söndag 27 oktober 2013

On my feet again

Last Saturday I cycled into Ganzhou on a nice road going through some hills away from the heavy traffic. It was a fairly short ride so I could take my time and enjoy the scenery.
But once closing in on Ganzhou the traffic started to get thicker and the constant honking began again. As many time before here in China my Couchsurf-host was an English teacher. Joe was an American guy who hadn’t been in the city for long but was an avid traveler with many cool stories to tell. Since he was new in town we decided to explore the nightlife with his friend and colleague Malcolm. After walking along the “party street” for a while we decided on one place and went inside. I have gotten used to being stared at in China but maybe it was even more when I was with Joe who was 190 cm tall guy with long blond hair. So you really get noticed walking into a club. Another funny thing in a town with not so many foreigners is that the ones you see you tend to start talking to. So at the club we quickly met a British guy named Tom, a Zambian girl named Tandy and her friend. We had a really good time and got back late that night.
The next day Joe had to do some work so I met up with Tandy that I had met the night before and had a little look around the city. I met up with Joe again for dinner at the University campus, something I regret now. Because a few hours after that dinner my stomach started turning and I knew something was wrong. But I was hoping for the best and went to bed and planned on getting up in the morning and start cycling again. But very soon that morning I realized that it would be impossible. I had no energy and though I would take a nap and see how I felt after that. That nap lasted all day, and even if I slept almost all day I still slept pretty much all night too. The following day I could eat a little and tried to prepare myself for heading off the next day. And that morning I thought I was good enough to ride. My stomach was still not good but I had a dead line to think about and I didn’t want to get on a bus. So I set off and had decided to ride 140 km this day (very optimistic). After riding about 40 km I got really bad stomach pains, I had something’s in my bad to ease the pain but it was still really difficult cycling on. And every time there was a slight uphill I could feel how little energy I had in my legs. But eventually I reached my goal for the day and checked in to the first hotel I could find. Once I was in my room I just lay down on the bed and fell asleep. I woke up after an hour and crawled into the shower. That night I seriously thought about staying there until I got better and then get on a bus to Shenzhen. But the next morning after a long night sleep I felt a little better and got back on the bike. This day I only planned on doing about 80 km so even if I didn’t feel great It still felt like I could make it. The road was rougher today with more hills and my genius shortcut took me on a small gravel road that was either straight up or straight downhill.
Even today the stomach pain came back after cycling for a while but the day was shorter and I got more rest at a hotel in Heping this day. The mood wasn’t at the top when I still felt bad the next morning. Today I had a host waiting for me in Heyuan and I really wanted to feel better so that I could be more social and a good guest. Luckily it all turned around during this day. At lunch I still didn’t feel great, but a little better and once I reached Heyuan I hadn’t had any stomach pains during the day and once I had met my host Wu and his lovely family had set the table with a lot of tasty food my apatite was back and I was really hungry! I had to stop myself not to eat too much and chock my stomach. I had a nice evening in the village house outside the city and talked traveling with my curious host Wu.
We parted the next morning after a great breakfast with the family and I cycled on about 100 km to Huizhou. My stomach was back to normal today and that felt awesome after almost five days of problems. But I don’t have the same energy in my legs as before and I need to put on the weight that I lost during these days. The road between Heyuan and Huizhou was fairly flat so I got there in good time and met up with my host Yu and his friend in the city. We had a really nice evening and ate a great seafood dinner in the old part of town.
I could afford one day of rest and decided to take it here today in Huizhou and Yu and I had a nice day together. But we slept in and didn’t set out for brunch until midday. For me it got a little late last night because of “El Clasico” that started at midnight here. I hadn’t seen a football game in a while so it was really nice, even if it was a stream on my little computer.

