China (July 2009)

Publié le par Sylvie

Visa

We got it in Bangkok in May 2009. We only got a one-month visa but some of our friends got 2 months a few months earlier. Maybe we should have given an address in Bangkok instead of in France? The visa is valid for 3 months from the day you get it.

57, Ratchadapisek Road, Bangkok, 10310, Thailand

09:00-11:30 Mon-Fri

Tel: +66-2-2457033, 2457036, +66-2-2450088 Ext. 2222, 2218,

Cost: 1100 Bahts in 4 days, 1900 Bahts in 2 days, 2700 Bahts on the same day.

 

Visa extension

We renewed our visa at the PSB in Korla and we got 30 days on the same day for 160 yuans. We heard all kinds of rumors but they gave us the maximum. We had to wait until the very end of our visa to renew it. We had 4 days left before it expired and we had to explain that we wouldn’t be able to renew our visa at the date of expiration.

Documents required: 1 photo, photocopies of passport page, visa and entry stamp in China. They also ask for a paper indicating the name of the hotel you are staying at. We got that paper at the local police station (the district of our hotel).

Go with someone who speaks english and chinese or have the phone number of someone who can translate. In Xi'an, we met a cyclist who had renewed his visa: 30 days, 160 yuans but he had to wait 5 days (the usual waiting time in big cities). So he only had 25 days when he got his passport back.

 

Money
1 euro = 9.6 yuans

We withdrew money in Kashgar, in front of the Qini Bag; in Korla, next to the Meigui (Rose) Hotel; in Turfan, on Gao Chang Road, opposite the ‘underground’ supermarket, when walking to the Gao Chang Hotel. No problem in Xi'an and Shanghai.


Road & sleep

The detailed mileage is on the stories page. Our map on the home page shows all our stops.
The road from Kashgar to Turfan has no interest. It runs through a rocky desert and, from time to time, crosses a small village or a modern city. The two detours we took, south of the main road (Kashgar - Bachu / Sanchakou and Aksu - Kucha), were quieter. There is less traffic and the road crosses villages and cultivated areas. We had a lot of headwind although many cyclists told us they had mostly tail wind (from West to East). We had more police checks on the detours, they were wondering what two foreign cyclists were doing in the area. On the highway, we sped up at each check point and nobody stopped us. In short, you would cycle the road to finish the Silk Road. Don’t bother flying all the way to China to ride this part! The only time we asked for hospitality (among Ouighurs), the police came at 1am and asked to see our passports and photos. They are afraid of spies in this region. After that, we only stayed in hotels. It is possible to camp but it is not easy to find a place to hide. The desert is flat and oases are inhabited. All the people we met were friendly, very curious in the small villages (we were given several watermelons!).

Very few people speak English but we always found someone to help us. 'Hotel' is 'binguan'. 'No MSG', for those who are allergic (heartburn), is 'bouiao weijing'. Conversation guides often include a dictionary with Chinese characters and a few pages to order food in restaurants. Essential to enjoy the wide range of Chinese dishes!

We had a detailed map of Xinjiang (a small booklet), very convenient to locate the small roads and know the names of towns and villages in Chinese (you can point when asking for directions). Some friends gave us this map but you should find some in Kashgar, at the Xinhua bookstore, near the statue of Mao (ours cost 8 yuans). The CITS also sells maps but they are more expensive.


Simhana - Kashgar (235 km)

Route
The road is in very good condition. Milestones indicate the distance to the intersection with the main road. Add 20 km to know the total distance to Kashgar. The most beautiful scenery is found on the first 100 km (rivers and mountains of red rock). Then it is a rocky desert.
Refueling points (cafés and shops): Simhana, Ulugqat (45 km Simhana), Kansu (115 km), Wuqia (140 km). 50 km after Wuqia, there is an oasis and there are more and more villages. Some rivers on the first 50 km.

The road goes up for about 6 km after Simhana then descends for 55 km. A 17 km ascent (easy) takes you to a 3,000 m pass. Then the road descends for 10 km, undulates for 10 km and descends for about 42 km (Wuqia). After Wuqia, the road goes down for 12 km, climbs gradually for 14 km and then it's down all the way to Kashgar.


