Day 16: Xing An – Golden Coast, Ghost City at the Beach

Bei Dai He, 01/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 16: Xing An – Golden Coast, Ghost City at the Beach

Yipiiiiiiieeee – dry all day ! We passed a few village markets and were followed by school kids by bike. Halfway throgh this ride we entered a wine district where we had lunch in yet another family restaurant. Very nice experience where we met student Yue Li who was very happy to practice her English and actually see that it works. Very few foreigners come to Chang Li for her to practice on – we were the first ! Her father – a grape farmer – presented us with the overwhelming gift of a few kilos of grapes, which Jolanda more or less willingly transported to the Golden Coast on the back of her bike. On the way we saw “fields” of drying noodles.
The Golden Coast seemed to us to have had its “Golden” time. The city was dead besides a dozen half-open restaurants and hotels.

Day 15: Zunhua – Xing An: 110 Kilometers in Mud and Rain

Bei Dai He, 01/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 15: Zunhua – Xing An: 110 Kilometers in Mud and Rain

Immediately from the beginning of this ride we got into the rain. The dusty roads turned into small mud pools, and after the first major industrial area especially Jakob was covered in mud. At about 30 kilometers we had enough and tried unsuccesfully to get a ride to Xing An. We continued by bike towards Xing An, saw the Great Wall a few times on the way, and finished the day in heavy rain with our mind on warm showers. We almost didn’t dare to enter the hotel to ask for a room – we were THAT dirty! How do you explain in Chinese that you need newspapers to put into your shoes for drying?

Day 14: Huangyaguan – Eastern Qing Tombs – Zunhua: Biking on the Graveyard

Bei Dai He, 01/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 14: Huangyaguan – Eastern Qing Tombs – Zunhua: Biking on the Graveyard

A very warm day awaited us on this trip with a spectacular stop-over at the Eastern Qing Tombs. We noticed that fall is starting here in China. Leaves fall to the street and it also quickly gets cold in the evenings. As mentioned this day was warm – also when we arrived at the Eastern Qing Tombs.
When we had seen the first major building of these sacred emperial burial grounds we already thought that it was the actual tomb of the first Qing emperor. Huge and massive it stood there right in front of us. It turned out to be a mere shed compared to the actual tombs a few kilometers down the road. It’s an amazing area with huge tombs in the shape of temples made for the emperors, empresses, their concubines, servants, etc., etc. The area was that of a medium-size town, so we decided to skip a part and move on towards Zunhua. We got there by dusty roads, checked in to the best hotel so far, and found a place to have dinner. The owner of the restaurant thought it was very special to have us there and served free dishes for us to enjoy.
After having slept on rice pillows for several nights it was very nice with a descent hotel with descent pillows again…

Day 13: Huangyaguan: Cleaning Bikes and Walking the Wall

Bei Dai He, 01/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 13: Huangyaguan: Cleaning Bikes and Walking the Wall

With the mud layers from the flood crossing between Chengde and Yingshouing still on the bikes, this day was perfect for a heavily needed cleaning job. Both bikes were washed completely, re-oiled and had the tires pumped to close to maximum – ready for a new ride and then eventually parked in our room, while we took a long walk on the Wall. Luckily it was much less foggy and the view from the Wall was great. On the last part of our hike, Jakob managed to leave a lasting impression on the Wall. Concrete workers working to restore the stairs had put wet concrete in the gaps between some of the stones. Jakob accidently stepped in the concrete and thus left an impression which will have tourists wondering for decades.

Day 12: Yingshouing – Huangyaguan: Back to the Wall

Bei Dai He, 01/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 12: Yingshouing – Huangyaguan: Back to the Wall

Luckily we were allowed to leave Yingshouing to go in direction of Huangyaguan for another look at the wall. After escaping the industrial zone we found ourselves again in a postcard-like country-side and the cycling day was finished with a long descent down the misty mountains (misty all day) and check-in at a family run guesthouse/fishing farm. For lunch we had freshly caught – killed in front of us – salmon, which was subsequently grilled and extremely delicious.
We went for another hike on the wall. After having seen the wall between Simatai and Jinshanling this piece of wall didn’t seem that impressive. It was largely restored, but mainly by use of stone and concrete. Concrete just doesn’t really suit the Great Wall. Here again we had almost no tourists.

