I decided to cancel my bicycle trip and temporarily leave China. I have never canceled a bicycle trip before in my life.
—1. I was lost all the time. I did not have a functioning GPS. China blocks Google maps in China, and I simply could not find ONE map in English of China.
— 2. China’s national firewall blocks all Google products including Gmail, Google Voice, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and most any videos. This prevented me from communicating to my partner Susan for several days at a time. When I would finally get thru (illegally thru a VPN – Virtual Private Network) Susan would be so distressed worrying about me at that she would be close to tears. This did not make me feel any better about the state censorship in China. I was going to solve this problem by buying an iPad with mobile and WiFi and GPS and voice translation aps. I was ready to do it until I checked with two Canadian friends of mine who are living in China with their Chinese spouses. They both independently warned me NOT to buy ANY Apple products in China because there would be a high probability that they would be forgeries. I discovered that groups in China even forge ENTIRE APPLE STORES in China. In China only ‘Caveat Emptor’ applies, so I could get stuck with non-working garbage without a warranty. There is no Consumers’ Protection Agency here in China at all. My friends recommended that I go back to Hong Kong, where the odds of my buying an Apple forgery ‘was less’. LESS? I want the probability of it being a forgery to be ZERO. “Well, go back to the US then.”
I have researched it and it turns out that China allows foreigners to use ‘illegal’ VPNs in China. Just not locals. So I will use a VPN when I return to China in a few weeks. This will solve my data flow problem. But not my hardware problem.
— 3. A problem that I cannot easily solve is that I am traveling thru China as an illiterate mute. All signs are in Chinese, including the numbers. My pidgin Mandarin is irrelevant here in South China where everyone speaks Cantonese, which has 9 tones (Just how is that possible anyhow?) and they barely understand 4-tone Mandarin.
— 4. All of the above were my fault. Lack of comprehensive preparation on my part. My bicycle was fine, my health and endurance was just fine. But 400 miles of confusion, loss, and air pollution had taken its toll on me. This had been little joy to me in this trip.
So my decision was ‘What to do now?’ I was nearly stuck and lost in South China, with almost no means to communicate. I wanted to ride a bike and cover distance. So, where could I ride the distance and have the sense of awe and wonder that comes from covering a country via muscle power alone?
I got an idea! From Hong Kong I bought a round trip ticket to Bangkok for a one-month trip. I would return to china prepared to travel this time, and hopefully make Yei Mai’s wedding in Chengdu, China.
About the photo of the book: I think this is a ‘must-read’ book to understand how China is positioning itself in the future, ‘resource-poor’ world. This is NOT a ‘China-bashing’ book. China has been aggressively buying and investing in sources for raw materials around the world since the western world’s financial collapse of 2008. While our banksters of the west were busy looting the public till to cover their felonious asses, China was spending $1 billion a week buying and securing raw materials for the 21st century.
China did it more fairly, compared to the west. They did not send gun boats, bibles, and armies to seize resources and occupy the lands and souls of their victims. They did it thru self-serving aid, loans, and development projects. Across the board, all surveys by the Pew Research Center has shown that Africans, South Americans, and Asians feel that the Chinese terms for resource acquisition have been much fairer than the west’s strategy of ‘aid with conditions’ as imposed by the World Bank.
So, in a sense, the battle is over. China has won. Read this book if you want to understand better just what is really happening economically in the 21st century.
Next installment coming up: I ride my bicycle from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, Thailand, to the real Bridge over the River Kwai and get a spectacular lesson in hisory.