What makes your holiday an unforgettable experience?
Sure enough: Beautiful landscapes, nice roads to cycle on, great weather conditions and stunning cultural heritage sights to explore are important factors.
But what will really stick in your mind? Yes! It’s the encounters with people you meet during your journey. The situations which you experience together with your guide and your fellow travellers or the spontaneous interactions with the locals. The feeling of mutual astonishment or the shared laugh with a strange person will remain as precious memories once you are back home.
In this new series of blog posts, we will share some of our favourite roadside encounters with you.
Today: “FREE HAIRCUTS”
The story to this little series of pictures is quickly told: Visiting Qingdao on a cycling tour along the Grand Canal, we stumbled upon a typical scenery of traditional China. A barber had set up his mobile stand on the roadside close to a park, waiting for people willing to get a new and fresh haircut right on the street under everyone’s eyes. In smaller places in China, barbers like him are still a common sight – but most of them are old people and it is quite possible that they will disappear from sight within the next 20 years.
As we paused to watch this amusing spectacle for a while, George turned to me and asked: “Would it be possible to get a haircut right here?” I checked back with the group if they would mind to stay a little longer to observe the procedure, and as we didn’t have any more events scheduled that day, everyone agreed. I went over to the barber to negotiate a price but he surprisingly told me that he wouldn’t take any money. “I enjoy cutting hair”, he said, “After going into retirement I started coming to the park regularly. I don’t need the money so I give free haircuts to the people of Qingdao.”
George agreed to the deal (of course!) and the barber signalled him to take a seat on his chair. He wrapped the yellow coat around him and nimbly startet cutting George’s hair. As we stood to watch, more and more Chinese passerbys stopped to see the long-nosed chap get his hair cut by the old barber. Many took pictures and asked where we were from and what had brought us to visit their city. About 20 minutes of friendly chatting later, the barber was done and George inspected his fresh and neat cut in the mirror. Satisfied, he thanked the barber and asked me to tell him that he would definitely come looking for him again the next time he’d pass through the town. The barber laughed and wished us all a safe trip onward. In a good spirits, we continued our stroll through the city.
How does it feel to spend a cycling holiday with us in China?
Watch our promo video to find out!
All the footage for this film was captured during our tour “The Three Gorges of the Yangzi” in 2012.
For more information on this unique cycling trip through Central China, check out www.china-by-bike.com/tours/san
In this series of article, we are going to present to you our favourite cycling stages – and prove that cycling and China matches better than you might imagine. Today‘s China often makes the headlines with stories about smog and pollution. But does that mean that cycling in China is not a good combination? Certainly not! The Middle Kingdom boasts some of the most beautiful cycling tracks you could dream of!
All stages presented here are included in CHINA BY BIKE‘s range of tours. Find a list of all of our cycling tours here!
Guangxi: Cycling Tour from Caoping to Yangshuo
The Landscape around Guilin and Yangshuo is one of the most well-known and admired on earth. The breathtaking Karst formations close to the River Li have inspired painters and poets in ancient China and continue to animate man photographers of our age to capture their beauty.
The bizarre, egg-like rock formations close to the river are a perfect example of the Chinese concept of the ideal landscape: The Chinese term “shanshui” 山水 is literally translated as “mountain and water” but means “landscape” in a very positive way.
It is common for tourists who come to China to fly to Guilin, take a bus or boat to Yangshuo and then rent a bike in Yangshuo and cycle through the karst hills South of the city. On our tour “All Around China”, we skip the bus and cycle from Guilin to Yangshuo directly, always staying close to the famous River Li which connects the two cities. On two stages we first pass the beautiful old town of Daxu, spent the night in a resort close to Caoping and then continue on to Yangshuo the next day.
This stage – cycling from Caoping to Yangshuo is one of the most peaceful and pretty day trips we know of! Until recently, the roads here were still dusty and bumpy – but thanks to China’s enormous drive for modernisation, the roads are in perfect condition now – and quiet, too!
