D16: 平南→马练 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 7, 2020

D16: 平南→马练

I had a number of "firsts" happen to me today.

- Today is the first day that one of my TikTok videos crossed a million views.
- Today is the first time that I've been sitting in a restaurant in China, minding my own business, trying to eat my dinner, trying to ignore the kid who is staring at me, when the kid's parent started giving them holy hell about being rude and how you don't stare at people because it's not proper behavior.
- Today is the first time I've had the police called on me when I wasn't making a disturbance.

The first two firsts are kind of cool. The third put a sour taste in my mouth and made me not want to head any farther into town to explore and see if I could find anything from 2008.

In 2008, if I recall correctly, the bike club wanted me to go southeast and meet up with the National Road and then take that road in the direction of Yangshuo. I, on the other hand, saw this great looking route via Tonghe and Malian that—even without access to a topo map—I should have realized from the amount of wiggle and the marked distance between places physically close to each other as being mountainous.

When they failed to convince me of the error of my ways, one of them made the decision to accompany me out of town in the morning. Having now taken that road a second time and in a paved condition, I am no longer surprised that it took all day (especially the day after an almost century) to make it to Tonghe. I believe my hotel room cost 15y and, failing to see anyone associated with the guesthouse in the morning, I never found out what the 10pm attempt by multiple people (one in something that could almost be referred to as a uniform) to get into my room was all about.

The next day, I wasn't quite yet to Malian when my brakes decided that actually stopping my bike was not really a part of their job description. I made it a bit farther through the Sucking Mud of Doom before a bus (with tires the size of my bicycle) honked to pass me; and I flagged them down, got on board, and ended up back in Pingnan to take the National Road the next day.

I was unable to find any exact matches of that place from 2008's photos on this trip from Pingnan to Tonghe but geez louise, if the current paved road has this many steep hairpin descents, it's little wonder that—especially once you add in the next day's Sucking Mud of Doom—my rim brakes failed the next day.

Because I left Pingnan as late as I did today, I didn't make it to Tonghe until nearly 4pm. It's not that far between the two towns but the mountain road that sucked all the energy out of me 12 years ago is still a formidable collection of ups and downs; and, even if I couldn't find the specific old or interesting things from 12 years ago, there were still plenty of little stops that weren't related to resting.

Got into Tonghe, found the bridge that I photographed my bike on in both 2008 and 2012, found a noodle shop, ordered lunch, and was peacefully recharging my phone and my body when an unmarked sedan pulled up outside the noodle shop and three plainclothes officers got out.

Clearly looking for me and, just as clearly, they knew exactly where I was.

What the exact differences are between one branch of Public Security and another are a mystery to me. I could probably find out but, frankly, I don't care that much. All civilian police officers are technically a part of Public Security but not all Public Security Bureau officers are police. I didn't get much of a chance to look at the ID card that was very quickly flashed at me but it wasn't a police badge, that much I know even if he hadn't identified himself as PSB.

Where am I going?
Where did I come from?
Do I have a Health Code?
Can they see my passport?

They were clear, concise, and efficient; and, other than the massive imposition that they'd come looking for me in the first place, generally weren't annoying. Hard as it may be to believe, I responded by not being a smart ass; it's generally not a good idea to intentionally go around pissing off people who might actually have the ability to do something about my being unpleasant to them. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I actively and enthusiastically went out of my way to cooperate with them but that's because there was still a plate of noodles in front of me and "being nice" was overruled by "continuing to eat".

I could have still explored Tonghe after they left and after I finished my meal but I didn't want to as, despite the number of comments on my TikTok welcoming me to Guangxi, or welcoming me to come to a specific town nowhere on my route, or even welcoming me to come to Tonghe, it was someone in Tonghe who had been scared enough of an outsider using their streets and noodle shops that my existence had been reported, and—given how short a time period I'd been there eating my noodles—the PSB officers who came looking for me presumably worked in Tonghe and had made the decision as people already in Tonghe to go check out the "scary foreigner"; I really didn't like that.

Besides which, it wasn't like I saw very much of the town in 2008; and the ethnic minority parts which had been charming then had already been homogenized away by the time of my brief visit in 2012.

Road to Malian is technically uphill most of the way but it's a gradual climb that's basically unnoticeable after the first part of the day. I try but fail to find matching spots for any of my photos from 2008, even though some of them are of quite dramatic and obvious scenes that I should have been able to find.

Dinner in Malian is leftover sweet bready things that I bought at the Recommended Noodle Shop in Da'an accompanied with some meat and veg from a restaurant. I was right in thinking that the bready things that didn't taste very good in Da'an would taste a lot better when hungry; however, they didn't taste enough better for me to keep the uneaten portion for another day.

Stomach full and not knowing the name of the guesthouse I stayed at in 2012, I pick a guesthouse at random and—for the first time in far too many days—have absolutely zero problem with check in and registration. I 'reward' the owner by tagging her hotel in a TikTok video explaining how to register a foreigner and praising her for making the effort to try. As of this writing, the video has 34,000 views and 136 comments.

Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 824 km (512 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0