A Travellerspoint blog

October 2006

The Great Southern Corn Bike Ride

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to you

Over the past week I had got to thinking about the vegetables here in Baiyin City.

The markets are full of them and they are always so green and fresh. Besides the little fields I found in the east of the city several weeks ago it dawned on me that there really has to be more fields...in fact many more fields to feed all the people in this little city. Of course the greens could come from Lanzhou but they would come that distance in a small truck and not the many three wheeler motorbikes I see with rear trays full of fresh greens.

I'm a determined bugger when it comes to finding somewhere beautiful to ride!

I figured, where the veggies are Shane should be! So why not just ride several hours down every road leading out of town. I had already ridden many hours south east to the Si Long River Town and the only 'green' I past on that ride was one I'm not allowed to touch! I have ridden many hours north east past the copper/zink factories and found only bare hills and train tracks with no other roads leading that way.

It was time to put the front wheel in a new direction.

Around 12:30 I headed out into the warm sunshine and headed in a southern direction. Several of the huge new roads just.....ended. That's the way it is in the new sections of most Chinese cities. They build these huge multi lane roads and they just stop. Some continue but only as a two lane small road but most simply STOP!

Here they stop at the bottom of a bare hill.

You kind of stand there and say, 'Yep, I'm sure the tourists will flock from everywhere to see this hill!' Or, 'Surely there is something over that hill that is worth visiting. Soon they'll blow the hill up and continue the road'. I went with this thought and on one occasion followed a little village track for an hour into the hills. Surely there was something out here for such a grand road to be built. I soon ran out of water and decided that there really was nothing out here but bare hills and that Chinese city planners are just plain crazy!

Once back in town I found some water and another main road I knew actually went somewhere. How did I know? There were trucks, cars and three wheeler motor bikes full of greens coming into town. This was my road. I headed south down Gong Yuan Lu (Park Street). For the entire way I got to ride beside fields of green and an actual river.

There were no huge lush Guangxi farmlands but it really was a sight for tired desert eyes!

I've found that up here many things are grown in huge hot houses. The back, front and rear walls are made of mud bricks and they are very thick indeed. The fields were green and alive for about a kilometer back from the river, kinda like the River Nile in a way. From there on it's just bare! I stopped to watch as some of the hot houses were being covered in a thick plastic to get ready for the cold winter. On top of the plastic they place thick straw matting.

During the afternoon I dropped into heaps of little villages where I was surrounded by children who ran behind me yelling 'HELLOW HELLOW HELLOW!'. Whenever I'd stop to say 'HELLOW' back they'd all giggle and run away.

It really is a strange life I live here in China!

All up around a 6 hour ride for the day. I was so happy to finally find the lush greens of Baiyin City. Limited as they were I guess my quest is now complete. I guess the next step is heading North West but I doubt I'll find much there except little mud house villages beside small streams.

Only one way to find out....point the front wheel in that direction next weekend!

The evening was spent catching up on some Travelpods I had been following a few months prior. I seem to follow a few at a time then change and return to the others a few months later. I was surprised to find that 'bootsmade4walking' had returned home earlier than she anticipated.

Lacey, how could you go home! Surprise to me!

It then dawned on me that when a traveler returns to the realms of the norm, not only does 'their' adventure become complete, but for all those 'armchair' travelers it is also finalised. Not only am I living my dream living and teaching here in China, but I still follow many others whom are on the same path as myself.

I can't help but feel a little sad when some of them decided 'enough is enough' and pack the pack for the long journey home.

It brings back memories of six years ago when I packed my pack and ventured home much too early. I didn't listen to the person whom I was returning to nor to my family and friends. I wonder how many of the people I follow from the comforts of my desert apartment are actually returning home too early. Many are having so much fun and are full of life, then WHAM they hit the same wall I did many years ago.

Returning home is in some ways actually harder then leaving, especially if you return home prematurely.

