GlobeRiders World Tour 2006 Live!Journal Chapters Menu
Week One Chapter: 09 May ~ 15 May 2006 - China
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
- Jack London (1876 - 1916), "Tales of Adventure"
"When a traveller returneth home, let him not leave the countries where he hath travelled altogether behind him." -
Francis Bacon (1597-1625)
"There are a billion people in China. It's not easy to be an individual in a crowd of more than a billion people. Think of it. More than a BILLION people. That means even if you're a one-in-a-million type of guy, there are still a thousand guys exactly like you."
- A. Whitney Browne, "The Big Picture"
Taken from an altitude of 4,054 meters (13,300 feet), the carefully laid-out gridwork of central Beijing surrounds the Forbidden City.
(Image courtesy of Google Earth
Starting location for this week: Beijing, China, home of the 2008 Olympic Games
Ending location for this week: Shanghaiguan, China
Planned mileage for this week: 1,062 kilometers
Huan ying ("Welcome" in Mandarin)
Foon ying ("Welcome" in Cantonese)
The World Tour 2006 begins....
How many times have you heard someone say, "The world is getting smaller everyday." Certainly planes, Bullet trains, ships and the internal combustion engine have made travel quicker, but of course, the distances remain the same. What people mean, of course, is that cell phones, email, the World Wide Web and television have made the world pretty much instantly accessible to almost anyone, but therein lies the danger. No matter how "open" the media, the content has been created by someone. And that someone has filtered the content through his or her eyes and ears, subject to his or her belief system and point-of-view, based on what they thought interesting or important. Even these very words.
You could view the World Tour as nothing more than a bunch of lucky guys riding around and nothing more. But the truth is, anyone who is willing to expose themselves to the risks inherent in leaving the safe confines of one's home and chooses to journey abroad, is a special person. They desire to experience the world on it's own terms, and in doing so, they come to know what it's really all about. And travel by motorbike is the most immersive way to travel. Not cocooned in a cage of glass and steel, the rider travels in the county, not simply through it. The discipline of situational awareness, and ballet of acceleration, braking, banking and turning are all a bonus, adding dimensions to travel that others can't even imagine.
We know how fortunate we are to be here. We are privileged to travel where will over the next 65 days. And, we get to do it on our very own motorcycles.
How cool is that?
Welcome to the first "en route" chapter of the World Tour 2006 Live!Journal. If the internet prevails, there are many more to follow. Come ride with us!
Mike M. Paull - Guide/Webmeister
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The many forms of "Welcome" in over 800 languages and other useful words and phrases are courtesy of Jennifer's Language Page.
To find out what time it is here (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.
To see where we are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.
For more information about China, please visit the resources listed below:
- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States:
- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States:
- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere":
Christmas all over again, the huge grin on Eef's face clearly shows, the adventure begins now!
Most likely the first privately registered and licensed R1200GS Adventure in North America, Helge's bike is definitely the first privately owned Adventure in China.
VIN numbers and engine serial numbers being checked against the Bill of Lading.
Papers in order, the Chinese Customs formalities were completed for the bikes arriving by air.
Eef and Helge, outside of the Beijing Capitol Airport, the first World Tour 2006ers with bikes in China.
Day 02 - 10 MAY 2006 - Capitol City Airport, China
Our main guide while in China is Sim. He is the best there is and I have had the pleasure of working with him on all of our GlobeRiders tours in China. He is the guide that you always want to have at your side when you go in to uncharted territory. For this reason I was a little disappointed that Sim could not go with World Tourer Eef Peerdeman and myself to the Beijing Capitol Airport to retrieve our bikes on May 10th. The rest of the group headed to The Great Wall of China, while Eef and I spent our day at the airport retrieving our bikes.
Eef had decided to ship his bike by airfreight from Holland since he had signed up for the journey in the last minute and was not prepared to miss the container shipment in Seattle. I air freighted my bike since I really did need to prepare the bike properly before this journey. Since the bike had been delivered to me in Seattle just two days ahead of the container being shipped, I had to pass on the container and concentrate on getting the bike ready. With airfreight I gained almost 3 weeks in time, the time it would take the container to make the journey across the Pacific by ship.
Next to the airport in Beijing there is a racetrack with garages in the pits and this was we found our bikes stored. Opening our boxes was like having Christmas at the age of 5 years old. Our babies looked so good and knowing that they had arrived safe and sound made the purr of the engine feel indescribable.
