More Details about Traveling Through China

David sent this to me via email.  They have not been able to get online to to add these updates themselves.  Plus, he has had difficulty even sending a lengthy email to me.  So this will catch them up on the trip.  Next communication will not come until they get into Laos.

6th July 2014

We went for the Peking Duck last night with the others it was good, after that we went for a couple of drinks with Joanna and Michael before getting a rickshaw back to the hotel.

This morning we have no plans but tonight I think we are going back to the Temple Restaurant for our last night in Beijing.

I am sitting in the cab of Plodd and sweat is running down my face as I am typing this blog, the temp gauge says 35c and it is only 9am.

We did go back to the Temple Restaurant and the food and service was as good if not better than the last time, we ordered our food and was served a complementary glass of Champagne and all the in-between tastings, we will be back some day to this very good restaurant, thanks to Jose and all her professional staff.

 7th July 2014

We decided to set off for Taiyuanat 9am but on the way we found we was making good time so changed our minds and drove further to Pingyao, We were staying two nights in this  city within a city so we had to leave the vehicles in the outer city by the inner wall. Spring had booked a guesthouse for those who wanted one and the others stayed in the vehicles on the car park, so Johanna, Michael, Spring, Lesley and myself took rooms and the owner came to collect us on a golf like buggy. We zoomed down the narrow lanes until we arrived at the guesthouse. The guesthouse was very Chinese and spotlessly clean, that night the five of us went out for dinner to a small Chinese restaurant nearby. The next morning it was raining quite heavily and I wanted to see if I could buy an electric bike to use with Plodd so I went looking for a shop. After about 30 minutes I found a shop in the outer city selling bikes but not the model I wanted. I tried to explain but it was not working then the shopkeeper asked a girl from the next door shop to help. In came Carol, she spoke very good English and explained to the shopkeeper what I wanted. We soon found out that this shop didn’t stock the brand I wanted but Carols mother in the shop next door new someone that did, so she called them and a guy came to see me. Carol explained to the man that in the price I wanted him to put the bike and secure it to the roof of Plodd, so the three of us went to look at Plodd, when the man looked at Plodd he said he could put the bike on the roof, so we followed him and Carol on his bike in to his shop, where the deal was done. I must say a very big thanks to Carol for her time helping me buy my new bike and every time we use it we will think of you helping.

So after cleaning the dust off the bike and charging the batteries the shop owner brought the bike to Plodd at 5.30pm (17.30) we managed to get it in the back storage area on Plodd rather than putting it on the roof, so that was good. That night we all met at the guesthouse to go out for a meal together, Joanna had found a restaurant just around the corner from the guesthouse and it was much better than the one the previous night, it was good that it was close by as it was still raining and had been all day. The city itself was very quaint with the narrow streets and little shops, it is a place that the well off Chinese people come to for holidays and you can see that it is not a place set up for international visitors as there is very little in the way of English writing and not to many menu’s in English.

10th July 2014

At 9am we set off and we were heading for the yellow river and waterfalls after a long drive through a quite mountainous region of China. We arrived in the afternoon at the waterfall car park, the falls were 3km from the car park so Les and I decided not to bother with the falls, so the others left and I started setting the electric bike up so I could try it out, it is brilliant it will reach about 25kph and the battery lasts about 25km so with the two batteries we could in theory go 50km (Oh and it seats two people).

Les was riding round the car park on it then I went the three km to the water falls, that turned out to be just a fast moving river with rapids and no falls. When the others got back they were pretty disappointed with the falls as there was only fast moving water and no water falls, so everyone that wanted had a go on the bike then Michael and I put it back in the back of Plodd ready for traveling the next day.

On the way to the falls I found Plodd had developed a fuel problem, in that she is only drawing fuel from number one tank leaving the other two tanks full, so I need to get that fixed asap.

11th July 2014

We left the yellow river car park in convoy at 9am this morning for the Terracotta army and arrived at the car park at about 3.30pm (15.30). Spring said that it would be a good time for us to visit that afternoon as tomorrow(Saturday) would be even busier, so we took her advice. The temp outside was touching 35c when we set off to visit the Terracotta Warriors, they are housed in three very large glass domed buildings. It is absolutely amazing to see, all the soldiers have different expressions on their faces and the horses all look very different from each other. Les bought a replica of the Major, which was hugely expensive, nothing new there then!

That night we all went to the restaurant where Spring was staying the food was ok, if a little oily.

12th July 2014

Today we are heading for a city in the middle of China called Xi’an, so we set off at about 9.15am, the city is only 50km away, however when we arrived it was very difficult to find the entrance to the hotel and we went down a street that was blocked by overhead banners so the hole convoy had to reverse about 1km back down a very busy and very narrow street (what a job). After we got out of that mess, Michael and Joanna went to the hotel and got a porter to guide us in to the hotel car park from where we were waiting for them.

