A team, consisting of a 90s born Korean journalist and a Chinese AliExpress e-shop owner, shares the message “Seek your dream” through their cycling trip
Xian, China - July 3rd, 2018 - The SeekRoad team cycled 1500km from Shanghai to Xian, and shared their achievements in June. They held tech meetups with Shanghai-headquartered blockchain company Robin8 in Nanjing on June 9th, and in Xian on June 29th, reaching their milestone of hosting two tech events titled “Let’s Talk About Silk Road and Blockchain” in China. Twelve more tech meetups are planned as they cycle along the ancient Silk Road from Shanghai to the U.K.
The SeekRoad (seekroad.co) team, consisting of Chaewon Yoo, a previous Tech reporter at China-based tech media TechNode and Jianan Li, a previous Aliexpress e-shop owner, plans to cycle from Shanghai to London, organizing 14 tech meet-ups and interviewing startup entrepreneurs on the ancient Silk Road (the areas of today's One Belt and One Road Initiative) from June 2nd, 2018 to March, 2019. The team will cycle along the Silk Road through 13 countries -- China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France and the U.K. and then come back to South Korea, Chaewon’s home country.
Tech events held in Nanjing and Xian
Both tech meetups, “Let’s Talk About Silk Road and Blockchain”, were successfully hosted at Tencent incubator centers. Chaewon explained how she started the idea of a cycling journey on the ancient Silk Road and how she attracted 14 sponsors. Liu Lin, partner at Robin8, shared how Robin8 can help manage personal data on various social networks and earn money with them using blockchain.
The event in Nanjing attracted 34 people, most of whom were locally-based expats coming from Thailand, Russia, Spain, the U.K., Burundi, Ghana, Congo, Australia and Uzbekistan. The event in Xian attracted 30 local Chinese people.
The team gathered 34 people in just three days in Nanjing with a combination of engaging local influencers, social media, and press. With the help of Star Yang, Nanjing-based serial entrepreneur, Chaewon was invited to seven WeChat groups in Nanjing, and shared the event poster with the groups. People who were interested in the event started to add her WeChat, and she gathered them into one WeChat group. The chief editor of TheNanjinger, Renee Gray, came to the event and interviewed Chaewon. During the event, Chaewon live streamed the event for 50 minutes on Facebook.
The Xian event was similar. With the help of Sengik Jung, a Korean founder of a CSR consulting firm, and Boyuan Wang, who is in charge of TechCrunch China, Chaewon was invited to six WeChat groups in Xian where she promoted the event. Chaewon was also introduced to iFeng’s journalist, Zhang Anqi, who later showed her around Xian’s Small Wild Goose Tower and wrote an article about the cycling journey. The next “Let’s Talk About Silk Road and Blockchain” tech meetup will be held in Kazakhstan, Almaty on August 17th.
Difficulties while cycling from Shanghai to Xian
The SeekRoad team cycled 1498 kilometers from Shanghai to Xian, cycling 68.1 kilometers on average per day. It took them 27 days to reach Xian, with 22 days dedicated to cycling and five rest days. Chaewon shares the eight difficulties they encountered on their way.
Chaewon had sunstroke twice: once on the way from Dingyuan to Huainan, Anhui province and once on the leg from Nanyang to Neixiang, Henan province. From then on, the team got up earlier to avoid cycling at noon.
“The temperature was 35 degrees. Suddenly my head hurt and I was dizzy. When I took off the helmet, I felt my head was heavy. Jianan found the closest shade and made me sit down and handed me his medicine. This was the first time I realized that the sun is dangerous.”
The highest altitude was 1200 meters above sea level from Shangluo to Lantian, Shaanxi province, requiring going uphill for as long as 22 kilometers.
“The hardest part is not when we are climbing up the hill. It's when we rest for 5 to 10 minutes and then start to climb uphill. After resting, my knees are not used to the pressure of the uphill, and it hurts me a lot. Then I‘m tempted to stop once more. Every little shadow on the road, about a meter long shadow of a tree, is where I can rest and breathe, and I‘m really tempted to take a break there, but I have to push myself, saying ‘Keep pedaling and you'll be fine.’”
3. Unpaved roads:
Most of the roads in Henan province are unpaved, and the most awful road was from Zumadian to Yangce, Henan province.
“The unpaved road can be really disturbing. When we cycle, the bicycles and our body become one body. I feel every little ruggedness of sand, pebbles, rocks, and broken parts on the road. I went through the unpaved road for 87 km today, and as I paced, it added more and more burden to my body, and I was starting to feel upset. As you slow down, you feel all the curvature of the road. Even if people passed that road by car or bus, they would have felt painful. But that pain is nothing compared to a person riding on a bicycle passing that road.”
4. Heavy trucks passing by:
When cycling in China, heavy trucks are like your companions on the way. They make people know their existence with loud honking, and leave their trace by making clouds of dust.
“Heavy trucks make big honks when they pass by. After they pass by the unpaved road, there is huge sand and dust raising up from the ground. I have to close my eyes for two seconds and go through it. I can see only a 5-meter radius. When I came back to hotel, I found myself all covered in dust.”
