Friday, December 3, 2010

Man Zou: Beijing to Shaghai - Film Review

Completely by chance, caught this well done documentary on PBS last night. Four young American guys, along with a Chinese guide, ride 1000 miles between Beijing and Shanghi on bikes, without support vehicles. Documentary filmed along the way, quite a ride - in many respects. A 30 day adventure with a lifetime of memories.

The ride begins in freshly scrubbed, post Olympic games, Beijing - under clear, clean blue skies. From there, spectacular rural mountain areas - then through industrial pollution laden zones - amazingly horrifying conditions. Incredible air pollution and traffic to ride through - just plain nasty "touring" conditions - but interesting to witness.

Along the way, experiences with people they meet, and strange food - dog meat and chicken heads anyone? This combined with interviews with various folks about modern China. A very interesting view into China with a bicycle perspective. I don't think you'd ever get this kind of experience driving through China. A bicycle puts you right into the culture of it all, at speeds that allow travel, yet soak it all in, and allow personal experiences with people.

I came away amazed at the scale of development in China, and the disparity between the rural areas and booming cities. The industrial hell zones also confirm that China is indeed the world's manufacturing plant - and the environment and people who live there - are paying the price.

Interviews mention that will be addressed in the future, with an emphasis on cleaner manufacturing. You hope that is the case, and if so, get the impression China could pull it off. The rate at which this country is evolving is mind boggling. The film confirmed some of the preconceived notions I personally had concerning China, and dispelled many others.

Also, the young Chinese guide in the film comes across as so personable and adventurous, when he mentions dreaming of riding in the U.S., you want to somehow assist. He says in fact, that it is just a dream. I don't know about that. I could see it happening.

This documentary is well worth checking out. You can watch online via this PBS link. Visit the film website for more info.


  1. Nice review, I will have to watch. Sure would love to explore the whole world on a bicycle. I better start to buy some LOTO tickets and keep the dream alive.

  2. I'd love to bike tour another country one day. China probably would not be my first choice. I'd probably do Italy with one of those tours that carry all your gear - leaving the bike light and fast - and fun.

    I've been meaning to do a off-road tour with my son right here in Washington. We have a gravel rail trail that runs into Idaho. That would be cool.