Statistics through Southeastern China
Distance: 2435 km
Daily Average: 69 km
Days in the Country: 35
Days on the Bike: 18
Altitude covered: 9879m
Daily Average: 550m
Nights in the Tent: 11
Nights in Houses: 23
Breakdowns: Back Tire ruptures and replaced, Brake cables and housings replaced, 2 flat tires
Daily Costs: 9,98€
through Southeastern China to ShanghaiAs I did my last kilometers on vietnamese roads china was welcoming me from the distance. Behind the compact Mong Cai the high risers of the Chinese Bordertown were towering…
Crossing the Border was very efficiently. It´s always surprising how they can ignore my bicycle that is officially not allowed. To get a Visa as a cyclist you have to accept a chinese guide that travels on your cost and can give you „advices“ about the route. When you cross the border by bike no one is insisting on this limitations. So you have to be creative while applying for a visa…
The first kilometers in China are unfamiliar. Roads are wide, not that much traffic and particular the calm. No hectic horning and the music that sounds everywhere in Vietnam is missing totally. It feels like someone turned off the sound.
My trip through China will end in Shanghai at the end of June. There i will embark a containership to Canada.
to get in touch with my agent in Shanghai i bought a Chinese SIM-Card. A challenge because no one in the Shop could speak english and all of the descriptions of costs are in Chinese. I left the shop with a working SIM-Card that will cost me a lot of money in the next weeks.
There are no Chinese Phone companies, there are just provincial ones. If you leave the province you start roaming. That forced me to recharge the card a few times…
To get learn that i had to reach Shanghai. There, a guy in a shop told me how it works. That was the reason i always had problems charging. The shops are only able to charge local cards, the others could only be charged through the internet. So i got a lot of „meo!´s (we don´t have)“ on my way… complicated, complicated!
I had a first goal getting to Hongkong, where i could pick up a parcel my brother send me and was stored in a hotel. So i decided to take the direct way and that always takes you onto highways in china.
The first kilometers gave me a first taste what lies ahead of me: Highway, 4 lanes with a wide shoulder for me and everything else that is too slow for the other lanes.
But before the monotony began i could cycle through the rural hills for a few days. China offers two conditions of roads: perfect or horrible. Either the roads are new made or under construction. Others seem to vanish into oblivion or were already no longer existing and fit into the second category.
The next days were mostly horrible. Therefor the Landscape was beautiful, rolling hills with a lot of rice paddies in the valleys are going along with me. The people were more offish and the mood along the road was a little bit gloomy. combined with rainy weather and the dirty villages and cities along the way that was less motivating to me.
One day i met the 4-laned roads again and from there on it was just about covering kilometers. It took me about a week to cover the 1000km to Shenzhen. Half the way I took a hostel in Zhenjiang. Never heard of this city? Three times the size of Berlin it is one of the bigger Metropolises in China. The hostel was an exiting place.
Generally Chinese People need a permission to host Foreigner. The most cheaper accommodation don´t have these. After all i think the guy there didn´t had it but still hosts me. Concept of that „hostel“ was to share your apartment with others. So one room was packed with bunk beds while the other was used by the hosting family. I had the hardest and thinnest mattress of my trip. In the evening the family invited me to share dinner with them and we had a very simple but nice conversation and we laughed a lot… Very nice.
The only High point these days was Kaiping. In the area around the city you can find special 5 storey buildings that wealthy citizen returning from work in western countries build at the end of the 19. Century. European baroque influences give the area a touch of toscana. Mainly build to protect the family they are partly more high-rise bunkers like the one on the Heiliggeistfeld in Hamburg… Funny Architecture.
After that i arrived in the Pearl River Delta. Around the Delta the last decades the biggest Settlement-Area of the world grew. In an area in the size of Belgium between Gangzhou in the north and Hongkong in the south agglomerates a bunch of Metropolises with totally over 100 Million Citizen.
