Archive for 'China'

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...

The boys are back in town

HANGZHOU

Hangzhou – clean, green and actually really, really nice!?  Not what we’ve come to expect from Chinese cities, but the perfect setting for catch up with my long time army mates, Tim and Frank.  Chaperoned by our expert local guides, we ate, drank and kareoked our way around town.  The stunning West Lake, with its arched bridges and pagoda topped hills, was the highlight, and easily made up for the woeful singing!

In need of a little rural timeout, we took a side trip to Mount Daming.  The bus ride out, and surviving it, was the first achievement.  Climbing the 7,000 steps to the top, through rugged misty peaks, and even right under a mountain via an old tungsten mine, was the next.  Tim, you sure this leaky, crumbling tunnel is safe mate?? 

Shanghai was the next excursion.  China’s flagship city is truly amazing, fast paced and ultra-modern.  It’s the China of the future, right here and now.  Being annual holidays though, we were not alone, 1.3bn Chinese had come out to enjoy it too!  After braving the metro, fighting our way down neon lit shopping streets, we finally took refuge in a, colonial-era styled, jazz & blues club.  Vodka Martini please waiter.  Will that be shaken or stirred, sir?

It was a week for celebrating too.  Beijing was first, with a monumental parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of China’s unique form of communism.  This was a just a warm up though, to the grand finale in Hangzhou – Tim’s 40th birthday!  The perfect end to a brilliant week, and one that reminds us the hardest thing about cycling the world, is the friends and family you leave behind…

Tim & Mimi, you folks were just great.  Thanks for sharing your China with us.

Frank, thanks mate for flying out and enjoying it with us too.

We are now back on the road, and pedaling for Hong Kong.  Why does this bike feel so heavy today?

 Jules & Jess

Boys are back in town. Frank, Tim & Me.

The boys are back in town. Frank, Tim & Me.

 

Kareoke - this one goes out to Hangzhou

Kareoke - this one goes out to Hangzhou

 

Frank, straight off the plane and taking over the stage.

Frank, straight off the plane and taking over the stage.

 

Tim & Mimi.  Our expert local guides.

Tim & Mimi. Our expert local guides.

 

West Lake. Much better than our singing.

West Lake. Much better than our singing.

 

Not so squeezy! Bus trip to Mount Daming.

Not so squeezy! Bus trip to Mount Daming.

 

Misty peaks...

Mount Damings misty peaks.

 

Frank, Tim, Jess & Mimi.  The intrepid hikers.

Frank, Tim, Jess & Mimi. The intrepid hikers.

 

Chinese fast food on the summit.

Chinese fast food on the summit.

 

Jess braving the holiday crowds to Shanghai.

Jess braving the holiday crowds to Shanghai.

 

Shanghai - China's flagship city of the future.

Shanghai - China's flagship city of the future.

 

Slick and ultra-modern.

Slick and ultra-modern.

 

Blinking neon lights

Blinking neon lights

 

Shanghai market. So good, so cheap, just buy.

Shanghai market. So good, so cheap, just buy.

 

Tim's 40th. Perfect end to the week.

Tim's 40th. Perfect end to the week.

 

Korean BBQ.  Yum Yum.

Korean BBQ. Yum Yum.

 

Then Chinese girlie bars.  Well not quite, kareoke with light beer!?

Chinese girlie bar? Not quite, girls singing kareoke with light beer!?

 

Saying goodbye. Tim joins us for the ride out.

Saying goodbye. Tim joins us for the ride out.

China from the side road

BEIJING to HANGZHOU

Hello! Hello! If only we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard that…

China – you definitely know you are somewhere different!  Cars, buses, trucks, scooters, electric bikes, tractors, even wheel barrows, come at you from every direction.  It’s complete chaos, but strangely, it seems to work – as long as you blow your horn!  From the “relative” safety of the side road, our eyes flick from one meaningless street sign to the next.  Which way do we go?  We pull over to take a better look at the map.  Within minutes, we are completely surrounded by a horde of curious locals.  Hello! Hello! Is the best advice we can manage… ??

Crazy drivers and the language barrier is just the beginning though.  It is the “novelty” factor that has really amazed us.  Like, the police escort through town on our first day.  The hotel we stayed in that was completely free.  Everybody, from kitchen staff, to other diners, gathered around our table as we order and eat.  Cars that pull over to stop and say hello!  Trust me, you don’t see too many westerners in these parts, especially two on bikes!!  

So how have we managed the day-to-day?  Not too bad actually.  With a good map, and lots of patience, you can work out the signs.  Our hotel “check-in” is now carefully rehearsed.  Yep, that’s right – no more camping for us – it’s 3 stars all the way, and for less than US$20!  Dinner is a little harder.  We have pretty much lived off two meals that we have written down in Chinese characters.  Not alot of variety, but it is better than ending up eating dog (or even worse)!!  For the rest, a blend of poorly pronounced Chinese, a small dictionary, and lots of hand signs get us by :-)

Our route from Beijing, has taken us through China’s industrial heartland, so not surprisingly, the scenery has been average.  You do get rare glimpses of beauty though, like our climb up China’s most sacred peak, Taishan.  Even this was a suprise – not a climb as such, but a staircase up to 1,600m!

There is no doubting – China is a hectic, crowded and polluted place.  But it’s the friendliness of the people, and their willingness to help us, that has made it so special.  We will never forget the nervous, but heartfelt words, from our waitress in Wuhu – “Welcome to my home town”.  I’m just not so sure, how we will ever get use to carrying our own bags again??