Of 27 days of cycling, it rained for two days when the team was cycling from Pingwei to Zhumadian, Henan Province and from Danfeng to Shangluo, Shaanxi Province. It’s a very rough experience to change the rear wheel inner tube in the rain.
“It rained. For some reason, my body was heavy. The sneakers got wet and heavy, and I eventually decided to cycle in slippers. As I stepped on the pedal with the slipper, the outsole was too soft and I had to give more power. Thinking that it’s a light rain and we’ll get to the destination soon, I did not wear a cap. The rain came over my head through the holes in the helmet, and my hair was all wet, and the raindrops came down over my face. Then the rainwater flowed over my eyes and sunglasses.”
6. Muddy roads:
Two days of rain created muddy roads and muddy puddles on the way from Zumadian to Yangce, Henan province and Chaewon fell off into the muddy puddle.
“When I had to cross the first muddy puddle, I had no idea how deep it was. I thought I could just go through with a little splash of water, so I drove my bike into the muddy water. The problem with a muddy puddle is that you cannot see its depth. I was caught in the mud and fell off into the mud with the bike. I had to put my hands in muddy water to get up. I got up slowly. My feet were already completely wet. I learned a lesson: you should never go into muddy water. No matter how inefficient it is, you have to go around it.”
When cycling from Huainan to Linquan, Anhui province, Chaewon was almost hit by a tricycle driving on the wrong side of the road.
“While I was cycling, I saw an electric tricycle suddenly approaching me, apparently driving on the opposite side of the road. I turned the direction of the bike, but the driver turned in the same direction. I hit the side of the tricycle and collapsed with my bicycle. Jianan already rushed to me after hearing the blunt sound. There were scratches on my left ankle, but there were no serious injuries. When Jianan asked the driver, ‘Why do you drive on opposite side of the road?’, the woman angrily said, ‘My house is by this side, so I have to drive this way!’ The woman didn’t seem all that sorry, and showed no sign of apologizing. When I tried to take a picture of her, she hurried off.”
Another minor trouble was looking for accommodation in China. The day before the cycling, Jianan makes a phone call to hotels to ask whether a Chinese and a foreigner can stay together. This is because sometimes there are Chinese hotels where foreigners cannot stay.
“In Zhulong Town in Anhui province, four police officers came to see the first foreign visitor in town (me) at 9p.m. In Linquan, Anhui province, I had to go to the nearby police station before checking in to the hotel. When you go to a police office or when you meet a police officer, it is important that you look as innocent as possible.”
While it’s the road the gives the team all the hardships, it’s also the road that gives the team beautiful scenery on their way. Chaewon remembers the captivating scenery they saw when cycling from Linquan, Anhui province to Pingyu, Henan Province.
“I felt like I started this cycling journey to see this landscape. Even though I came here for the first time, there was something very familiar with this Chinese town. The landscape made us cycle slow. Those who live in these soft landscape would have soft character, I thought. It was such a scenery that Van Gogh would like very much. The clouds resembled earthquakes, making their way for the rosy fingers of the sun. It was just more than saying ’it’s an underdeveloped area’, there was something pure about this town.”
The project’s exclusive main sponsor is Shanghai-headquartered blockchain company Robin8 (robin8.net), a global leader in profile-centric advertising that utilizes AI and big data to profile, rank and match consumers to brands. Their silver sponsors include Primer (primer.kr), a Korean venture capital firm for early stage startups; Startup Alliance (startupall.kr), a Korean organization that enriches the Korean startup ecosystem and helps Korean startups go global; MyRealTrip (www.myrealtrip.com), a Korean travel startup providing personalized guided tours; EnterMedia (eng.enter-tech.com), a Korean company behind wireless home karaoke microphone Magicsing; and SparkLabs Global Ventures (sparklabsglobal.com), a global seed-stage fund with over 70 investments across 6 continents.
Product sponsors include Oyama (oyama.com), a Taiwanese bicycle company which has a wide range of touring bikes, mountain bikes, and folding bikes for the global market; KOLON sport (kolonsport.com), a Korean outdoor sportswear company; TRICKCOO (trickcoo.com.cn), a Chinese winter outdoor clothing designer brand; Silicon Power Computer & Communications (silicon-power.com), a Taiwan-based manufacturer of flash memory products and Cadence Translate, (cadencetranslate.com), a translation firm providing world-class interpreters for high-end meetings. Angel investors include Sunwoo Kim, founder and CEO of Chinada (chinatan.co.kr), the biggest Chinese language learning company based in Korea; Jason Xu, managing partner at Modern Capital; and Eliot Shin, CEO of NEOPLY China (neoply.com). WeWork (wework.com) is SeekRoad’s collaborative partner, providing shared workspaces and an international startup community network for the team.
People can follow SeekRoad by visiting their official website (seekroad.co) or searching “SeekRoad” on Facebook (fb.com/seekroad18), Twitter (twitter.com/road_seek), WeChat (WeChat account: seekroad18) and Weibo (weibo.com/seekroad), and their YouTube channel SeekRoad.
For more information, please contact: