Mojiang – Yuxi (110 km)

Day 33: Mojiang – Yuxi (110 km) – Distance travelled so far 1,887km “Too many kilometers for us humans….Anyone for a rest day? “

With a very good nights rest in our 3 bed room (very nice) we decide to take it easy today and complete a possible 70km to a place called Eshan about 200km or so south of Kunming. Our bodies are tired today and even at breakfast, we find it hard to muster up the courage to throw our beautifully toned legs over the frames of our Dawes Galaxy’s.

After a Munster final, half time dressing room speech from Mike firing us up……we pretty soon realised that…..it would take alot more than a Ger Loughnanesque pep talk to get us through this day. To try and pull ourselves out of this slump we decided to throw on some music and complete the first 20 km’s in pure silence….”Hello darkness my old friend…I have come to talk with you again……”

We made a hotel buddy, named “Jacko” last night who told us that the surrounding regions are home to many ethnic minority groups such as the Hani, Dai, Yi, Mongolian, Hui, Bai, Miao and Lahu people and that Yuxi (our next town) is well known for tobacco being the base of Asia’s first producing plant. Some of its brands are pretty famous too. So its tea and cigerettes tonight!!!


Dai Houses

Our cycle today takes us up some pretty steep climbs (about 5-8km or so) and happily down some lovely free-rolling downhills. The landscape is still filled with terraced Paddy fields and some lovely tropical spots teeming with birds and butterflies. (something which puzzlingly, had been missing from our adventures in Laos) We love birds us!!!

We figure that when we finally reach Kunming, that we will have to take a rest day or two once again to place the finishing touches on our tour to Lhasa in Tibet. It is a very bad time of the year though (being Chinese New Year and Spring Festival etc etc). Buses, Trains and pretty much any other form of transport is incredibly difficult to book during these periods, with many holiday goers standing or sleeping in the corridors of trains/buses for 45 hours!!!!!!


Lookin’ Good Mike

It is utter chaos and we are worried that we will be severley delayed trying to get to Tibet any time soon. We have been told that with ourselves and bikes that it could take weeks to organise the relevent permits and safe passage into both Tibet and Nepal!!!!! Eeeeekkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!

We suprise ourselves come lunch time…We have cycled 62km. We celebrate this mini milestone by singing “Jive Talkin” by the Bee Jees to a chorus of laughs from a huge crowd of monks,stall owners and kids playing soccer. We then proceed to greet our audience using Chinese saluations (Yes…we do make an effort!!) and sit to have food with them. Fluffy rice, sweet and sour pork, eggs, cheese and deep fried fish….Delightful indeed….

We do a have a minor problem today…my camera’s lense is not opening properly. Its a bit of a bummer as its fairly handy for quick snaps and the like. Might try and find a camera shop in Yuxi or Kunming to that one fixed.

We progress onwards after lunch and break the bank cycling another 40 kms pretty much without a break until we reach a twisted and battered sign for Yuxi….Whooo hoooooo!!!!!!!!!…The outskirts of the Yuxi region seems to have mini vine-yards…Wouldnt have put China down as a wine producing place, but they are there alright….Brian seems pretty pleased….Vino tonight so!!!!!

According to the Lonely Planet (our guide book) Yuxi is one of the fastest growing small cities in China so finding a decent hostel should be easy business. Also nearby Yuxi is Fuxian Lake, the second-deepest lake in China, where there have been discovered ancient fossils that are now in the possession of the Yuxi museum so there maybe something of interest here….We shall wait and see!!!!

We stay at a family run hostel (hard word to prounounce so wont try!!!!) and they try to entertain us with their pigeon English. We are bloody tired tonight though and trying to explain to our hosts that we wish to retire to our dorms is hard work…

After some polite excuses and straegically placed mid-sentenced yawns, we finally drop the golden hint…

Goodnight Folks from The Yunnan Province of Yuxi, China.

The Lads

Simao – Mojiang (115km)

Day 32: Simao – Mojiang (115km) – Distance travelled so far 1,777km “Chinese style spitting and The French Connection (unrelated)”

We woke from our truck-stopish motel and had a quick breakfast of eggs, bread, fruit and of course tea (plum and apple)….Tea is seriously good in China. We are pretty fast preparing for our bike days now. Our gear clips onto the bike and it is a case of….”start pedalling”…

We have decided to push to boat out again and try to head to a place called Mojiang (about 400km or so from Kunming)…It is a main trade route so we reckon that the roads should be relatively good (although we have been wrong many times before!!) Mojiang appears to have changed dramatically in recent years according to some locals we chatted to last night in Simao who said that there is much more development on the way. It all had to do with the expressway that connects Kunming with Jing Hong Apparently the government decided to give Mojiang a facelift and put it firmly on the tourist map. (Happy days for us!!!!)