Tomorrow I’m cycling to Shenzhen, the city that borders to Hong Kong where I’ll cross over to on Tuesday. Just hoping it won’t be too difficult cycling in to the mega city…  It probably will be!

fredag 18 oktober 2013

Typhoon, bicycle buddies and good times

When leaving Yixing I got a message from my host in Hangzhou telling me there would be a typhoon hitting the city the next days. And when I took a look at the weather forecast I saw there where a lot of rain expected during the day. But the most important thing was still on my side; the wind. So with the wind in my back I managed to set a new distance record of 179 km during one day. But my shoes were soaking wet when I arrived in the huge city of Hangzhou just as it had become dark.
There I stayed with a great guy named Roy who was from the Philippines and was teaching English at a school there. And while typhoon Fittow was raging on outside I had a very relaxing day on the couch instead of running around in the flooded streets in downtown. The next day Roy and I wanted to do something even if the rain kept on pouring down. So we decided to go for a foot massage which was really nice but also tickly. We later met up with Roy’s friend John and had a great dinner at “Grandma’s” and later joined Brandon who also was a teacher and had a couple of beers by the lake.
During the evening the rain had stopped and when I set out in the morning the weather felt good. But I could see on many roads how the water had risen quite far and as a result some roads were really muddy and dirty. After I had rode my bike for a while I came by another cyclist who also was going to Yiwu. Lifeng and I cycled together the rest of the day, and it was really nice to have someone to ride with again. And after I talked to my host in Yiwu my new bicycle buddy also got invited to stay at his place.
We arrived a little tired to the city and met up with Mauricio who was like many others in this city working with export. I had never seen so many foreigners in a city in China before and we even went out to eat western food(second time I used fork and knife in the last 6 weeks). We had a good night together over a couple of beers, but my new bicycle friend wasn’t used to the life on the road and took a few naps in the bar while Mauricio and I were having fun. I guess it takes a little practice to ride the bike all day and still have enough energy left to go out and have fun.
The next stop on my road was Quzhou, but Lifeng had other plans and headed out in another direction in the morning. So I cycled alone again and met up with my host Serenity in the city. We had some tasty Korean food and then she jumped up on the back of my bike and we cycled to her place. I didn’t know my bike could accommodate passengers, but it worked just fine. That night we met up with some of her friends at KTV. And for those who haven’t been to China, KTV is a place for karaoke with many private rooms where we sang, drank, danced and had a great night.
The next day a journalist college of Serenity’s mom wanted to do an interview with me for the local newspaper. So me and Serenity met up with him and he showed me around the huge factory in town.  It was Interesting but maybe not the prettiest sight.
After a great lunch together with journalist’s and some more people Serenity, Clock(the journalist), his friend Hu and I went up into the mountains to a really nice lake. Me and Hu cycled there while Clock and Serenity where gliding next to us on an electric bike. So when arriving there all sweaty it was really nice to jump into the water and take a swim. It was a nice warm evening and I really enjoyed the place. It was quiet and almost just us there. A huge contrast from most places in China where there are people everywhere. Clock and Hu headed back to town after a nice dinner together at the restaurant while Serenity and I camped by the lake and didn’t go back into town until later in the evening next day.
The next stop on my way towards Hong Kong was Shangrao. And it was easy riding on a nice warm day with the wind in my back. At one point I cycled by some teenage girls who wanted to talk a little. And later after I had cycled for a while they realized they hadn’t taken any photos, so they chased me down on their E-bikes and got some photos for QQ. It’s amazing the kind of attention you get as a foreigner in China, especially in smaller cities.
But in Shangrao I wasn’t the one getting the most attention. Because my host Iana is an Ukrainian girl with blond hair. So when Iana, her roommate Natalia went out we turned many heads around. And most eyes were on the blond foreign girl.
When leaving Shangrao I met another cyclist named Aaron. He spoke English and we were both headed to Yingtan today and then Fuzhou the next day. So we cycled together and it was really nice to have someone to ride with a second time this week. But in the evening we split up when he stopped at a hotel outside of town and I cycled into the city and met up with my host Sophia. We had a really nice night out in Yingtan and I spent the night at her father’s photography studio. There Sophia showed me pictures from the Unesco’s Longhushan Geopark. It looked amazing and we decided to go there in the morning. And the location was perfect on the way towards my next destination. Sophia’s friend and I met up with Aaron again and cycled out to the park. On the way we met another cyclist who also was going to Longhushan so he joined our little group. Once we were there we met up with Sophia and her friend and rode around the big park in his car. It was a beautiful place with some amazing rock formations and an acrobatic show depicting how ancient people might have gotten the coffins into the crevasses in the mountain.
After we all had a nice lunch together Aaron and I continued on to Fuzhou. We only had about 80 km left but the wind started picking up and we were a little tired when arriving. Aaron invited me to have dinner at his father in law’s place and then helped me to find a nice and cheap hotel. It was a little strange walking into an empty hotel room after having been lucky to have couchsurfing hosts for almost two weeks in a row. It has really been an amazing time and I have made many new friends and met a lot of cool and interesting people. For me now the trip is much more about the people I meet then the places I see. And I can’t imagine this trip without meeting local people along the way. But I still enjoy getting up on the bike, blasting great music in my headphones and pushing myself during the day.
The road from Fuzhou to Ji’an was really nice with not so much traffic and no big cities along the way. I haven’t before had to plan where to stop and eat since China is so densely populated that there always is somewhere to stop and eat. It wasn’t as easy this day but I still found a little restaurant in a small village. And the three women sitting at the table looked like they saw an UFO when I walked in and asked for food. I got some rise and what looked to be leftovers. But that was fine by me especially since they didn’t want any money for it. That night I camped out in my tent among the green hills. It’s always nice being back in the tent when you find a nice spot to pitch the tent.
The next day I only had about 70 km to ride to get to Jishui where I met up with my host Chuck. We drove out to his father’s fish farm where we met up with a bunch of guys who were part of a bicycle group. We did some fishing but only manage to get two, one small and one really big but none by me. So Chuck and his father and mother took out the net to get enough for a great dinner for all of us.