Whilst on a 'walkabout' each day contains a new and exciting adventure. You meet new people, share new and exciting conversations, food and beers. Unless you've done it I guess it's hard to comprehend. I know how hard it is to put into words. Each morning you rise to an entire day filled with places and things you've never done before. You meet people who are experiencing the same things and feeling the same feelings. You both feel the same excitement sharing conversation over beer and food. You are both full of thousands of questions and so eager to learn and pass on experience.

When you return home you get a small list of questions.

How was your trip? Where did you go? Probably about five questions all up.

This lasts for a week or two and then you are left to quickly re-adjust back into normality.

While re-adjusting many hours are spent remembering your time away. Probably more hours are spent remembering than future planning. You see things on TV, sometimes hear songs you where listening to whilst away and also simple things in general conversation that will bring you smack bang to a country and a time past that was so full of excitement and new experiences.

So here's to all the people unpacking their dusty pack and re-adjusting to the realms of normality.

I offer you many Beers N Noodles to help you through the process...shane

Southern Corn Bike Ride

Southern Corn Bike Ride


Southern Corn Bike Ride (1)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (1)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (10)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (10)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (11)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (11)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (12)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (12)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (13)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (13)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (14)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (14)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (15)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (15)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (16)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (16)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (17)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (17)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (18)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (18)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (19)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (19)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (2)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (2)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (20)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (20)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (21)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (21)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (22)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (22)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (23)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (23)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (24)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (24)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (25)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (25)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (26)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (26)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (27)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (27)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (28)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (28)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (29)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (29)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (3)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (3)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (30)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (30)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (31)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (31)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (32)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (32)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (4)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (4)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (5)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (5)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (6)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (6)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (7)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (7)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (8)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (8)


Southern Corn Bike Ride (9)

Southern Corn Bike Ride (9)

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Celebrating My Second Birthday in China

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to ya

Unbelievable, I can't believe a year has past since the huge night at KTV in little southern Tianyang where my last birthday was celebrated with a little too much beer for all and a microphone with my happy family amongst fields of rice.

This year found me once again turning 'twenty one' but in a much more sedate environment. I nearly got through the day without any mention of a birthday. Strangely though at lunch time a middle school girl that sits with me from time to time to practice her English in one of the little eateries I visit said Happy Birthday to me. Not long after another lady and her son sat at the next table and said Happy Birthday to me swell.

How strange, I've never told the middle school girl my birthday and I had never spoken to the lady or her son. I asked the middle school girl how she knew, her answer was a teacher from her school told her. How strange when I didn't know any middle school teachers.

Easy answer was a teacher from my school told the middle school teacher. The middle school teacher remembered but my school didn't. In a way this made me happy.

Sometimes it makes me feel REAL bad when a huge fuss is made over me. In Tianyang I was taken out by the school and we all had a huge night. The night was of course paid by the school. What makes me feel real bad is that this is not done for any other teacher no matter how long they have been teaching at the school. No matter how many dinners I attend I'm also never allowed to pay, the answer is always 'next time'.

Some would say 'how cool, that's less money you spend!' Easy to say until you find out how much they earn LESS than yourself! Easy to say until you find out how much the bill is!

Sometimes teachers will bring in fruit or another type of 'goodie' and hand them around the office. If I try this the bag is put back into my hand and I'm told to take them home for myself. The schools here in China hand out a lot of presents to their teachers. It is such a wonderful idea. You arrive at school and there is a huge bag of fruit on every ones desk or a huge bottle of cooking oil etc. The other day it was a massive bag of rice each.

Finally, for the first time since my arrival in China I persuaded someone to actually take something from me. My bag of rice was handed to another. Believe me, I was so happy. I'm yet to find an owner for my huge bottle of cooking oil.

Anyhow, back to my birthday.

The day got to around four and finally Mr Wang, my Foreign Affairs Guy stopped in mid conversation and said 'oh my, it's your birthday today!' After my Grade 5 & 6 classes and singing Happy Birthday to Jee Dunn (that's my Chinese name 'Egg') a million times I returned to the office to find that dinner reservations had been made and we were off to a fancy rester aunt on the west side of town.