Chinese people spit alot (even some really attractive women!!) which is kind of funny when they are mid-conversation. We come across fine examples of this at lunch-time in a place called Pu’er which is neither a county nor a province but a prefecture-level city, ranking below a province and above acounty in China’s administrative structure (Its all trivia isnt it!!!)…

Anyway back to this spitting business……Oh yes……Ordering eggs and rice off a heavy set male Chinese chef clearing his lungs out to the brink of passing out will never….ever……make you want to eat!!!!…..We opted for the fruit smoothies, the bread and the chicken drumsticks which were delicious and for a change contained a decent bit of meat on them!!!…

With a fair whack of the journey left we decided not to delay despite offers to stay and watch a traditional Chinese dance performance later that night….We do purchase some Pu-erh tea which is apparently famous in this region….Should be a nice treat later!!!….We are threathening to someday (soon) dress in traditional Chinese clothing and take some pics….What do you think?

The bikes are still holding up fine. We do find that on rocky and even to some extint on sandy roads that our thin Schwalbe tyes will slip and slide off the road. Its a little annoyance but we will battle on. (Bless their hearts!!)

Paddy fields (derived from the Malay word “padi” which means rice plant) are pretty much everywhere and to see them terraced into the hills with all the farmers up to their knees wading around is pretty class. According to archaeological wise guys and their various forms of dating, they reckon that this type of farming originated in China so we feel right in the thick of it at the moment. Its pretty class to see the man made mud bounderies seperating each raised paddy field from the next one. Check them out. Apologies for not being in them…I think Mike and I were off replacing one of my brake pads….


Terrace tea Plantations

Our cycle after this was approx another 45 or so kilometers, passing more and more waving/starring farmers and their crops….We would finally be in Mojiang where we could once again be greeted with more and more gasps and chuckles…Its fun stuff at the moment….Must try and get some of the locals into our weekly videos. Chinese are funny folks!!!!

We reach Mojiang. Our first impressions are that you could buy anything here…computers, mobile phones, pigs heads..(you know how these places operate!!) When we arrive the evening market appears to be still open so we decide that it is “feeding time” again…. We opt for some good local food. So claypot rice with a vege soup it is…..Its damn good and costs well under a euro!!!! Whooo Hoooooo. As we try to find a hotel we pass loads of roadside chinese playing cards (always roaring and shouting by the way).

This place has even got a mini Eifell Tower…What!!!!!! Yes it does…Oh la la!!!..Nice!!!!…Ohhhh!! la la!!!

We decide to stay in a really cheap hotel named The Tian Xi which is right in the middle of everything….Until tomorrow everyone…Stay tuned…

Keep the guestbook comments flowing and spread the good word of our adventures….

The lads.

Jinghong – Simao (115km)

Day 31: Jinghong – Simao (115km) – Distance travelled so far 1,662km “Swamps and Mosquito Concerns”

Feeling pretty fit and hunky, we were chomping at the bit this morning and decided to put in a nice bit of effort and targetted a place a good 140km or away from Jinghong. We get up early and depart for 7am heading along taking the old national road…the G213!!!


Leaving Jinghong

We are slightly concerned about completing a huge journey today, especially after having been sick for the last two days, so approx 40km in, we decide to take 15-20 minute rests every 20km or so.

I dont know what it is about chinese people, but they seem to reacted in different ways to our Thai and Laos roadsiders. When they see us sweating during our cycles, most of them laugh and give thumbs up. Some others stare in disbelief whilst others just do not pay any attention whatsoever.

Chinese road signage (especially to minor towns) is very hit and miss. During todays cycle we had to second guess ourselves, stopping to ask locals for directions on occasssions. Its pretty frustrating, having to stop the bikes all the time, but hey….Its better than going 20km out of our way!!!!!!…..We still cycle close to the Mekong River passing villages and homes of ethnic minorities. One of which is the “Dai people” who speak a language close to Lao and Northern Thai dialects and who are Hinayana Buddhist. (some trivia for you all……just in case it ever comes up in a tie break question down at the local!!!!)


