Reporter's Diary: Riding From Guangdong to Guangxi – a journey of family and friendship
Updated 11:43, 28-Jan-2019
By Omar Khan
01:34

Imagine getting on the back of a motorcycle with a stranger and then setting off on a seven-hour journey, traversing across curving highways and steep hillsides. 

Then, add a self-facing camera to the bike, a handheld gimbal and two vehicles riding alongside the bike as you make your way to a small, remote village. 

And then, if that wasn't enough, throw in several microphones and other recording equipment, which will ultimately turn the entire situation into a live studio riding on two wheels.

Well, that's exactly what I just experienced.

This morning, I met 19-year-old Mo Youjian, a young man from south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, who works in the neighboring Guangdong Province. 

Mo Youjian speaks with CGTN crew ahead of gearing up for his journey home to Guangxi, south China. /CGTN Photo

Mo Youjian speaks with CGTN crew ahead of gearing up for his journey home to Guangxi, south China. /CGTN Photo

Just from his demeanor I could see that he's a closed and quiet individual, perhaps uneasy around foreigners given that he's from a tiny village in Guangxi. I knew that for the next several hours, I'd be riding with him, and I'd be tasked with trying to learn more about his story and journey home.

We set off from Zhaoqing City, a famous pit-stop in Guangdong's west, which serves as a service center for all migrant workers headed home for the holiday. As I learned throughout my journey, Guangdong is home to millions of migrant workers who are far away from their families.

I was also fully aware that the journey of us two could be tough - it's the annual Chinese Spring Festival travel rush after all. We'd be surrounded by fellow motorcyclists, all trying to make it home on time with their packed and stacked bundles attached to their bikes.

It was smooth sailing from Zhaoqing however, and I took the opportunity to learn more about my driver's life. Back in Guangdong, Youjian works as a craftsman, a carpenter to be specific. He's been working at a furniture factory for just over a year, an opportunity that simply wouldn't be possible back in his village. 

The volunteers at the biker pit stop in Zhaoqing City, south China's Guangdong Province, tell me that they're providing soup, hot drinks, mobile phone charging and bike repairs all free of cost. /CGTN Photo

The volunteers at the biker pit stop in Zhaoqing City, south China's Guangdong Province, tell me that they're providing soup, hot drinks, mobile phone charging and bike repairs all free of cost. /CGTN Photo

I asked him if he eventually wanted to return to Guangxi one day, and seek a stable job there. His response was a resounding "yes."

We continued on his newly purchased bike, which set him back just over 10,000 yuan (just under 1,500 U.S. dollars) but, as he told me, getting the green motorcycle was something he always wanted, in his words, "a cool ride."

For the migrant workers making the exodus from Guangdong into the adjacent provinces, or even those much further away, getting home by bike is not only convenient, but a cheaper alternative when compared to plane, train tickets or other modes of transport. So for him, it wasn't only the "cool" choice, it was also the right one.

It was only when we weren't too far from his hometown – where his entire family of 13 people were waiting – that Youjian expressed any sense of fatigue. I myself, someone that's not a motorcycle enthusiast, had enjoyed the scenery and thrill of the ride. 

Mo Youjian's bike was transformed into a mobile studio. CGTN crew fitted his bike with cameras and microphones. /CGTN Photo

Mo Youjian's bike was transformed into a mobile studio. CGTN crew fitted his bike with cameras and microphones. /CGTN Photo

But for him, excited to see his family, focusing on the road ahead of him, both hands locked-in, I couldn't blame the young kid… it was an emotional and tiring journey home.

Pulling in to his family's courtyard is, without question, a moment I will never forget. 13 people, four generations; brothers, sisters and even neighbors, all awaiting Youjian's arrival. It was a moment where all you can do is step back, take in the heartfelt sight and reflect on what family is all about.

Here, for this family in Guangxi, that reunion is about welcoming in a new year, getting plenty of conversation and gossip, and, of course, eating delicious home-cooked meals. 

And for me, someone who made this journey alongside the young guy as an outsider, it was not only an honor to be warmly welcomed into this family's life, but a blessing that let me reflect on what it means to make time for loved ones.

Luckily for me, I'm headed home in two weeks to do exactly that.