Cycling in China
China is vast. So vast that it has a wide spectrum of traditions, ethnic minorities, landscapes and challenges. We found cycling in China nothing but rewarding and after two months, here are some tips.
- Never flush toilet paper. Learn a folding technique and put it in a bin which is always provided.
- Buy your own toilet paper and soap. They are not commonly available in any toilets, except in most hotels. You can often buy toilet paper in packs of 1 or 2.
- Water is 'schway'
- The going rate for a small water is 1 - 2 RMB. For fizzy drinks it is about 3 RMB.
- EVERYONE will want to take their photo with you. Often they will try to do it secretly. Embrace it, they're so happy to see foreign people and we should show them that we are a good thing in their country.
- Most young children and teenagers speak passable English, they may just be shy to speak it.
- Don't be frightened of the police. They're just doing what they're being told to do, but they will always wish you a very happy journey once they've checked your visa.
- It is technically illegal to camp. You should be registered with the local police every night where you stay and hotels are supposed to do this for you. Some hotels are not able to do so, which is why they will not accept foreigners. However, we camped as much as possible to keep costs down. It is possible so long as you are very well hidden and as few people see you as possible.
- Google Translate works offline if you download the Chinese package. Use it only for basic sentences as it doesn't work so well for complicated sentences. The major bonus of this app is that the camera setting works offline. It can translate menus and road signs if you tap on the camera icon. It doesn't work perfectly, but it was a major benefit we missed with other language packs.
- WeChat runs the country and you should make an account before you enter China - you can use any phone number which is working to receive texts (to authenticate). WeChat has a pretty good translate feature. Tap and hold a conversation message and there is an option to translate. You can write back in your own language, and the other person can translate too.
- Learn how to count to ten on one hand
- An alternative app is 'Learn Chinese' which reads pre-programmed sentences out loud offline.
- Learn the characters for 'hotel' and 'guesthouse' because it's rare for 'hotel' to be written in English.
- Unfortunately, still, not all hotels accept foreigners. If you get stuck, go to the police station and ask where you can stay. There are still some towns and cities where foreigners just generally aren't allowed but these tend to exist more in the west.
- If you just turn up at a hotel, you can barter a good rate. It is easier to barter if you ask to see the room first. You will never actually pay what is advertised on the 'room rates' sign on the wall.
- There are WarmShowers hosts in China but you'll just need to message them on WeChat.
- Make sure hotels take a copy of your visa and visa stamp as well as your passport photo page. You may also be asked t fill in an 'alien registration form'. This way, you shouldn't be bothered by the police knocking on your door later that evening. Hotels should register you with the police, but some don't know how.
There are four different types of roads in China:
There are four different types of roads in China:
Expressways: E.g. G5 red and green symbol on the map. You cannot cycle on these roads, but some do. It's a shame you can't because they have a really nice hard shoulder.
G roads: E.g. G108 red roads. You can cycle on these, the surface will be good but there may be a lot of large truck traffic.
S roads: E.g. S306 yellow roads. You can cycle on these. The surface may occasionally be questionable but generally it is fine. Any road blocks (land slips etc) will not be cleared as quickly
X roads: Local roads in white. Can be anywhere from awesome to the worst ever.
- Chinese drivers do not use their mirrors. They will pull out from side roads without looking. Might is right and do not argue with the lorries because you're putting yourself in extreme danger! Always slow down and let cars and lorries go first *from any direction*, they will not stop for you. The method of driving is to only be concerned with what's in front of you. No shoulder checks or mirror checks here!
- Accept that horn honking is seen has courteous. They aren't beeping at you to tell you to move or tell you off, they just want to make you aware of their presence. But it will drive you crazy.
- Some restaurants have menus with pictures. You can just point.
- Plain rice is 'mi fan' and it is often not listed.
- If by yourself, the main dishes by themselves are pretty big, you may not need rice.
- The further away from big cities you go, the fewer picture menus there'll be. Google translate works well here.
- When chinking glasses with another, tap your glass below the rim of the other person's rim. It is polite.
- Beer is pronounced 'pee jew'.
- Most restaurants have WiFi, but you may need to ask. WiFi is just 'Wifi'.
- If you don't like spice, just say 'bu la' when ordering.
- To ask for the bill, say 'mydan'
- Leave all dropped food where it is on the table. It is the Chinese way.
- Further south and west, often we went into a restaurant where there is just a fridge of ingredients. You can ask for whatever you want. If you are unsure, we always asked for 'ma po dofu' and 'fried egg and tomato' and it was always a great meal.