On this episode, my wife Katie and I continue our talk about bicycling in Japan. We give you all of the ups and downs of our trip.
On this week's show, I talked with Paddy Robertson about our two-day bicycle trip from Beijing to the Iron Wall Silver Mountain, AKA the Silver Mountain Pagoda Forest. This is officially recognized by the national government as a AAAA scenic spot, and it was one of the 28 designated tourist destinations during the 2008 Olympics. It's a sacred site of Buddhism, originally built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The current incarnation was built during the Liao Dynasty (907-1125).
Officially, the Silver Pagodas have been closed since 2014, but, as you'll hear during the show, Paddy and I found it easy to get into the park anyway.
At the end of our disastrous bike trip through Yunnan (read more about it here), Katie and I had one last day to spend around Dali's old town. We decided to rent a bike and pedal around nearby Erhai (洱海) Lake. Shaped like an ear (“Erhai” means “ear-shaped sea”) and at 1,972 meters (6,470 feet) above sea level, the lake is the second-largest highland lake in all of China.
The owner of the "home stay" was a short and slim man with crooked yellow teeth who wore an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt on top of a wife-beater. All day he sat on his living room couch, smoking cigarettes, playing with his iPad and awkwardly flirting with every female who entered the place. He didn't flirt with me, but he did grab my arm and try to sell me stuff whenever I walked past him. “You could use a suit. My sister has a tailor shop, she'll give you a great price.” “You want to take a tour? My friend can set it up.”
I met Kevin Lamb a few years ago in Madison, Wisconsin. We've reconnected several times since then, usually at some random time and place. Thus, our last meeting was typical: by coincidence, we were both in Berlin, Germany at the same time. Since I last had seen Kevin, he had ridden his bicycle across the United States, using his curly mustache as his map. We sat down in Victoria Park to discuss “Mustache Across America,” as well as his future ambitions and philosophy on travel.
The next day was Australia Day, a holiday that celebrates the arrival of the British in 1788. Louise, Ben and I drove to Torquay to celebrate on the beach, Australia-style. Among the thousands of beach-goers, a huge group was attempting to break a world record: most giant, inflatable thongs (sandals) in the water at once.
Hutongs are northern China's traditional back alley neighborhoods. Their houses are small; their bathrooms are shared. They typically have communal central courtyards. Some hutongs date back to the Ming dynasty of the fifteenth century. In recent decades, many hutongs have been demolished to make way for highrise towers and wide avenues. Only a few have been protected from modern development.
One day while walking around central Beijing, I stumbled upon