06 February 2008

Beijing January 2005 - Part 2

Continuing from the previous post . . .
We pulled off the freeway onto regular city streets and I was able to have my head out from under the tonneau cover for a higher percentage of the time. I enjoyed seeing many exciting sights, some reminding me of Hong Kong, some totally different.
We stopped at a PLA (People's Liberation Army) Disposals store and looked around for a while. I was wishing my brain hadn't felt so frozen as it was hard to think about what I might buy. I picked up a steel replica WW2 German helmet which seemed to weigh half a tonne! How did the soldiers manage to fight wearing these things? Should I buy it so I could look like a German soldier while riding my CJ? Hmmmmm! That might not go over too well back in Australia! There were machine guns - I don't know if they worked or not and was not game enough to ask - but no - if I fitted one of those to my sidecar, it would never pass through Australian Customs! It might engender some respect while riding on the road, though! I thought seriously about purchasing various kinds of hats and helmets and army coats which were all almost unbelievably cheap. But in the end I bought nothing - what a tightwad I am.
Back on board Alpha, we rode around to Long River Motorworks - the factory where my CJ was being built.
The photo at top right shows my bike with engine and drive train in place and the wiring partly completed. Gerald hastened to assure me that the oil patch visible on the floor was not from my bike. My bike was a 1962 model which was utterly stripped to every nut and bolt and almost all parts replaced by brand new old stock parts. All original Chinese bearings were replaced by new German or Japanese bearings.
I was shown several other bikes at various stages of completion and saw huge stocks of spare parts.
Clay showed me his Dong Hai bike and spares in an adjoining part of the factory building. A dong Hai motorcycle is very like a Chinese-built Triumph: overhead valve parallel-twin engine and chain drive.
After a few hours sniffing around the factory I was taken out to dinner quite nearby. The restaurant was just like hundreds of Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. I got a shock when I realised that although I could read the menu without difficulty, I was unable to order, because I speak Cantonese whereas in Beijing they all speak Mandarin, or "Putongwah" as we call it in Cantonese. The written characters are different being "Simplified Chinese" but they are derived from and sufficiently like the "Traditional Chinese" I had learned to read and write in HK, that reading was not a problem. It is amazing that all parts of China use basically the same written language, but there are over 200 different dialects of spoken Chinese. So even native-born Chinese often can't talk to each other when they travel far from home.
After dinner I caught a taxi to my hotel.
The rest of that trip to Beijing involved no more motorbikes or riding. Someday I must pull out the photos I took and write about some of the strange bikes I saw while doing regular "tourist" type things before returning home to Hong Kong.

1 comment:

Bacca said...

You love to write don't ya Dr Phill?
Bless ya, Bacca