你好 Nǐhǎo China 中
After a restful day in Sapa, I started early in the morning for a speedy descent to the Chinese border. The difference in height soon became noticeable. In Sapa still pleasant, mild temperatures prevailed, it was soon again oppressively hot and the tropical climate with its high humidity had me fully under control again. For the last time, I once again enjoyed the view over the beautiful rice terraces.
In Lao Cai, the border crossing was soon found. On both sides, the border guards initially did not quite know what to do with such a weird Velonomaden. On the Vietnamese side, they put me and my bike in the queue of pedestrians. The Chinese border guards were highly fascinated by the design of the Swiss passport. Each page was precisely viewed and discussed. It took a while for a 40-page pass to get my stamp on entry.
Because my bike did not fit through the X-ray machine, I was allowed to use the passage for transport goods. Immediately after the border, I was able to exchange my last Vietnamese dongs in yuan (8 yuan = about 1 CHF.-). Only one hour took the border crossing and nobody wanted to control my luggage. I like that! Already during the passage through the first village, I was repeatedly welcomed by passersby in China. I was quite fascinated by the streets. The Chinese are definitely far more advanced in road construction than their Southeast Asian neighbors.
The northern tropic and thus the geographical border area of the tropics, is still partly in southern China. Around noon, it was already mercilessly hot again. In a banana plantation I found a small siesta place. Only then did I realize the time difference. China is an hour before the Southeast Asian time and 6 hours before the Central European.
The rapidly progressing road construction also has its pitfalls. While more and more modern highways are emerging, the maintenance of the existing road network is totally neglected. However, these roads are enormously important, especially for local traffic and also for cyclists, as no two-wheelers are allowed on the freeways. This is called Chinese progress! So I was on the first day after a short time and noticed the error only a few miles later. Since there are several variants to Kunming, this was not so serious.
Much worse was on this day the blazing sun and for almost 20 kilometers no shade in view. In the late afternoon I found at the turnoff to Gejiu finally a gas station with sun roof and cooling drinks. However, that did not help much. I had already caught a heat accumulation. After a few kilometers I had to surrender and set up my tent with the last of my strength right on the roadside.
However, the right ordeal did not come until the next day; 30 kilometers continuous slope. It took me almost 4 hours and at the end I expected a 2 kilometer tunnel.
The cool temperature inside was great, but cycling in a tunnel is not fun at all! When a truck rolls on, you feel like a plane is flying right in front of you. The light at the end of the tunnel was salvation. Now I know how a near-death experience must feel!
In Gejiu, the lady behind the cash register was amazed when I put my drinks shopping on the counter. 8 liters of water and 4 liters of sweet drinks. Afterwards I was rewarded for the exertions of the morning. It followed a 14-kilometer downhill with tailwind. I felt like a bird.
After this departure, the climate changed abruptly. At night, the temperatures dropped significantly and the humidity decreased more and more. I had left the northern tropic behind me. I realized China's enormous dimensions on these first days. The landscape looks enormously spacious, there is heavy traffic in the streets and everything is in motion, like in an anthill.
Productivity is very important here compared to other Asian countries I've seen so far. Especially the discipline of the Chinese impresses me again and again. The next 3 days I made pretty good progress and always found fantastic campsites. This usually missed the day in the saddle. Air particle filters for motor vehicles are known in China as little as environmental protection. If you do not feel the smell of stinking rubbish heaps that lie on the roadside by the ton, you're sure to be overtaken by a truck that blows all your fumes into your face as you overtake.
Somehow I missed these days the quiet and clean mountains of North Vietnam enormously. I felt especially sick the countless animal carcasses, which are simply disposed of. Pigs, dogs, cats, snakes, rats, etc. are slowly drying up in the sun.
Late in the evening I reached Kunming after 5 days and found in Cloudland Youthhostel the perfect accommodation. Already the next day I unexpectedly met William, who met me with Jean-Pierre in North Vietnam. We arranged to meet for the evening. Especially for reasons of time, I have decided to take the train from Kunming to Xi'an.
So I bought a ticket early for the 34-hour drive, as the trains are often booked quite soon. On the way home, I happened to meet 6 French cyclists zarmablog.blogspot.com. They founded an association 3 years ago and since then travel around the world as a rolling clown troop without using a plane. We arranged to meet for the evening. Together with William, who played our city guide, we spent exciting hours with incredible travel experiences. Under Velonomaden never go out the stories.
The next meeting I had the next day, when Pauline and Arnaud arrived at the youth hostel. You've been on your honeymoon for 1 year and cycled through France from South America. From Kunming we continue to Hong Kong and then back home. Bon Voyage Pauline et Anraut!
Otherwise, I enjoyed the idleness and the relaxed atmosphere in Kunming with its delicious food. Especially as a vegetarian, China is at the top of my culinary top ten list. It is only a pity sometimes that understanding it does not always make it easy to get something vegetarian on the plate.
On Sunday I drove with Pauline and Arnaud to the station. The bike I could transport for a surcharge along with luggage in the freight car. At the baggage check, the bored security guard wanted to know exactly and found some item on the screen interesting. After an eternity I found what he was looking for; 2 tins with tomato sauce. We all laughed as I pulled the cans out of my pockets.
After saying goodbye to Pauline and Arnaud, I got on the train to Xi'an. After a short time I was involved in a conversation with 3 Chinese people. We talked deep into the night about China and the world. I found it particularly interesting that they all criticized tourism in China. Almost all the attractions cost a lot of money, but not much is done to entertain them. So her view. You could clearly feel some dissatisfaction with your government. After 34 hours train ride we finally arrived in Xi'an. Soon a hostel was found and a Muslim restaurant.
I like these especially well, as you will mostly find menus with pictures there. In the hostel I met Auke from Holland, who travels for 4 months as a backpacker through Asia. We decided to visit the Terracotta Army the next day.
The tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, discovered in 1974 by farm laborers at Xi'an, is one of the most important archaeological finds of the twentieth century. Already at the age of 13 years (246 BC), shortly after his accession to the throne, the Emperor began to build his tomb. During the 36 years of work, up to 700,000 workers were simultaneously involved in the construction. On an area of several thousand square meters, a burial chamber, protected by an army of life-size clay soldiers, the Tonsoldaten Army (terracotta army), was built. Unlike the tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, the tone soldiers were not mentioned in any of the contemporary or later records. Their discovery was therefore a sensation even for the experts. So far, more than 3,000 soldiers and horses and more than 40,000 weapons have been excavated and restored, an estimated 5,000 more figures are still hidden in the ground.
Already at the cash register I became aware of the statements of my trainmates. Cheeky 150 yuan (about 25-) they demanded entry. The visit was quite disappointing for me. The halls with the Tonkriegern are impressive, but there is a huge lack of information.
Only extremely sparse is told on a few information boards about the story. One really wonders what the whole entrance fee is used for. It probably flows into the pockets of some officials. For UNESCO I find such a personal shame.
Quite disappointed, we drove back to the city. There I spent two more relaxing days. Of course you could visit a lot more at this historical place. But the greed of the Chinese has spoiled my appetite a bit. Especially after the experience with the terracotta army. Slowly the heat haunts me again. So I drive on to Pingyao. I'm always looking forward to news from near and far firstname.lastname@example.org. With polite wording I may even write back.