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Riding in kunming china - proof man evolved from ants?

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Riding in kunming china - proof man evolved from ants?

Old 03-07-09, 07:40 PM
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Riding in kunming china - proof man evolved from ants?

heres an update here in china, where I am recovering from a bout of 'mao's revenge' - much improved today, thought I was dieing yesterday afternoon though...

human movement patterns here in china suggest man evolved from ants, not apes.

I live on the 7th floor of a government owned apartment building. I am paying a whopping $1400.00 RNB ($200.00 USD) a month. 7 floors below and across the street is an elementary school. during recess, watching the little kids from 7 floors above, they mill about on the asphalt, they look a lot like ants.

this behavior is carried forward when they learn to ride bikes. People mill around on bikes, on the streets and sidewalks, a lot like they milled about as kids on the playground. The biking rule here is that everything behind you is 'ignorable', everything in front of you has to be 'paid attention to' and anything to the side of you is somewhere in between ignorable and needing to be paid attention to. A lot like downhill skiing. Nobody uses mirrors, has bells, wears helmets, and they don't issue warnings like 'watch out', 'passing', 'on your left' and the like. traffic 'lanes', including the oncoming ones, are merely 'suggestions' about where to drive - this is true for ALL vehicles, not just bicycles.

I bought a bell for the bike at the wal-mart here. When I use it, pedestrians are totally mystified looking up, down, and to the side, everywhere for the person who has such an ODD ring on his cell phone. Then they figure out, eventually, that the dingaling-ing is emanating from the BIG western dingaling on the flashy bike. They don't move out of the way, but closer so they can oooh and ahhh and point to items on the westerners totally cool bike. Using the bell is totally a problem, now I treat it more like a nice adornment, but I don't ring it.

There are almost NO foreigners here in Kunming - some are here teaching english, and some are here studying chinese, or as in Taos, where I'll now be 1/2 the time, hiding out from something or somebody. We westerners are quite a novelty. Folks like to practice their english on us. Some of the younger folks speak quite good english. Many of the folks over 35 or 40 speak almost NONE.

LOTS of folks ride electric bikes and scooters and there are VERY few gas powered cycles or scooters. The scooters drive just like the bicycles, only a lot faster. They are allowed to use the extensive bike lanes here in Kunming, and they approach wildly, weaving around the throngs of single speed and thus slower bicycles.

AND they are TOTALLY SILENT. a stealthy danger, because unless the battery is down, they are faster than single speed bikes.

NOBODY every checks traffic when pulling into it, the rule is 'if there is an open hole anywhere in front or to the side, go for it (like skiing again). Of course, several others are always going for the same hole that you are.

On a bike lane, about 12-15 feet wide, during rush hour, a MOB of bikes and scooters collect at a red light, wait for it to change. The rule here is 'take off going VERY straight or you will certainly crash'. Scooters will weave past you, sometimes gently nudging you to the side. NEVER LOOK over your shoulder, it might make you veer slightly off your straight course.Eventually all the scooters weave thru the throng and are ahead of the mob of bicycles. Since I have a geared bike, I can actually outrun an electric scooter, so I get behind a couple of scooters and weave thru the mob to the relative safety of the leading and still weaving scooter traffic in front of the mob of single speed bicycles. At the next light, the bikes catch up. repeat.

riding a bike here, as a westerner, is like being a character in a live video game.

Sometime as I leave a light, I outrun ALL the electric scooters, and wait for them at the next light. Then the scooters arrive, and they approvingly say "hou da' (GOOD!) and give me a thumbs up or say "Hell--oh". and gawk at the feature of my new, custom frame TI bike.

All of this bicycling biking behavior here has been carried forward as China starts to have a middle class, some of whom have automobiles. Their car driving skills are nonexistent. Mirrors are merely adornments. This applies to bus drivers as well. as a bicyclist, i fear getting between two busses using traffic lanes as merely 'suggestions'.

china proves man evolved from ants.

