China trip , the final part

Feb 23, 2003
I have now arrived in Xian a bit groggy having taken the red eye flight. I am traveling with my brother Mark. First stop is a fairly nice hotel in town, inside the first ring road. Did not realize when I booked the room online that motorcycles are not allowed inside the first ring road....:cry . Next stop to pick up the bike, and add a bit of bling I brought from Thailand. Here are the shop guys hard at work putting the bling on.

The finished bike from the side.

And from the front. Notice the new hand guards !

The guys did a great job, bike looks like new again. They also changed the front tire out , deciding that it took a big impact and was suspect due to hidden cord damage. Good idea on their part as I had overlooked that. So now have to drop the bike off at a hotel outside the ring road, and move there the next day. Mark was waiting for his plate to show up, so spent one more day at the new hotel. Upside was they had a really nice show outside at the beer garden. Beautiful dancing girls?? Got them !

A guy bending a steel bar with his throat? Covered !

Ok, more dancing girls....

And finally a little girl comes out and puts on a dancing show that was beyond belief. She had moves that would put a Bangkok gogo girl to shame, right down to pelvic thrusts..... Here she is in action.

Here is a picture showing her relative size to an adult.

Next day some city touring. Xian is a huge city, and suffers from some serious pollution problems.
No, that is not fog......My lungs hurt the whole time I was there.

Here is the bell tower which sort of defines the center of the city. The original bell itself is long gone . At the top was a sort of museum of antique shadow puppets.

Shadow puppets in action pose with a light box. They looked pretty realistic.

Here is the local stock exchange. The inside was absolutely packed with a people watching a huge
screen with flashing numbers showing the price fluctions of each stock. And outside were parked all
these cheap bicycles.....A very surreal scene to me since I make my living in the stock market. Just had a sense these people could not afford a market downturn. But who is say?? The market here is up about 100 percent this year alone.

Packed up and ready to roll. Open road here we come !!
Feb 23, 2003
By a fluke of fate we are able to make our way out of Xian rather easily. The detailing of the GPS map I downloaded for China was not very good. So to get out of major cities I would rely more on heading in the general correct direction, and looking for bus and truck traffic. Would have been really sweet to have a detailed map for all of China. So after rolling along towards Chengdu for a while it is time to eat. I spy a reasonable looking cafe in a small town with a bunch of people eating there. Hmmm, must be good. We stop our bikes in front of the astonished people who stare at us in amazement. I had a feeling they had not seen a white person up close before.....We indicate we are hungry, and a bunch of plates of food simply show up that were enough to feed ten people. Here is Mark surrounded by the watching people.

After we eat our fill we indicate we wish to pay for the bill. They clearly indicate back that there is no bill to pay, that the meal is on them. Huhhh ???
I then indicate back that if they will not allow us to pay the bill, I will have to start punching the head guy until they allow us to pay. This of course has then rolling with laughter. But in the end they won, and we left to big smiles.
Here is the send off by everyone. Another very enjoyable encounter.

So after two days we finally reach Chengdu. Mark needed to get the license plate for his bike, and I needed to do some minor post crash fix up work. The young guy at the shop had done a trip to Mongolia the year before, and had a big banner up at his shop showing him with a bunch of bikers there. His bike had a lot of these custom made stainless storage containers all over it. So of course I had to have one too.....Here it is installed. The end simply pulls straight off, and the small strings are safety keepers. It holds a two liter bottle of water perfectly.
Feb 23, 2003
So after a few days in Chengdu we headed off. My bike had completed post crash repairs, and at the last minute Mark was able to get the plate for his bike. Decision was to head due west, and try to get to Lhasa. Seasonally was cutting it a bit close to winter, but I really wanted to get there. Had failed two times before, figured third time would be the charm. Pretty uneventful ride out of Chengdu. By the way Chengdu is at a fairly low elevation. This fact will be more important later...Here is a waterfall along the way. One of the advantages of monsoon season.........

Felt really good to breathe clean air again.
First stop since heading into the real mountains was here, cannot remember the name of the town. This is the view out of my window, I was impressed by the river running right through the town. Elevation about 2700 meters. That night Mark has stopped at a street vendor and bought some walnuts.....

The next morning we were up early for a long ride day, more or less heading up into the high mountains. This area is in essence the edge of the Himalayas. When I saw Mark in the morning he looked tired and said he had hardly slept. Remember the walnuts?? He said we woke up to hear crunching noises, flipped on the light, and there was a huge rat eating free walnuts. :eek1 So he spent the rest of the night trying to save his walnuts from the rat. Think I would have tossed them out the window....By the was this was a three star business class hotel. No pictures, told him he should have called me up to take action picture of the rat.