As close as this route is to the tourist hustle and bustle of Guilin and Yangshuo – we rarely meet any other cyclists riding through the pretty hills around Caoping.
Cycling from Pingli to Zhenping – Beautiful Climbs Right in the Heart of China
On our tour “The Three Gorges of the Yangzi” we cross the Qinlin mountain range right in the center of China. This area is what we call typically Chinese: We cycle through patched farmland cultivated by hand, see beautiful bamboo groves at the side of the river, pass “small”, unknown cities of 500000 to several Millions of inhabitants, and cross mountain passes at a hight of up to 1500m above the sea. And – of course – we eat the most delicous meals every day! Shaanxi is famous for its noodle dishes (which is perfect for lunch to recharge our batteries), but in the evening we have all the time to try out some well-seasoned dishes supplemented with fresh and locally grown vegetables.
Out of a range of many nice stages to choose from, we selected one that is particularly challenging and particularly rewarding, too! The stage starts in Pingli and ends in Zhenping, just about 150km North of the Yangzi.
The stage is one of our longest, too: We cycle 120km on one day and climb 1.523 meters! There is one long but moderate climb for the first 50 km of the stage followed by a thrilling 25 km descend. For the remaining 45 km we cycle along the river Nan. The smooth road stays close to the river bed and offers beautiful views on mountainsides covered with terraced fields on the opposite side of the canyon.
For this stage you will need to get up early to reach Zhenping before dusk, but we are sure that you won’t regret it!
Day Trip in Laos: Cycling from Oudomxay to Muang Kua
This stage is in Laos, not China, but it is included on our trip “The Golden Triangle”, which starts in China and crosses Laos to end in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Among China’s neighbouring Countries, Laos (especially the hilly North) stands out as a great cyclists’ destination. Its friendly mix of reliable weather conditions, beautiful sub-tropic landscapes, low traffic and some of the most friendly and relaxed people is simply unbeatable.
Our stage starts in Oudomxay, a medium-size city in the hilly North of the country, from where we head North-East to Muang Kua.
Just outside of Oudomxai, we have to cross three passes in a row, the first two of which are a rather steep towards the end. But that’s all the work done for the day! The remaining 75 km of this stage we follow the a branch of the Nam Our river downstream all the way to our destination.
This ride is as meditative and peaceful as it can get – if you cycle in Laos, don’t miss out!
Once in Muang Kua, we advise you to take a rest and hire a boat to take you South on the pretty River Ou. Within two days you can reach Nong Kiaw and continue your trip towards Luang Prabang, Lao’s former capital and residence city of the King.
In this series of articles, we are going to present you our favourite cycling stages – and prove that cycling and China matches better than you might imagine. Today‘s China often makes the headlines with stories about smog and pollution. It is therefore understandable that for many people, bicycle touring and China don‘t exactly pair up. Yet, the Middle Kingdom boasts some of the most beautiful cycling tracks you could dream of!
All stages presented here are included in CHINA BY BIKE‘s range of tours. Find a list of all of our cycling tours here!
Yunnan: Cycling Tour from Shaxi to Yangbi – Cyclists Heaven!
Yunnan has attained a reputation as the most beautiful Chinese Province, combining stunning landscapes, a unique cultural diversity and mild climate throughout the whole year. Domestic tourism is booming and the classic destinations such as Lijiang and Dali have become overcrowded and rather commercialised. But there are still many beautiful places to be discovered in China’s South-Western province.
One of these Places is Shaxi, a former merchant town in which tea-traders used to stop overnight on their way from the Yunnan tea plantations into the direction of the old Silk Road. Shaxi’s old towm has certainly profited from the tourist boom: The buildings and alleys around the pretty market square have been restored in an authentic style and the atmosphere is peaceful and somewhat romantic. On Fridays, farmers from the surrounding villages still get together to trade their produce on the lively market.
