It was Autumn in China again which meant it was time for another road trip. Last year for the week-long National Day holiday in China, Amy and I rode my 250cc Jincheng motorcycle from Beijing to Qingdao, but this time around we’ll be doubling that distance for our longest trip in China, 1,200 (2400km round trip) from Beijing to Shanghai. I spent almost a week going through all the necessary bike preparation steps to make sure it was ready for the road. We planned on taking about four days to get down to Shanghai. The first day was the longest and most boring, about 425km mostly on the expressway. For anyone familiar with driving in China or Chinese drivers, this should not come as a surprise. Regulations such as speed limits, no tailgating, and even lane dividers seem to be treated as mere trivialities which drivers can choose to follow or ignore at their convenience. It seemed like every ten minutes I would look in my mirror and find someone only a few meters behind going 120km/h flashing their lights at me to move out-of-the-way. The worst was at one point there were a couple of trucks taking up both lanes with one slowly trying to pass. Meanwhile, there were four cars so eager to pass as quickly as possible that they were lined up all four in a space of about 100-150 meters long, again going 120km/hr. It seems the traffic bureau has gotten wise to this tendency to tailgate as every 5 to 10 minutes there was a new sign saying “Rear End Collision, 'Keep Your Distance' and others enforcing a space of 100-200 meters between each car. Fun ride, nonetheless.
The National Holidays in China are a very popular time for holding marriage ceremonies around the country. Apparently this is because it’s a time when everyone is home for the holidays and so they can gather the whole family together to celebrate. This time around was no different as we passed maybe a dozen wedding processions on the road. The way this typically works is you have a train of about five cars, usually either black Audis or red Fords, with ribbons tied all over them and their license plates covered in red Chinese paper cut outs of characters for luck, etc. We slowly rode into the Yangtze River Delta region. I actually can’t say much in terms of scenery for the coastline of China in general as it is mostly flat, dusty, and developed in a sort of rushed kind of way, but there were several areas around the delta, particularly along the dozens of bridge crossings that were quite nice. One interesting aspect that is probably unique to China is that you will be passing through fields and farmlands and randomly in the middle of one of these fields there will be what looks like an apartment complex being built up in the middle of nowhere.
The place we stayed at on our third night was a small and dirty town called JingJiang which is right on the Yangtze River and close to where we could catch the ferry the next day. There also happened to be at least one wedding party staying there the night as well (we could see all their Black Audis adorned in ribbons parked outside), but luckily they still had room for a couple of wandering foreigners. Unfortunately, it seemed that the stress of driving through the Chinese countryside really took its toll on me as I found myself once again falling ill from exhaustion as I did this same time last year in Qingdao. It wasn’t as bad and despite the slight fever, after a night of rest, water, instant noodles, and a TV special movie “Founding of a Republic" (a movie about how the communists found modern China), by morning I was good as new and ready to head into Shanghai.
The ferry was a fun experience and driving into Shanghai was relatively nice, with well paved and divided roads. Despite the taxi drivers being quite obnoxious, overall the drivers in Shanghai seem to be alright. Now, with the first half of the driving over it was time to be a tourist. We took a train to visit Nanjing and Suzhou and spent a day or two in Shanghai before hitting the road again.