Sights along the way. Here is a water powered prayer wheel.

A close up showing the paddles being hit by the water.

The long winding road along the mountains. Or maybe it just seemed long because my bike was slow ??

Action photo of Mark cresting one of the higher passes along the way.
Think lots of prayer flags there, cold , windy, and hard to breathe.....

A pretty common sight in Asia, sometime referred to as the the iron buffalo.
They are used to till fields with wide steel wheels, and with rubber wheels used for general transport. This particular one was belching a lot of black smoke, so the driver was wearing a closed face helmet to help protect him a bit from the smoke. Got a big wave from him after he realized I had taken his picture.
Feb 23, 2003
So by the end of the day we had reached Litang. The claim to fame for the city is that it is the highest in the world......The morning before we had been at low elevation, and now the following evening we were at over 13,000 feet. A bit of poor planning on my part. I knew things had started to go wrong when during the day I had developed a headache like my head was going to split in two. Yes the demon altitude sickness was waiting to kick our butts. By the time we reached the hotel in Litang we could barely climb the stairs to the room on the second floor.:eek1 I collapsed in bed, and was too wiped out to even go out to have dinner. Drank endless amounts of water, but it did not seem to stay in me. Maybe it was a result of the abrupt altitude change. So as the night wore on kept feeling worse from dehydration. Cannot sleep because of the thin air, the nail beds on my fingers are light blue, and I barely have the strength to go the bathroom........Ah the glamor of adventure travel !!! Just laid there and prayed for morning to come.
We both had dim sum earlier in the day for breakfast, but Mark had ended up with a bout of food poisoning from the ones he ate. So he was dealing with altitude sickness and bad food at the same time. The result of this double whammy is a fairly serious case of dehydration. By the time I saw him in the morning he looked terrible. So we made the decision to head down the mountain. Given the uncertain medical outlook it made no sense at all to try to press on to the Himalayas. So that morning we headed due south towards Shangri La. Mark is riding his bike along, and throwing up at the same time....
By the time the day had ended we were in a small town at a much lower elevation, and both felt a lot better. The next day we spent the night at Shangri La. Then further south to Dali, then cut down a small highway towards the Laos border. The road lines on the GPS can be a bit deceiving. The road looked perfect on the GPS, but turned out to be an older road with little maintenance. Slow with a lot of muddy parts. So the town I thought we could easily make by nightfall turned out to be impossible to reach before dark. Shit !!!! So now am thinking we will be riding hours in the dark on this winding mountain road. Then just as it is getting dark, this cute little town shows up like magic. It was not on my map, so a bit of good luck. Here is the main market street.

So remember. If you want to slip in the hotel bathroom, do it carefully !! There is always a fair amount of fractured English signs around. There was a story in the China news about how they are trying to clean
up all the signs in Beijing that have poor English before the Olympics.

Need to make some springs?? Just wind up your own from heavy wire !

A very talented street artist. First one I had seen in China. If you look carefully you can see some of the subjects were nudes which surprised me.

How about some snake wine???

My smiling breakfast maker. Sort of an instant buffet with different foods you pick out of the pots.

My final choices. Mystery meat, and eggs with a tomato sauce.

Getting rid of some of the mud from the day before. Not really a cosmetic issue. If you need to work on the bike or have a flat tire, it is a real pain when everything is covered in mud.
Feb 23, 2003
That day rolling along I spy a pineapple vendor along the road. Also the first ones I had seen. Sooooo of course I had to stop and try some. It was the most delicious pineapple I have ever eaten. When I tried to pay for it the lady smiled and refused, something which happened to me many times in China.

Rockfall blocking the road. This was a fairly common sight, with this one being a bit more extreme.
Normally either fallen rock or mud would sort of take up one lane and people would just go around it.
Or on the downhill side of the road it would be eaten away with part of the road missing. They would then
either pound stakes in the road to warn you, or put some rocks around it and paint them red.

One of the famous brick factories that got so much bad press a while ago. Did not see any slaves, just
a few guys loading up a truck with bricks.

So towards the end of the day we are winding along this very nice highway through the mountains.
As it was starting to get late we were thinking about where to stop. Towns were appearing at fairly regular intervals so were not too worried, and pressed on....Finally came out of the mountains just past dark, to enter into " night riding hell". There was no place to stay for 50 more kilometers. The road was rough, with a lot of construction going on. As we were now in the flatlands there was now a lot of heavy truck traffic throwing up dust from the road construction. And to top it off there were a lot of confusing intersections because of the road work. So much for my mantra of " never ride at night".....
I felt lucky to reach the town of Yunjinghong alive a couple of hours later.
Breakfast the next day across the street from the hotel. Fried bread dipped in soy milk.
Do not think this will catch on in the western world !!