We later headed back into town and met some more people in a nice tea shop owned by one guy from the bicycle crew. If was nice to spend some time in a small town since most cities here are so big and noisy. In the morning Chuck and I met up with two other cyclists who joined me for the ride to Ji’an. But there we parted and I continued on my own to the town of Siuchuan where I’m staying for the night. I’m now closing in on Hong Kong and I still have enough time to get there before my visa expires. I also need to do some planning on where to go for when I come back into China. Eventually I’ll cross over from China to Laos, but there in between I don’t know where to go. We’ll see! I’m just hoping the next part of China will be as awesome as my time here has been so far…

fredag 4 oktober 2013

Surfing through China

I realized today when I sat down to write on the blog that it has been a while since the last post. Maybe it sounds strange to some that I haven’t had the time, but these last two weeks have been a lot of fun and I have met so many nice and interesting people. So I guess sometimes I don’t think about the blog when I’m too busy enjoying this strange but awesome lifestyle to the fullest.
My first stop after the rainy ride to Dezhou was the city of Jinan. Bu this time I had gotten used to cycling through big cities. Some people I have met who live in cities with about 2 million inhabitants don’t consider them to be very big. But for me who is from a small town in a small country all of these cities are very big. They are constantly growing and sometimes it feels like cycling through one big construction site.
On my way in to Jinan I crossed over the Yellow River on a floating bridge that swayed a lot when a big truck drove over it. Once in the city I found the meeting point and met up with Felix who was my host for the day. He worked as a teacher, but not a English teacher like all the other I had met along the way. Instead he taught physics at an English speaking high school. We had a nice “boys nigh out” with two of his colleges eating Chinese BBQ and drinking beer.
The next morning I was excited to get op on the bike. So far the road had been mostly flat but today I had a little mountain to climb and some green hills and fresh air was exactly what I needed 
But I was a little worried when cycling up the hill because I say some signs about roadwork and was hoping the road wasn’t closed. Halfway up the hill a passed by some roadwork and thought that was it. But since there was almost no other car going up or coming I started to realize that there was more work up ahead. Going back down and taking another road would take me a lot of time and most likely I wouldn’t make it to Taian where I had made plans with a host. So I got really worried when I reached the top and saw this..
But luckily I could push my bike over the dirt wall and on the side of where workers where laying down new asphalt. The ride down was awesome on the perfect new road all the way to a beautiful lake where I sat down for a long and relaxing lunch.
While waiting for Alex to finish work I sat down in a park. And parks in China are never boring and there is always something interesting to see, for instance someone doing Tai Chi and another man drawing Chinese characters with water on the ground.
After Taian I continued on south to Tengzhou where I stayed with yet another teacher. This time Samantha from New Zealand. It was great getting some advice on where to go and places to see for when I’ll go there new year. I stayed another day with Samantha and went on a little tour around town on electric bikes with her boyfriend Frank and another Kiwi teacher named Tod. And that man was one of the funniest men I have met in a long time and we had a fun but short trip to see the pagoda.
Next stop on my way was Xuzhou, and I got there in good time on a day with nice weather and a light breeze in my back. Before cycling into the city I stopped by a little food stand by the road for lunch. And with my non existing Chinese I manage to get some food. The nice lady also carried out a little stool for me to sit on right next to the road. Halfway through my big bowl of rice and meet she came out with even more rice and a big load of meet. That was probably my biggest lunch in a while and when I wanted to pay for my lunch the nice lady just shook her head and smiled. I thanked her so much and got back on the road with a stomach full of food. Once there me and my host Drinta had time to go for a little trip to the lake with a great view of the Xuzhou skyline.
