

We will misss it!

We will misss it!

The Tour de China continues…

HANGZHOU to HONG KONG

So this is what cycling hills feels like? It had been that long, we had almost forgotten. But by the time we reached Hong Kong, we were taking them on like mountain goats. It was hard work in the heat – up, down, up, down – after 120 kms, we stop, knowing tomorrow, we are back to do it all again.

Hard riding has its rewards though. The resort town of Wuyishan, the Song Xi River, and the rural villages in between, proved that “picture perfect” China can still be found amongst the factories!

It ended abruptly though, with the ride into Shenzhen. The 100 kms into this shopping megacity on the border with Hong Kong, was quite possibly the worst day we’ve had on the bikes yet. Endless roadworks, choking fumes and driving so bad, you wouldn’t have thought possible. The only positive, is that we are still here to tell the story.

Now, what expedition would be complete without a medical emergency? It sounds worse than it was, but a burst cyst on my head, meant our first stop in Hong Kong was the hospital. Here’s a luck, our doctor was trained in Sydney!

In town, we caught up with my old work friends – Andrew and Brian, and their families. It was great seeing them both, and learning a little about what “Hongkers” is really like! To be honest, while it feels like you are constantly in a shopping mall, it was a lot more liveable than we had expected. This is no secret though, at times it seems there are more westerners here than Chinese!!

With our Vietnam and Thai visas in hand, we were ready to go. Not wanting to relive the Shenzhen experience, we opted for the ferry to Macau, as way to get back into mainland China. Macau is a blinking neon mecca for the Chinese who can’t gamble at home. While we left the Grand Lisboa with nothing more than highrolling memories, at one point we were actually up $8 HK dollars (about Aussie $1!).

Now back in China, we are heading for the karst mountains around Guilin, after which we will head south for Vietnam. It is amazing how fast this adventure is going. While we still have around 15,000 kms to go, it somehow feels like we are getting close to the end… wishful thinking, or maybe just homesick?

Thanks for all the comments and support.

Safe travels!

Jules & Jess

Up, down, up, down

Up, down, up, down

Pimp my ride, anyone, please?!

Pimp my ride, anyone, please?!

It's not just bus drivers you have to watch out for!

It's not just bus drivers you have to watch out for!

Time for a cool drink.  A typical village stop during the day.

Time for a cool drink. A typical village stop during the day.

Time to stop.  A typical dot on the map size town.

Time to stop for the night. A typical "dot on the map" town.

I could always be a bike mechanic when I get home?

I could always be a bike mechanic when I get home?

Picture perfect Wuyishan

Picture perfect Wuyishan

Song Xi River

Song Xi River

Rural China at its best

Rural China at its best

Rice right up to the village edge!

Rice right up to the village edge!

Can you believe it, two panda's right by the highway!!

Can you believe it, two panda's right by the highway!!

Imagine 100kms of this!  The road to Shenzhen.

Imagine 100kms of this! The road to Shenzhen.

Patched up and raring to go! Hong Kong.

Patched up and raring to go! Hong Kong.

Two beautiful views

Two beautiful views

We were staying in the heart of Kowloon

We stayed right in the heart of Kowloon

That famous skyline by night

Hong Kong's famous skyline by night

Hong Kong was much more liveable than expected.

Much more liveable than we had expected.

The highroller you are not!

A highroller you are not!

The bluest sky in China yet. Inside The Venetian, Macau.

The bluest sky in China yet. Inside The Venetian, Macau.

The Tour de China continues...

The Tour de China continues...