Here the bikes are at the Chinese border with Laos. I do not think the Chinese immigration guy had ever seen foreign devils crossing the border on bikes, as he asked a lot of questions. He also asked me for my driving license. I kept a perfect straight face, and showed him my international license which has no meaning in China at all. He looked at it, and handed it back to me, and said I was done. Whew !!!

The border marker with Laos.


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Good on you for finishing the trip & your report. All excellent stuff. Too bad about the demon altitude sickness - something I thought would not be such a bother for a person of your 2 metre stature. When & where's the next ride? Is Lima S85 still on the books?
Feb 23, 2003
So now having left China, I am now in Laos. I have been here many times but always enjoy the slow laid back style of life here. So from the border at Boten I decided to head south to Vientiane where I wanted to see some friends. Mark had decided he wanted to be back in Thailand, so he split off and took the quicker way by crossing directly at Chiang Kong. I opted for the slow scenic way. When traveling in Laos think GREEN. Everywhere you look the dominant color is green, due to lush growth from the endless rain. Here are some mountains along the way.

Due to the heavy rain this guy has swerved around too far in a corner and slid into the ditch. I gave him a ride on the back of my bike to a nearby town to try to get some help for him.

Here is a road side vendor selling some dead birds. I told her speaking Laos with a smile on my face she had an evil heart for killing small cute birds. She laughed and said it was just food. The people in these areas are true hunter gathers, so are very close to the actual food itself. No supermarkets here.......

Fairly typical roadside village in Laos. The best part of traveling here is the endless waving and shouts of hello as you drive by.

The girls in China seemed a bit nervous and scared when near to me. Always felt this sort of reservation where ever I traveled there. Not a problem in Laos where the girls are fearless. These three village girls zoomed past blowing kisses at me. Oh yeah !!! Of course I had to sort of flag them down and get a picture of them.

Shades of green along the way, along with some rain on my lens.....

Trouble in paradise. Think on one of my power bike washings that dirt was driven into the output shaft seal. Now in Luang Prabang it started to leak. The shop did not have the exact seal, but modified a spring from another seal which seemed to help the leak.

Let see, have some time on my hands, and that stock seat is killing my ass.......Ok time for a seat remodel ! Glue foam blocks on the side for the rough shape.

Bread knife to smooth it out....

A shop visitor. Looking pretty sharp in that hat.

The finished product. Total cost was about 20 $.

Now getting ready to leave Luang Prabang in the rain.

Yet another truck off the road. Never saw so many accidents before, guess the endless rain really is a factor.

Village kids practicing their stilt walking. Never saw this before, they must have seen it on TV.

Shy village girls running away in terror as soon as I bring my camera out.

After 1.2 seconds the terror subsided and I was able to organize them into a better shot .

The main highway cutting south through the lush mountains.

Traveling through these villages you are stuck by the amazing amount of kids you see. So in a bit of labor efficiency the older kids are taking care of the younger kids. Not unusual to see a 6 year kid taking care of a 2 year old kid. Also you see a lot of teen age girls with kids on their hips as well. I have a sense the girls here are not waiting till they are 25 years old and " find themselves".........:rofl

Hot spring along the way. However there had been so much rain that the water was not hot because of the water flooding in. However made for a nice small waterfall.

A common and fun sight in Laos. Most of the girls always have an umbrella. Either it is raining and it keeps the water off them, or it also keeps the sun off of them. White skin is prized here, and the last thing they want is a sun tanned face. I keep telling them white women pay big money to go to sun tanning salons to get brown skin like Laos girls. They laugh and tell me I am a funny liar.....

Pride of ownership. This is a post-school bike cleaning session. Not that much different from us with our motorcycles. They are just younger !!

A young hunter with fresh kill. Felt sort of sorry for the bird, but the young boy was obviously was so proud I did not say a word.

Look at this accident carefully. What do you see ?


The correct answer is that the military truck was taking up most of the road while making the turn. The little pick up truck just go sort of pinched off with no road left for him. This has a lesson for motorcycle riders. When coming around these turns ,keep to the inside one meter of road. If you take the middle of the lane constantly, or if you swing wide on a turn like a street racer, your touring time in Asia will be quite short......

One of the advantages of riding in monsoon season, water is pouring out of the mountains everywhere. Sort of instant waterfalls.