Mike trying to figure out the way

We stop for lunch at a place named Sanchahe Park. It has a tropical feel to it and serves a good selection of fried fish and vege and of course rice. We devour some sweet and sour pork/noodles and rice washed down with some Chinese Green Tea. In Laos, coffee was our deal, but know we are firmly established tea drinkers…Ahghhh….Just like home…..Go on!!!! Go on!!!!! Go on!!!!!

We complete another 50 odd kilometers after this, using a lovely 15 km gentle downhill slope at one stage to our absolute advantage and reaching speeds of 40+ kilometers per hour…Yeahhh!!!!!

We have heard that there had been a malaria epidemic in Simao until a few years ago because of all the malarial swamps which surround it. They are now supposedly fairly safe, due to extensive government campaigns against mosquitoes. We are fairly happy beacuse, we lost our insect repellent somewhere in Laos (still a mystery that one!!!). We do not intend camping tonight, so we keep things at a consistant pace until we reach 100km seeing a sign for Simao some 30 km away…Yeahhhhh…..It was approx 3pm at this stage, so covering this distance in 2 hours or so would be a sweet deal….

After a bit of confusion finding the road to the town itself (lack of signs and bloody roadworks), we eventually got ourselves into cheap hostel searching modes.  The eventual winner being a clean hotel bordering on a truckstop on the western edge of town. It would be fine for tonight…Roll on some dinner, a hot shower and some shut eye!!!!

Night Folks….Zzzz

The Lads xxx

 

Jinghong (Rest Days)

Day 28,29&30: Jinghong (Rest Days) – Distance travelled so far 1,532km “Cafe Mei Mei/Chinese New Year and The Vomitting Bug”

About Day 28:

Our Chinese New Years Eve was a class experience. It was filled with firework explosions and plenty of Chinese beer and whiskey. We also sported our trademark John Fogerty check shirts which made the tourists flock all around once we hit the streets of Jinghong. We pretty quickly had a table of 10 consisting of Germans, French, and Aussie. We partied hard into the early hours and navigated our way back to our hostel in the middle of town….

Today our 28th day…..and as it is Chinese New Year, the hostels and hotels are extra expensive, but we are very lucky and charm the hotel reception girls using a very unorthadox approach. It is called “Google language translator” and using some cleverly structured sentences of persuasion and a pinch or two of Irish persistance we get our hostel for the 2 nights for about 15 euro in total. The room comes with with air con, a pipping hot shower and with two big beds so It was worth it in the end.


Mekong River flood planes outside Jinghong

Our Rest days in Jinghong will be spent organising ways to get into Tibet. Cycling with our type of bicycle and gear up to and into Tibet is an absolute non runner. Coupled with this slight annoyance, temperatures are currently stradling between 5 degrees or -10 degrees celcuis with the roads pertty much snow-covered in sections. We are also not equipped for camping in sub-zero conditions and purchasing the necessary gear to do so (for the possible 2 week stint) would be far too costly. It would most certainly throw our currently tight budgets right out of kilter.

We know that we can only get into Tibet with a specially obtained permit and also within a pre-booked and organised a tour. The permit will also only be granted if we can prove that we have a detailed and fixed iternary on arrival there. It is total beurocracy to be honest and these permits, organised tours and general hoop jumping exercises are seen as nothing more other than a juicy cash cow…..a sheer blatent money racket/scheme targetted directly at tourists!! Its seems like Tibet is all about milking your money and you just have to ride to waves and be happy!!!

We do know 2 things, that we are hell-bent on going to Everest Basecamp (which also requires special permits) in Tibet and then heading on to Kathmandu in Nepal. From there we shall head into India (prob Delhi) and then to Pakistan leading into Iran after that……We are extremely exited about this stage of the trip. It may require us to take a train into Lhasa in Tibet which will take us in excess of 16,000 ft on a vertible highway in the skies…..Have a read about it…It sounds brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!

The new China Tibet Train:

The “Sky Train”, “Lhasa Express”, “Rocket to the rooftop of the world”, “World’s highest railway”; regardless of what its called, This qinghai tibet train is truly an engineering wonder.

The train is equipped with 2 Oxygen sources, 1) released throughout the cabins when reaching Golmund and heading into Tibet and 2) Personal Oxygen Canisters in case you feel light headed and only available from
Tibet to Golmund or from Golmund to Tibet (see tibet train oxygen ).