All the English Teachers came along. It really was a beautiful evening. The food was amazing and chosen by Jo Jo my assistant now turned part time assistant. She is so heavily pregnant that it's too hard to climb all the stairs several times each day to join me in class. In two or three weeks there will be a little Jo Jo or Joe Joe entering the world.

The birthday cake was a typical Chinese Birthday Cake...HUGE and full of cream!

In the 'west' we eat our soup first, then the main meal and then sweets ie; the birthday cake! Here, in China on both occasions the cake was devoured prior to the meal. The soup, always last in China. Even if you have a main meal of Lamb or Beef Noodle Soup, you will still get a clear soup with a green thing or two floating in it at the end. I love the idea, swish it around and clear the meal from your teeth.

In summer it's refreshing too.

After the only traces of the cake left were on the childrens faces and all over the table it was present time. Oh Man, not a present too. I had to laugh though. It is so, so, so, so, so and I mean SO typical in China that when someone gives you a gift, they tell you what it is. It's like;

'Hey, it took me ages to wrap your present but here, these CD's are for you'

Your jaw drops and you kinda go...huh. I went through the whole, its a new car, its a rocket ship etc for the kids sake. The entire time someone was saying, 'No they are CD's'. I couldn't stop laughing. Finally I unwrapped my present to find that it really was a new car! No really, my present was 10 double cd's. All were the 'gold' editions and they ranged from Traditional Chinese Folk Classics to separate traditional Chinese instruments.

I was over the moon mate. All the stuff I got to experience so much of live whilst living in Guangxi. I have developed a huge taste for, I think it is called the 'er hu' or something. The wooden two string instrument played with a bow. Love the sound. There was two cd's of this, meaning four disks, Chinese flute and a Chinese dulcimer (or is it dulcimer). Very happy was I, yet I still had that 'feeling' in my stomach knowing that this wouldn't happen to the other teachers.

Earlier one of them had asked me why I never reminded anyone that it was my birthday.

My reply was that I was one of the lucky few in the world who get to live in another country for as long as they desire. Of course others stay for six months or a year but they HAVE to go home for some reason or another. I can come and go as I please for as long as I please.

Life has given me a very glorious gift that makes each day my Asian Birthday.

So, that was how I spent my second 'change of age' in China.

Of course I missed my friends and family dearly and would have loved them beside me sharing my birthday cake and doing their best to eat it with chop sticks. Even that got too much for me, I just couldn't do it. Not that it was hard but;

NO MATTER WHAT COUNTRY YOUR IN, YOU CAN NOT EAT BIRTHDAY CAKE WITH CHOP STICKS! IT'S JUST NOT NATURAL I TELL YOU! IT'S JUST NOT NATURAL!

Chop sticks and faces full of birthday cake to ya...shane

PS: some of the above may sound like I am being 'ungrateful.' Please believe me when I say I am NOT ungrateful for what life has given me. Sometimes it is hard in a country such a China where everyone is so giving. Many don't have much but they will give you what ever they have left on their plate. I guess I gave up my life of 'having everything' to come to China to learn to live a simple life.

For those who haven't read the rest of my blog, I once had everything a man wanted in life 'materialistic' wise. All this was given away leaving me nothing but some clothes and a lap top computer. Here in China the people are just so beautiful, so friendly and so giving. It is hard to say no to things as it will offend them greatly, yet a lot of the 'gifts' are things I have learnt to live without and really don't want to have. I know most of the people around me would benefit greatly from what is given to me freely, yet it is so hard for me to pass it/them on.

I have now learnt to live on fruit for breakfast as each time I use my electric cooker a fuse blows. I am happy with this as I know that if it is to be fixed the entire fuse box will need to be replaced. Who pays for this? The childrens parents pay for it.

I only cook two poached eggs each morning, these I can do without.

For those who don't know, it's the parents who pay the schools bills in rural areas etc. When I was in Tianyang there were always lines with parents forking out money. I'd ask why are the parents paying money this time. The answer was usually; the electricity bill has come in etc.