That means 2 days of cycling in City traffic. Here i got the asian distribution in big. Normally, like in european medieval cities, Streets or areas are occupied by different trade and crafts. So there are streets just selling car-parts while others only have pottery… This you can find in a much bigger scale in the delta. So i cycled through tap-city where they only sold bathroom taps. Shop after shop and the walls totally covered with advertisement for the newest Bathroom creations. after that i crossed mattress-town and entered Furniture-City full of gigantic stores. I was looking forward to the bicycle town but it never came.
In the evening i arrived in Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton. More than 15 Million Citizens created one of the biggest cities in China and it´s a boomtown. So you can find a lot of gigantic high risers in the center with the Landmark TV Tower. This 600m high building is wonderful enlighted in the night. Beautiful. I slept in the apartment of an american guy that also was running a hostel in here. Situated in the 32. floor it offered amazing views over Guangzhou. There is a lot to see in the City but i wanted to go on. So my goal for the day was Shenzhen. I never left the Cities that day and it was a challenge. The Delta has a lot of rivers and not every bridge is allowed for bicycles. So with a mix of accepting and breaking the rules i made it and arrived in Shenzhen in the evening.There a bunk bed apartment was my accommodation for the first night. It was a chinese run one so the thin and hard mattress was included. The view from the 20.floor into the center of the city was again wonderful.
The size of Shenzhen is directly connected to Hongkong. The Government founded a Special Economic Zone in front of the gates of Hongkong and that was the beginning of the unlimited growth. The are construction sites all around. Below they build more metro lines to handle the stream of people and above they build high risers to accommodate these people and give them space to work.
Here i met again Guus. We first met in Yangon, Myanmar from where he cycled to China and Shenzhen to start his studies. I could park my bike in his apartment. He showed me his university, impressed me with his chinese and invited me for some meals in the gigantic mensa. 70% of the students there are girls that are crazy about the big blonde dutch Guy… Life in Paradise ;-)
The End of the last year i wrote a feedback email to the manufacturer of my Bike short. MSX was so exited about my trip that they offered to equip me. My panniers were already a little bit chipped so i was happy about that and agreed.
The panniers will be part of my parcel i wanted to pick up in Hongkong.
So i did a short trip over to the former crone colony. I wrote a separate story about that here.
After my return i approached the last arrangements for my boat trip. it is mandatory to have a Health certificate to travel on a containership. To get that Certificate was a little bit complicated. I tried it in two different hospitals in Shenzhen without success and so decided to try it again in Shanghai.
So I started packing my new bags and continued my trip the next day. My four old Panniers i promised to Pedro who wants to travel to Africa by pushbike next year. Great Idea, so i´m happy to support him :-) My old things (those who worth it) i did send back to germany.
The past week on the bike was boring and exhausting and so i decided to change my plans. Instead of following the coastline I will cross the country from Changsha to Shanghai, about 1000km of distance.
First i had to take a bus to Changsha. This took me 15 hours for 700km and I arrived in the early morning where they dropped me off at the highway. So i cycled into the city while sun rises. Beautiful.
I had an romantic Idea of Changsha. When i had read the biography of Mao the city had a important place in his life. His youth he stayed here and he also turned to communism here. The area was described as beautiful and Changsha as little town with a lot of charme. Reality was different. Since the city went to be a Hightech-hub of China it is booming. 800 high risers have been build in the last few years and 200 are still under construction.
The gigantic bust of Mao on a river island was unreachable by bike so I directly turned to the city center. The only „romantic“ place left was an old town lane that was reconstructed for touristic reasons. at 7 in the morning everything was closed so I left the city immediately. Behind Changsha a really beautiful part of China was waiting for me. 2-lanes roads through the Foothills passing little villages and rice paddies. I climbed a few passes and arrived after 4 days at Lushan. The National park is a gigantic rockmassiv that rises out of the plains. With beautiful winding roads and fresh air at the top ist should be a rest place for me. It is also a culturehistoric important place and so the entrance fee should be around 30€. I was willing to pay but the area was forbidden for bicycles. So i decided to ride around it an found a hostel in the city of Jinjiang at the foot of the mountain.
