amw (amw) wrote,

rambling across Guangdong

I am spending 200元 to sit in a hotel on Mayday and do exactly the same nothing that i would be doing if i was at home.

Except it feels much better because i am free.

Two days ago i put my tablet, toothbrush and three t-shirts into my work bag and jumped on a share bike. I pedaled about 35km to the last subway station in Bao'an district.

Ever since i discovered that every city in the Pearl River Delta has Mobike share bikes, i thought it would be a cool adventure to bike from Shenzhen to Guangzhou and back down to Zhuhai on the other side. The distance would probably be around 350km, which seems theoretically reasonable for a biking holiday.

In practice it's a little more challenging. As i know from my accidental excursion to Fenggang town in Dongguan, you can't just drop your share bike on the other side of a city border without getting fined. And as i now know, you can't always easily cross the city border either.

Monday afternoon i locked up my bike at the north end of Bao'an. I figured i would walk across to Chang'an town in Dongguan, but as it turned out the only road nearby that crossed the river was a fairly major expressway without a sidewalk. The subway station was crawling with touts. I ignored them and waited for a bus to take me all of 2km across the river and into Chang'an, which was completely gridlocked.

It took almost an hour.

I jumped off the bus and searched for another bike. There were way more Hello bikes down there, but i eventually found a beat up old Mobike. I headed west along the reservoir to Humen town.

Between Chang'an and Humen, Dongguan is pretty rural. Well, rural in the context of the Pearl River Delta. There are still factories and mid-rise tower blocks, but there are also small holds by the water.

Even when you start getting into the more built up areas, there are no greenways. But there are a lot of electric bikes and motorcycles. People ride both ways in the slow lane. Nobody pays much attention to the road rules. Every truck and car driving past beeps to let you know it's there. It's noisy.

I am not sure what Humen is known for besides having a bridge across the delta. There is also an Opium Wars museum there. What was important to me is that they had a 7 Days Inn (something similar to Motel 6) and some eateries. 6 hours after i left my house, i checked into the hotel with chafed thighs and a sore back.

I got eggplant and green beans for dinner, which is one of the easiest dishes if you are vegan in China. There were a lot of tong sui places. I bought a half pineapple on a stick from a roadside vendor.

The next morning i ordered in a coffee, and i was surprised to find there were several affordable choices. Although Rich China has definitely arrived in Dongguan, it feels like the split between rich and poor is less pronounced than it is in Shenzhen. Or, at least, the rich are less pretentious about it.

After breakfast i shouldered my bag and biked up to the Humen bus station. Most of the buses were heading west, across the river to Foshan - or further out to Guangxi, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces. I briefly pondered heading to Foshan to continue my bicycle trip around the PRD, but earlier that morning i had been attracted by the idea of Huizhou, so i jumped back on the bike and headed up to the Nancheng district bus station, near the city center.

Huizhou is kind of a nothing city east of Dongguan. I mostly know it for having some large green patches on my map, so it's been on my radar for a while to check out the hiking.

At the bus station i bought a ticket for the next bus - apparently leaving in 20 minutes.

Traveling by bus in China is far less work than taking the train. Obviously the train is more comfortable and much faster, but planning it is a nightmare. You have to buy tickets a day or more in advance, then you need to line up to collect them on the day, and then there is airport-style security for both the departure lounge and the platform. To take a bus in China you just go to the bus station, pick a destination, then get on the bus. It is exactly how i like to travel. I don't care if it's slow.

Lordy it was slow. The bus showed up an hour late. Then it took almost 3 hours to go the ~80km to Huizhou. Yes, friends, i was caught in the Mayday madness. But you know what? I did not care at all. Because, little did i know, when you get to the east side of Dongguan it's just fucking mountains.

Well, not mountains. Not, like, Sichuan mountains. One side is factories, but the other side is rolling green hills. There are worse places to be stuck in gridlock.

Huizhou is fine. I think it's pretty here. There are lots of hills around the place. My hotel is by a lake, but i didn't go out and see. Last night i got BBQ and had a few beers and then retired. They hit me pretty hard because when i am not working i tend to stop drinking altogether.

Also, i am fucking tired. Whether it's depression or chronic fatigue or just plain laziness, i don't often feel the urge to go out and "do stuff". I love traveling. Like, the actual traveling part. I love going places, but i am not very interested in seeing the sights at whatever the place is that i get to. It's the going that matters. I love feeling lost and alone and transient and anonymous. That's what makes me feel free.

I can leave any time. But i will stay here one more day and just do the same things i do everywhere else. Lie on my bed. Read the news. Read wiki. Watch TV. Eat food. Sleep.

Happy Mayday everyone.
Tags: china, freedom, travel

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