Day 5. Beijing to Fangshan
Having spent enough time in Beijing to get a good feel for the city's layout, we cycled to the city of Fangshan, some 81km away.
We only had two missions to execute this morning. Firstly,
to pickup Dave's glasses which we were told would be ready this
morning, and secondly to get out of Beijing and hit the road out of
the big smoke.
Just as promised, the glasses were ready and waiting for Dave
when we arrived at the optician - although somehow lost in the
translation he was under the impression that he'd paid for two
pairs, not one.
[How many pairs of glasses, Bill?]
No time to waste. After stocking up on these multi-vitamin
yoghurt drinks we set off.
It took us almost an hour to get to the south-west edge of
Beijing, but eventually we made it to the G107.
Once out of the city, away from the traffic and off the main
roads the cycling and our morale improved immediately. We
were back on the road - a continuation of our fascinating romance
with seeing the world on two wheels. Although the road was
uneventful in terms of scenery, we did spot a number of old stone
bridges and some pagodas.
Eventually we arrived in Fangshan but finding accommodation
proved more difficult than we anticipated. It was here that
we were introduced to the word Bingwa. Everyone we asked for
the direction to the nearest bingwa seemed to share a different
opinion of which direction we should take.
[Curious Bike Lovers]
Eventually we were given some directions on the outskirts of
Fangshan. Armed with a hand drawn map, even this proved to be
problematic. Eventually I approached a policeman and showed
him the map along with the Chinese characters which we assumed was
the name of the hotel. The police officer pointed in the
direction of the hotel. Not very helpful I thought.
Instead, I pointed to his electric scooter and mimicked him riding
on top - he caught onto what I was doing and eventually gave us an
escort on his electric scooter.
[Asking for directions]
It would appear that Chinese hotels like to give you a thermos
filled with hot water, the obligatory snacks as well as two packs
of instant noodles. Great idea I think - particularly after a
long day on the bike. The hotel rooms also come with free
toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair combs and some other "pay as you
use" items. The rooms weren't the best, but you can't
complain about the price, 120 Yuan per room (about EUR 12).
After hanging up our washing, Dave and I relaxed while reading a
book up on the roof before dinner.
[Relaxing with our washing on the Fangshan Hotel roof]
I must say that Fangshan is a rather surreal city - most
probably built for the sole reason of supporting the petroleum
refining company on the city fringes, if bears the marks of
something out of a futuristic movie. At night the streets are
lit by neon lights, house size television screens broadcast local
TV stations including the audio to anyone who cares to listen and
the people move about as if a euphoric agent had been released into
the water supply.
[Fangshan by night]
Strangely, it appeared as if the euphoria was contagious - we
were quite content to sit down at a local outdoor eatery and
partake in the evening's culinary ecstasy.