For daily travel, I purchased a 'used' bike from a place that sells all sort of 'used' stuff (bikes, scooters, cameras computers, TV's, fridges, etc). The chinese characters for this market translate to "Stolen Item Market". Its a chinese bike , an old school Chinese "Angix" brand steel frame 12 speed, quill stem, friction shifters on the stem, 27"x 1.25" tires. The ONLY bike I found big enough for a westerner. It looks like its brand new. It might be, even though in the US the technology would be considered solidly middle 80's vintage. In China, they still make all the bikes ever made in china for the local market. I paid about 50 dollars. A brand new single speed chinese built single speed bike sells for about 40.00 new (at, you guessed it, the local walmart). This bike I bought because the TI bike cannot be locked anywhere without my constant eye on it. I carry it up and down 7 flights of steps to use it (SO glad its light), which I do every morning as I learn Kunming's geography, and where things are, where the good bike lanes are. The Angix is also, like the TI bike, a high theft item because it has gears is a pretty metallic blue), but if I lose it, at least I know where to buy it back. I lock the Angix in the stairwell of my apartment, I never take my eye off the TI bike.

You can always spot a non-chinese bicyclist. They are sporting a helmet. Good idea.

There is a great high end bike shop - has all the stuff you'd ever need - Shimano dealer. Lots of high end Mountain bikes here, good mountains nearby for riding them but you NEVER see them locked outside a market or in a stairwell of an apartment building. Bought a set of 'spd/platform' combination pedals for what I've named "the blue bastid' at this shop. And another pair of shimano bike shoes (40.00). They tuned up the angix, getting them to understand what I wanted was like playing charades. They even trued the wheels. all for free. I can only say "Hello" "excuse me" (good for getting off a crowded bus before it pulls away from your stop) "GoodBye" and "Hey. thats way too much, how about a DISCOUNT, mo'fo '??"


I dropped by the good bike shop with my TI bike, and the owner and and his workers ohh'd and ahh'd, pointing to many of the bikes features. They asked questions, all in chinese, pointing to items on the bike and I imagined I understood them, answering in english. We all had quite a chat. They loved the bike.

----------
Bought an external USB hard drive and a wireless ADSL modem for my apartment at the new computer stuff market. A two story building devided into booths kinda like a flea market. Everyone sells exactly the same stuff, for the same prices. Haggling is the rule here in Kunming. More charades, but managed to get what I wanted AND a discount.

-----------------
My SO and I dance tango in the huge central park. the locals are transfixed, always draws a throng. I met a korean guy playing (badly) a cheap guitar in the park, more charades and he let me play. They love old hank williams tunes. especially 'your cheating heart' and 'hey good looking'.

I am here to do volunteer work, the secondary empahsis is touring. I'll be here three months during this stay, and returning after the monsoons for another three months or so. I went with the volunteer team of chinese college students to a small village in the mountains 3 hours away by bus, the villagers never had met a westerner until last summer when My SO, Susan, and her team of chinese college students volunteered to build new latrines there. I taught a bunch of 4-8 year old kids to do 'high five', 'low five', and 'rock, paper, scissors'. the big hit was teaching them to make goofy faces. a gigglefest.

I was supposed to do my first day bike tour with some other westerners I met at the coffee shop this weekend to Anning - a village in the mountains with HOT SPRINGS!!! but its been cold and raining... and i had to get over the bought of travelers trots....
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Old 03-07-09, 08:20 PM
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Thanks for the update!

There was some dialogue about whether you can find 700c tires/wheels/rims easily - does the "good" bike shop you mentioned in your post carry 700c gear?
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Old 03-07-09, 08:37 PM
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Interesting. To bad about the health issues.
Is it true that the Chinese sensor the amount of info available on the internet?
Is it true that food portions are smaller and the people more appreciative?
I got tons more questions.......
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Old 03-08-09, 04:05 AM
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Originally Posted by ricohman View Post
Interesting. To bad about the health issues.
Is it true that the Chinese sensor the amount of info available on the internet?
Is it true that food portions are smaller and the people more appreciative?
I got tons more questions.......
thanks for the comment, health issue already cleared up - spent a day laid up, reading and calling ralph.

no comment on censorship - how would I know. I have had nothing but great experiences while here. There are some minor requirements for foreigners living in China. You have to register if you rent an apartment. thats all I know so far. I rented mine for a year, I like it so much here in china I am going to spend 1/2 my time here for the foreseeable.