Sleep
Simhana: two hotels. We were recommended the one next to the police station in front of dirty big yard. Dorms for 20 yuans/pers. Doubles: 50 yuans for two.

Wuqia: four hotels. We celebrated our 12.000km at the best, the Long Yuan Hotel. Spacious rooms for 130 yuans including breakfast (Chinese!).

Kashgar: we visited the Sahar (on the same roundabout as the Seman, double room for 80 yuans), the Seman (337 Seman Lu, double room for 100 yuans) and the Qini Bag (93 Seman Lu, doubles at 70, 80 and 100 yuans). The rooms at the Qini Bag are bigger and cleaner and the hotel is better positioned, next to the CITS (Tourist Info) and the old city. It is also the first hotel when entering the city.

Cheap laundry (20 yuans for a big bag of clothes) on Renmin Xiu, about 100m on the right of the Seman and also left outside the Qini Bag. There is a fee for the eastern part of the old city (30 yuans), but we went after 8pm and we entered for free. Otherwise, try another street! Good Pakistani restaurants when turning left out of the QIni Bag, especially the last one. The owner is very nice, he speaks English and the lassis are delicious. The only drawback is, he cooks with fresh ingredients so the average waiting time is about an hour.

Bike shop: ask the CITS (Qinya Bag). There is one that sells Giant. He repaired the front suspension on Ben’s bicycle.

The 'Sunday Market' is held every day, but the cattle market is only on Sunday.


Kashgar - Aksu (540 km)

Route
The road is flat as a pancake, great for those who like long distances! We took a detour by Yogurpa, south of the highway (100 km longer than the motorway). The road passes through many villages where it is easy to find water and there are also small restaurants. There are trees quite often along the road, nice when it's hot.

27 km from Kashgar (from the Qini Bag), a large blue sign marks the junction. Turn left, the road passes under the tall poplars. 137 km further, in Xenongshifang, the road forks again, turn left. After Bachu, it’s another 20 km to Sanchakou on the highway. Sanchakou is a tiny village where it’s possible to eat and buy water. 45 km after Sanchakou, there is a hamlet with 2 restaurants and a small store. 95 km after Sanchakou, there is a big village that extends over several km. Then there are villages every 30-40 km to Aksu. At the time we cycled, the last 15 to 20 km were under construction, many holes and a lot of dust.

Aksu: a bike shop that sells Merida and camping gear on 'Central Square', on Dong Dajie, a little further the fast food 'Verymine Hamburger' (a few blocks from the International Hotel). Very competent and honest, many riders have been there for repairs. He repaired the headset on  the front fork of Ben’s bicycle (Khirghistan was harsh on the bikes!).


Sleep
Bachu: 300 km from Kashgar. We stayed in a hotel on the corner between the main road and a street on the right. 80 yuans for a double room with bathroom. The water is rationed. Water is cut off for periods during the day so ask about the schedule (there is no water between 11am and 1.30pm and after 10pm for example).

Sanchakou: a shop owner told us there is a hotel. Bachu is much better than Sanchakou for a rest day.

95 km after Sanchakou: dirty hotel. About 5 km after the village entrance, it is possible to camp under the bridges of the road.

Aksu: Friendship Hotel, Yingbin Lu, about 2 km east from the city center. 150 yuans for a double room, beautiful hotel! A truck driver told us about it otherwise we would have gone to the hotel near the bus station.


Aksu - Kucha (380 km)

Route
The road is still flat. We took a detour by Alar (125 km south of Aksu) and Shaya (312 km from Aksu). The detour adds about 120 km from the main road but goes through villages and cultivated areas (more shade and the scenery is a bit more varied). In Aksu, take the biggest avenue that goes south (Route 207). We had lunch 80 km from Aksu. There are a few villages for water. Exiting Alar, turn right on the bridge. Turn left before the 2nd bridge and cycle along the canal. 46 km after turning (54 km after the center of Alar) is Camp 14, where you can refuel on water and probably have lunch. At Camp 14, turn right on the bridge. 8 km further, the road joins the Trans-Desert (Route 217). Turn left to go to Kucha. 60 km after Camp 14, there is a big village where you can have lunch and buy water. This is the only supply point until Shaya, 70 km further. Shaya is 5 km away from the main road. At the roundabout, take right and follow the main avenue. It is a pleasant town, apparently we were the first foreigners to stop there! Kucha is 65 km from Shaya, there is a village for lunch 35 km from Shaya. The road passes through fields and tree plantations, very pleasant after the desert. Kucha is not so pleasant for a rest day, we preferred Luntai.


