King kong woke me up this morning crashing around inside my head – so lame on the drinking tolerance now. Our pikeyness continued when we rocked up at China Club (a private members club) for lunch with Simon and his wife, an old Stortfordian who is based in Hong Kong and who might be able to help on the fundraising front.
When we arrived, the house manager looked us up and down (yes the same flip flops, matching tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts from last night – well every night in fact!), and politely informed us that there is a dress code here, and we are breaking every rule (no collars, flip flops and sportswear). Luckily Simon is one of their best members, so some black house slippers and dinner jackets later, we are allowed into the restaurant!
Bikeman had worked wonders on Ronnie and Reggie – they were singing again, and we almost got a tune out of Bob Geldolf when we left the old chains and brakepads with him. Pouring with sweat in the 95% humidity, we got the bikes packed into the boxes for the 14 hour flights to Mexico and then found out it is the Oscars on Sunday, and we are flying via LA. Maybe a red carpet experience in tracksuit bottoms and flipflops – now that would be an outfit all the stylists would be talking about!
Headed over to another PHD office this morning and was cool to meet everyone there, although sadly missed Hannah who I used to work with in London. Next stop was the bike shop for a well overdue service, and met Bikeman (aka Ian) who looked a little like Bob Geldolf with no front teeth!
Then down to Holiday Inn where we were meeting Ruhan’s sister, Susiana, (who we met in Mumbai) as she lives in Hong Kong. We were a bit worried that we were going to have another whirlwind of press and appointments, but it was all quite relaxed as we headed to Kowloon Cricket Club for lunch. Back at her house she had made a birthday cake for me, and we had a quick press interview for Kee Magazine (fashion style mag), then a photoshoot using Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop.
Next we went up to the famous peak mountain for the amazing views of Hong Kong, but because of the mist, couldn’t see 10 meters in front of us! Cutting our losses, we headed down and across to harbourside to see the famous symphony of lights show which they have every night in Hong Kong harbor. This is more like it. The only word to describe Hong Kong at night is dazzling. All the LED advertising banners alongside the illuminated skyscrapers, again I just have to remind myself how privileged and fortunate we are to be doing this challenge.
Time to put on the party outfits, we got ready to hit some of Hong Kong’s best night spots – in our flip flops, matching tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts – I can’t wait to wear some decent jeans and shoes – I feel like an utter pikey, and it’s not helped by being alongside smart businessmen and secretaries. We ended up in a newly opened club called Lakage, and it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a club or a strip joint. Well at least the free drinks, stunning blonde and flexible brunette cage dancers certainly helped with the birthday entertainment!
“Where is everyone”, was our first thoughts when we arrived at the ferry terminal. Jon even managed to walk through a restricted area with the video camera before someone sparked into life. It was a wicked feeling arriving in Hong Kong, with the bikes still intact, and knowing that we had gunned 700 miles in 9 days. My first complimentary hotel blag at the Novotel was certainly up to my hotel standards, so thank you to Mandy and Shane for arranging this for us and the photoshoot outside.
Sweeping past the south China hills, we were very glad to be following the river (and staying at sea level) on another 100 mile day today! Our chains are squeaking worst than ever, so it’s good that there aren’t any Laos style hills in the way – just keeping our fingers crossed that they hold out.
Bit more navigation required today, crossing over highways on the route into Jiangmen, and with no English on the road signs, we are doing more symbol matching. Actually I think Jon was studying them a bit too closely as he was nearly taken out by a bus on a roundabout, while trying to stop his completely bald front tyre sliding on the wet road.
Luckily we found the Overseas Capital hotel, and they spoke English which was great, so when they pointed the bikes to the elevator there was no misunderstanding. The fully loaded bikes were coming up to the 7th floor with us tonight! And they also had a western revolving restaurant. Fill your boots, although Dougie, the annoying Ozzie almost prevented us from eating our food when it arrived. “Struth fellas, I didn’t know all this food was for yooou!” – yes mate and if you got out of our faces, we might actually get a chance to tuck in!
We also had a bit of luck on the ferry front. The hotel had a travel bureau and we established that a ferry left from Jiangmen to Hong Kong every day at 9am and 2pm, which would avoid an inevitable nightmare of trying to find the port in the next city tomorrow. 2pm it is then, and just a 10 mile cycle tomorrow now. To celebrate we tried going to a couple of bars in the city – the first one was a Karaoke bar, with a very bad Chinese singer slaughtering Careless Whisper, and the next “Babyfeel” had a P Diddy’s Chinese cousin MC’ing to Bulgarian pop music. We were mildly amused by an Ashley Thornton lookalike, before we decided that we had seen enough for one night!
Pinch punch first of the month, and what more we can say that we will finish the challenge next month now (hopefully all going well). 82 miles today, and shouldn’t be a repeat of yesterday as we are on the right road already. Pretty non eventful day cycling, although we just have to get our heads down and focus on getting to Hong Kong for my birthday. But when a clap of thunder sounded from the heavy skies above, we knew we were in for a soaking! The last two hours of the day were spent in torrential rain, so when we got to Yangjiang thought we deserved another nice business hotel.
Receptionists must hate us (especially Chinese ones). I filmed Jon walking in like a bedraggled cat, trying to persuade them to let us check in before we paid the deposit, by gesturing in a ‘stacking shelf style’, that we would take our luggage to the room first. And they certainly didn’t appreciate Ronnie and Reggie being wheeled across their pristine marble floor and into the manager’s office (I think that’s where they wanted us to store them, but something might have got lost in translation!)