Between Xining and Golmud the tracks pass by Qinghai Lake – China’s largest. But it’s the Golmud-to-Lhasa sector which offers the most breath-taking scenery. That segment also offers the record-breakers: the world’s highest passenger railroad (at Tanggula Pass – elevation: 16,640 ft.; 5072m) and the world’s highest railroad tunnel (Fenghuoshan – elevation: 16,093 ft.; 4905m). Over 80% of the journey is at altitudes above 13,000 feet; fully half the track on this sector was laid atop permafrost.

Much of the travel involves crossing a massive plateau nicknamed “The Rooftop of the World.”  Special diesel engines capable of operating efficiently at 3-mile-high altitudes were designed; an internal garbage disposal system was employed to reduce pollution along the route.

Major attractions along the Tibet by Train route include:

Xining: Xinging, a city of just over one million inhabitants, is situated in a remote valley on the eastern edge of Qinghai Province – occupying China’s rugged, cold-weather northern “frontier.” The city is best known for the Kumbum Monastery (Ta’er Temple), one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist sites in China. The Gelugpa sect was founded here by Tsongkhapa, and the hillside monastery was erected in 1560 in his honor. Up to 2,000 monks can gather to chant sutras in the Great Hall of Meditation, whose roof is supported by carpet-wrapped pillars. The Hall of Butter Sculpture includes colorfully-painted yak butter scutptures depicting important events in Buddhist history. Once home to over 3,000 monks, Kumbum Monastery now houses 600.

Qinghai Lake: The lake is about the size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, though Qinghai Lake is not nearly as salty. Its waters support a variety of fish which, in turn, support a variety of birds – many of which call on Qinghai Lake during their bi-annual migrations. Commorants, gesse, cranes and swans are plentiful here. The summer months bring herds of yak. Over twenty rivers and streams flow into the lake but there’s no outflow; evaporation maintains its level.

Golmud: The city’s economic mainstays are its burgeoning mineral, oil and chemical industries. But to the visitor Golmud’s main function is “transportation hub.” Through here funnels traffic from China’s eastern and northern cities to the lone highway (and now, the lone railroad) leading southwest to Lhasa. To many visitors passing through, Golmud’s surrounding landscape presents an almost lunar look; at an almost 10,000-foot elevation, the region is virtually treeless.

A deluxe 5 star sightseeing train will soon be up and running on the newly-completely Qinghai-Tibet railway, Ma Jiantang, vice governor of Qinghai province, revealed during a tourism promotion meeting held in Shanghai.


About Day 29:

Last night we took it handy enough, we have met a girl from Australia named Michelle, who is cycling on her own down South and back along the same routes we have covered. We trade info and books with her whilst slagging her contraption of a bike…which has strings, bells, bungie chords and ropes galore keeping things together…Its all good sport so we take some pics…Best of luck Michelle. Hope the bike is ok again. We will keep tabs on your crazyguyonabike blog….


On your bike Michelle!!

Our night (especially mine) took a bit of a nose dive tonight…I woke up very sick in the middle of the night with what I could only presume was food poisoning from the Beef Lasagne I ate only a couple of hours previously. The further compound my midnight misery….I was faced with “The Squatter”….which is basically a hole in the ground, a common substitute for a western style toilet over here….Coupled with this slight inconvenience, Spittitty poops had now entered my vocabularly….I wish not to talk about these experiences any further!!!!!!!!….but to sum up……I was pretty ill all round!!!!

Thankfully, I felt better towards the end of the next day, but to our horror, Brian and Mike came down with very similar sickness. Tiredness and vomitting!!! We put it down to a bug and contemplate taking another rest day as a precaution. We also took out the medicine box for the first time, using our anti-sickness (mottillium) and dirrorea tablets (immodium). We reckoned they worked fine.


Brian feeling like a million dollars 2 hours before he hit the squatter floor


Mike about 6 hours before he got struck down

We also said farewell to Michelle as she worked her way down to Laos…….