ATMs: mine only works at the ATMs for foreign transactions. US credit cards generally dont work here. Bank of China foreign transaction ATMs are a ready source of cash without the forms one has to fill out to exchange USD for RNB. Don't know what other banks have these ATMs, if any.

when folks eat out here, they order several dishes, so portions could be huge. You can feed 5 very well at a nice restaurant for about 70 RNB (about ten dollars). Folks spin a lazy susan, sharing off the communal plates, picking at the food with the chopsticks with a small bowl for a private rice serving, so one tends to eat more slowly, and maybe thus not overeat.

People are very kind, open and warm, in my experience.
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Old 03-08-09, 04:16 AM
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
Thanks for the update!

There was some dialogue about whether you can find 700c tires/wheels/rims easily - does the "good" bike shop you mentioned in your post carry 700c gear?
the shop is better than a lot of shops here in the states. full XTR drivetrains, road drivetrains, frames, rims, spokes, saddles, racks, you name it. They even fixed me up with a very cool rack (17.00 USD equivalent, installed) for my about town 'blue bastid'. I'll post picts of this very servicable, if antiquated, bike soon. And picts of my first experience with an underground bicycle traffic circle during my first rush hour excursion TOTALLY terrifying, though I am already accustomed to riding in this VERY bike friendly - if periously dangerous - city

and the bus and mail system pretty much can get parts to anywhere all over Yunnan. so I am told.


700c tires readily available here at the shop. My extrawheel trailer is built with a shimano disc hub and the same rim and spokes as my bike. Having discs, this is less critical, can ride with mildly bent rim. In a pinch, I'd unbuild my trailer wheel to replace the rear bike wheel if need be - hide or otherwise store the trailer, move the panniers from the extrawheel voyager trailer to the racks on the bike and go find parts.

I am using salsa delgados, so I dont expect any problem especially because I use a trailer, so not as heavily loaded. this is one tough wheel.

and on top of all that, I CAN use a 26" rim. another advantage of using disc brakes. my bottom bracket is high enough as well. this bike is build much more like a cyclocross bike, not a lowish BB like a touring bike (this is because its built for pulling a trailer, and I wanted it to be sporty when not touring).

so -- one way or the other, the rim issue is covered.
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Old 03-08-09, 05:41 AM
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I'm currently in China right now also JB. I'm teaching English for a few months in the city of Shuizhai in Guangdong in the Southeast, an internship through my American university.

Check out my "Some Bikes in China" thread I posted on the Gen Cycling Forum for some interesting photos I've taken of bikes here so far.
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=515177

I did not bring my touring bike over, but I'll probably try to buy a bicycle soon for the time I'll be here. 99.9% of bikes here are single speeds, and all have racks and fenders. My friend and I are the only Westerners here as well.

And I hear ya on the "cold and rainy" part. It's been like that this whole week. Though when I arrived 2 weeks ago it was hot and sunny.
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Old 03-08-09, 07:25 AM
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"underground bicycle traffic circle"?
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Old 03-08-09, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
"underground bicycle traffic circle"?
yes. in order to divert bike and scooter traffic away from a major intersection at Deng Feng and Remin Dong Lu, the bike paths dive under the intersection into a traffic circle. Its supposed to be one way around the circle, counterclockwise, but many don't care about that. On top of that, all the pedestrians walk underground here too, to avoid the busy intersection which does not have a pedestrian/bike overpass as most here do, so its a real turkey shoot.

sorry about the poor quality picts, its dark down there.

I had gotten ahead of the rush of scooters, so this is what it looks like 'between red lights' during rush hour in kunming. Note the expansive width of the bike/scooter lane, one on both sides of the 4 lane boulevard


then everyone catches up, electric scooters first


the approach to the underground bicycle traffic circle. The bike lane is descending under the busy intersection of Deng Feng and Remin Dong Lu



In the underground bike/scooter/pedestrian traffic Circle




after exiting the circle, a commercial district


there is even with a Wal-Mart - mixed blessing - one can quickly find a LOT of stuff that is hard for a foreigner to quickly locate here in Kunming. But its still a Wal=mart. Now that I am more accustomed to my neighborhood, I am loathe to go in there.



Near the Wal-mart, two women are getting ready to prepare food at a sidewalk stand. The on on the right is hand cranking a small fan to get the charcoal ready.



A view from a pedestrian overpass on Deng Feng. the overpasses are bike friendly too, as are almost ALL stairways in Kunming. the overpasses have ramps that a properly geared bike or scooter can just ride up and over, and even most small stairwells, even of, say 4 steps, include a ramp so you can push your bike instead of carry it.

