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Nr.38 – China – it remains difficult !

Apr 22, 2015 | Asia, Blog, China


At first, I was shocked when I saw Yangshou. Even in winter, all hell was breaking loose. There were parties, pubs, animated activity, and huge crowds of Chinese tourists.

The prices were outrageous and it was anything but a beautiful, natural idyll surrounded by rice paddies, which was what I had expected.

Also, I experienced again and again that the Chinese attempted to cheat me here, something I had never before seen in China.

The small room which I found luckily had an air conditioner that I could also use as a heater, so for a few days, I had a lovely, warm room where I could wait for better weather.

Unfortunately the better weather never came, and as the temperatures increased slightly, I continued on and attempted to enjoy the scenery. 

But what bothered me was not that it was hazy and you really couldn’t see the beautiful mountains. No, what shocked me more was that the Chinese had again been able to ruin the entire scenery.  

As everywhere, construction dominated the landscape. Every 50 meters there was a crane and trucks were driving materials all over the place; there was loud construction noise and hideous facades. On top of all that, smog was flowing in, apparently from Guilin, which was far away.

It was no fun at all, especially since I was asked to pay a fee for every little attraction I wanted to see. The Chinese seem to have a knack for making their country unattractive. I can only hope that they leave the western half of their country as I saw it for a long time to come, because it would be a crying shame if the rikoros were to strike there and destroy the peace and originality.

I arrived at a field that had been created with ordinary flowers and experienced something really very sad. Busloads of Chinese were carted here and, to my disbelief, they paid an entrance fee to photograph each other in the small flower meadow.  

Isn’t that ghastly? What kind of misanthropic world do these people grow up in? It seemed to me as if they had never stood in a meadow full of natural flowers.

Somehow it depressed me. Yes, I experienced a world here that I didn’t like. 1.3 billion people are on the rise, leaving traces behind in the environment that are irrevocable.

And sooner or later, the Chinese will also have an enormous problem with cancer.

I wanted to photograph a house wall, as a man who coincidentally watched came running up to me and yelled: “No!” I have no idea what I did wrong again. Although, I have to say that I didn’t run across as many people this time, who shouted so much. 

In Xingping I nestled myself in a Youth hostel. Hostels are always a good places to make contact with other travelers. I met a Kiwi, a Canadian couple and a German and, therefore, had plenty of entertainment that I enjoyed immensely.

There were also some Expats who had been in China for some time who told me that in the north it was much worse as far as smog, noise and construction sites were concerned. However, I’m not sure whether they had ever been on the smaller roads on a bicycle. From the windows in a bus driving along the brand new highways, you see a lot less of all the neglected areas. Traveling from city to city is something completely different, because most of the cities are clean.

I spent many really enjoyable hours on the highest outlook in Xingping, because the view from up there was simply stunning.

The Kiwi experienced a new birthday on that day because he fell 100 meters down a vertical rock wall but, luckily, was able to save himself by clinging to a tree. He called the rescue team with his cell phone and that evening showed up with only a few scratches at dinner to tell me the story about his exciting day.

Exactly 8 days before my visa expired, I was on my way to Guilin to arrive on time at the PSB (Public Security Bureau) to renew my visa, which is only possible during the 7 days before the expiration date of the current visa.  

At first, I was told that I would have to stay in a hotel in Yangshuo, otherwise they could not give me a visa extension. I also have to prove that I had at least US$ 3000 in cash for the 30 days or produce a written bank confirmation to prove that I could fund my stay in the country.

It took quite a while to persuade the officer that he should nevertheless please make an exception this time, finally he agreed.That problem was resolved, but now there was a much bigger problem. In all seriousness, he said I could pick up my new visa in 15 days and they would issue me a temporary paper and keep the passport there until the new visa was issued.

“No, please, why all this fuss?” I asked. Whereupon he said: “In Guilin, it normally takes 7 days to get the visa extension, but since the Chinese New Year is in 7 days, it will take 15 days.”