About Day 30:

We are still feeling the effects of the sickness and wonder if anyone else has been affected. We try to have some breakfast but somehow it doesnt feel appealing at all this morning. There is an Elephant Sanctuary some 50km outside Jinghong on our way to Kunming, so we decide to cycle at a slow pace to it…in an effort to make up some lost ground and also to get out of Jinghong….(places get boring after a day or two!!!)….With this in mind, we plan our route. As it transpires, It is entirely uphill and roughly 86 fahrenheit. Approx 4km into the cycle, we collectively decide that we are too ill to continue…..We therefore turnback and hit back to Jinghong and take the 3rd rest day. We cannot really complain to be fair because up until now we have been on schedule and in the full of our health each day…….That night we rest alot and pack our gear well to hopefully get on the bikes and head to Kunming which will is approx 500km away from Jinghong. We are going to try and hit the motorway (boring boring!!!) for a couple of these days to pick up on our lost time…so we plan to do some serious kilometers in the coming days……

Until our next cycling day….Talk soon!!!

The Lads.

Mengla – Jinghong (114km)

Day 27: Mengla – Jinghong (114km) – Distance travelled so far 1,532km “Chinese New Year”

We decide to get up and head to Jinghong at 7am. The journey, although mostly flat is still over 100km. The shops here prove to yield better supplies than in Laos, so we stock up on bread, cheese, rasin cakes and these delicious honey rice bars which we keep stumbling across. Our supplies make us a little more confident that China should be ok for bike food/camping supplies.

The route is pretty similar to yesterdays and we put in 23km per hour stints easily. There are some minor towns leading to Jinghong, one of such, we stop at to get some water, fresh fruit and nuts. The traffic on these roads is pretty mad, with it being the a road requirment to “honk” when you are approaching/or passing out all forms of transport on your side of the road. Must be some sort of an early warning/prevention system.

Our bikes are also beginning to look fairly weathered at this stage. We last gave them a once over back in Vang Vieng and we reckon they are due another service very soon. We shall be putting up some pics of our gear/our equipment very soon so keep your eyes pealed for that..


This very helpful man guided us out of Mengla, he was the only english
speaker we found here

We reach Jinghong for about 4ish. The first thing we notice is backpackers….We are bloody delighted to see this as we can finally chat to some English speakers. Jinghong is a really vibrant place and is loaded with really great cafe’s and restuarants which have English menus and Wi-Fi. This is very welcomed news and should set up a rest day or two here very nicely indeed. We also quickly figure out that it is the eve of The Chinese New Year when explosions (I am not kidding) of fireworks and crackers go off every couple of minutes. They have to be the loudest things we have ever heard making conversation next to impossible…Crazy stuff altogether!!!!!


Happy New Year, again!

We pearch ourselves in the Mei Mei Cafe and order everthing from Chicken Corden Bleu to Pork chops. We also catch up with some emails using our mini computer and a healthy supply of Wi-Fi.

Tomorrow and possibly the next day, we have some serious planning to do. It has become apparent to us that our hopes of cycling in Tibet at this time of the year are pretty unrealistic (Minus 30 degrees unrealistic) with some peaks climbing 6,000m. Coupled with these slight oxegen starving inconveniances, there are some paperwork/permit issues with gaining entry overland from China into Tibet…..

It is a real pity that our initial Thailand to Myanmar into India route was not possible. On the flip side we have got to cycle all Northern Thailand, Laos and now China so although we feel hampered having to take a long route around bypassing Burma/Myanmar, we have taken so many great experiences from these countries. There is no doubt that getting up to Tibet will prove problematic…but one thing that we are sure off from speaking to many professional cyclists..is that cycling at this time of the year may kill us. Taking this on board we shall explore every last possibility of getting into Tibet and possibly Katmandu with our bikes.

Therefore these 2 days or more will pretty much be crucial in deciding our route going forward. Our routes have been pretty much ad-libed since our beginning some 25 odd days ago in Bangkok so we now have to be a way more critical and decisive in terms of our routes going forward and in particular with our personal safety. It is great fun planning our weeks though….For example, we have spotted a Wild Elephant Reserve some 50km North of Jinghong so we will definatley take this in on route up to Chengdu (some 600km away).

We would like to take time out to sincerley thank all who have left comments and especially to whom who have donated. The Share a Dream Foundation is a self funded charity and recieves no government hand outs so you are directly part of something very positive and will no doubt be putting a smile on a childs face in the future. For all our family, firends, girlfirends and newly made friends, we would like to thank you dearly for taking such a positive interest in the cycle. It means alot to think that we are providing a mini source of entertainment fo you all back home and around the world…

Rememeber to keep spreading the good word about our Thaireland Expedition and The Share a Dream Foundation to every man, woman and child you see.

Thanks once again. Your constant support is a great source of joy and entertainment for us too.