We plan on staying two nights at the Shaanxi Wenyuan Hotel, it is right in the centre of the city, the first night we went out for dinner on our own to a beef restaurant, it was not very successful the food was not cooked right and it was cold. Saturday we went round the Muslim market, some very interesting things to look at, we had a caricature sketch done of Plodd then when the artist had finished he and several of his journalist friends from the local paper came round to Plodd to take pictures and they said that it would be printed with a story of our journey in the local paper the next week, obviously I asked them to email it to me. I hope they do.

Tonight the full nine of us are be going to a famous dumpling restaurant for dinner then tomorrow we will be setting off to see the Giant Pandas.

The Chinese dumplings were very interesting there were duck, pork, chicken and many others.

13th July 2014

We arrived at the Panda Zoo about 1.30pm (13.30) we had been told that after their dinner the Pandas sleep so when we went in the Great Panda’s were mostly sleeping but some of the red pandas were still awake. You walk around the site for about 2 hours, then we met Spring back at Plodd where we split from the rest of the convoy (2 days free time) and headed into the nearby city Chengdu to stay in a hotel. The next morning we were up early ready to go to the repair shop Spring had contacted to ask if they could repair Plodd, anyway on arriving the garage mechanic decided Plodd was too big and sent us across the city to another repairer. On arrival I could see that they repaired trucks so I knew that they would be able to do the job. They disconnected the fuel pipe from number one tank and attached an electric pump in no time they had the fuel coming through. I asked them about a clanking sound coming from the front wheels of Plodd, after inspecting the shock absorbers they found that there was a crack in one of the sub frame plates, so they dismantled it and plated the cracked plate then welded it all round, (a very good job).We then test drove Plodd and she was still making the noise. After further inspection and dismantling the antiroll bar they found it was worn bushes in the antiroll bar, it would be impossible to get the bushes in China but they did say that it was not dangerous. It was now 4.30pm (16.30) so we set off and drove about 220km to a town called Ya’an and a hotel to stay at. They say Ya’an is the tea capital of the world so Lesley sampled some before going for dinner in the town that night, which was a fabulous street BBQ.

16th July 2014

We had planned to meet the others between 5pm and 6pm at the toll just before the city of Xichang. We arrived early at 4pm (16.00) then Spring and I decided to get the electric bike out and go to the nearby shop which was about 2km down the road, when we got there they did not have anything we wanted so we set off back to Plodd. The others all arrived eventually and everybody said they had had a good time except for Trevor and Monika, who complained that they had joined the trip knowing that they would have a guide from border to border and they had been left on their own for two days, (at the meeting where it was discussed that Spring would come with us because of our problem with Plodd they said nothing, I think that if Spring had been with them instead of interpreting at the garage with us that would have been ok). Monika also said that she did not think we had a problem with Plodd, selfish comes to mind.

Anyway that night we found a nice spot to camp by a small lake and we all sat down to discuss Trevor and Monika’s problem and also made a commitment that when we stop for dinner we will stop for one hour not 30 minutes we also decided that there would be no more changes to the program unless we had a proper sit down meeting.

18th July 2014

First thing we set off for the supermarket to stock up with provisions as we were going to be stopping at a lake called Lugi for a couple of nights which is a bit off the beaten track, after leaving the supermarket Trevor purposely pulled right in front of me almost causing an accident. He obviously blamed us for the two days they were driving on their own! How on earth did they get all the way to China from the UK without a guide? So on the drive we were at times as high as 3,750m above sea level, I could not believe that being that high could, and did make so much difference to Plodd’s performance, we lost about 20% of power and the engine temperature was touching 95f at points. After driving some seven hours on mountainous roads we arrived at the lake. Unlike what was decided at the meeting the previous night that before any changes were made we would have a meeting the convoy split into three and lunch had been changed to 30 minutes, So with this in mind and the fact that neither Les or I wanted to be climbing any more mountains in Plodd I told Spring that we will be going our own way on the highway (motorway) whenever possible from now on.

Everyone split as planned and left the meeting place to go and find somewhere to camp or to take a hotel for the next two nights, we went down the shore of the lake and arrived at a village right on the waters edge called Luowa and then spotted TC, we all had a bit of fun with the Chinese people all trying to get into Plodd for a look around (photos from Guido). After chatting with Paula, Guido and Spring we all went for dinner to a local family run Restaurant which looked out on to the lake. Again we had a bit of fun with the Chinese people this time in the restaurant, they wanted to take our photos so Spring told them they would have to wait until we had finished our meal. They waited patiently and then the photos started, they wanted one with Paula and Guido then Les and I, then every combination imaginable but to be fair Super Spring said to them that perhaps they should consider buying us all a beer, which they dutifully did! In fact they bought us two each! After finishing the photo shoot we left to have a drink by TC before saying good night to all and going back to Plodd, we enjoyed the night with Paula, Guido and Spring very much and hope to do it again before leaving China.

