There is two month that I arrive in China, today I just start writing this paper, and I wonder, What have I seen, what I liked ? What I’ll keep in memory ?
So difficult to answer these questions, I remains a bit confused about China.
China has been a cultural choc, maybe more difficult because we arrive there from Japan. Few month ago I was still thinking those two country so similar!
True, they both have slanting eyes, but to be honest there is nothing more!
On one hand in Japan, shop’s welcome might look a bit excessive: two hello, six thank you and three goodbye, on the other hand in China you can forget “hello”, “goodbye” and any smile!
Japan was beatiful for its green countryside, and its rivers, in China, we are lucky cause they have a lots of rivers more or less everywhere, but there is no way I go to swim on it, streams are so polluted. One time, I’ve seen a dead piglet floating on it while I was washing… Even if I have to admit, after a day cycling on 40°c, if we found a river with a bit less plastic and rusty cans, we are going there…
About drinking water, in Japan you just have to open a street tap, to refill your bottles, in China, most of groundwater are polluted (more than 60% are, some with arsenic), so even the tap water is not recommended for drinking. Fortunately we found “Sinopec” and “uSmile” two gas station a bit everywhere in the country, they became our best friends. We stopped there at least two times a day to empty a bit their drinking water stock (or from gallon or boiled water), but it was also a good opportunity to have a break out of sun and eat a bit.
About roads, its the same, in Japan, I could imagine to eat on the floor, in China, I don’t cycle anymore without my glasses, not for the sun, but because there is too much dust. I don’t look anymore sides of road, it’s full of rubbish 🙁 Chinese don’t care at all about their nature, and a piece of grass will become a trash, more than a garden).
Moreover, we can note that they have an excellent primary road network.
On road, Japanese are very careful, they don’t overtake me if they don’t have two meters between me and their car, in China, they are honking 300 meters before, and to stay alive it’s better to move.
Here it’s a free interpretation of traffic laws, It’s the law of the strongest: trucks > vans > motorbike > scooters > bicycle > pedestrian… So, yes, we are quite nothing compare to motorized (and polluters) vehicles, but we still keep a bit of authority over pedestrians :). Here horn means everything “hello”, “warning”, “get out”, and sometime nothing, they looks liking to use it… but when we cross over 800 trucks a day (and more than 1500 cars, honking too) you finish your days with an aspirin.
The last difficult thing in China, is politeness, Chinese spend their time to take picture of us, from their car, motorbike, or on sidewalk. Once, it could be ok, but in reality, it’s more fifteen times a day, and of course, not even a “hello”, “thank you” or a smile (Chinese remains true to himself), just a car window opening, a camera out, and a car gone.
And even when we take time to explain them that we don’t want they take us a picture, they say they understand and put away their camera, but as soon you turn back they take it out, take a picture and go…
So, it’s a bit difficult to stay positive in this Chinese world.
Fortunately, there are some nice places, Yes, we found two, on over 25000 kilometers.
Huang Shan (also known as “Yellow Mountains”), is a great natural park, classified on UNESCO world heritage list (since 1990), so I have to translate: Entrance 35€ + bus (5€) + cable car (15€ each) + expensive gift shops and water overpriced! So we paid the entrance, then we walked.
Lost among hundreds of Chinese tourist, hard to find a track, but the good thing is the Chinese is not very patient (he walk, take a picture, and move to the next crowded picture sight). Whereas waiting few minutes and the veil of fog where mounts are hiding, slowly get out, and leave a magic place appears. The pictures speak for themselves.
1200 km far away, we arrive in Yangshuo, small village lost between hundreds of karst mountains, Here we find Joana and Christophe, friends of Chloé, Marion’s sister. We join them in their guesthouse where we met Mathieu and Colline (two french backpackers, here for volunteering) and Pauline and Akio, two others backpackers. Very nice atmosphere, drinks, walks, and climbing during these days. All are going to South East Asie, so maybe our wheels will cross their backpack again.
Meanwhile, we had a good week there, just time to receive our Vietnamese visa, So just 800 km to get out of China.
I know that this paper is not very positive about China, but the country is so huge, that we had to make choices, why not coming back and going to Sichuan and Yunnan, two nice regions that many backpackers recommend us, but for us it was 2000 km more this time, so, maybe next.