Cheers from all of us.

 

Boten – Mengla (42km)

Day 26: Boten – Mengla (42km) – Distance travelled so far 1,418km “Have we possibly eaten Rex? and the story of 6 digit pin numbers

The journey will be short enough to Mengla and we are pretty certain that the town will provide us with a decent selection of cafe’s and hostels. We are due a rest day so we will have to see what the town holds for us,,,,

The motorway is littered with huge tunnels. We are so happy that The Chinese Road Authorities decide to go through mountains as opposed to around them/up them in Laos. We are a little sceptical as to whether we should be cycling on the highways…But hey, the roads are really good and they are flat. Some valleys around us have suffered from alot of deforestation but this is quickly forgotten about when we observe some beautiful farming land which is terraced right up on the side of the hills. This guys are masters of irrigation…The rice fields around us are pretty class to be fair.

When we reach Mengla, we are amazed that it is packed with shops….There is a marked absense of cafe’s of any kind which gives us the sense that this town will defintalty proove to be a disappointment. We book into a hotel where they bizarrely place us on the very top floor (no lifts here). Moving our gear up 5 flights of break-your-neck stairs was great fun though!!!!

There is a little problem with ATM’s here….They dont apear to accept international cards….They take 6 digit pin numbers and we quickly realise that getting money here will be an ordeal….We have enough yuan to see us through to the next town and we discuss the logistics about taking a rest day here at all…We shall have a think about it and decide to-night.

We were pretty hungry by this stage so we decided to get some street food. This experience proved to be very costly indeed. Our street vendor…(Lets name the guy Richard)…proceeded to disregard our initial order of 2 meat sqewers each by placing at least 16-20 on his mobile BBQ. The meat arrived down to us peppered in every spice available in China. The meat was also rubber in texture and we wonderded what type of animal had been sqewered at all!!!!!!!

When it came to payment, things got heated with the street vendor demanding 48 Yuan for the meal. After much tension and a bit of a crowd looking at us, we decided to pay the man, place our tails between our legs and move on. Gutted that we got conned, we try to look for a Chinese Restaurant. We eventually stumble upon a family run place and have the meal of our lives. This meal was about 9 courses, cost about 50 yuan and made our street food experience even more painfull!!!

Tonight we have decided to head out for a good few drinks. We havent been properly out “on the tiles” in a long time either so we decide to head to a decent wateringhole. One problem, their isn’t any!!!!!!

Every place we try is pretty much a karaoke bar, dissected off into rooms for about 10 or more people to go in and have a laugh with each other in true Chinese karaoke fashion. We asked could we join in with another crowd but unfortunately, most of the owners could not see it working out!!!!!!

So with our singing voices intact (and possible our integrities!!!) we head back to the hotel cursing our bad luck. Another day awaits tomorrow and we pray that our next destination (Jinghong) will finally throw a bit of luck our way. With this hope in our minds, we take off our makeup, put on our night gowns and slip into our beds…..

Talk to you all tomorrow..

Bon Soir

Na Buachailli

 

Udomxay – Boten (Laos/China Border) (82km)

Day 25: Udomxay – Boten (Laos/China Border) (82km) – Distance travelled so far 1,376km“Bye Bye Laos…Hello China”

Good nights rest was had despite our floorboard matresses….Udomxay is a bit of a dead end town and is not very touristic. We do however bump into a very interesting couple (Andrew and Bianci) who tell us of their plans to purchase a fishing boat/canoe (one of those really long and thin ones) and paddle right down the mighty Mekong river. We are blown away by this. If you are reading this guys, best of luck to you and keep us informed on how ye got on. Oh yeah…when we met these guys, they told us about how they hired their motorbike which came with a free, dead squirrel….Bizarre I know, but seemed to have brought them some good fortunes…

Our cycle today will certainly take us into China. It is a really proud day for us and once again we cannot believe that yet another country will be struck from our list of about 19. Our bodies and bikes have taken some bruising but we are still pedalling. Our mornings cycle is pretty slow. The roads are non-existant at times and its beggers belief that the road itself is a major trade road.

We are finding the food in Laos pretty difficult. Some small village shops only stock packaged goods, most of which are nearing expiry dates. Restaurant food is poor and we figure that ordering meat will ordinarily only yield us juicy bones. We do eat alot of fruit and rice but its probably not substantial enough considering our journey lengths and the heated conditions which we constantly battle. We have been buying bottled water since we left Bangkok and it has worked out really well so far, but trying to find such a luxury in a remote little village 1,200ft up on Laos mountain is proving to be a struggle.

