26.01.2011 - 29.01.2011 7 °C
Our cycling days in china so far go something like this:
1. Wake up feeling very cold and stay in bed for 20 minutes before getting up and putting on all our clothes.
2. Go to breakfast and eat some steamed buns, dough sticks, warm soy milk, tea, sometimes a boiled egg (cooked in tea)
3. Go back to the hotel, get changed and get cycling (wearing most of our clothes ontop of our lycra - thid is not a modesty thing)
4. Cycle till lunch occasionally glancing up at the sky to see if there is any chance of the sun making an appearance (never)
5. Eat lunch at a random shack of a restuarant in some dead end dirty, dusty town. Communicate that we want some of the noodles in chicken soup but without all the bits of pigs head in them. A crowd of about 20 people have usually crowded around us to watch us eat in what seems to be their most entertaining event of the day.
6. Cycle through some pretty karst scenery on dirty dusty roads till about 5 when we will arrive in another dusty town. Find the best looking hotel (usually the one with the most obscene amount of marble in the lobby) and check in. Rooms in such an establishment as this will usually cost 8-10 pounds. Drink some tea. shower. find a decentish looking restuarant and eat a LOT of food. This is great not only because we are usually famished but because the Chinese sure can cook. The street food is particulary good. Definitely my favourite part of the day.
7. Wander round the dirty dusty town remarking how dirty and dusty it is before returning to the hotel.
Anyway, back to matters of business...
We arrived in Yangshuo after 7 days on the bike. The cold weather was beginning to take its toll on seemingly everything; my gear cables were frayed rendering me down to 6 usable ones (it was too cold to attempt fixing this anywhere we stayed), our GPS refused to work, and i was coming down with a nasty cold. We checked into a hotel and pondered our next move. we needed to get somewhere warmer and fast. After a day of eating some western food and drinking ginger tea in some of the many touristy places in Yangshuo, and chatting to the first westerners we have met in China, we decided to change our route which was originally going to be heading west towards Yunnan province. South was the only option to get some warmer weather so after bagging ourselves a couple of massages, we jumped on a bus to Nanning, 400km south. We seemed to have bagged the last 2 tickets on the bus and were unable to sit together so mariana sat up front whilst i was on the back row. Mariana had a particularly pleasant journey with the lady next to her using the adjascent bin as a spitting receptacle for her and a toilet for her 3 children - it was a rather smelly affair to say the least.
Nanning was another big Chinese city with skyscrapers galore. the scale at which the chinese are building these cities has to be seen to be believed. It's almost as if they are mobilising for war with every able resource (human and natural) being thrown into all manner of building projects. This brings me onto some sweeping generalisations about things that the chinese love - well there are over a billion of them!!!
1. Building. you name it they will build it. Favourites include massive skyscraper, damns and roads.
2. spitting. everywhere in anything.
3. Shouting at each other for no apparent reason.
4. Smoking (our waiters were once smoking whilst they served us our food)
5. Playing computer games - imagine walking into an internet cafe with 200 people all playing computer games
6. honking their horns. this is incessent and get pretty tedious. it doesn't matter what vehicle they are approaching the chinaman will always hoot at least 5 times using what appear to be the subwoofers of vehicle horns. This seems to me to be the equivalent of walking down the street shouting "Me, me, me, me, me!!!!!"
7. Mass extraction of all available resources, primarily in order to facilitate number 1 (building). This includes destruction of large sections of the country. As there are no apparent regulations on activities of any kind to protect local people of the environment, this is pretty relentless and very depressing.
8. Chopping up bits of pig on the side of the road. This is happening every 20 metres along an average high street. I guess its more interesting than having a Boots, next to a WH Smith, next to a KFC.
Anyway, back to the travelling... Nanning is an ok place but has an awesome food market where we ate dinner twice. All manner of animals and vegetables are displayed including crocdile, toad and numerous live birds such as sparrows.
Another thing of note about Nanning was the sheer number of people. We spent a lot of time wandering round feeling like we were leaving a football match. The Nanningians love their electric bikes with thousands of them everwhere. These have totally taken over from bicycles which are now seen as something you only use if you can't afford an electric one which is a bit sad.
The plan was now to continue south towards Vietnam in search of warmer weather so after obtaining our visas we headed south east along a very bumpy road - road quality is very variable in China with some being fantastic and others resembling a WW1 battelfield. We spent a couple of hours in an old town called Yangmei which was pleasant enough but not a patch on Hangyao as very little had been done in the way of preservation. We then cycled another 20km through miles and miles of really depresing bannana plantations before reaching the shittest town yet. I dont know the name of this place but it doesn't really matter, it had no redeeming features. Whatsmore, the weather was still really cold (7 degress in the day and 3 degrees at night). This conversation seemed to sum up the situation:
Rob (looking up at the grey sky trying to feel his toes): Well, it could be worse. Its cold and grey but it could be raining.
Mariana: It could be even worse than that. It could be freezing and raining.
... and i thought we were supposed to be on holiday. Evasive action needed to be taken before we were consumed by an all pervading misery.