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Old 03-08-09, 07:56 PM
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Another view from an overpass on Deng Feng


I went home via Green Lake Park, which I live very near. Everyday, this area is crowded with syncopated dancers using props. Sometimes they click bamboo sticks, other days, its twirling scarves. Today its parasols.
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Old 03-09-09, 01:20 AM
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thanx for sharing
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Old 03-09-09, 03:52 AM
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Nice pics!
Was a tourist there a few years ago.
Do try and get up to Tiger Leaping Gorge while you're there. I saw a lot of bike tourists up there (sadly I wasn't one of them).
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Old 03-09-09, 02:54 PM
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I enjoyed your post. I'm hoping to get to China next year. It's good to read about a positive experience.

I like the parasol picture.
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Old 03-09-09, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by znomit View Post
Nice pics!
Was a tourist there a few years ago.
Do try and get up to Tiger Leaping Gorge while you're there. I saw a lot of bike tourists up there (sadly I wasn't one of them).
going to Dali soon, I see that that is north of Dali. hat would make a first good short tour. (taking train from kunming, I've heard they take bicycles, but will check out how that works first.

regarding bikes at the gorge, understand there is hiking into the gorge there - is this a MTB trail ride? can a cyclocross bike make it?

also - the road from Lijian City - heard this is tight, twisty, narrow steep and busy. whats your opinion of biking on this road?
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Old 03-10-09, 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by jbpence View Post
going to Dali soon, I see that that is north of Dali. hat would make a first good short tour. (taking train from kunming, I've heard they take bicycles, but will check out how that works first.

regarding bikes at the gorge, understand there is hiking into the gorge there - is this a MTB trail ride? can a cyclocross bike make it?

also - the road from Lijian City - heard this is tight, twisty, narrow steep and busy. whats your opinion of biking on this road?
We hiked the gorge, staying at Seans place in the middle (famous one armed guy, aussie wife runs the Gorged Tiger Cafe, might be ex wife now, he knocked up one of the maids). There were some steep drops and tight trails, I'd stick to the road if on two wheels!

From memory there were several organised tours on the road north of Dali (lycra wearing fully supported riders). We bussed up to Zhongdian and then down to the far end of the gorge, walked three days through the gorge. Its stunning.

Yeah I think there were some rough bits into Lijang. A cross bike should be fine.

Lijang and Dali are both good value but tourist traps, make sure you get around the countryside to see something more authentic. I hired a MTB in Dali for a day, good fun.

At our hotel in Kunming there were tourists arriving with bike boxes all the time.
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Old 03-17-09, 08:16 PM
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Thanks for the updates! There is a neat little island community in the middle of the lake in Dali. I really enjoyed the scenery around the Zhongdian area. The drive from Lijang to Zhongdian was amazing! Make sure to have some of the fried cheese in that area, I think it was more in the Zhongdian area. Also had a great pumpkin dish in Zhongdian. Oh and the dried aged ham slicked super thin is amazing. It's just hanging from the kitchen in the open air for months. Amazingly good.

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Old 03-17-09, 09:11 PM
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I've never seen an underground bicycle circle before. It must be a southern thing. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-19-09, 07:03 AM
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just got back from a side trip - took busses all over SE Yunnan. What a great place. flew from Kunming to Wenshan then bus to Puzhehei (large shallow lake and georgeous karst topography) , Bamei (idyllic isolated Zhuang minority village only reachable via polled boat through a 1 km long cave), Jianshui (Ancient Confucian Temple and scattered great architecture) and Xinje (mountains with extensive Hani rice terraces). Lots of photos, will post a link to a blog (it wasn't a bike tour so not posting here)

Planning first bike tour now, likely ride from Kunming->Dali->Tiger Leaping Gorge->Dali then train back to Kunming. Expect to leave soon.

if anyone reading this has experience with the old road from Kunming to Dali: should I skip this and take the train to dali, then ride? is it worth the extra miles? there is a road older than the new expressway, it looks like it will take a good bit of time to get to dali. I'm fine with t he time, unless the area is just not worth the time. (it definately could be, you dont have to get far from Kunming until you hit pretty good mountains and scenery)
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