Back on the bikes into a white Christmas

In Chengdu

In Chengdu

Country: China
From Xi’An to Emei Shan
Days on the bike: 3
Kilometers cycled: 187.34
Average Kilometers per day: 62.44
Total Kilometers cycled till Emei Shan: 8066
Total days travelled till Emei Shan: 473
Lesson learned: Do not ask for the garbage bin. The floor is where you shall throw everything.
Laughed about: “How do you shower?” a clever question asked from a 4-years old boy.
Most wonderful miracle: White Christmas in a Buddhist mountain
Food we ate: Noodle Soups, fried noodles, German sausage and bread and boiled snow
Greatest obstacle: Not stealing one of those cuddly and fluffy panda babies

The train from Xi’an, the so-called most Chinese city of China, to Chengdu took 16 hours. Compared to the 55 hour’s bus ride that we had experienced before, we were happy to be caught in a “short” travel only.

Our first station in Chengdu was the baggage storage. We had sent our bikes by train from Kashgar because there was no space in the bus to take them with us. Now we would finally see our two-wheeled friends again. I expected a big chaos, arguments, papers, fees and extra fees plus broken spokes and chains. I got: two dusty but healthy bikes within five minutes. Storing appeared to have been for free. Wow, that was easy.

The Mao Statue in the very center of Chengdu from the back

The Mao Statue in the very center of Chengdu from the back

We spent our nights at Dhane’s house in the south of the town. Cycling there with all our baggage right through the center of town was far easier than I expected. Dhane originally comes from the USA, but he is living and travelling in Asia for more than 20 years and does not feel like an US-American anymore. He hosted two other guests at the same time: Patrik from Switzerland and Jinjin from China, who are soon going to be living in North Korea.

Marco, his wife Helena and their four sugar-sweet children

Marco, his wife Helena and their four sugar-sweet children

In Chengdu we met Marco from the German Consul and his beautiful family who helped us getting in contact with some schools there. Thanks to him and the teachers we had the great opportunity to hold presentations on travelling by bicycle as a means to strengthen social empathy for three schools and one library / restaurant.

Annika, Roberto and Claudia, the Teacher of the Experimental School

Annika, Roberto and Claudia, the Teacher of the Experimental School

In the QSI we talked to a big group of 12-15 years old kids from China and other countries, in the Eton School we had an equally mixed but smaller group of young children between 3 and 5 years and in the Experimental School we met 15-17 years old Chinese students who were all fluent in German.

In the German Department of the Experimental School of Chengdu. Thank you Claudia for the pictures!

In the German Department of the Experimental School of Chengdu. Thank you Claudia for the pictures!

We held a fourth presentation in a popular place for foreigners: the bookworm. All of our presentations were quite a success and we are planning on holding far more of them in the future. We explained why cycling is a great opportunity to really get in touch with the people and their cultures and how we can experience a country with all our senses instead of watching out from the bus window.

Couchsurfing and warmshowering has always helped us to really experience the every-day life in a distinct country. Cycling we are forced to make the first step talking to strangers to ask them for help, water, directions or a place to pitch the tent.

QSI

Students, teachers and bookworm visitors were equally interested and we answered many curious questions like: “If you camp so much how do you shower?”, “How do you manage to charge your electric items as the cameras?” or “How do you get all those visas?”.

One of the girls was seriously thinking about making a bike trip herself. We hope that she will really do it one day. Thank you Claudia for the pictures!

One of the girls was seriously thinking about making a bike trip herself. We hope that she will really do it one day. Thank you Claudia for the pictures!

We also took a few hours time to get to know Chengdu and went for a day trip to the panda breeding station, where we saw young pandas being fed, adults enjoying a nap and babies trying to escape from their crib to have a closer look at us.

Two days were spent to get to Leshan where we renewed our visas and visited one of the world’s biggest Buddha statues.

Chengdu is a big city with more than 1 Million habitants. We cycled easily some 200 kilometers through town in our time there, because only the way from Dhane’s place to the center and back was some 30 kilometers.

We were completely amazed with the bike lanes in town. Each crossroad had its own cyclist’s traffic light, there were secure parking lots all over and plenty of cyclists, motorcyclists, scooter drivers and rickshaw drivers squeezed together. Especially during rush hour it got really hard to find a way through all the people. But we enjoyed our own space getting back into the outskirts of town every night.