Day 11: Chengde – Yingshouing, Ugliest City so far

Bei Dai He, 01/10/2005 at 23:00

Day 11: Chengde – Yingshouing, Ugliest City so far

This morning we saw another extreme example of cultural differences in the restaurant at breakfast. 30-40 Chinese who all chewed their food and drank their drinks or rice pudding – all with their mouths open. The noise was quite incredible! Roads were in general very bad today with holes, bumps, not to mention a missing bridge where we had instead to go via a very muddy path to cross the river. We went through several tunnels as well, which is slightly unpleasant. Imagine that you are very small and have a very small light in a several hundred meters long tunnel, and a HUGE truck is coming at you – honking. You get the picture…
At a certain point we really doubted whether we were on the right track. This is not so funny when the maps are undetailed and you have another 70 kilometers to go. We just did not need any additional kilometers on this day, which was extremely warm. We found the right way, though, and about half way enjoyed a very nice lunch at a by-the-road family restaurant. At the end they just wanted to make pictures of us, and didn’t want to charge us for eating. Towards the end of the day the beautiful country-side scenery changed into grim, industrial surroundings and we ended up in the coal mining mess of Yingshouing. We have never seen so many things being so black in one place, and felt actually most like staying the evening inside the hotel. You can’t imagine how black everything in such a town is – even the smell was black.

Day 10: Chengde: A Tibet Feeling

Chengde, 24/9/2005 at 17:00

Today we’ve been biking around Chengde looking at the temples, many of them being buddhist temples. Sometimes it has felt more like being in Tibet than in China. Other than that the city of Chengde is ugly and not very cozy. At the back of out hotel we just spotted yet another extremely poor neighbourhood. We went in that direction to eat yesterday and people are really friendly despite living on a financial minimum. We were invited (read: forced) to drink Yun Hu beer with the owner, and Jolanda discovered just about the only beer in the world that she actually likes… Besides that we ended up spending about 5Y (50 Euro Cents) for the whole dinner!

This morning we met a Dutch couple in the restaurant for breakfast. They had been following the same route as we, but were forced to shorten their holiday and were going back to Beijing today. We met them by accident and they are the first cycling tourists that we’ve seen here. They were probably twice our age and pensioned. We have a lot of respect for people at that age going on cycling holidays.

Later on we went out and the weather was beautiful – around 24 degrees and only a few clouds all day.

Now we look forward to getting into slightly more quiet countryside with less traffic on the roads as well. This should also mean that we will have less possibilities to get online, so it’ll probably be a few days until our next post.

Day 9: Simatai – Chengde: Bad Day on the bikes

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 9: Simatai – Chengde: Bad Day on the bikes

We got up at 5:15 am to get away early and be before darkness in Chengde. We started and found out that Jolanda had a flat tire. People get up early in China because already at this time of the day we had a lot of spectators around us while we changed the tire. Finally we got going and with several breaks we made it to the 60 km mark of our day trip before we found a taxi to drive us the last 60 km to Chengde. The heat (although it was cloudy), the honking cars, the pollution, the continous trouble with the bikes finally made us call it quits. So now we are in Chengde where we have found a decent hotel with SOFT beds, a Kentucky Fried Chicken (we are too tired for challenges in Chinese) and an internet cafe to keep you guys updated about our trip.

Day 8: Simatai Eastern Great Wall on foot

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 8: Simatai Eastern Great Wall on foot

Visiting the people of Jinshanling had been a bad experience so we decided to stay another day in Simatai. This time we walked the Eastern part of the Wall at Simatai. This part is not for the faint-hearted. This rough section of the Wall is largely unrestored and very very steep. We went as far East as we could and walked the same way back. Downhill was quite a challenge because we felt our legs from the day before. But that doesn’t matter, it is definitely worth it.
This was the hottest day so far with nearly no wind.
Back in Simatai we took the bikes out to try to find another way out of Simatai, basically to cross the wall to get North in direction of Chengde. But it turned out that we anyway had to take the main road around the Wall. Day 9 would be a very long bike ride…