Day 7: Simatai-Jinshanling on foot on the WALL

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 7: Simatai-Jinshanling on foot on the WALL

After having slept on beds like planks we got up early to get to the Wall. We wanted to be there before the tourists on day trips coming from Beijing. The village where we slept was close to the wall, so actually we were up the Wall so early that there was nobody yet to check our tickets that we had bought already the day before. The first 2 hours we only met 5 other people and in total on the 10 km trip maybe only 70 people. It took us 6 hours to get to Jinshanling. We did it very relaxed and enjoyed the views. It was so beautiful and so was the weather.
Some parts of the Wall are luckily not restored so it feels like walking on the real one, but is also very tough. At the end of the day arriving in Jinshanling we were both really tired. Jolanda’s legs were shaking… So we hired one of the locals to drive us back to Simatai. For the rest of the day we relaxed in Simatai and watched the sunset going down on the Wall.

Day 6: Miyun-Simatai by bike

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 6: Miyun-Simatai by bike

Having gone all the way from Beijing on the major roads the day before it was a pleasure to go to Simatai primarily on country roads. We had almost no traffic and went through many small farmer villages with houses falling apart between the hands of the very poor farmers. We had our first encounter with Chinese authority as we needed to cross 3 dams on our way to Simatai. At the first dam the gates were closed and we had to take a detour of unknown distance to get around the dam. Finally it turned out to be not that far and we moved on to the 2nd dam. There the gates seemed closed as well but were opened as we got closer. And after having cycled another couple of kilometers we found ourselves in front of dam 3 with the gates closed again. The dam guard only agreed to open the gates when a car full of Chinese tourists helped us persuade him of the importance of letting us al through. Alternatively we would have had to back track numerous kilometers and plot out a new route. And our maps are not that accurate. If he hadn’t let us through, Jolanda would probably have thrown the bikes an bags over the gate to go the 15 meters across the dam. All day it was cloudy, perfect weather for biking.
Towards the end of the day we got the first sight of the Wall – the major goal of our trip to China, only a few kilometers away.

Day 5: Beijing – Miyun: First Day on the Bikes

Miyun, 19/9/2005 at 20:15

For the first time on our holidy we went for a long ride on the bikes: from Beijing to Miyun !

Everybody looked a lot at us: Two Europeans in tight cycling outfits. We even kept our jackets on because it was a cloudy day and a bit chilly at times. The first part of our trip went through Beijing and basically we experienced cars going slower because the drivers needed to watch us, shout at us, and honk at us. Very busy streets so far. We’re still in flat country, but tomorrow we go into the hills and will have the first views of THE GREAT WALL ! Yiiiihaaaa!!!!

We’ve been eating along the streets, which was the best food so far, and the post cards we brought with pictures from the Netherlands were being passed around the entire restaurant to great entertainment for everyone there. Basically it works like this: We have a small Dutch-Chinese dictionary that we flip out when we need to order something. It doesn’t make sense to see the menu because out of Beijing it’s ALL in Chinese, and the restaurant staff seems to understand NO English at all. But with hands and feet we get along quite well.

Today we’ll sleep in a fine hotel with no warm water and the reception doesn’t understand any English either, but are very friendly. We get to hear loooooooooooooong stories in Chinese and they (also here at the Internet cafe) write everything down for us in Chinese characters……… but finally we get to what we want and everything turns out well. Oh, and they charge nothing for hotels, food, and Internet outside of Beijing. VERY agreeable prices !!

PS.: Eating with chopsticks is rapidly improving. After a bad chopstick day yesterday today has been super.

Impressions from Beijing

Today we’ve already been in Beijing for a few days and it’s time to move on. However, first it’s time to try to give you a taste of all that we’ve seen in the last couple of days.

On Saturday we had breakfast where we enjoyed the so-called Moon cakes. They’re supposed to be very delicious, but the one we had on Saturday morning were not really our thing.

We ventured out into the traffic of Beijing went to the Forbidden City and took the metro to the Tian An Men Square. What a place ! All sorts of people of course wanted to offer us all kinds of services, and a group of Chinese people wanted to have their picture taken with Jolanda!

Once inside the Forbidden City at the North end of the Square, we rented a Roger Moore audio tour of the forbidden tour and went on to see what this Forbidden City hype was all about. The city is HUGE! We had expected a few well-kept houses, but what we found was simply amazing. Many small temples, most of them more than 500 years old, many of them rebuilt several times in the original style, because fire has never been a friend of the wooden Forbidden City, and all of them amazing to look at. We were busy all day until 17.00 when they closed, and we could probably have run around a bit longer – just to see it all.