Saturday 19th July 2014

I went on a short boat trip with Spring, Guido, Paula and two of the kids (3 and 9 year old) from the restaurant from the night before, then upped sticks at around 1pm after lunch and drove towards the largest village on the lake called Lugi after the name of the lake. I booked into a nice little hotel that was directly on the lake and then had a look around the open market stalls. In the afternoon I met Paula and Guido who were with Spring shopping and we arranged to go to see the locals dancing that night at8.30pm (20.30).

The dancing was at 8.30pm when we arrived all the dancers were in their costumes about 30 girls and 20 boys all in one line, so they all went to the left, then all went to the right, then to the left and then to the right, this went on for about 30 minutes, by which time we were a little bored so we left to go and have dinner at an open air restaurant near where we were staying.

Sunday 20th July 2014

We all met at 9am and just before setting off for Lijang we were informed that the road was blocked so we would have to take a winding mountainous road and instead of the 4 hours on the normal road it would take us 9 hour or 10 hours. The convoy set off and after about 20k Michael & Jo split and took the original road as they had a 4×4 Land cruiser that would be more than capable of navigating the bad road. The rest of us took the winding road and after about 2 hours the road started to go up quite dramatically, it got much narrower and at one point we met a coach on a hair pin bend, we were on the outside and he would not move forward so I edged forward at about 1 kph and was about 75mm from the edge with no barrier and a drop of 2000m. Les got out to try and guide me through the gap. On the other side of Plodd there was no more than 25mm between Plodd and the coach (photo’s courtesy of TC’s mum Paula), I must say I was wishing we were not there! Cars, trucks all blasting there horns! It was not easy but we made it past eventually. We continued up then up again, after a lot more hours driving in the clouds we eventually got to some flat roads then up again. We were about 100km from our destination and the other vehicles needed fuel so we stopped to wait for them just outside the fuel station when a young Chinese couple of backpackers asked for a lift, the girl was called Denise and spoke very good English, so for the next 100k we all chatted, then when we reached Lijang we said our goodbye’s. We parked up and headed to the guesthouse Spring had booked for us, that night we went for dinner with just Spring and ate the local Chinese food (Lijang Pork Ribs) and then went back to the guesthouse. Neither of us had a good nights sleep, waking up thinking about the altitude/height’s we had been in the day before so at 7am we decided to go to Plodd for a cup of tea to decide what we would do about the rest of the trip, would we split from the group and head south towards the Laos border or stay with the group going to the Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La and again mountains. There was one thing for certain we have no plans on going mountain climbing in Plodd again, which means that if we don’t split now we will split later in the trip and keep to the motorways instead of the mountain road from Dali to Pu’er.

Pu’er is the last town before the China/Laos border. We have just had another meeting and decided that the others would all go to The Tiger Leaping Gorge and we would stay in Lijang and then when the others are on there way back south close to Lijang and on there way to Dali we would meet them on the motorway just east of Lijang at around lunchtime on Wednesday then stay with the convoy Wednesday and Thursday before splitting again so we take the motorway to Pu’er which will then just leave one more day together before we reach the Laos border.

I must at this point say a very very big thank you to Werner and Rosemarie for recommending Mrs Spring. I have said this before she has been absolutely fantastic one amazing girl and to anybody reading this blog thinking about a trip in China we both would highly recommend her.  If anybody wants her contact details please contact me through and I will forward your details to Mrs Spring.

 21st July 2014

Last night before went for dinner we switched the heating on in Plodd for the first time in China, For dinner we went to a local Hot Pot (Houglu) restaurant and got wet through on the way there and back, no one spoke English so I was invited into the kitchen to choose the ingredients to cook in the hotpot. Two different types of pork, oyster mushrooms, green leaves, cauliflower and potatoes it was delicious, three young girls off the next table helped us make up a dip without a word of English spoken from the many ingredients offered. You then got a divided fluid tank heated from an electric ring that is fitted into the middle of the table, one half spicy, the other not, and loaded all your ingredients into it, after a minute or two you ate them with chopsticks.

This morning I got the electric bike out and rode about 20k round the city and got soaking wet looking for some bread (without any luck). I also had breakfast at the guesthouse we stayed at two nights ago, not good, it was like an oil slick on a plate with sweet toast, so I wont do that again.

This afternoon I went shopping for some beer on the bike then dismantled it and put it back in the back of Plodd.

Tonight Les is cooking roast beef, carrots (if they ever cook) roast potatoes peas and sweetcorn for dinner then we will just nip out for a couple of beers before going to sleep on Plodd.

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