After that i crossed the porcelain capital of China Jingdezhen that has nothing to offer, just a lot of gigantic crockery shops and a fake-oldtown-shopping-Lane. Behind the city it went nice again and behind Wuyuan I followed a river that was lined by historic villages. But also here the entrance fee was 30€ and so i decided to take a look from the street.
In Huangshang i took a day off. I had to cancel my visit to the yellow mountains because of rain and so I relaxed and visited the old town in the evening. There I found surprisingly a lot of flair.
In Guangzhou the restrictions began. Every nice place along the famous Westlake was forbidden for bicycles (even to push it). I stayed with an Italian warm-showers host. Gigi indulged me with three sorts of cheese, antipasti and Italian red wine… I didn´t had cheese for months. There were some tears in my eyes in this moment. He is living in Hangzhou for over 10 years and could tell me a lot about change in china. We had a very nice conversation that night.
I continued to Shanghai the next day and arrived after two days on midday. In the center at river Huangpu is a historic promenade called „the Bund“. Again there are restrictions and bicycles not allowed. With a little bit of patience and a lot of ignorance i finally entered it and got my picture with the famous skyline, yeah!
Again a very special moment. The pressure to be here in time that stressed me the last weeks declined. Now i really crossed Asia…
A beer and a rain shower later i started to reach the house of Ruslan in the suburbs. He is also a warm showers host and offered me to stay in his house for the week I planned to stay in Shanghai. His home offered all the luxury you can imagine. My own room with a gigantic bed, a fabulous bathroom, wifi and even 2 warm meals a day. perfect! He is originally from the Ukraine and lives together wis his wife and 8 others in a gigantic house in a wealthy gated neighborhood.
I had quite a lot to arrange that week: Health certificate, new computer, Bike parts, Sightseeing.
Gigi arranged a pair of new tires for me. I met him again in Shanghai and so i get to know Matt who gave me the address of a cheap and fast hospital. The Health Check was made on the last day just in front of the deadline. Good to know the right people.
The day of farewell came and the way from Ruslans house to the harbour was long. I was pedaling 60km through the city center and stamped out of china in the afternoon before I carried my bicycle up the gangway of the Ship. Loading the Ship took a lot of time and so I already felt asleep when we left the Harbour of Shanghai and so Asia.
China offered no surprises on a large scale but a lot of in small scale. I met a lot of sympatic people and a lot more people spoke english down here what brought communication to a new level.
Built-up areas are indescribable big down here. Cycling through cities for days is exhausting. Most of the time you have a separated lane for bikes but the stop and go makes you very tired. Most of the time the cities look the same, the design of the building was the same as in Chengdu, so it went boring with the time.
The Food is less spicy than in Sichuan but also less tasty and the variety in the street kitchens is limited. A nice surprise were the Uighures that settle down here a lot. So I could eat the typical Xinjiang-bread again and the muslimic food from the west of china was very tasty.
„Big Brother is watching you“. If this sentence was not already existing it has to be invented for China. Every few kilometers you have a bridge over the street full of cameras, every square is monitored. Every Entrance to public and private buildings are guarded, mostly by private security that does´t mediates that much safety…
Watt pops into my eyes were the random controls of identity in the metro. the Chinese ID is equipped with a radio chip that makes them readable very easy. A police officer is waiting infant of the entrance and everyone has to put their ID on the reader. Nice to create profiles of movement of the people. They say it´s to supports the compulsory registration in the cities, maybe.
Modern times have come to china. While the rural people step beside the cities grow faster than it could be good for them. Hangzhou has 5 times more citizens than 10 years ago. krass.
In septembre the G20 Leaders will meet in Hangzhou and it has already started. Security level is already high, foreigners are only allowed to enter or leave the city before the end of August and also after end of septembre. In the time of the summit you are arrested inside. They are serious with security issues.
Also in Hongkong. As Guus told me, they took away the Passport from all foreign students in Shenzhen while the anniversary of the Tianmen massacre. They don´t want to have them in Hongkong cause there is the only place in China where a commemoration is allowed.
Now it´s definitely enough of Asia in the moment. I am looking forward to have some real american adventures that you can read in my next story.