Cycling in China was both easy and hard. Paved roads are everywhere, and most of the time there are wide shoulders to ride on. Grocery shopping is very easy, every town has at least one supermarket which carries cyclist-friendly goods – oatmeal, milk powder, noodles and various types of vacuum sealed food for the toppings. There are plenty of fresh vegetable and fruit stalls along the roads. Budget hotels are easy to find, for 100 RMB you can expect a clean standard room with hot shower, AC and a kettle.
The hard part is the people. It was rare to see a smiley face and we constantly drew a huge crowd. It was a challenge to focus on our tasks when we were under the spotlight. But we eventually got rid of the stage fright by ignoring the unwanted attention. If you are a foreigner trying to sort things out, people are more entertained by watching you struggle than willing to help you out.
You will probably see a lot of things that don’t make sense to you on a daily basis. When you try to ask why, just remember, because China.
From Doumen, we followed G365 till it ends at south of Yangjiang, and picked up G325 on the north side of Yangjiang. G325 took us as far as to Qinzhou, from where we headed south on provincial road to Fangchanggang, and what appeared to be a secondary road on the map took us to Dongxing border crossing.
For our journey in China, the first problem was river crossing. Only the new S32 Coastal Highway offers bridges. Luckily there are convenient alternatives for bicycles. Following non-highway roads that end at the riverside, you will find ferries taking bicycles and motorcycles across on regular basis, only for a very small fee.
Since overloaded trucks and speeding buses avoid toll roads, they had been our faithful traveling buddies. In addition with numerous motorcycles, you won’t feel at home on G365. China indeed has an impressive amount of paved roads, however, the construction quality is very doubtful. Pot holes big enough to swallow a whole car, or surfaces that have been worn down to dirt and gravels, all these road hazards bear no warning signs. The best effort we have seen was a few branches with red plastic bags attached. For the amount of toll stations that we passed on the provincial and national roads, some maintenance work ought to be done.
Google Maps has been a double-bladed sword in China. Sometimes it leaves you in awe after navigating you through a path no wider than 2 meters. Sometimes a major motorway is completely missing, or miss-named on the map. Sometimes, what it appeared to be a secondary road on the map turns out to be a major road wider than a highway. Google can’t be blamed for the lag though, since China shooed Google away several years ago and still is very controlling regarding online information. Combined with the rapid construction development, hardly any map would be able to keep up. The bottom line is, always bring an old-fashioned compass for your secondary navigator. It takes no battery and at least gives you a general direction when the new technology has failed you.
China has been the easiest country so far in terms of finding decent clean hotels and groceries. Sizable supermarkets combined with local wet market, and cheap hotel rooms with freshly washed bedding are abundant in most towns along the way.