Frans de Wit visits PRC
At last, the pictures you've been waiting for! I had just a week to spend in Beijing and had a great time, thanks to (among others) Clay, Jia Yin, Gerald and Jim
Here's a street that is almost all boarded up, with traditional living quarters (hutongs) left and right that probably won't be there next year. Beijing 2008 is coming!
A farmer with his horse on the road, but very busy with his cellphone!
I took this picture on the road, lefthanded, so a bit askew, but very Chinese with the trees hanging over the road.
This corn drying reminded me of the propaganda pictures of the Farmer Painters of Huhsien County from back in the Seventies.
You'll also like the cover of the short skirt piston box!
I stayed in a hotel next to the the Philharmonic Exhibition Centre where I spotted my first Chinese CJ!
Gasket Heaven! The shop is a real Walhalla for CJ fans!
Outside Gerald and Clay tried to inspire the next CJ generation by handing him the key to Alpha.
Alas, he didn't understand the importance of the gesture...
We had luch in the restaurant nextdoor, which Clay always called the Donkey Cafe, and I thought it was a joke I didn't get, maybe because English isn't my native tongue, or it was something that was funny for Westerners living in China.
But it's a restaurant that actually serves donkey meat as specialty! So we had to have some, although Gerald wouldn't touch the stuff. Clay and I enjoyed it very much. In texture it's something between steak and chicken. It's the dish in the middle.
VIDEO CLIP: On the road with Clay and Gerald
VIDEO CLIP: Gerald is almost as ruthless in traffic as the locals!
Then we visited a street near where Clay lives, where CJ shops have sprung up like mushrooms in the last year. They mainly sell CJs and not parts. Or you can order one in any fashion you like. One former icecream shop is being redone as CJ shop. Leo's had some very nice looking bikes, one that had a newly developed air filter and all electronics put away under the gas tank.    
   
Clay and I also visited Factory 789 where artists and galleries are concentrated in a large area where formerly factories were working. There still are some active amongst the galleries. You can see Clay enjoy some modern art. Chinese modern art seems to be mostly somewhat ironic, and also leaning a lot on old revolutionary images. The artist that made the Mao art piece uses hundreds or maybe thousands of tiny human figures stuck together in a kind of eternal treadmill or warzone. It was pretty amazing.  
 
VIDEO CLIP: We also visited Jim Bryant at Frank's Classic Sidecars who had a few CJs ready for us to ride to lunch! When we were having luch, one of Jim's mechanics called to warn us that the beige CJ that I was riding didn't have a front brake, something I had already noticed. In the film Jim is already way ahead, but Clay and I are enjoying the ride!
We spent some time looking around the place and picking up parts. Jim showed us around the workshop with the new M5 hubs (the black one is an original), the showroom and even the small but effective bodyshop. Outside is plenty of stock, and some machines waiting for repairs.  
 
As Clay had to get back to work on Wednesday, I went to Tiananmen by myself. I had already seen the Forbidden City the first time I was in Beijing in 1979 and when it was much less restricted as nowadays. Still, there was one place I hadn't been yet: the Rostrum, where Mao had declared independence on October 1st, 1949.
As I arrived I saw a huge model of the Potala Palace from Lhasa in Tibet on the square, apparently to commemorate the first train from Beijing to Lhasa. On the opposite side were similar structures with the Olympic puppets.
The Chinese government has made it effectively impossible to hold big rallies on the square, as at least half of it is blocked by these structures and huge flower beds. There were a lot of military, police and undercover personnel on and around the square.
On the square the guards still have fire-extinguishers in case someone sets himself on fire. On the Rostrum, where everybody had to go through a metal detector and where no lighters were allowed (even my matches were confiscated—luckily I wasn't carrying my usual Zippo!) The actual place where Mao had stood was cordoned off with a metal gate so I took a picture of myself just next to it. On the edge of the Rostrum there were every 10 metres undercover people standing to (probably) prevent anyone throwing themselves off.
As Jim had invited me for a trip into the mountains at Huairo I went over to the workshop on Thursday where a genuine PLA bike was standing ready for me. First we went to a restaurant on the way where during the weekend people can catch their own fish in the pond and have them roasted on the spot. As it was a weekday, we were the only ones there and let the patron choose the fish. He came over with the scales on which the fish was weighed to show how heavy it was, to get an OK from Jim before gutting the animal. As I'm not a big fan of fish, they roasted some lamb for me which was very good as well!
As there was only one road going up, Jim let me take first place. Although the old bike did have some trouble carrying my considerable weight up the mountains, all I had to do was adjust the air/gas mixture with the choke valve to get a smooth ride. There were several tricky hairpin curves where I involuntary flew the chair twice, going a tad too fast! All in all we spent almost six hours on the road, and a big thanks to Jim for the hospitality and for taking the time off!
After a last dinner with Clay and Jia Yin, I went over to Gerald's to get the last parts I wanted. There I met Gerald's VERY friendly dog! After saying goodbye to Gerald and Clay I went back to the hotel and had to pack all my stuff. I had bought a new suitcase as I had about 70 pounds more stuff than I came with. Luckily they still don't weigh the hand- luggage! In the picture you can see all the stuff I took home—the small parts from CJ Shop Number 1 including gaskets, four turn signals with glass lenses, air horns and flagholders, saddlesprings and clutch screws, etc.
After a last dinner with Clay and Jia Yin, I went over to Gerald's to get the last parts I still wanted. There I met Gerald's VERY friendly dog! After saying goodbye to Gerald and Clay I went back to the hotel and had to pack my stuff. I had bought a new suitcase as I had about 70 pounds more than I came with. Luckily they still don't weigh the hand- luggage! In the picture you can see all the stuff I took home—the small parts from CJ Shop Number 1 including gaskets, four turn signals with glass lenses, air horns and flagholders, saddlesprings and clutch screws, etc.