CHINA: Travels with a Rickshaw Driver

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November 4th 2012
Published: November 4th 2012
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CHINA: Travels with a Rickshaw Driver.

On my second trip to China...just Denise & Tour Leader...I've been here before...I learnt on Day 1...what has become my modus operandi when I arrive in a Chinese city...I find a taxi driver to take us around as required.

And it all started when we met Wong...a Taxi driver...and his brother Wun...a Rickshaw driver.

Taxi drivers get work by picking up passing fares...the success of their day...a lottery. All depends if that hand goes up at the moment they pass by.

So...if you can find a taxi driver that is prepared to negotiate an appropriate fare "for the day"...and you use him on other days...he makes more in those days than he would in a month or more.

But be warned...such practices can have you invited to their homes...or photo of you inserted in their "Brag Book" show other tourists the quality of their previous clientelle.

So be may meet some locals that invite you into their lives.


On arrival in Beijing we were stuffed. Arrived early morning after Christmas in to the Crowne Plaza in Wangfujing..."Welcome back Mr Hooper"...really cool they check their records before you arrive...and if you've been there before they feign remembrance.

Couple of hours sleep...cracker of the reasons I stay here...time to show Den around.

Up Wangfujing...turn off into markets..hutongs...I know Tiananmen Square is sort of this way.

Den in front of Mao's picture at the Gate of Heavenly Peace...entrance to the Forbidden City...clear but icy a dream for her.

A taxi driver approaches offerring to drive us around the Forbidden thanks.

Den asks him where the public toilets are and he offers to show her.

Must have been about 200 metres...felt like I chatted to him as we walked...his English not good but acceptable...he from Qufu in Shandong Provence (the birthplace of Confucius)...we are staying in Qufu towards the end of our trip.

Asked him if he was interested in taking us to Huanghua Great Wall...agreed on a price for the day plus tolls & entrance fees...see you at 9 a.m tomorrow at our hotel.

If this works out we'll get him to take us to the ancient village of Chaundixia as well.

Zhou Qui

Wong was waiting in the foyer. Our new friends from Sydney met over B/F, Tony & Bahia, going to Badaling Great Wall.

Jack the Concierge told us Huanghua was closed so decided on Mutianyu Great Wall...been there before but Denise hasn't.

Wong wanting to go to Badaling...but too touristy for me...still never been there!

Didn't tell me he had no idea how to get to Mutianyu!!!

In Wong's taxi was a Rickshaw driver...his name was Zhou Qui...he has come along as his English is extra charge.

Mutianyu is about 90 kms north of Wong down an expressway...then back again...again and again...obviously going in paying the tolls...lot of fun suggesting he get us to Huairou then follow that road...we enjoying the confusion...arriving eventually.

We paid for Zhou Qui's entry fee and up the cable car...he excited as he's never been here before.

Wong staying with his taxi...a Chinese made Cherry...his most valuable possession.

Denise overcome with emotion as we approached the top...the Great Wall can do that to you.

Me excited to see my entry point from three years previous...that square tower in the distance...from a village way down there...quite a different experience to enter by the main gate.

Me excited to scamper down the outside of the Great Wall to find and enter the Wall...same spot...I'm back!

Last time it was covered in snow...this time clear & mild.

Just great to be back...few tourists at Mutianyu...nice part of the Great Wall.

Denise of course loved it...and so did Zhou Qui.

Zhou Qui had a sharp enquiring mind...a Rickshaw Driver saving for an education...a gentleman...

delighted to have been our a place he had never been before!

And Wong...introduced to a place he had never been before...90 kms North of add to his potential destinations for tourists.

Even more delighted that we want him to take us to the ancient village of Chaundixia to the West in two days time...showing him my maps...see you 9 a.m Saturday.


Spent most of the next day at Tiantan...the Temple of Heaven...singing with Chinese men to the erhu...nice to have time to absorb its magic...time to think...thinking so much to see...never enough time.

So I changed the itinerary...we won't go to the Manchu village of Chaundixia...bit far...want to be back for New Years Eve...we'll go to The Fragrant Hills and Badachu...near the Summer Palace...closer...should be able to do most of the twelve temples in a day.