So for a person who only cooks two eggs each morning and eats out all other meals, I think I can help save them some money for their home living expenses and childs education expenses.

It is still hard for me to bring a family down to 'a childs or their childs'. I'm so used to 'their childrens or kids' meaning plural.

One day I will get used to the 'single' of it all!

Beers, Noodles and one a one child family full of smiles to ya...shane

Happy Birthday To Me

Happy Birthday To Me


Happy Birthday To Me (1)

Happy Birthday To Me (1)


Happy Birthday To Me (10)

Happy Birthday To Me (10)


Happy Birthday To Me (11)

Happy Birthday To Me (11)


Happy Birthday To Me (2)

Happy Birthday To Me (2)


Happy Birthday To Me (3)

Happy Birthday To Me (3)


Happy Birthday To Me (4)

Happy Birthday To Me (4)


Happy Birthday To Me (5)

Happy Birthday To Me (5)


Happy Birthday To Me (6)

Happy Birthday To Me (6)


Happy Birthday To Me (7)

Happy Birthday To Me (7)


Happy Birthday To Me (8)

Happy Birthday To Me (8)


Happy Birthday To Me (9)

Happy Birthday To Me (9)

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

A Construction View from The Peoples Square

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day to you I know it's no Shanghai but man there is some construction going on in this city. China's nine percent growth has only one meaning...CONSTRUCTION!

On all maps of Baiyin there are roads leading all the way to the train station at the far west of town. The maps are kind of right, they actually do have all the roads built but there are actually no buildings.

What you actually have is 'half the mapped city'.

If you look at the attached pictures all you can see are cranes in a full 360 degree view. This is prettymuch like most Chinese cities. Half a city is full, the other half is new and the buildings empty. I experienced this for the first time six years ago in Jinghong.

There were alot of new buildings then and they were empty.

Now six years later they are full.

Here it's the same. There are many new and empty buildings in the west yet though they are all empty, there is construction on many other new buildings. Who will fill these buildings.

Is there an expected influx of people expected here in Baiyin.

Will a million people suddenly say, 'Hey Man, I've read eddakaths Travbelpod and Baiyin City looks like the place for my family and I. Bugger livin in the lush greens mate, lets pack up and head to the northern deserts'.

'Oh yeah, I also hear they have a great supermarket up there!'

I really don't know who will fill all the empty space, but as long as there is nine percent growth it really doesn't matter hey!

Beers N Noodles to ya...shane

Oh yeah, these were taken on a bike ride with my two buddies Mr Mann and Mr Wong. We had spent the morning at another teachers sons wedding. It was a great time and the food was unbelievable. We then decided to head off on the bikes to the Peoples Square.

Both guys are really cool to be around. On the left is Mr Mann. Tis easy to say hello to him, I simply say, 'Hey Man', 'Lets Go Man', 'Where to Man?', 'Another Beer Man?' etc etc. 'Hey Mans' an English Teacher and on the right is Mr Wang, he's my Foreign Affairs Guy. Both are overly helpful yet not in a 'leave me alone and give me my space' way and have made my first month here in Baiyin a great time.

'Hey Mann! Thanks Mann!' tee hee

anyhow, more beers N noodles to ya...shane

Wedding & Ride Day

Wedding & Ride Day


Wedding & Ride Day (1)

Wedding & Ride Day (1)


Wedding & Ride Day (2)

Wedding & Ride Day (2)


Wedding & Ride Day (3)

Wedding & Ride Day (3)


Wedding & Ride Day (4)

Wedding & Ride Day (4)

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Owww Maaan, the Moon Cakes are back!

Oh MAAAAAAN, the freakin Moon Cakes are back!

If you've been following my life here in China you'll know how much I love these 'things' NOT!

I got to school this morning and there was a big bag on my desk. HHHhhhhmmm I thought, I wonder what is in there. Maybe another bag of fungus for me to....buggered if I know mate. Still don't know what to do with the bag I still have. If I cooked I'd add the fungus to what ever it is I was cooking. Fact is I don't cook at all and have a huge bag of fungus sitting in my kitchen.