We stop for lunch outside Boten in a little village which turns out to have a primary school too. As soon as we sit down we are quickly besieged by the entire village. We sing to them and take some pictures whilst offering them some left over sweets we had in our bags….They were a very cheerful bunch and just stared constantly at us in disbelief. We sang some crazy songs which made them buckle over with laughter………


The kids seem very interested in what we’re cooking up


One of the Village Children playing we a home made Kite

After this we had to complete another 40km….The road ahead of us is still very grim looking, but luckily doesnt appear to be too mountaineous. The houses are becoming more and more Chinese looking architecturally, likewise with the people. We are getting closer and we celebrate with some pictures….“Wlecom to China”…….Wonder if that person still works at their printing station.

We have heard that Border Control in China can be a little testing and we fear that not having a clearly demonstrative exit point from China and also secured accomodation, it may cause some problems at entry. We are once again proved completely wrong with our passports and visa stamps sorted out in a matter of minutes….The Border Police are pretty much in awe of us too and we feel that our Irish Passports carry an added bit of clout during the whole process……With our backs to Laos, we cycle forth into China….Whooooooo hooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We do some currency exchange at the border, swopping our crazy Kip for Yuan…….(For example….I handed over 10Kip notes and got back one Yuan Note)…….

We shall be headin to Mengla in the morning so we decide to call it a night at a reasonably priced hotel just outside Boten. We are delighted and have a glass of sherry before bedtime…..Zzzzzzzzzzzz

Talk to you all tomorrow.

The boys

Only the lonely
(r.orbison/melson)

Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah
Ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah
Oh-oh-oh-oh-wah
Only the lonely

Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
Know the way I feel tonight (ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah)
Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
Know this feelin aint right (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)

There goes my baby
There goes my heart
Theyre gone forever
So far apart

But only the lonely
Know why
I cry
Only the lonely

Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah
Ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah
Oh-oh-oh-oh-wah
Only the lonely

Only the lonely
Know the heartaches Ive been through
Only the lonely
Know I cried and cried for you

Maybe tomorrow
A new romance
No more sorrow
But thats the chance – you gotta take
If your lonely heart breaks
Only the lonely

Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah

 

Pakmong – Udomxay (84km)

Day 24: Pakmong – Udomxay (84km) – Distance travelled so far 1,294km “Haven’t we been here before?…Oh Yes….Hell on Earth!!!!”

Todays cycle should be fairly tough with our map indicating some lengthy climbs. With breakfast eaten and out the door for 7am, we hit some of the worst roads imaginable….Tarless and with more bumps than a dodgy 21st birthday party, we figure that yesterdays pleasure cruise has cleverly set us up for a nasty dose of reality checks….Thats right…we are still in Laos….and the hills have not simply disappeared over night!!!!

We continue to meet lots of touring bikers along the way. They all have less gear than us and find the going very challanging. It is nice to stop when we meet any cyclists as they normally have some interesting information be it, roadside stops, hot springs, waterfalls or otherwise relevent road details. We in turn inform them about our travelled roads (no matter how tourterous!!!!) and of course of our guesthouse/hostel stays etc…

The traffic on these roads is slow with 500-1000ft falls on the right hand side of us at times….This doesn’t stop them driving eratically around bends though….I would hate to be using public transport around here….Its too way to risky and the buses appear to be packed to the maximum….

Today, we feel like we have taken hundreds of breaks….Cycling uphill with loaded bikes and with our gears to set to “granny” still feels painful. We figure that the last week has taken its toll on our bodies. We have probably being pushing too hard. We also figure that we have lost weight and because of this feeling, we plan to weigh oursleves at the next best oppurtunity….Blood sweat and……..etc etc….

We reach Udomxay at about 4ish with our tongues hanging out and with rear ends similar to baboons…..The journey was long for us and all we want to do is chill out….We wheel in the bikes into our nice and cheap hotel. It has no hot water which does suck…Birdbaths all round for the ladies then!!!! Whooooooo Hooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We head out for yet another meal of chicken bones. These ones costing a bit more and once again served with smiles all round…Well isnt that just feckin perfect!!!!

Until tomorrow….Remember to keep those guestbook comments coming in. They are much appreciated…..