Better take my

Biyun Si me...Wong may need help getting there!

Wong was waiting in the hotel foyer...had a pretty good idea how to get to idea how to get to the Fragrant Hills...showed my map...OK...lets go.

Snowing as we walked to the running shoes immediately feeling wet...I've got to change into boots...back in a minute.

On my return as I approached...Den next to the taxi...BANG...Wong dings his taxi sliding on the snow coming out of his parking space...felt his pain...saw his disappointment...not a good start.

He asks us if it would be O.K. if his younger brother came today...fine by to his place to collect him...nearly took us minature room...for one family.

Wun was his name...a Rickshaw absolute gem of a man...poorer than poor...abounding in riches of character...proud to call him a friend.

Wun was a fountain of knowledge...English OK...much learnt taking tourists through the hutongs...bright excited eyes conveying & laugh infectious...great company.

He reminded me of Mao's last Dancer...he also from Qufu...similar background...very different future.

He told us that poor people live in rooms that are 13 sq. metres.

"What size is your room Wun?"

"10 square metres"...he not ashamed or embarrassed...accepted his lot in life with a generous smile.

Showed us his new born baby on his mobile phone...only days old...sharing fatherhood...he..oh so proud.

Passed the Summer Palace...into hilly wooded country...snowing...white slopes beckoning...into the carpark of Wofu Si...the Temple of the Reclining Buddha...only temple in China that claims a bone of Buddha within.

Fragrant Hills have a lot of temples and the chairlift was out due to the snowfalls so we started at this small mountain.

Wun found out Biyun Si was on top of this mountain so we decided to do it first...and do Wofu Si second...then the others...two others on this mountain...eight on Badachu.

No idea then...that we wouldn't see Wofu Si...or the others!

Biyun Si (the Temple of Azure Cloud)

It stopped snowing as we pulled into the carpark...Wun to be our Guide...Wong steadfastly refusing to join us...prefers to stay with his taxi...fair call...we won't be long.

But long we were...stayed for hours...layer after layer of this major temple complex...snow decorating the hanging off bushes...carpeting the stone paths...slippery as...superb architecture...rare as it has Hindu & Buddhist influences.

A temple with a solitary black stone Buddha...his big toe polished over the centuries by worshippers seeking benevolence.

The Hall of Bodhisattvas...3 central Buddhas with 7 figures on the left and 8 on the right...and behind them a hall of 3 female Buddhas.

The Hall of 500 Arhats...wooden or brass life size...each different..."No Photos" enforcing.

Hall after hall...then the V.I.P Hall...the original resting place of Sun Yat Sen...the founder of modern China...before his remains were relocated to Nanjing.

Then the highlight...a huge block of stone on which were 5 towers and 4 stupas...Hindu influences.

I recall signs forbidding access to the roof...but a worker swept snow off the steps for us and up we went...among the towers and stupas...magic up there...wonderment for Wun.

This is the White Christmas I had hoped for Denise...kinda nice its New Years nice we decided to take our time and enjoy this magic place.

By the time we left the temple it was 3.30pm...snowing again...Wong greeting us...lets go.

But we were starved...Wong suggesting we go to a town down there...we seeing a rustic village around the about around here?

We found a humble eatery down a lane...people within huddling from the cold...hearty vibe of a village meeting place...there's 4 of about a steamboat...and some beer?

Wong refused to have any beer as he was driving...but Wun was happy to join us...heaps of toasts...lots of laughter...lots of simple talk.

We remember that meal among our best in China...the magic of the place...the commeraderie over a meal...that we as foreigners could connect so well with Wong & Wun...

Little in common...except acceptance and friendliness...and the universality of humour.

Stayed in that restaurant until dusk...kinda surreal...snowing sizzling...the sounds of endless chatter & laughter...feeling very welcome.

Wun didn't want the day to finish...nor did we...but its New Years Eve...and we're joining some other Aussies...time to go.