Eef had made an indestructible wooden crate for his BMW 1150GS Adventure, she looked so good, all ready for the adventure. I had not known Eef more than through emails over the last months, but from the first time we talked I knew he would be a very passionate biker. Jumping up and down and barely able to contain himself, it was wonderful to see his excitement as he put together the bike and started her up.
We both posed for pictures to make sure that this special experience would be kept forever and shared with like-minded riders that can understand this kind of affection. You probably have to be a hard core motorcyclist to understand the importance of an event like this.
Leaving the race track, we stopped at the first gasoline station to fill up the empty tanks. No big deal you would think, but to the two young girls attending the pump it was. I was told that we could not fill straight into the tank, but rather, had to wheel the bikes away from the pump and they would come over with a bucketful of gasoline. I had seen this on previous visits to China and understood what they were doing. Apparently, in some areas of China, they believe that motorcycles in general are a hazard and will throw sparks that as a result will ignite the gasoline at the pump. So with that “Logic” all bikes have to be refueled away from the pumps by using buckets.
I took a fast look at the bucket that they were going to use and decided that I needed to convince them to fill directly from the pump. The bucket was dirty and would have needed a thorough cleaning which I demonstrated by scraping dirt out of the bottom of the bucket using my finger. They finally got the drift and a little more begging we were granted permission to fill from the pump. The whole interaction was fun, we laughed and joked around and it was there and then that I knew that the journey truly had started. I had my bike and I had mad my first battle with a gasoline attendant.
The weather was perfect in Beijing this spring day in early May, clear blue sky and a slight breeze to keep the temperature at a comfortable level. We did a short ride over to the licensing department where we were issued special license plates for our bikes. Again we were the center piece of attention, surrounded by admirers of these great huge bikes.
But the envy was not over yet, because when we returned to the hotel later that evening, when the group got to see our bikes, we were the center of attention once again. With longing in their stares, they knew that the next day, it would be their time to ride the streets of Beijing.
Day 03 - 11 MAY 2006 - Tianjin, China
In terms of sheer energy and excitement, the high point of any GlobeRiders tour is clearly the day we unload our bikes and clear them through customs. It's hard to describe the anticipation of standing in the freight yard on foreign soil, surrounded by curious workers and poker-faced officials, waiting to reclaim the mechanized mounts that will take us afar. Some of the riders last saw their bikes loaded into the back of a freight truck months ago. Even those that helped load the container last saw their machines over three weeks previous. For Helge and I, there's a bit of anxiety mixed in as well - did anything get damaged in transit?
The Port of Tianjin is enormous. From ground level, geometrically precise stacks of containers stretch all the way to the seeming horizon. Incredibly, the port authorities had staged our container right next to the customs building, all we had to do was step off the bus from Beijing, walk around a fence, and wait for the inevitable slow-churn of signatures and documents.
The bolt cutters appear, and the mixed crowd of participants garbed in riding gear and port workers in uniforms and jumpers presses in, only to step hurriedly back as the doors swing open, and all are assailed by the dizzying gush of vaporized fuel and oil that saturates that blasts forth.
Inside, all is well!
In minutes, the container from Seattle that took hours to load is empty. VIN numbers are checked, the manifests and bills of lading are signed off, and we're given the go ahead to hook-up batteries, re-attach panniers and racks. Immediately, the world's largest pool of motorcycle tools appears, as each rider preps his bike for the first ride. Temporary licenses, motorcycle registrations, and license plates are issued are issued on the spot, and soon, we're ready.
While most of the excitement was focused around the main container, Enoki-san, Sasamoto-san, Andy and I were whisked off to a different part of the port to reclaim our bikes, as we had come from Kobe, Japan. Much to our delight, in order to save us time, the port officials had already unloaded our bikes and they were sitting, ready to go, in a warehouse. All we had to do was roll them outside, put on our gear, start the engines, and ride back to re-join the main group.
The entire process was far faster and easier than previous tours which began in Beijing. Our thanks to our tour partners, CSITS (China Sea International Travel Service), and the officials and workers at the Port of Tianjin, for making this critical day of our adventure the great one that it was.
Next, Rules of the Road!
[Editors Note: Compared to many countries, China is still relatively young in terms of its driving history. As a result, the rules of the road our riders have ingrained into them simply don't apply just yet. I mean no disrespect to China or its people by the following. It is meant simply as humor, but as anyone who has driven here will confirm, there is a real element of truth in the "Articles" below.]
China's Rules of the Road (submitted by Gary Morgan - a local rider in Beijing)
Traveling on Chinese roads is an hallucinatory experience of movement, colour, sound and emotions. It is frequently heart-rending, sometimes hilarious, mostly exhilarating, always unforgettable -- and, when you are on the roads, extremely dangerous. Most Chinese drivers observe a version of the Rules of the Road based on an Jiaguwen, or Oracle Bone Script.
