A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Whiskey

204 km: .......... 6800 to go!

We are in Wuzhou! The first two days went smoothly although admitted with some saddle pain...... We did not even get lost, or at least not really. B's Cantonese proves useful although he has already been told that he has a horrible Hong Kong accent.

China is shocking us as it usually does. You can fool yourself you are living in China when you are in Hong Kong but just travel 100km out and you know it isn't true. We spend the first night in Zhaoqing which we suspect was beautiful but the "mist" prevented us from seeing the famous lake and mountains. After 4.5 years in Hong Kong we do no longer belief in something as innocent as morning mist......... and stinging eyes and sore throats confirmed this was some pretty bad polution indeed. It stayed with us much through the first day, a 105 km trip to Decheng along the Pearl river. Again we did not see much of the river nor the mountains beside it as sight was limited to about 500m. The bikes are holding up great and start to look dirty and old as they should.

Today we took a little ferry to the other side of the river. We had been cycling on a local highway the day before and although it was totally doable; not too much traffic and a very good road, we were longing for a bit more local local roads and scenery. We kept following the river for most of the day. We took a noodle break in Junan and asked for the way to Wuzhou. Two people simultaneouly and very convincingly pointed in two opposite directions.... only to decide a fraction later that indeed both were possible. Unfortunately we could not quite understand the rapid explanation that followed so we just chose what looked to be a more quiet route. It turned out to lead us to another ferry so back we went over the river and back to our lovely highway....

Now we are in Wuzhou, checked into a hotel (we should not have worried about finding hotels, there are more than plenty and they all think it is perfectly normal that we take the bikes up to our room) and are exploring. This is actually a quite nice city........ it is a surprise to us too, we are travelling without a guidebook so have no clue what our daily destinations actually have to offer. We just choose them by size and disctance. Anyway, the few streets that we have seen so far look nice with some old buildings and street markets. We may even stay here for a day and take some rest.

Posted by Whiskey 02:08 Archived in China Comments (2)

736 km: last stop in China

Merry christmas everyone!
We are in Fangcheng; yet another city with a million or so people..... we are 60km from the Vietnam border and hope to cross it tomorrow.
Although we hear Christmas songs everywhere and our hotel has a beautiful fake tree i don't think people actually realize it is christmas, nor care by the way.

We had some tough stages getting here. We decided to ignore the rain and cycle from Guigang to Lingshan 2 days ago.... tough decision as it was raining cats and dogs and it was cold. We have to admit we had a look at the train time table but fortunately there was no feasible connection. Fortunately, because this turned out to be one of the more scenic stages so far. Also the longest by the way as we lost our way and took a 45 km detour which brought the total to 140km. Add some steep hills and rain and we felt like true bikkels.

Funny how you loose your way..... we were on a pretty straightforward route, nothing could go wrong, just follow the road. All signs were in Chinese only but our map is (yes very handy NOT) in English only. Now we usually ask the hotel reception to write down all cities and villages along the way in chinese before we leave but nobody knew how to spell Lingshan (no doubt due to our horrendous pronounciation). We knew the second caracter for "shan" or mountain so we were confident we were on the right way. Then we got a choice between two "shan's" without a second of hesitation we chose the nearest one, only 29 km away...... when we arived at a village , by then pretty tired and soaking wet we found it was not called lingshan....... "Lingshan 40km this way" a smiling villager told us. Nice! but we survived and Lingshan was a nice city.

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Then yesterday from Lingshan to Qinzhou. very Piauliau (beautiful)..... the landscape is a bit like yangshuo here (which means pretty flat with nice small karst mountains and little winding rivers). We saw the sun for the first time this trip and people are getting more and more and more friendly. Example: we got taken over by a small minivan with the usual amount of honking only to see all passanger hanging out of the windows yelling "merry christmas!!". Nice.

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We are now experts in the horn language:
Small irritating horn which is pressed frequently and long behind you: it is a scooter or a substandard car under the brand Foton (the lada/ trabant equivalent of this region) the vehicle can easily pass you but the drivers ego is too big to simply let that happen so you need to move.
Deafening loud and high pitched horn blown 200 times in the distance before the vehicle actually reaches you: Bus collecting passengers. No more effective way of advertising than that. And advisable to actually move aside as these guys drive fast.
Very urgent low horn blown at shorter and shorter intervals: Behind you two vehicles, usually busses or trucks, are taking over, from the other side there is also a big vehicle approaching.....and the road fits two at the best of times. You are clearly the weakest link about to be squashed........... a quick escape into the (hopefully) soft grass/ sand on the side of the road is your best option.
any horn blown in a rythm: the driver is simply acknowledging your presence on the road and expressing his surprise to see such weird Gweilo (foreigners). We get a lot of these.
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Today we took it easy and cycled just 40km into the next big city. We are now trying to find ourselves a nice christmas dinner and are getting ready to cross the border. Vietnam, here we come.

Posted by Whiskey 02:43 Archived in China Comments (1)

1031 km: Ha Long, Cat Ba Island

welcome to the wonderfull world of mass tourism.

