On your bike: Istanbul to Shanghai

0 CommentsPrintE-mail China Daily, September 19, 2009
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Jean Marcotte is following a "crazy" idea to bicycle 15,000-km across Asia and said Beijing is an unforgettable city, with plenty of helpful locals willing to help a lost foreigner.

Jean Marcotte cycles through Sanlitun in Beijing. [China Daily]

The 56 years old from Quebec said his experience in China's capital was the longest and happiest time he has spent in any city since starting out on his odyssey in Istanbul on May 18.

He expects to complete his epic journey in Shanghai before Oct 5.

Speaking to Metro in Beijing, the married father-of-three and retired army lieutenant commander said he had visited the Badaling Great Wall, the Forbidden City and also enjoyed a Peking Opera performance at the Meilanfang Theater.

He watched the "magnificent" opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on television in Canada, and said he was amazed the city held in store even more beauty for him.

"Beijing has class, a city with majesty and a high culture, " he said.

"I'm impressed by the citizens of Beijing. So far, everybody I've met has been nice, helpful and generous, making every effort possible to try to comprehend a foreigner who does not speak a single word of Chinese or read street sign.

"People has taken the time to figure out what I needed, help me with the administration, or put me in the right direction when I asked them."

Starting in Istanbul, Marcotte followed the Silk Road route from Turkey and crossed into Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. On July 14, he flew into Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, where he began his journey in the Chinese mainland.

Marcotte, who has never before travelled through China, then bicycled through the Gobi desert, the grassland of Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai.

"This is the second most crazy thing I've done in my life," says Jean, who joined in the Canadian army at 17 and served for more than 30 years.

His said his most crazy idea was to travel to Iraq during the first Gulf war, and to former Yugoslavia and to Somalia as a UN peacekeeper.

"Though I was close to battles and death, I still believe human beings have a good nature. Most of us, no matter what color, wish to meet and know others, and to try to be helpful," he said.

"Travelling by bicycle enables me to meet ordinary people and see life in different countries, which have been my most delightful memories."

Marcotte began cycling six years ago in the hope of treating chronic back pain. It worked and it also unlocked a passion for cycling. In June 2007, Marcotte cycled 7,128 km across Canada to raise money for the families of Canadian soldiers.

During his journey through China, Marcotte recalled an extremely hot day in Xinjiang, when a watermelon bounced off an overloaded truck.

"The truck was like an angel," he said.

In Jiayuguan, Gansu province, he was invited by an art class to pose as a model for two hours.

After cycling through Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces, Jean arrived in Beijing on Sept 7 and began his journey to Tianjin on Monday.


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