When I started out this year, I knew I would see a lot of strange things, and have plenty of different, unusual experiences. I didn’t really think too much about where I would spend Christmas. I didn’t even know which country I would be in, until a few days ago. But being flexible has its rewards. We (Sally and I) reached Beihai on December 23rd, and ended up in a nice, but too expensive hotel. Since we wanted to stop for a couple of days, we decided to move.
Riding around town looking for another hotel, a passing cyclist told us to check out a bike shop, that had an associated cycling club. So we went in to take a look – cyclists can’t resist wandering into bike stores, even when they don’t really need anything. You never know, sometimes there might be something you didn’t even know you needed. But anyway, a phone call was made, and a Chinese-speaking American came along, to do some translation. It turned out the staff wanted to invite us to their Christmas party. Why not? So we agreed to go along. We were told to turn up at the shop at 6pm, from where we would get a car out to the place the party was being held.
We had no idea what to expect. We were a bit concerned that it could turn out to be a Jesuit missionary affair or something like that, and we would end up sitting around a fire singing Kumbaya, and celebrating midnight Mass. All well and good, but not quite my cup of tea. But let’s just go along and see what happens.
It turned out to be a big party, with everyone issued Santa hats, a big feed – with a huge Chinese-style scrum around the buffet table, and later a few beers. Not too much drunkenness, just a few cans and a bit of fun. There were various party games, bike demonstrations, musical acts, and presents for the kids. Here’s a few pics, with a nice close-up of me, and shots of me doing press-ups, as a penalty from one of the games. We had no idea what was going on most of the time, but everyone was very nice, and we just went with the flow.
We had been told that there were a few other foreigners who would be there, but we only met the 3 Aussies later on in the evening. No problem, all the Chinese people were lovely to us. Beihai has a nice relaxed feel about it – foreigners are unusual here, but not completely unknown, so you get lots of “hellos” from the groups of schoolchildren. You get the feeling you could live here.
Two more days of riding, and I should be into Vietnam. We met a pair of Swiss cyclists the other day, who had been on the road for three years. They had just come out of Vietnam, and didn’t have anything nice to say about it. They were glad to be back in China. This tallies with what others have said about Vietnam, so the plan is to not stick around, but to zip into Hanoi, then probably 2 or 3 days’ ride south, and I’ll turn and cross into Laos. Sally is taking a different route to me, going into Vietnam a month later, so I’ll be back to riding by myself. Probably not for too long though, there’s bound to be plenty of other cyclists kicking around in South East Asia.
Hopefully everyone has had a nice Christmas with family and friends, and not too much stress. All going well, the next report should be coming from Vietnam.