After two days of cycling we have reached one of the tourist Mecca's of Vietnam: Ha Long Bay, famous for it's beautiful Karst mountains in the water. And beautiful it is! So after two weeks of cycling and seeing literally not even one tourist now we are in the middle of it all. This has the usual (doubtful) advantages of banana pancake breakfasts and more than plenty of opportunity to speak Dutch.... and the usual disadvantages of people pulling you into restaurants and hotels, agressive sales techniques and the general way of being treated as cattle. But hey, it is all worth it as it is truly amazing here. we have based ourselves on Cat ba island which is small and relatively relaxed.
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We have allowed ourselves the luxury of doing absolutely nothing on our first day here. Sit on the balcony, read a book, drink a tea. Small walk to beach, and back....and other such highly exiting stuff. We washed our clothes and bikes, both of which were more than a little necesarry although amongst all these neo hippy backpackers you hardly noticed that we smelled.... after a day of cycling through coal mine area our bikes were covered in sticky black coal dust and so were we....it proved pretty hard to get rid of.

Today we hiked through the national park and the good news is that our upper legs now feel remotely normal again. Cycling 1000km in 11 days took its toll and walking the two sets of stairs to our hotel room left us in total agony two days ago, substantial pain yesterday and only minor discomfort today. Yippee this means we are ready to take off again tomorrow!
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Before we forget: a happy new year to all of you! We are going to throw ourselves into the mad party scene of Catba Island...... there must be something on somewhere.
This is not a Vietnamese party....they hold their horses for the much bigger chinese new year festival (tet festival) 6 weeks from now. So we are relying on the gweilo here to make it happen. We ran in to one of the 3 foreign business owners, an English hotel owner, two days ago. He claimed to already have organised the christmas dinner so feels it is not his turn. The Kiwi bar owner next door claims he wants to party himself and will therefore close shop well before 12. All eyes are now set on the one remaining Australian bar owner who is actually stupid enough to be out of town which will almost certainly turn his bar into the big party place tonight...... let's see.

Have a good one everyone!

Posted by Whiskey 03:30 Archived in Vietnam Comments (5)

1217 km: Hanoi

Aloha!
yes we are in good tropical spirits as the wheather has finally decided to be nice to us. It is not entirely bye bye to the fleece sweaters as the evenings are still cold but blue skies and sunshine are making us very happy indeed.
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We are back in Hanoi after 4 years and regognize a lot. It is busier and more touristic than we remembered but still nice. The vietnamese certainly understand the good life and this city is full of nice cafe's and little roadsite coffee/ tea joints; bakeries with french croissants and pain au chocolat complete the picture. It is a bit French but without the French. I leave it to your personal judgement whether that is a positive or not.
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The ride here was very good. We left cat Ba slighty hungover on january first to be blown away by the best scenery so far.
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We had to cycle 24 km over the island to get to the ferry port and these were some truly amazing beautiful kilometers. then we took a ferry to a next island, cycled over that to the other end to yet another ferry to the main land. There we arrived in Vietnam's largest industrial city of Hai Phong. The outskirst were ugly and industrial, the inner city is actually nice with lots of old colonial buildings and a nice atmosphere.

This was followed by a 133km ride to hanoi. Nice ride: we found a lot of roads that were not mentionned on our (otherwise very good and detailed) german map because everytime we aked someone for the way they pointed us to the smallest and most local (and no doubt most direct) roads. very cool.It took us to a lot of ferries and along some nice rice and carrot fields. Especially the carrot peope were nice; as soon as we asked them the way they offered us a nice clean fresh carrot for on he road.
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It really has to be said: the people are so nice. we heard a lot of bad stories from the hippie backpackers crowd, the commonly shared opinion is that the vietnamese are not nice.... or at least not as nice as everyone else in south east asia. Again, it proves that cycling takes you way of the mass tourist trail: we get a lot of "hallo's" , schoolchildren cycling along wih us, a lot of smiles and we meet nice people all the time.

We just sent a package home to get rid of those extra unneccesary kilo's of luggage. we are now down to the bare minimum. After reading someone describing the mountains in the north west (where we are heading now) as Alpe d'huez but then much bigger we got a bout of stage fright and decided that such over the top luxury as towels and that extra t-shirt are really not worth the pain..... i sincerely hope it helps!

Posted by Whiskey 04:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

1593km : Sa Pa

We wanted mountains.......... we got mountains. Plenty of them, very huge and very beautiful. It has slowed our pace to about 55km a day. (Just imagine 20km's of those constantly climbing up a 1000 meter higher pass at 5 to 10% gradient and you'll understand what is slowing us down).

It has even forced us into our first cheating....... we took a bus yesterday :-) We had climbed a huge pass - the one described above - the day before and our legs were still in state of shock. Add some stomach trouble and we both felt not up to climbing the 1900 meter high tram Ton pass close to Sapa....... So the local bus it was! they were happy to take our bikes and we were happy to be carried over the pass comfortably.

The local H'momg tribe is celebrating it's new year so the fields are full of kids playnig ball games in their traditional dresses. They are as curious and surprised to see us as we are to see them. Also curious but quite ferocious are the road side pigs and dogs. Clearly they do not see many cyclists in these regions and our calves look juicy enough to try a chase. Never underestimate the speed of a downhill gallopping pig....... these speed demons easily reach 30km/ hour and manage to make some truly amazing sounds while at it. Luckily our downhill speed is well over 50km/hour.....

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Posted by Whiskey 04:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

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