But, getting out of Shanghai is not that easy, unless you plan on hopping on a plane to Phuket or Boracay. This city of an estimated population of 20 million—it's huge and spreads out so far that you can drive for an hour and still be stuck in city traffic. And even if you rent a car, you have to have a Chinese driver's license (most foreigners don't) and in the absence of a driver's license you have to hire a driver, so forget about DIY-ing and not feeling like a tourist.
You can still take the train to the nearby Hangzhou or Suzhou on the weekend, but those "tiny, nature-filled" Chinese cities still have populations of Scandinavian countries. For most travel experiences in China, you end up feeling like a big tourist because of the way gong-show tourist attractions are set up, because of communication problems and also the way the travel industry is set up here--it's difficult to just get away from it all.Last weekend a friend contacted Bohdi and they organized a private trip for 10 of us out in the countryside, a three-hour drive from Shanghai near the city of Yiwu. Including mountain-bike rentals, helmets, food, guides, one night's hotel stay and transportation, the trip cost 850 RMB) First of all, huge convenience factor – Bohdi organized every detail. All we have to do is show up. Nick was our American tour guide. An avid outdoors -man, he loves off-road biking, he speaks fluent Mandarin and is generally, a chilled out guy. In his spare time is goes to random places, talks to local people in non-touristy places and figures out bike routes through rice-paddy fields, in rural towns and finds the best water-holes for future bike groups to cool down after a long off-roading bike trip. The trip's highlights were that we were able to go somewhere completely non-touristy, we saw beautiful countryside, the whole trip was well-organized, the mountain bikes were in great condition and the routes were unique. We left from Shanghai at 9am on Saturday and returned the following day at 7pm. Bohdi arranged two vans for the ten of us, plus all the mountain bikes. We arrived in Yiwu around noon and then biked in the countryside—interspersed with mountains, valleys, rivers and rice fields—for 36 km before returning to Yiwu for dinner. As Chinese cities go, Yiwu is a bit of an oddity on the basis of it's large expat Muslim population. The city's restaurants have Arabic signage, and you are just as likely to get served hummus, baklava, baba ganoush, feta cheese, olives and souvlaki as baozi, rice and noodles. Apparently, Yiwu manufactures a lot of products for Arab countries. Needless to say, we enjoyed the lamb kebabs and hummus. On Sunday, our muscles were sore and the heat crawled up to 36 degrees Celsius. After a sweaty, but scenic ride of 30 km, we found a beautifully clean river and waterfall to cool down in. Bohdi organizes trips leaving from Shanghai almost every weekend to places like Moganshan, YiWu, Tianmu Lake and Linan. So check their website for updates and trips. They also organize a weekly Shanghai city night ride (usually on Wednesdays??) that ends up at the pub. Bohdi's next trip is to Moganshan July 26-27, David Hasselhoff's Moganshan Birthday Tribute Weekend which includes biking in the bamboo forests, BBQ at the lodge and swimming.