Archive for October, 2012

An Amazing Chinese Buddha (in China!)
October 2, 2012

Again, I found myself in China this year.  Another bike race, another team I am working for (massage) and another great way to see more of this amazing country.  The race was the Tour of Qinghai Lake, which takes part in Qinghai region, in the north west (between Mongolia and Tibet regions, with visible influences from both). 

We had two nights in a town called Zhangye, in the Gansu province.  And I noticed some spectacular scenery from my hotel window, one ancient looking sect of buildings in particular.  I was stoked to get the time to go and investigate.  What was it? The ‘Giant Buddha Temple’, an ancient temple housing an enormous reclining Buddha.  I was told it is the largest of its kind (wooden) in all of Asia, true or false, I don’t know, I think it depends who you talk to (Bangkok’s Reclining Budda seems to win that one, but having seen both.. I’d go with the Chinese one, thought the Thai one seems a longer version)  But what I do know is it is the largest reclining Buddha in all of China and it is tryly amazing – especially as it was constructed in 1098 (during the Western Xia period of 1038-1227)!! (Coming from New Zealand, say what?!?! 1098?)

The entrance is off a side street and the fee to go inside is minimal, like the number of other tourists the day I went as well, sweet!  What’s inside is the Giant Buddha Hall, the Buddhist Classics Hall and a Clay Pagoda.

The Giant Buddha is housed in the Giant Buddha Hall, and is 34.5m long, 7.5m wide (between the shoulders) with huge feet of 4m and big 2m ears! It is gold plated and painted, but it’s also so old, that it doesn’t quite have a ‘gleaming with gold’ lookThe Buddhist Classics Hall holds over 6000 tomes of lectures, with some even written in gold and silver – making them both very rare and very precious.  (I did go pretty quickly through that hall, not realising the importance of what I was looking at at the time! – but that’s me and museums)

It is said, that this Great Buddha Temple was the birth place of Kublai Khan, and that his mother – a Beiji Queen of the Yuan Dynasty, once lived inside.  Wow!  What a setting!

It’s cheap to enter at 41CNY, and though they say to allow an hour to enjoy it, I went through quicker than that, but the Great Buddha did slow me down!  No photos allowed inside, but anyway I’m not sure how much justice you could do via a camera – the colours are faded, the lighting dull.. but its still majestic and magnificent. 

The temple is housed in a reasonably sized ‘square’, and the outside walls need to be seen as well, a true Chinese delight, the sort of images I’d associate with China from what I’ve seen in books and movies – small shop fronts, with double doors, both open, old push bikes, leaning up against the support posts, little dogs, relaxed locals, calligraphy, ceramics, koi fish (alive! And for sale) …

This was truly one of those ‘highlight finds’ that come out of the blue and unexpected in your travels and make an unforgettable memory!





Tour of China I & II, 2.2
October 2, 2012

Fourth trip to China in just over a year! Who’d have thought!  Next thing Il be turning Chinese, oh, no I wont.. yeah, I go for racing, but the stark reminder is spitting (as in hoiking up huge lung oysters, even inside buildings, on polished marble floors) and smoking!  I’ve still not managed to find out what’s behind the spitting, I heard it was smog related, but there’s no smog inside buildings (with polished marble floors).. And no, I don’t want to judge, but yeah, I struggle with spitting (like many others who were at these races) and I have to wonder at folk paying no regard to a ‘No Smoking’ sign, or the fact that athletes are around them (the No Smoking signs in particular, like in elevators), as weird as ashtrays in the toilets – for that long dump I guess..then again, throwing your rubbish out of the car window when you’re pulled up at lights.. I don’t get that either.. Im beginning to wonder, really wonder, is it authority that doesn’t have any power.. or is it truly, a disregard for self, others and environment..  Of course, yes, I still meet amazing people there and love the sights (and rate chinese medicine, but cant go for acupuncture in a clinic that has ….  an over flowing ashtray by the treatment table.. eeesh!)

So, the racing.. well, as per usual on tour, the days all roll into one, the stages, the cities.. you’re on auto pilot and the days pass.  I always have the intention to write daily updates, but the reality is, that doesn’t happen.

I was there this year, with RusVelo.  Great team, great time.. actually, I cant remember much of the  first tour 😮  I can remember where we had our rest days, (who could forget, everyone was gutted when they saw the hotel rooms, a total step down from what we’d had in the lead up).  It was in the city of ‘Wuhan’.  Two rest days, Wuhaaaa! (bit of Busta Rhymes there <3)  Bit of shopping, and a small look around. Wandering, a  bad foot massage (thank god the ashtray in that room wasn’t over flowing, but the tinny, Chinese television channel I coulda done without).  I visited the Temple of the Golden Crane, apparently so so so famous, as it was much written about by famous poets, back in the day.  Yeah, it was pretty cool, but I had to bail out from the  group of race volunteers I was with and head back to the hotel.  And Chinese taxis, that’s another experience!! Apparently, the pays that low that the drivers have to do incredibly long shifts – so, they say they have to ‘drive the way they do, cos it’s a) China and because theyre b) tired!

The Tour of China II was circuit races and transfers! Yep, that’s what that week rolled into.  One hotel we stayed at was pretty cool – all eco friendly, solar powered etc.  and it was really nice after the brothel we’d had the night before (I don’t tend to complain too much about hotels, they are what they are and we only sleep a night (usually), but the smell of vomit right outside our door was a bit too much, and getting black feet from not wearing shoes / slippers inside.. eesh!)