We exited at the North Gate and went across the street into the Jingshan park where we had seen a temple which prodivided us with an extraordinary view of the entire Forbidden City !

Still trying to digest all we’d seen during the day we decided to take a look at the Night Market and have something to eat. At the first stand at the Night market we got cheated into paying a very high price for our food, but we got smarter and eventually got ourselves a very nice meal, shopping from the stands.

On Sunday we went through the same procedure as Saturday with breakfast, but with much better moon cakes than on Saturday. For some reason they still played the very same song over and over again as yesterday.

We went by cab to the Panjiayan Market (a.k.a. Dirt Market). Outside the hotel men are willingly offering taxi services for 50 Yuan and as you leave they’ll start slashing the price. We went across the street and got the same ride for 20 Yuan. A couple of hours were spent looking at crafts, Rolex, Chinese and Soviet army goods and many other useful and useless things. Very interesting to see everybody bargaining and talking about goods. We tried a bit of bargaining ourselves and went back to the hotel with a HUGE painting for our home. Help! How will we get that home??

Having rested a bit at the hotel we shopped at a small local supermarket and then went cycling and also saw some hutongs. Hutongs is the name for the areas where especially poor people live with small alleys and low houses – to great extent in ruins. Again we saw how the city mixes rich and very poor within a few square meters.

Later in the evening we went to a hotpot restaurant across the street. Hotpot is a restaurant where the guests sit around a table with each managing his own pot of meat and vegetables. Very delicious and cheap.

Now we’re ready to go biking. Everything is good here and we look forward to seeing China outside Beijing as well !

Beijing, Hotpot, China, Restaurant, Hutong, Panjiayan Market, Dirt Market, Night Market, Jingshan park, Moon Cake, Forbidden City, Tian An Men

Beijing: Yes, we’re here !

After a long flight with way too little space and way to little sleep we have arrived in Beijing. Of course it was very interesting for us to see if the bikes had taken the same trip as us – preferrably in one piece. At Beijing Airport we found all of our luggage including the bikes. The luggage was fine and only the protection that we had put on the bikes was damaged. Besides from a few scratches we think that the bikes are fine.

When we first got on the plane it was a bit of a dissapointment to have been given two middle seats – even in the middle row. And at below middle size… It’s quite difficult to sleep in spots like that. We flew with China Southern Airlines, and we suspect that Boeing has probably constructed this plane on special order to fit the Chinese people!

Shortly before the start we met Mikkel, the husbond of Lisbeth, one of Jakob’s former colleagues at Cisco. He was by accident located in the seat immediately behind Jakob. Very weird! Mikkel by the way also happens to be a former inhabitant of Nyborg, Denmark – like Jakob…
He was on his way to a training in Beijing, and we had a bit of a talk about how he and Lisbeth were doing, and about this and that in general.

At Beijing Airport, the taxi driver was already waiting for us at the arrival, eagerly waving a sign with our names, which made it difficult to recognize the names on the board. He recognized us because of the bikes. He took us straight to the hotel – through the mayhem which is Beijing traffic. Nobody breaks for noone here, they honk a lot and here little men with red flags, whistles and big hats are trying to control the traffic. They see of course that they are failing and limit themselves to fiercely control the pedestrian traffic…

At 14.00 local time we were check in at the Ha De Mem Hotel. Time to pack out, shower, put bikes together and then get out on the street.

We went in direction of the Tian An Men square, but instead of going to the square we chose to go for something to eat. It took us quite a while to get there as we had to get ourselves a mobile number. The mobile number was a specific challenge in that nobody here seems to speak any English. We were really finding the words from the Lonely Planet books that we had with us, and with a few hand signs and the 5 words of English that the salesman knew we finally ended up with a mobile number. We even tried to negotiate a discount…

The rest of the way towards the square we took the time to look at the life in the street. People getting their hair cut, people selling all sorts of food, which we wouldn’t even know HOW to start eating, bike repair shops on the sidewalk, and all the time these traditional Chinese lamps in between the moderne skyscrapers and commercials.