Safely in the room, the next task was another struggle on the dinner front in the hotel restaurant. No English menus in sight, we were seated on a round table in the middle of this enormous, crowded dining hall – I don’t think we could have attracted any more attention than if we had just walked in naked with one strategically placed sock! They could see us struggling with the chopsticks, so a full cutlery set soon followed, and we thought the hotel owner was going to start showing us how to eat our food when he came and sat at our table. He was almost surprised that we didn’t talk to him in Chinese, and without having a clue what we were saying thought he should go and do some hotel management; “good idea mate!”
At least they got the club sandwiches right today, although it did take all the willpower to get up and leave this lush 5* hotel for yet more cycling – 4 more days in fact until we can have our rest day. But I made a school boy error when proudly showing off the satnav to a gathering crowd outside the hotel as we prepared to leave. All we needed to do was follow the G325 for 55 miles and we’d reach tonight’s city. Not quite!
See the satnav guided us into the city centre, where it then told us to cross an estuary (and there wasn’t a bridge in sight) – really should have asked the hotel which was the best way to go. 22 miles of detour later via a crumbling road bridge, a rough deserted island suburb and a nuclear power station, we rejoined the G325, just 3 miles on from the hotel. Twats!
The language barriers aren’t getting any easier either. We did find a hotel in Shuidong (not the scheduled stop, but close enough), although we were both nearly blown off our bikes by 100 meter strip of the mother of all thunder firecrackers as we approached the city. We needed the full vocabulary of the iphone to check into this hotel, and when we went in search of food, we found a restaurant, but it was lots of private dining rooms. The teenage waitresses didn’t know what to when we tried to order, so the manager had to personally help us order some rice and pork. Actually it was Jon’s turn for the fan club tonight, they all wanted his picture on their mobile phones, and whooped for joy when Jon posed for a few photos as we left!
Chilli beef noodles for breakfast – I don’t think this is the right diet of touring cyclists! Quite frankly it is pretty wrong – where’s Mr Kellogg when you need him! As we thought our clothes were still wet, so this meant no padded shorts or gloves. We both soon got blisters on our hands and Dom on his bum- nice! After 40 miles the gloves and shorts were dry enough to wear, no privacy in sight we got changed by the side of the road Dom was stood in his pants when a Chinese geography teacher pulled up for a chat – proper funny even managed to whip out the video camera!
As we got close to Zhangjiang, we saw a sign for the ‘England Holidays Hotel’ and thought we’ll have some of that! I’m not a gambling man but they must speak English… we were wrong. It took Dom an iPhone, pen and paper diagrams and sketches with 4 reception staff, a porter and a hotel manager to get us a room and ordering food wasn’t much easier, 6 people took the order but they still got it wrong! Get me to Hong Kong!!
Woke up to the news from Holly and Cathy raised over £40,000 at the Blue Crest Capital fundraising party thanks to some great auction prizes and some very generous personal donations. Buzzing from the loot raised we peddled fast discussing ideas and really happy that with the help of holly, family and friends we have now raised about 60% of our target. The TCC Challenge is proving to be a great success but we’ve got to careful not to jump the gun, still a long way to go yet.
It was supposed to be a short cycle today but we got slowed down by shit roads, we tried to blag ourway onto the smart new freeway to give Ronnie and Reggie some love but the Chinese officials at the toll booth weren’t having it and sent us back onto the crappy road.
We were a bit worried about hotel situ tonight as we thought it would be a very small city, actually turned out it wasn’t but as we cycled in we didn’t know that and took the first hotel we found, squat toilet bed bugs and all. It was so humid the TV made very concerning noises and the floor of the hotel was really slippery. Our clothes were still disgusting from our filthy ride to Mong Cai so we tried in vain to wash them but as soon as we hung them up we knew they wouldn’t dry in time. It took us 2 & 1/2 hours to find food tonight; despite having the iPhone app at the ready restaurants were saying they didn’t have rice noodles or chicken and we kept getting moved on with people pointing further down the street. I think it was because they couldn’t be arsed with the hassle of serving two English jokers. After turning our noses up at a chicken feet noodle bar we found a hotel with a restaurant and filled up on rice and dim sum, Dom caused quite a stir again and soon had a group of girls around him at the table.
Still well muddy we brushed the worse off the panniers with the hotel towels and then headed down to give Ronnie and Reggie a hose down. We were both down to about 2 gears each as the gear cassettes were so caked in mud. The hotel manager wasn’t overly impressed when we pulled a hose from round the back and asked him to turn it on, reluctantly he let us carry on despite making a muddy mess of his driveway, the real fireworks went off when his wife checked the room when we checked out- she was screaming at the top of her Vietnamese lungs with two black with mud and dirt towels in her hand. She threw them down on the ground next to us and wiggled her finger to say ‘no chance’. We gave her the equivalent to £1 and made a quick exit towards the Chinese border.
As we thought massive communication barrier in China, really glad we got the mandarin translator which is going to prove our saviour. Found a bargain luxury hotel for £18 only problem was no dinner available because of a wedding, we had to use our best language skills to get a taxi to another hotel with a restaurant. The language barrier didn’t get much better the staff didn’t know what we were going on about so they wheeled out a trolley of food and we picked out what we wanted!