If you’ve read yesterday’s post, you know that I came here with basically no expectations at all.
…that being said, now please allow me to present to you the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at:
Doesn’t look like much, does it? That’s exactly what I thought at first, and I’m not going to make too many words:
– superb service,
– extremely clean facilities,
– very quiet rooms and hallways,
– an Internet connection 8 times (!) faster than the second fastest place I have been at on this whole trip (must have been Shijiazhuang – living large in the dust),
– clean, soft, cozy, nice, comfortable, awesome beds,
– and all that at a highly competitive price rate – no haggling involved.
I went out and found someone to take a look at my tires:
Zhao Fu 赵福, a passionate hiker himself, kind of just looked at me with my beard, and then he looked at the Caboose standing there, and then at my beard again:
“If you’ve really walked here all the way from Beijing” he said, “it’s my pleasure to repair your bike for free!”
Thank you so much, Zhao Fu, may wind and rain stay far from you wherever you choose to go hiking!
You guys remember Uncle Shen, the cyclist who was riding his bike to the Chinese Northeast when I met him a few months ago on the road (misled)? We had always kept in touch after that. His hometown is Ürümqi 乌鲁木齐, 600km west from here, and the other day he rang me up and said:
“Listen lad, the road ahead might not be as easy as you think. Let me ride my bike over and help you get through there!”
And so he did – we met up here in Sandaoling today:
What an interesting man: a bit over 60 years old and just retired, he is a passionate cyclist who has done thousands and thousands of miles all throughout the country within the last two years. More than 4 decades of work as a railway mechanic have made him a massive man with a deep voice and huge hands. His character is very kind though, and he likes to laugh and always keeps a meticulous diary about everything he sees when he’s riding his bike around. I call him Uncle Shen or just Uncle.
Tonight we went down into the coal mine to take pictures:
People had been telling us about natural fires of some sort down there, flames that were coming from the ground without being volcanic, due to some kind of chemical reaction in the different layers of coal or something.
Anyway we staggered around in the dark for a while…
…and then we found the fires:
…these things are just there, and the miners seem to sort of work around them:
I didn’t understand what was going on…
…but I thought it was really worth it, standing down there in the darkness of the coal dust, quietly looking at the fire.
PS: My Internet connection has been terrible ever since I left Sandaoling, so please forgive me for not being able to update as regularly as I would like to.