We now take a week off in Hangzhou, resting our legs and catching up with our mates, Tim and Frank, as China celebrates its annual holiday and 60 years of communism!  It’s sure to be a lot of fun!!

As always, thanks for the support, comments and emails.  We miss you all!

Safe travels (and go the Saints!)

Jules & Jess

Chaos! The ride out of Beijing

Chaos! The ride out of Beijing

Our side road - on a rare blue sky day

Our side road - on a rare blue sky day

Anything goes in the side road - Locals drying grain

Anything goes in the side road - Locals drying grain

 

Watch out!  Here comes a lightly loaded tractor

Watch out! Here comes a lightly loaded tractor

 

Who let the ducks out!

Who let the ducks out?!

 

Hello! Hello! A typical 5min rest stop

Hello! Hello! A typical 5min rest stop

 

Industrial heart of China

Industrial heart of China

 

Rare glimpses of beauty too  - Tai Shan

Rare glimpses of beauty too - Tai Shan

 

You take a staircase to the top!

You take a staircase to the top!

 

Harder for some than others

Harder for some than others

 

Made it!

Made it!

 

The serenity at the top - NOT !

The serenity at the top - NOT !

 

Back on the road - typical chinese village

Back on the road - typical chinese village

 

You really sure you need the toilet ??

You really sure you need the toilet ??

 

No more camping - 3 stars for under US$20 !

No more camping - 3 stars for under US$20 !

 

A real treat not having to carry our bags

A real treat not having to carry our bags

 

Xuzhou - famous for it's dog dishes !

Xuzhou - famous for it's dog dishes !

 

Where's the chocolate ?!  Chinese false advertising

Where's the chocolate ?! Chinese false advertising

 

Nanjing - slick and ultra modern

Nanjing - slick and ultra modern

It's the locals that make it!

It's the locals that make it!

Hangzhou - joining in the party

Hangzhou - resting up and joining in the party

WARSAW to BEIJING

It is 6,404 kms from London to St. Petersberg.  To some, this may seem like a lot – there are shorter and easier ways – but this is the distance we covered, and what an incredible adventure it has been…

We cycled through 14 countries, following a mix of pilgrim trails, trade routes, alpine passes, famous rivers and historic cities.  The experience challenged and amazed us.  On many occasions, it opened our eyes.  We twice had friends come and join us, and made new friends along the way.  It showed there is still adventure to be had, even in the most developed and populated parts of the world.  This continent, like South America, has been worth every push on the pedals. Europe – west and east – we crossed it.

Leaving Warsaw, we headed north into the lakes area of Eastern Europe.  These stunning glacial lakes, too many to count, extend all the way from northern Poland, through the Baltics to Russia.  We were back adventuring again – camping free wherever we wanted, and braving icy cold morning swims.  In between, we passed through forests, rich farmland, quaint villages and historic old cities.  The kindness and generosity of the people here, has continued to amaze us.  Eastern Europe has been a pleasant surprise.

It is no wonder rural Russia came as a shock.  Run down, tired and miserable feeling – we were glad it would only take a day and half to reach St. Petersberg.  Russia is a country of contrast though, and this introduction, versus the major cities, couldn’t highlight this better.  In Moscow, we were fortunate to have some friendly faces to stay with.  Esther, Chris & Helen went out of their way to show us what is spectacular and unique about Russia – you haven’t lived, until being beaten with birch sticks in a banya!

Getting our bikes on the Trans-Siberian proved a lot easier than feared.  From there, the relaxing monotony of train travel took over.  For six days, we lurched 7,865 km across Siberia, watching Europe slowly turn into Asia.  While “trained out” by the end, it was a great experience and we would highly recommend it.

Now in Beijing, after 9 months, and having clocked up 14,609 kms – almost double the Trans-Sib – we are half way home.  Does it get any easier?  If we can get out of Beijing with this Chinese character map, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Keep the comments and emails coming.  They are much appreciated and a real boost.

Safe travels,

Jules & Jess

Eastern Europe's Lakes District

Eastern Europes stunning Lakes District

 

Trakai, Lithuania

Trakai, Lithuania

 

Back free camping again

Free camping and adventuring again

 

Something smells good

Something smells good

 

Koalas... out here?

Koalas... out here?

 

Europe - we crossed it!

Europe - we crossed it!

 

Celebrating...

Celebrating and seeing the sights...

 

...St Petersburg

...St Petersburg

 

...Moscow

...Moscow

 

Esther, Chris & Helen - you folks really made it !

Esther, Chris & Helen - you folks really made it !

 

Supplies for a 6-day train ride

Supplies for a 6-day train ride

 

How will we ever get these bikes on...

How will we ever get these bikes on...

 

Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia

Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia

 

Travelling 1st class for a change

Travelling 1st class for a change

 

Reading, eating, sleeping...

Reading, eating, sleeping...

 

Watching Europe turn into Asia

Watching Europe turn into Asia

 

 

Beijing - finally

Beijing - finally

 

Colourful hutongs

Colourful hutongs

 

Fast paced shopping

Fast paced shopping

 

Plus ancient reminders

Plus ancient reminders

 

Enjoying it

Enjoying it

 

And having fun - wax on, wax off!

And having fun - wax on, wax off!