People are looking at us, and especially Jolanda wished she would have put on a pair of long trousers instead of the shorts. Apparently girls in shorts is not really normal. Can’t wait to get into the bike outfit….
Maybe we also stick out basically by looking different, taller, blonder, different colour of eyes, etc.

We managed to eat dinner with sticks this evening. We don’t really know what exactly we got, but are pretty sure that we will be better at choosing the right things in the future. This was not really the most succesful evening meal we’ve ever had.

Now we’re super tired and want to go to bed. It’s now 20.10 here in the evening, it’s dark outside and we slept three hours each last night.
We’ll see how it goes tonight. The beds are stiff as bricks, so it’ll be another new experience.

Schiphol Airport

Finally on the way, now sitting at Schiphol Airport waiting for the boarding at 19.15. This morning was all about packing everything, and that went extremely well until about 15 minutes before we wanted to leave when we weighed everything. We’re allowed to bring 30kg each including bikes excluding hand luggage, and to our great surprise we were well above that. A quick repacking allowed us to shuffle some stuff into hand luggage and end up at a lower weight, and we’re now checked in and well.

Jakob looks pretty tired right now as he had some things to finish work-wise before going to China. In fact it ended up taking until 02.00 last night. Jolanda is irritated because she got a fee from one of the employees of the Amsterdam public transportation company. We were travelling outside the zone that the ticket was valid for, and when we got “caught” the GVB-guy insisted on having Jolanda pay a hefty extra penalty only for forgetting to stamp an extra zone. Now she has to pay within 7 days, which is obviously quite difficult, so now she will probably have to pay an extra fee for paying too late.

And now we’re off to gate F8.

Course: How-to-eat-with-chopsticks

We are just back from the Chinese restaurant where we asked for chopsticks. Not only that, we also wanted them to explain us how to eat with these things (in a language that we understand…). So we got a little “how-to-eat-with-chopsticks” course. While I was getting quite well along with it, and Jakob was spoiling all his food on the table and making a mess, the Chinese girl just stayed around us and gave some advice about China. So while she was anyway staying around most of the time talking to us, I showed her a copy of the most important Chinese words and asked her to tell us how you should say these words. So while concentrating on eating with chopsticks we also got a little Chinese course. Yes, we are ready for China, after all in less than 48 hours the airplane takes off…

Meer en meer Chinese toeristen in Nederland

Terwijl wij naar China gaan, komen de Chinesen naar ons. Dit staat vandaag in het Parool:
Het aantal Chinese bezoekers aan Amsterdam zal de komende jaren enorm stijgen. De hotels in Amsterdam en bij Schiphol, die vorig jaar ruim 40.000 Chinezen als gast hadden, verwachten over vijf jaar 300.000 overnachtingen van Chinezen.
Sinds vorig jaar mogen Chinezen zonder speciale toestemming van de regering in Peking op groepsreis naar Europa. Eén op de tien kiest voor een bezoek aan Nederland, waarbij Amsterdam favoriet is.
Lees verder

Readying the Bikes for China

In the picture you’ll see how busy we are getting the bikes ready for China. Today we’ve adjusted them, and created cardboard protection for wheels, gear changers, and frames – all in order to be as prepared for the airport on Thursday next week as possible.

At the airport we will have to:
1) Set our saddles and steerings low;
2) Take the pedals off;
3) Take some air out of the wheels;
4) Turn the steering;
5) Put the extra protection like cardboard and “bike pyjamas” on the bikes, for them to have as safe a flight as we hope to have.

After doing all of this at the airport we will no doubt find hundreds of oil spots on our clothes – just before sitting down in a nice, comfortable, and clean airplane seat for 10 hours.

We have now both been to the haircutter, so we don’t need to worry too much about hair fashion for the next few weeks.

Almost set to go ! 🙂

Jolanda practicing with chopsticks

When you go to China obviously you need to eat Chinese food. And how do you eat Chinese food. Yes, with chopsticks. Jolanda plans on smuggling a pair of cheat chopsticks into China to use them as an “if-all-else-fails” way of eating.

Thank you, Michiel for making Jolanda’s life easier!! 🙂

Below you’ll see her practicing the art of cheat-chopsticks-eating on an Dutch Peking Duck.

On another note, theres only a week to go now. A week from now if all goes well, we’ll be sitting in an airplane already far away from Amsterdam! The bikes are now pretty much set to go. We’re waiting for some clothes to arrive, traveler cheques are in place, and the list of things to-do is getting
smaller every day.