The startlist was:

Andalucia (Spain)

RusVelo (Russia)

Team Type 1 (USA)

Champion System (Hong Kong)

Rabobank (Holland)

ISD Lampre (Ukraine)

Tusnad (actually, I don’t know where theyre from! It was a mixed team from eastern Europe)

Cristina Watches (Denmark – thanks again to their amazing swannie who did awesome trigger point acupuncture on me!)

Atlas – (Switzerland)

Salcano – (Turkey)

Nutrixxion – (Germany)


Australian National Team

Terraganu – (Malaysia)

Aisan – (Japan) they had to leave once the ‘fight over the island’ started.  Poor guys, they’d had a stage win to!

Astana – (Kazakhstan)

Uzbekistan Suren – (Uzbekistan (with lots of Iraniana – khaley khoob!!)

China Hong Kong

Action – (Taiwan)

Max Success – (China)

China Hope Star

We had a stage win to!! Leonid the lion.. yay! But the Russian from TT1 was amazing, smashing the sprints every dam day!

Oh, I do remember something from the first Tour – reaching into our ‘bucket of goodies’ for rubbish bags and pulling them out, while my finger ran along the serrated edge of the Glad Wrap L ouch.. it healed really fast though – its bleed was worse than its bite, for sure. Thankfully!!

The best hotel? Crowne Plaza – where the atm in the lobby inhaled my debit car (I took too long looking for something in my wallet, I never knew that happened!) Thanks team manager for letting me have the time (and interpreter) to get the card the next morning and then catch up to the race!  But yeah, the rooms were nice, restaurant, coffee, bar / lounge.. woo hoo!

We had a helo following the race. And at one of the circuit races, everyones set up, preparing / relaxing before the start – using the tents that are provided (no sides, just a roof, one per team) and thanks to our friendly pilot hovering over head for that ‘perfect shot’ the team next to us lost their tent altogether, while a heap of us were rushing to hang on to things.. it was cyclone city for about 2 minutes – wouldn’t a chopper pilot know he has down draft?  😮

Like last year, the Tour started in Xi’an – listed as one of the ‘Four Great Capitals’ of China, because it has been the capital of 13 dynasties.. see! Chinas so full of amazing history, its mind blowing!  Also, the Terracotta Army is here, and im so happy I had the time to see it last year!  The other cities we went to, on both tours, were:

Lantian – dates back to BC379, when the country was established (some 2370 years old!) and famous for being rich in jade.

Shangluo – 240 million peole live in Shangluo and its well known for agricultural products Shangnan Tea, DanFeng wine, Luonan tofu and Chinese herbals

Xiangyang – possesses large water reserves and rich mineral deposits.  Textile production is the mainstay industry, followed closely by machinery manufacture, chemical processing, electronics and construction materials – also the home of Dongfeng Motors.

Zaoyang – ‘labour people are always concerned about the 99 ridges in the river’ – the city area is mainly covered by plains and large ridges (but I don’t recall this city, or plains or ridges).  The hometown of ‘Liuxiu’, (Guangwu Emperor) and the founder of Han Dynasty.  In his 33 years as the emperor, he promoted Confucianism and advocated moral integrity – Chairman Mao spoke highly of Liuxiu.

Wuhan (rest days city) – the trade and financial centre of China, and listed as one of ‘Four Famous Towns’ even 400 years ago, justified by the famous saying ‘All goods sell well in Hunan’.  ‘Yellow Crane Tower’ is here (I visited this tower), first built in three kingdoms period.

Huainan – where the famous book Huainanzi was written and where tofu was invented!

Jining – famous as the hometown of Confucius (BC551 – BC479, tops the list of the world’s 10 Greatest Cultural Celebrities!)  and Mencius (BC372 – BC289, world famous educator and ideologist.  He wrote the book ‘Mencius and carried forward the thoughts of Confucius) and with a history of 7000years (!!!) so, famous as the birth place of Chinese culture also.  An important base for agriculture, coal and minerals.

Dezhou – lies on the main railway route from Beijing to Shanghai, the Jinghu railway.  Famous for the tomb of Sultan Paduka Pahala of Sulu (Philippines) who died here on a return journey, after visiting the Yongle Emperor in 1417.  His tomb has been declared a National Heritage Site.   Dezhou has a new industrial zone – Solar Valley (where our nice, enviro friendly hotel was), being built for experimenting with clean-energy urban projects, good on China! J

Tianjin – finish.  (nothing like last year! This year we had two races in the same place, and even the closing dinner – way out of the city in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing like last years crit in the city centre, with amazing views etc – gutted!)  Tianjin is one of 4 municipalities in China and is a famous international port and ecological city.

We bussed from Tianjin to Beijing for flights.  I flew 2.5 hours to southern Kunming.  I only had 2 hours to get my connecting flight to Chiang Mai (just over an hour) and my flight was delayed leaving Beijing. Yes, I made it, only just!! They had to reopen passport control, for me, and I got to the gate as people were boarding..

And as we were coming in to land, a nice gentleman opposite me hoiked himself up a huge ‘lung oyster’, so big, he spat it into the vomit bag, (yep, you could hear it, chunks n all) and then folded the bag up and put it back into the seat pocket – im not sure which made me gag more – the sound effects or the fact that some cleaner would find that wretched vomit bag..

Thailand feels like home! JImage