There are people everywhere. Always. And most of them seem to be either shopping clothes or on their way to the next KFC. The shopping center feels like in the USA with Chinese characters all over.

There are people everywhere. Always. And most of them seem to be either shopping clothes or on their way to the next KFC. The shopping center feels like in the USA with Chinese characters all over.

Just before Christmas we were finally ready to move on. Our bikes were fit and we were motivated. Emei Shan was our first goal of the trip. We started in the south of town and wanted to go further south but still it took us an entire day to really get out of the areas with industry, three-laned roads and high houses.

From here on there was no more industy and tall houses, but farms, trees and silence

Meishan: From here on there was no more industry and tall houses, but farms, trees and silence

Just before sunset we spotted a few fields and decided to ask the farmer’s permission to pitch our tent on them. The nice farmer did not understand what we tried to explain with our picture book, but he understood the Chinese characters that I copied into my notebook. Instead of the field he offered us a place on the floor of his house that was still under construction.

We thankfully accepted when some other curious neighbors came to see who we were. Our host invited us to join dinner with him and a few neighbors. We were used to the spicy and oily Sichuan cuisine already and enjoyed the meal a lot. The men smoked each four cigarettes while dinner and we drank a small cup of strong self-made Chinese liquor each. Roberto and I put the meat’s bones into the small cup in front of us until our host explained us how to do better. Bones, cigarette butts, snot and tissues should all land on the floor. No matter if we were in a restaurant or a private house: the floor is the garbage bin.

Our home for one night

Our home for one night

By the following morning we continued early. Little by little we left the tall houses and industry behind us and cycled through hills and trees, farms and fields. We found delicious noodle street restaurant and had two different kinds of fried noodles, fried potatoes, tamales and fresh picked mandarins. It was Holy Night and we had reserved a room in a hotel in Emei Shan so we pedaled and pedaled until after more than 100 kilometers we finally reached it.

A master in his work. This man constructs bamboo furniture

A master in his work. This man constructs bamboo furniture

Instead of cooking a great Christmas meal we just got some more chicken and rice and went to bed tired and exhausted.

Emei Shan is famous for being the base to climb one of the four most holy Buddhist Mountains. That was exactly what we planned to do for Christmas. We spent two nights in the mountain, slept in a monastery at 0°C, got attacked by a wild monkey, walked through a lot of snow and enjoyed the most beautiful sight we could ever imagine.

Emei Shan stairs in winter

Endless stairs in the winter wonder land

Instead of duck or goose with beer or wine we had plenty of instant noodle soups, German sausage and bread from Marco and his wife Helena and boiled snow. Food and shelter were just ridiculously expensive up in the mountain.

At the Golden Summit

At the Golden Summit

We spent another two days down in the town at the hotel, washing and drying our clothes and preparing the route further southeast.

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  1. madina says:

    The Emei mountain in winter is so beautiful and peaceful. I dont know your have already been to Chengdu on Christmas. I love this city, but did you try many dilicious food here?

    Hope we can meet in one corner on the earth.

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Hey Madina,
      we also hope to meet you again soon. We tried as much food as we could and I have to say: I just love the Chinese food! Thanks so much again for all your help. All the best from Kunming,
      Annika

  2. Pheng says:

    Hey guys, I was with my friend Matty when we met on Emei Shan. We were about 1 hr away from the summit. Hopefully you guys remember us. Excited to find you guys, will be interested to read more of your blog

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Hey Pheng,
      of course we remember you! It is great to hear from you guys! How was the last hour up? I am currently working on the entry on Emei Shan and it will be filled with plenty of pictures.
      Have a great day, please say Hello to Matty from us as well!
      Annika

  3. Carolyn in Nashville, TN says:

    I check your blog several times a day! It is so much fun to find a new article. Your travel is so inspiring … and the pictures are so interesting. I think about you a lot … and you have given me my first look into Central Asia.

    • Tasting Travels Team Tasting Travels Team says:

      Hello Carolyn,
      thanks for writing us! It is great to hear from you. if you ever plan to go to Central Asia feel fdree to ask us everything you may want to know. Happy to hear from you,
      Annika

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