For years, China has been on my list of countries I wanted to travel to after getting a first glimpse of it in a ten-day wedding trip of a friend of mine. I just realized again that China is a country of superlatives. Everything is somehow bigger than anywhere else and the distances greater than anywhere else. China is currently the world’s most populated country and the fourth largest country in the world by area. So it is no surprise that I have seen of all potential sightseeing spots only a fraction of what is possible in China. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the ease with which I could travel through the country. There have been some challenges. The language barrier and some restrictions on hotel bookings, as not every hotel is allowed to host foreigner. But in general it is easy to travel China alone. The countries infrastructure is excellently developed. Some train stations are larger than European airports. However, admirably, the Chinese manage to bring order into the system and manage to structure the millions of Chinese at these traffic junctions. Also, the lack of English-speaking Chinese and my lack of knowledge of the Chinese language was no obstacle to traveling through China. Various language applications for the smartphone and my notebook with the basic sentences and phrases helped a lot to get along.
Back in Yangshuo, however, I was glad to be surrounded by foreign tourists and climbers. A degree of social isolation is likely to occur if you are not visiting tourist centres and you do not speak Chinese. Back in Yangshuo, that changed abruptly. The climbing community is lively and the performance of Chinese climbers underestimated. From what I’ve seen, we have to expect a lot from the Chinese in climbing for the Olympics 2020. Besides the Chinese, the Japanese climbers are also very strong. One experience shaped my opinion in this regard especially.
After a rainy day in Yangshuo, we decided to do a night session in climbing. At sunset, we hopped on our scooters and drove to the Chicken Cave, a cave with mostly overhanging routes. Our Japanese friend Ikuma decided on a route in the grading of a french eight. It did not stop him that he could not see all bolts. Half way up, he lost the direction of the route. He continued climbing in whatever he supposed as his route. He even onsighted. We found out, he ended up in an even more difficult route. My admiration for this achievement was great, especially since my forearms were already pumped just watching him. This was my first impression of the climbing strength of the Japanese.