Anyone want some fungus?

Anyhow, the bag was full of many varieties of moon cakes. I managed to palm a few off to students and maybe I'll eat the rest during the long cold winter.

So what are the Moon Cakes for you ask. Here is a simple explanation.

Moon Cake Day falls in the middle of autumn OR for the freaky people, it falls on the 15th day of the eight lunar month. So its real name is The Mid Autumn Festival. In ancient times, people would offer elaborate cakes as sacrifices to the Moon Goddess on this day.

After the ceremony, family and friends would kick back, share some rice wine and eat these Moon Cake things. I guess the rice wine would kill the taste, or maybe the Moon Cake was created to kill the taste of the rice wine. Oh I dunno, I just know it spells bad news for me. I'll have to hide indoors for the next few days so I don't have to offend anyone who invites me in to share moon cakes and rice wine! Tee hee!

So, time passes, the capital moves, civil wars are fought, people come and people go and now the custom has came to symbolise 'family reunion'. On this glorious mid-autumn night the moon is huge and bright as buttons mate. Families get together and go for an evening walk, giggle at the foreigner who walks past and invite him home to share moon cakes. He tries to pass the invite and says he's too full. They won't have any of it! The family and the foreigner sit together eating moon cakes whilst sharing rice wine.

As the hours pass they all stare at and admire the moon in its perfect splendour. Soon the moon becomes a little distorted and hazy from the rice wine. The foreigner decides to go home!

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

A Ride Through The North Eastern Hills N Back

Hey Hey & a Big G'Day to you all

As usual on any free day I put foot to peddle and followed my front wheel.

I was only going to ride for an hour and do the short 'outskirts' trail and return home to spend some time on my Lesson Plans. Strangely I ended up two hours out in the hills north east of the city...which is in the opposite direction!

What can I say, I really do have no idea or direction in life! tee hee!

I couldn't believe the amount of cars coming from the direction I was riding so I continued and continued all the while thinking 'they must be coming from somewhere! Maybe there's a beautiful Oasis out there and they are all returning from a day spent swimming and picnicing'.

I passed many road workers with a huge 'helloooow' to answer the amazed look on their face at seeing a foreigner two hours out into the desert hills. I past many factories that were adding their share of waste to the skies above me and the ground I was riding on. I waved at many passengers whom where heading east as their train slowly past me. I said 'helloooow' to old men whom were wandering out there alone.

Most of all though, I ate dust! Man it's dusty out there!

When I ran my hand over my head dust flew in all directions. By the time I returned to Baiyin my riding t-shirt (which is white) was a strange brownie white colour. I then spent some time riding around the east of the city trying to find a way to get closer to the Factory Area. Happily I found some farmers who were attending to the little patches of green in their dry brown fields of 'dirt'. Here I thought I'd take some pictures and also post them in Travelpod.

Why you ask.

They have the same patterns in them as the fields in the south. Yes Shane, they are fields! Ok, The fields in the pictures from the south are a lush green and make me smile and happy. These fields here in the north are..well, brown. But what did make me happy were the patterns and the pagoda in the back ground.

Sometimes you must search for happiness!

By the time I returned home after my Lamb Noodle soup the sun was setting and the street lights were beginning to flicker into life. It was great to have a shower and watch the water on the floor turn from brown finally into the clear colour water should be.

I'm sure half a hill went down the bathroom drain! Beers N Noodles to ya...shane

PS: I sadly never found the Oasis everyone was returning from. Maybe next time I will leave the city much earlier!

A Ride In The Eastern Hills

A Ride In The Eastern Hills


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (1)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (1)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (10)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (10)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (11)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (11)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (12)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (12)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (13)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (13)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (14)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (14)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (15)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (15)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (2)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (2)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (3)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (3)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (4)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (4)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (5)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (5)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (6)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (6)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (7)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (7)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (8)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (8)


A Ride In The Eastern Hills (9)

A Ride In The Eastern Hills (9)

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)