Bicycling Through the Chinese Countryside

Sunday afternoons are generally pretty lazy around here. It is the DH’s day off, and usually we just watch DVDs or use the computers. But yesterday was a nice day, with high temperatures, sun and very little pollution. We felt we had to take advantage of the good weather, so we decided to take a little bike ride. Mind you, the DH and I have the kinds of bicycles that are conducive to short, easy bike rides, say from our hotel to the school, which is less than a mile. Anyway, we set off with the idea that we would ride on a road that we thought circled the airport, just a nice leisurely path from one end of the runway to the other.

Literally, we did ride from one end of the runway to the other, but in a very round about, 2 hour kind of way. It was actually quite fascinating, because we passed by lots of cornfields, where we observed the irrigation and fieldwork up close. We also passed through several small villages and gave the locals something to gawk at. I got the feeling that they don’t see very many foreigners, because their mouths just dropped open and they stared at us like we were purple with green warts. We saw a lot of old men, squatting on the sides of the roads to play Chinese chess or just to watch the kids run by. Most of them are either wearing a blue Mao suit with newspaper boy style caps, or an old western style suit. (You will often see laborers, construction workers and farmers wearing complete western style suits doing their work.) We also passed quite a few chicken farms. Guess I know where to come now for even cheaper eggs and an even more priceless shopping experience!

We had been riding for about an hour when we became a bit concerned about getting lost. We only had an hour of light left, and we weren’t sure if the road we were on even went back to the airport or not. Our only comfort was that we could observe one of PanAm’s airplanes flying circuits around the airport. If we kept the airplane in sight, we knew we were at least close to the airport. Serendipitously, we somehow managed to follow all the right roads – sometimes as black-top road, sometimes as dirt road, and sometimes as goat path! We were rewarded with some great images of rural country life.

Unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures of our epic bike ride, but here are some photos of the fields surrounding the airport, taken in the last week. The corn has been growing for about a month now. The first photos are of the irrigation channels. There must be a pretty good source of water underground, because they irrigate like crazy. The fields are so lush and green.

These two photos show the cornfields. The yellow flags that you see in the first photo mark the graves of local villagers. Usually there are one or two in every field, although there are also traditional looking cementeries in the area. Most of the work in the fields is done by hand and shovel. You will see tractors and donkeys also doing some work, as well as a kind of combine like contraption used at harvest.

This is what the fields looked like in the late fall of last year:

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