Also…Have you got a challange or a dare for us????…..We are open to suggestions!! (please remember that this is a family website)

Slan

The lads

Luang Prabang – Pakmong (110km)

Day 22: Luang Prabang – Pakmong (110km) – Distance travelled so far 1,210km “Flat roads – Mekong by our sides”

Rest Day (Day Before)

Our Rest day in Luang Prabang was great. We ate as much crap/junk food as we could….We also caught up with emails/phone/skype etc etc….Mike and I went off for a cycle (Yes everyone….on our rest day!!!) to the Tat Kuang Si waterfall and national park about 50km outside town….The waterfall/park was great fun. It had a wild-life reserve with black bears and tigers. It also had rope slides at a swimming section of the falls. Sporting our finest Y/Fronts (only kidden!!!) we bounced about for a good hour or so…..

Our cycle to Pakmong

The morning was fresh so we hit the road at about 7:30ish. Breakfast was a doddle at the Bon Cafe (pancakes, Lao coffee (coffee with condensed milk laying on the bottom of the cup……Delicious), cornflakes and fruit. We know that todays cycle is going to be fairly flat so with this in mind we push to cover 100km and more…..

With the Mekong River runing parallel to us we cycle some really nice, undulating roads to Pakmong. Its a refreshing break from the steep Laos mountains that darn nearly turned us into whimpering kids a few days earlier.

The roads are littered with adults and kids beating and rolling what look like rushes/weeds. It has boggled us for the last few weeks as to know what they are doing. Many of the touring cyclists we have asked didnt know either…Were they preparing some contraband substance or merely using the plants/shoots to make clothing from???…… Today we have found out……They use the rushes to make brooms and dusters. Mystery solved for the lads!!!!

The roads (although flat) are becoming more and more like dirt tracks. This is primarily due to the huge amount of mud/land slides from huge mountains towering over them….We imagine that rainy season make the roads at some points untravellable/unnavigable/impassible (Are any of these even words???). Anyway….what we are sayin is that at some points they are generally “light on tar”

We reach Pakmong at a good time covering over our 100km target…We stay in a cheap family run guesthouse….Food here is becoming increasingly less palletable…with most of it processed in nature. When we do ask things like meat (and especially chicken), we always seem to get warmed up chicken bones. It is really annoying especially when our stomachs are eating at our backbones and…..(get ready to laugh!!)………when it is served up to us with a beautiful Laos smile!!!!!

We settle for oranges, rice, noodles, coffee and some rice bars which is substantial enough. After stimulating conversation with our host family (Chatting in the sense of us gesturing, pointing and looking confused) we decide to call it a night. We will attempt to cycle to Udomxay tomorrow. It should proove more difficult than today and will be about 84km or so….

Talk in the morning. Slan.

Kiew Ka Cham – Luang Prabang (80km)

Day 21: Kiew Ka Cham – Luang Prabang (80km) -Distance travelled so far 1,100km“Oh…Why so many mountains????”

We knew that when we woke up this morning that in another 80km or so we would be half way through Laos and looking at a very well deserved rest day in a fairly cultural spot.

The route today had a couple of great things going for it……For example, about 5km into our morning cycle, we could look forward to a 23km decent which literally made our journey less than 60km for the day. The mornings are becoming very cold though and 1/4 way down the mountain we cycle into very thick fog, which turns our exposed fingers and knuckles blue and makes the hair on our now bronzed legs stand on end….

We cycle some 15km uphill to once again get a great downhill decent….Yeahhh!!!!!……Today’s cycle is turning out to be fine!!!!…..


Brian at the top of the 15k climb. An extremely rewarding feeling
seeing the road already travelled below

After a lunch of sticky rice and warmed up chicken bones (I kid you not), we finish off the remaining 25km of the day stopping to share fruit and a tin of tuna with some local kids on the way…..

Once we reach Luang Prabang, we find a reasonably priced hostel for 2 nights (tomorrow being a rest day) and head into the vibrant town for food. Luang Prabang has both natural and historical sites. Among the natural tourism sites, there are the Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves. Tourists may also ride elephants. At the end of the main street of Luang Prabang is a night market where stalls sell shirts, bracelets, tea – suitable souvenirs. The Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and the Wat Xieng Thong temple are among the most well known historical sites.

Tomorrow, we hope to enjoy the day off and perhaps do some caving here….The place here is really nice and seems to be less commercialised than Vang Vieng….

Until our next cycle day….Take care and talk soon.

The Lads