The assumption of immortality is required of all road users.
Chinese traffic, like Chinese society, is structured on a strict caste system. The following precedence must be accorded at all times. In descending order, give way to: ducks, chickens, official cars, heavy trucks, buses, camels, light trucks, sheep, jeeps, ox-carts, horses, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, pigs, pedal rickshaws, goats, bicycles (goods-carrying), fowl, handcarts, bicycles (passenger-carrying), dogs and, last of all, pedestrians.
All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat. This is the Chinese driver's mantra.
ARTICLE IV: Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or aural amulet):
Cars (IV,1,a-c): Short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, that is, in clearing dogs, auto-rickshaws and pedestrians from the intended path.
Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication, that is, to an oncoming truck: "I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die!" In extreme cases this may be accompanied by flashing of headlights (frantic).
Single blast (casual) means: "I have seen someone out of China's 1.3 billion people whom I recognise" or "There is a bird in the road (which at this speed could go through my windscreen)" or "I have not blown my horn for several minutes.
"Trucks and buses (IV,2,a): All horn signals have the same meaning, viz: "I have an all-up weight of approximately 12.5 tonnes and have no intention of stopping, even if I could." This signal may be emphasised by the use of flashing headlights.
Article IV remains subject to the provision of Order of Precedence in Article II above.
For all manoeuvres, use of the horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment.
In the absence of seat belts (which there is), car occupants shall wear Buddhist Mala bracelets (commonly referred to as 'power' beads). These bracelets should be kept securely fastened at all times. (See Articles I and X). Optional are wedding licence plate covers.
Rights of way (VII,1): Traffic entering a road from the right has priority. So has traffic from the left, and also traffic in the middle.
Lane discipline (VII,2): All Chinese traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the centre of the road.
Lane discipline (VII,3): In the unlikely event of jammed traffic, all usable lanes, such as emergency vehicle lanes, bus and bicycle lanes as well as sidewalks and lanes for oncoming traffic have to be occupied.
Roundabouts: China has no roundabouts. Apparent traffic islands in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function. Any other impression should be ignored.
Overtaking is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you. Overtaking should only be undertaken in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions and in the middle of villages/city centres. No more than five centimeters should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing -- and no more than two point five centimeters clearance in the case of bicycles or pedestrians. To make eye contact with an 'opposing' driver is to concede the road.
Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash.
Reversing: no longer applicable since no vehicle in China seems to have a reverse gear.
Day 03 - 11 MAY 2006 - Beijing, China
From: Mike M. Paull
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2006 11:58 PM
To: Africa Live!Journal
Subject: First Ride
Rules of the road aside, the group made it's first ride in good order. As has been true on all previous tours in China, the group had to ride in convoy, staggered between a lead and chase vehicle. Riding shotgun and blocking from the read, the riders looked good on the ride from Tianjin back to Beijing.
Remarkably, traffic has been fairly light, so everyone can sort of ease into learning how to drive in China. Fortune smiled upon us, and were able to take the toll-way all the way in (motorcycle are normally not allowed).
The most common site on the ride in, cell phones snapping pictures of the convoy.
Tomorrow is a sightseeing day in Beijing. On the 13th, we head out into the mountains of Chegnde.
Day 04 - 12 MAY 2006 - Beijing, China
After a few days off from our Iran trip we are ready to settle in again to the travel routine. Iran is a beautiful country and the people were very welcoming. The culture and dress of people in China is so different from Iran, how fortunate we are to be able to experience them both
So far we have seen many changes in China, such as the disappearance of the millions of bicycles and scooters in Beijing. There don’t seem to be as many animals around for use as transportation and the quality of food seems to be better with more protein available.
Throughout the country we have seen much construction in preparation for the Olympics in 2008 and the street vendors are already selling baseball caps for the event. The street vendor’s techniques for getting us to purchase their wares have not changed, although we have not seen as many of them as we did the last time we were here.
It was nice to get our bikes from the container and after some minor preparation we are ready to ride.
Leaving Beijing our convoy of motorcycles passes a convoy of military vehicles. There were also a few road signs that would be helpful in all parts of the world, especially the one about cell phones.
At any rate, our adventure has begun, we look forward to the sights and sounds the following days will bring.
Jeff and Ann Roberg
Day 06 - 14 MAY 2006 - Chengde, China
To the left, me and my "New Best Friend" at Chengde's Summer Palace.
Week One - Images From China
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