I replied “And please tell me what should I do for 15 days in Guilin?” Then he said, in the nasty, arrogant Chinese way, “During that time, you can wait in the hotel”.

Even after I attempted several different approaches to get the visa issued more quickly, he only gave me a disgusting smile.

At this point, I was totally sick of China. As many other cyclists before me, I had reached the end of my rope. Too much is simply too much. I crumpled up the application form, thanked the officer politely and threw the wad of paper onto his desk. 

I’ll say it again. Chinese do not want individual tourists who might cause unrest in the country – who can see things that they should not see – things which give the other Chinese people information they should not know. 

The Chinese government only wants bus tourists who pay a lot of money for their trip, who quietly follow a leader and who are denied a look behind the curtains. Somehow I had the feeling that this PSB official had been sent to me from the universe, because honestly, I had no desire to cycle 1300 km through a dusty country again, even if it annoyed me to the limit to not have the time to be able to cycle the route.

I had to find a solution, because cycling within 6 days from Guilin to Xiamen was an impossibility. Unfortunately, the train system had changed its rules 4 weeks previously, and bicycles could no longer be transported by train, only separately with a luggage service.And no one could tell me exactly when the bicycle would arrive in Xiamen.
Maybe 4 or 5 days or maybe never?

At the bus station I attempted to explain to the lady at the counter what I wanted, but it was like barking up a tree. The lady had no desire to understand what I wanted, she just closed
the ticket window and an angry mob of Chinese raged behind me in the long queue.

The bus driver watched calmly as I struggled to load my heavy pushbike onto the bus, but no one came up with the idea to help me.When I think back about the superbly kind Iranians who had so perfectly made my stay as comfortable as possible and helped me whenever they could, it is somehow madness to see how different cultures can be.One thing is certain – the Chinese will never ever become my favorite race of people.The bus was a sleeper car because the journey took 20 hours. The interior was in a desolate state of disrepair. Cockroaches ran about, ants, shredded beds and a lot of dirt.

But super important to the bus driver was and he explained it to me in a freaking way. “Take off your shoes before entering the car and then pack them into a plastic bag.”

This is what was so ambivalent about the country – on the one hand, filth and chaos, on the other hand, an advanced sense of order and too many rules.

I headed toward Xiamen, because I wanted to take the ferry to Taiwan from there. I hoped that I would still make it on short notice to get a ticket for passage the same evening because the next ferry was 5 days later – the very last day of my valid visa.

The city accurately reflected what I expected from China’s east. Wealth.

The lady at the port ticket office didn’t want to deal with me. Two guys helped me to explain to the lady what I wanted to do. But the two were also cut short by the lady and left standing in the rain. Since I wasn’t able to buy a ticket at the counter, the guys bought it for me online and I gave them the money in cash.

The crossing cost 80 Euros and included both a bed and breakfast the next morning. 

After nearly 5 months in China, I can now say that the West is beautiful, and I’m glad to say that I saw enough of the East to say I’ve experienced the country as a whole, even though I was unable to see the large cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing.In all honesty, my curiosity is burned out – I’ve seen enough of China for now.

I entered the ferry along with two Canadian ladies. One, who has lived in China for the last 3 years and speaks Chinese, said, “The Chinese are just super strenuous people, whether you are a foreigner or not, because they also treat each other terribly.”

On the ferry I already had the impression that I was now going from the rain into brilliant sunshine, because suddenly I was treated like a person again and was greeted again in an extremely friendly manner. The crew members were Taiwanese. My anticipation of a new country rose to a new high and I had a big grin on my face. 

One Chinese bloke wanted convince me that Taiwan belongs to China, but I just laughed and said to him: “I am leaving China and I’m glad about that.”Whereupon he asked me if I didn’t like it there? I didn’t know what to say, because overall, I somehow found China fascinating. To explain my thoughts to him would have been met with total incomprehension anyway, so I just left the question unanswered. I looked at the construction cranes that glistened in the bright red sunlight and said goodbye inwardly to a very strenuous but also very exciting country.


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