After spending a night in one of Shaxi’s unique boutique hotels, you will be ready for a long cycling stage. Despite its 108 km length, we cycle gently downhill for most of the stage: Starting at an altitude of 2100m,the destination Yangbi is located on 1550m. On this route you will experience the original beauty of the Himalayan foothills: On rolling terrain you pass rivers, Eucalyptus plantations and numerous terraced fields, watch farmers bringing in their crops, and see some of the Bai people’s famous pagodas in the distance. The road is new and smooth and quiet. Can a bicycle ride get more rewarding than this? We doubt it!
This stage is part of our tour “South of the Clouds” where we explore the Eastern foothills of the Himalaya. From the Tibetan grasslands at Shangri-La we cycle Southwards to the famous town of Dali.
Beijing: Cycling Tour from Liulimiao to Miyun – Through the Hills North of the Great Wall
For many people, Beijing with its richness of cultural heritage and architecture ranks on the top of the list of places to visit in China. But would you consider the immediate surrounding of the Chinese capital for a cycling trip? You should!
Just 70 km out of the city, North of the Great Wall, you can find perfect conditions for a great tour: On the stage from Liulimiao to Miyun you cycle quiet, well-maintained roads and pass scenic green mountains to end at Lake Miyun, Beijing’s biggest sweet water reservoir.
Before starting the trip, you can walk down to the River Bai to relax and get into the mood for the upcoming trip. Cycling the Road through the river canyon is a pure delight for all passionate cyclists! The almost traffic-free road winds through the canyon, offering spectacular views to the river below. The stage includes several moderate climbs and a nice descent to the Miyun reservoir in the end. Instead of cars, you are likely to encounter Chinese fellow cyclists who regularly escape the big city to enjoy the natural beauty of it’s surroundings.
This stage is part of our tour “Tracing the Dragon”. The tour, which starts in Beijing and follows the Great Wall all the Way to the Yellow Sea is part of our German-speaking range but will be available in English in the future.
Shaanxi: Cycling Tour from Huashan to Luonan – Leaving the Terracotta Warriors to dive into the Central Chinese Hinterland
Seeing the Terracotta Warriors is a must for many tourists who come to China. From Xi’an, China’s former capital and once biggest city in the world, the terracotta warriors are just a three-hour bike-ride away.
Once in Shaanxi, visitors who take an interest in outdoor activities are well-advised to add the famous Mount Hua to their itinerary: As one of China’s five holy Daoist Mountains, Mt. Hua features a mixture of majestic and bizarre rock formations combined with a touch of the wisdom of monks and philosophers who used lived secluded in the temples that we pass on our way up the mountain. The five different peaks of the Mountain are connected through a network of paths, stairs and ladders and offer many stunning views.
Just at the foot of the holy Mountain starts our cycling stage: Heading south, we pass Mt. Hua on the Western side and climb 1300m 26 km! The ascend is long but never too steep and the road winds right next to Mt. Hua’s towering rock walls.
After reaching the pass you turn right to leave the main road and stay on a small concrete road which passes through picturesque mountain villages and patched farmland. The road is too small for bigger cars and you only have to share it with occasional motorbikes. After visiting the metropolis Xi’an, you now get in close touch with the the quieter laid-back Chinese countryside.
We love this stage because it combines a sporty challenge with the most direct experience of life in the Chinese hinterland. Luonan, the destination of our stage, is a typical Chinese medium-size city: It features a river promenade, a city square where the locals go dancing in the evening and an abundance of little restaurants where you you can try out the delicacies of Central China – The Shaanxi cuisine is famous for its fresh and fragrant noodle dishes.
This stage is part of our tour“The Three Gorges of the Yangzi”, where we Cycle from Xi’an all the way South to the Yangzi River, passing the beautiful Qinlin Mountain Range and experiencing the face of China off the beaten tracks.