Heading out Monday morning on a beautiful clear day, I was accompanied by Maggie’s father Gan Shunfu, he is a keen cyclist also. I was not sure how far he would ride with me, I sensed that he and Maggie were both a little worried that I would be able to navigate and be safe on this journey. Gan was a great help navigating through the suburbs of Hangzhou, it was confusing until we reached the Qiantang river, then it was simply a matter of following the river until I turned off to Longmen, that was the plan anyway.
I quickly discovered a cultural difference between Gan and I, he carried minimal baggage, no maps or phone GPS. I discovered he had never been to Longmen and was not sure of the way, so every few km he would grab the nearest pedestrian and quiz them on the correct way to go. If he felt the answer was not enough he would immediately turn to the nearest person and quiz them, this repeated until he was confident he knew the way. I on the other hand, if I ask someone for directions, I let them leave before asking a 2nd person so as not to hurt their feelings.
I had my phone with GPS and downloaded maps, but I let Gan lead the way as he had better local knowledge until out of town, at an intersection with nobody to ask directions, he headed off in the opposite direction, I waited a few minutes for him to find someone to ask, turn around, and return to where I was waiting. I showed him the map and pointed in the correct direction. I think he then realised that I would be able to navigate without him.
We stopped for morning tea, admired the local temples and the very wide river. I was not sure how far Gan would ride with me, he had no English and my Mandarin was and still is very poor, plus I didn’t have Baidu or Google translate working on my phone in 2014. Eventually I realised Gan wanted to ride the whole way to Longmen with me, as he had never visited the town and also to make sure I found somewhere to sleep.
We stopped for lunch in a country roadside restaurant, were able to park our bicycles near our table and enjoyed a well earned hearty chinese meal and cold drinks. The ride was a bit warmer and dustier than I was expecting. It was a bit of a truck stop filled with mostly male customers, I tend to avoid these sort of restaurants on my rides now, I look for restaurants with mixed male, female and families as customers. Also they must be busy as it is hard to judge the hygiene standards, I just look for lots of customers.
We arrived at Longmen soon after lunch and were initially unable to find a hotel but after a slow walk through the narrow town lanes, on the far side of the ancient town we found a modern hotel. It was a little more than I was hoping to pay, around $28 dollars, but I had a lovely ensuite, it was OK to store my bike in my room, on the ground floor, with free green tea and wifi. Added bonus is a western toilet after not seeing one all day getting here.
Gan took one of my favorite pictures on the trip, the photo at the top of this post, in the middle of the Longmen ancient town crossing a stream. I reciprocated, notice Gan’s minimal luggage
Gan left soon after helping me check in to the hotel, I showered and had a lazy afternoon wandering the Ancient town, drinking the hotels free green tea and using their free wifi. I suspected Gan would be exhausted when he gets home. Maggie later confirmed he went straight to bed when he arrived home, a 120 km plus ride on a warm day. I very much appreciated his support , and guidance on this my first touring ride day in China, it was a great introduction, but I also felt ready and able to venture on solo and see how I coped.
I returned to my hotel for dinner, there did not seem to be any menu, let along an English menu, so I was escorted into the kitchen to view the available food, I pointed at the octopus, a couple of greens and asked for rice. I thought I was ordering one stir fry dish, but they kept bring more dishes, each vegetable I chose was cooked separately with the octopus. I don’t think I will be losing any weight this trip so far.
I went for an evening walk and heard the sounds of a village from many years past, there was an old wooden box with a turning drum that was chafing wheat or similar. The narrow car less streets became spooky in the dark but as I had wandered the village in the light, it felt safe and easy to navigate. I retired early, eager to continue my adventure, not sure of where I would stay the next night.