Wun was anxious to take us on a Hutong Tour tomorrow...made me feel due to our connection it would be special...and good opportunity for him to make a buck...O.K...see you 1 p.m tomorrow.

We are going to spend a few days with David & Pauline before we explore Shanxi Good Byes to Wong...and Wun we'll see tomorrow...secret tip to him...only accepting as we insisted it was for his baby.

New Years Eve

A New Year's Eve to remember...9 Aussies...all from a private a kasbah...upstairs in the Lotus Bar & Restaurant at Lotus Lake...Beijingers ball room dancing & skating on the frozen, spicy fish & popcorn for dinner...prices up to 10 times higher than I can usually pumping...waiters with feather boas...joined by a guy from Brisbane & 2 English girls teaching with him in Korea...had been hoping to find us again as we had met at a bar earlier.

Dancing to 3 a.m...trance music that my kids probably get into...people from all corners of the World...I can still feel the pulsating beat and flashes of smiles & writhing bods...great night.

Wun's Hutong Tour

Seedy is the best way to describe our morning.

Tony & Bahia had left at 6 a.m for Shanghai...hope they're still laughing...certainly were when we last saw them!

And we have remained in touch. Nice when that happens.

Met Wun in the foyer at 1 need for our fur hats today...nice fine day...expect only 2 hours.

But this was a Hutong Tour with our new friend Wun...and it went for over 4 hours...only ending at our our heads and ears were frozen as dusk kicked in...only time we were without our fur hats!

And special it was...and his rickshaw so meagre...made us want to buy him a new one...wish we had more time to do so.

He took us to those special places...Communist Party haunts, courtyard houses, among the poor & the not so poor...sharing his World...satisfied with his lot...always smiling...a special human being.

He refused payment for the Hutong Tour...he "No, You are my friends"...we insisting...he accepting "For your wife & baby"...parting ways...a tear in his eye.

We tried to find him when we returned to Beijing the following luck...probably among the millions of Chinese who travel as itinerant workers throughout day maybe our paths will cross again.

We'd like that.

Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave

Additional photos below
Photos: 90, Displayed: 30



First trip

Second trip

4th November 2012

brilliant travel tactic
Hiring a taxi driver led to such amazing experiences and personal connections--something that we budget backpackers sometimes miss on public buses. Loved that part of you all sharing a meal and laughter in that little backstreet eatery. Brilliant also to go in the magic of off-season snowy winter. Great fun!
4th November 2012

We love to connect with locals when we travel...often the poorer they are...the more generous in character. Wun was such a man.
5th November 2012

Gorgeous Pic Dave.....
I do love how you mingle with the locals. Meeting people in far off lands is the most compelling thing about travelling, isn't it. Shame you didn't get a contact number for Wong, but then again, maybe serendipity will bring you together again one day :)
5th November 2012

Serendipity is my middle name...mixing with locals the circumflex
6th November 2012

It's good when things fall in to place
Travelling is always at its best when you are at the right place at the right time with the right people. It is not always like that but when it comes together it gives you the greatest moments. Great blog and amazing photos, as always.
7th November 2012

When I hear from you guys I imagine your endless journeys in South nice it would be to be back on the road. Well I am feeling pretty good writing this message. Presently planning returning to China for Xmas with our daughter who will be in Shanghai on an International Law Uni stint & our son who will fly in from Toronto. Then to Vietnam to have mischief with Cockle (a definite) & maybe Travel Camel & Cabochick as well...can hardly wait to get back on the road. Hope it all falls into place!
18th November 2012

thanks for sharing
hi there really enjoyed your photos and stories. we just got back from China last week, my 5th trip , my wife is from Hanzhong. just wanted to point out that Fa Men Si in Baoji Shaanxi has a finger bone of Sakyamuni, as does Bai Ma Si in Luoyang (beneath the pagoda) . both very worthy destinations. :) cheers, G
19th November 2012

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I've been to Baoji in Shaanxi and Luoyang in Henan. Thanks for the advice they also claim bone from Sakyamuri. Luoyang being the home of Longmen Grottoes seems logical...but Baoji is a surprise.

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