Later in the evening we met up with two other couchsurfers living in Xuzhou; Carl who was a local and Sebastien who was from France but working in China. We ate a really tasty BBQ at a place where you got your own BBQ and grilled for yourself. And when picking out what to eat Sebastien suggested that I tried an insect (Cicada), I said why not and ate bugs for the first time. It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined but I think I prefer chicken instead.
Drinta had his apartment full so he got me a room in a massage parlor that was his family’s business. It was a great and luxurious room but it felt a little strange sleeping on a massage table.
After a great breakfast with Drinta I got back on the bike for another morning rush hour ride out of a yet another big city. The next city was a little smaller (just 600,000) and on my way in my host Lyla met up with me on her bicycle and we rode together to her flat. She had a really nice place overlooking the city and really made me feel at home. Since I need to get to Hong Kong before my visa expires I can’t stay in all places for long and the plan was just to stay one day in Suqian. But after a really nice dinner together the choice to stay another day was easy. So after dinner we headed out on town to a night club drinking, dancing and stayed up all night (drunk photos not included ;) .
The next day we rode our bikes to a nearby lake and had a nice and relaxing day with picnic on the grass.
Time went by fast and the next morning I was back up on the bike again headed south. This was one of the times having a dead line to get to Hong Kong forced me to continue on when I instead would have liked to stay longer. But the show must go on and I cycled another 130 km to Xuyi where I found a nice place to set up my tent. Since I have been so fortunate with invitations along the way I hadn’t slept in my tent since I was in Xinjiang province in the west. But I like camping and had a great night sleep in the tent. Next city along my way was Yangzhou and for a second time this week some nice people at a restaurant gave me a free lunch and we took some photos together. I think if people tagged me on their Chinese social media I would find myself on a lot of photos. In Yangzhou I met up with Alva and she had arranged for me to stay with her friend Hu since her house was full of relative during the national holiday. Both Alva and Hu was really cool and we had a nice dinner and a good rest which was good because the next day we squeezed in as much of Yangzhou as possible. We started 8 in the morning with breakfast at a very popular place, I had never seen so much people in a restaurant before and finding a place to sit was a competition. After a great breakfast we went to the old street and strolled around the old buildings where there were many interesting shops with craft work. After that we went on to the king’s tomb, the museum and ended up at an amusement park.
We had a nice dinner with Hu and another friend and later went to a place where they showed off ice sculptures. It felt a little like being back home and probably the coldest I will experience in a long while.

Yesterday I had a long day on the bike covering just over 140 km with an annoying head wind at times. But I made it to Yixing before dark and met up with my host Jacqueline at her work that was the biggest and most luxurious hotel in town. I got some strange looks when riding up to the entrance among Mercedes and BMW’s on my bike.
After some guys asked me what I was doing there Jacqueline came out and showed me how to get to her place. Finding an apartment in the dark in China where it’s so crowded and many places looking the same is really difficult. But after asking around for a while a found the place. And since Jacqueline wasn’t with me the neighbors looked a little confused when I rolled up with my bike looking for the flat. After a well-deserved rest we went out for some BBQ and had a good time. I have to say that I have been very lucky to have met all these great people and it feels good that I still have so much more to see here in China. Because when I return from Hong Kong I have 60 more days to stay in China and maybe I’ll meet up with some of my new friends again…