Sleep
Alar: Aksu Alar Hotel, 4 km after entering the city, a large cream colored building on the left side. 80 yuans for a double room with bathroom, very good value for money. Big supermarket left of the hotel. The city continues after the park beside the hotel, there is a second city centre with shops, restaurants and a market.

Shaya: Shaya Hotel, at the end of the avenue (after the roundabout) on the left. 100 yuans for a double room with bathroom, nice room and hearty breakfast (included). There is a restaurant in the hotel. The police escorted us from the checkpoint and the hotel called the employee of a travel agency who spoke English.

Kucha: it took us some time to find a hotel that accepts foreigners. Two options: the Li Du Hotel (200 yuans for a double room) and the Kucha Hotel (50 m before, 120 yuans for a double room), about 8 km after entering the city, on the right side.


Kucha - Korla (280 km)

Route
The road undulates. Many trucks. A restaurant 47 km after Kucha and a gas station 70 km after Kucha. After Luntai, there are villages with restaurants and small stores 30, 60, 75 and 115 km from Luntai. Ten station services next to each other at 155 km from Luntai.


Sleep
Luntai San Bao Hotel: 120 yuans for a double room. Very comfortable. San Bao is next to the bus station at the beginning of a street on the right side of the main street. Luntai is nicer than Kucha for a rest day, the hotel is in the centre while in Kucha, it is 2 km from the centre. The Chinese restaurant next door is run by a friendly family and the food is delicious.
Korla: Meigui Hotel (Rose Hotel). 100 yuans for a superb double room. Arriving in Korla, go down the main street. Turn left just after the Golden Leaf Hotel. At the end of the street, there is a huge square. Meigui Hotel is on one side, just opposite the ‘China Telecom’ tower. The area is very nice especially at night. The only problem was, they wanted to put the bikes in the yard (guarded 24/24). We took them to a friend. Huge supermarket: turn left out of Meigui Hotel and cross the street. At Best Food (fast food), take the street on the right, pass the public toilets, the entrance is at the end of the street on the right, in the basement.

Korla - Turfan (370km)

Route
It goes up for 14 km outside of Korla and then the road undulates until Heshuo. The highway begins about 7 km from Korla. Bicycles are forbidden but employees will show you a way to get on the old road. The road is in relatively good condition, without hard shoulder, but most vehicles go on the motorway. Shops and restaurants in Yangxi (55 km from Korla). After Heshuo, a few villages, the last one is about 42 km from Heshuo. After the village, the road rises gradually over 30 km and then descends. At the bottom of the descent, 70 km after the last village, there is a gas station and a toll where you can buy water and lunch. Then the road rises again gradually for 45 km and then descends, much steeper, for 60 km to Toksum (we made the climb in 3 hours and the descent in 1h30). We wanted to do the climb before Toksum in a truck but only one stopped and it dropped us before the gas climb. So don’t count on it. After Toksum, the road rises slightly until Turfan and goes through many villages. There are a few shady parts, quite nice after cycling the Gobi Desert.


Sleep
Heshuo: a hotel at the entrance of the city (there may be others but we didn’t look). 100 yuans for a double room with bathroom. Restaurant in the hotel.

Toksum: we stayed at the hotel at the junction with the road from Turfan (straight) and the road to the city center (on the right). 100 yuans for a double room, nicer than Heshuo.

Turfan: Tulufan Hotel is really expensive for what it is (140 yuans for a not so clean double room, 50 yuans for a gloomy dorm bed in the basement). Instead of turning right into the shady alley to go to Tulufan Hotel, turn left and cycle up the alley. On the right, there is a very nice hotel, friendly staff and CITS. The lady of CITS helped us find a hotel. This hotel was full so we stayed at the Gao Chang Hotel, on Gao Chang road: with the CITS on the right, cycle up the alley, turn left at the traffic lights then right on the big avenue. Big supermarket on the corner in the basement (at the traffic lights). The Gao Chang Hotel is on the left side of the avenue. Beautiful double room for 160 yuans, negotiated at 130 yuans (those on the ground floor have been renovated).

John’s café is in the courtyard of the Tulufan Hotel. They helped us find a truck to go to the train station of Daheyan (220 yuans). There are also trucks in the street of the bazaar but prices are high (between 300 and 400 yuans). Our driver was used to transport motorcycles. He tied our bikes well and at the train station, he spent an hour and a half helping us with the bikes and the luggage!


Daheyan - Xi'an - Shanghai (train)

Daheyan (Turfan) - Xi'an

We bought our tickets in advance at the train station in Korla. There is also an agency that sells train tickets near the People's Hospital (on the left left when facing the hospital). To go to the agency, turn right out of the Meigui Hotel and walk along the avenue that runs between the hotel and the tower of China Telecom. The hospital and the agency are on the right side, 100 m after the crossroads.

470 yuans for a hard-sleeper, top bunk (27h trip). We had to register the bikes and most of the bags (group them in big bags!) in cargo (left when facing the station). Cost: 50 yuans per bike and 280 yuans for 55 kg of luggage. A bike is registered by default as 25 kg. Everything arrived on the same day as us. Sylvie’s bike had taken a big hit (luckily, it wasn’t damaged) so it's worth protecting the fragile parts.

Chinese Trains are great. If you can spend an extra 30 yuans, choose the middle berth (if you travel during the day). Nobody sits on your bed (bottom bed) and you have a window (unlike the top bunk). A samovar (hot water tank) is located at one end of the wagon, take noodles and tea with you. Food carts pass regularly.


Xi'an
We stayed at the Lu Dao Binguan Youth Hostel on Xiqi Lu. Outside the train station, go under the wall, turn right (KFC) and then left. The Lu Dao Hotel is the first on the right. A double room is 150 yuans, negotiated at 130 yuans. Free Internet (in the lobby and the room). Big bag of laundry for 25 yuans. The neighborhood is not very pleasant, noisy and busy and the atmosphere is more like in a hotel. The neighborhood of the South Gate is much nicer, near the old town and quieter (so to speak!). There are two pleasant Youth Hostels 100 m apart: opposite the south gate, turn right and walk along the wall, the hotels are at the beginning of the street. Between 160 and 180 yuans for a double room, 30 to 50 yuans for a dorm. It’s more expensive but the atmosphere is great and the buildings are very charming.

Check that the hotel is entitled to receive foreigners. We arrived at 2am and took one of the few hotels open. The next day, the police forced us to move.

No need to go to the CITS, they are really not helpful.

Bike shop: Best Bicycle Club, on Zhuque Mo. At the south gate, turn right along the wallsand take the first door. The bike shop is on the right side. They have four stores in Xi'an so if one doesn’t have the part you need, the other will! We changed chain and cassette. We got a top of the range Sram cassette for half the price in France! There are also two outdoor shops in the same street (Green Ants Outdoor), good equipment and a lot of choice.

The Giant store north of the city hasn’t much choice and the employees don’t really know much about bikes.


Xi'an - Shanghai

We bought our tickets at the train station in Xi'an. There are a dozen different trains to Shanghai and travel times vary. The first 10 or 15 counters sell tickets for 3 to 10 days in advance. The others sell tickets for departures within 3 days. Look at the signboard above the counter, they won’t serve you if you're at the wrong counter!

312 yuans for a hard-sleeper, top bunk (13 hours journey). Cost: 45 yuans per bike and 171 yuans for 40 kg of luggage (this time, we took 4 bags with us). If you give bikes and luggage 4 to 5 days in advance: 1.9 yuan / kg. If you give them the same day: 4.3 yuan/kg.

Publié dans Practical info

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