Thailand To Everest Base Camp, Tibet

harrythefinn

Ol'Timer
Aug 7, 2003
365
21
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Just back from an awesome ride to Tibet, approx 12,000kms. Took the V Strom XT 2016 from Chonburi, via Laos , Yunnan China to Tibet and back to Korat. Joined an AT 750 and BMW 650 in Pakse , and a mate from CM on a CB500X joined in Lung Nam Than , Laos. Did a pretty boring run from Pakse up 13 most of the way, by passing Vientianne and onto Luangprabang. Nice stop along the Mekong , hot air balloons in the morning , just before a thunder storm made then all abort.
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Luang Nam Than was a rest stop, oil change ( a week in ) and re group to all arrive at the Boten border on the correct time to meet the Chinese guide as per the permits. Boten was a a bit of a pain with traffic , but actually in the end quite painless entry into China. Mengla beckoned for the vehicle checks and temporary Chinese licence and motorcycle registration card. These are quite important as most check points wanted to see them, and no fuel
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in Tibet without them.
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Most of the Chinese roads were motorway transit sections to Lincang, some of the tunnels were a bit scary due to road works inside. Shangrilah was a pleasant stop at the nice Compass Hotel with attached restaurant and bakery. First sights on snowy peaks and cool weather. Mandatory visit the Leaping Tiger Gorge, and on further up the gorge where the local Chinese tourists never visit and is probably more interesting than the gorge itself, well the road is anyway, vertigo starting !
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Into Tibet proper we followed the 318 highway Yangling, Markam, Zogang, Bomi, Mainling,Gyatsar to Lhasa.

Lhasa was a 2 day stop as some new comers joined (allow them to acclimatise ) to be riding Jaliang 600 (BMW copies). Oil change at KTM shop, many BMW GS's , Harleys , an Indian in their shop, more like a rich mans , man cave. Potola monastery tour was a highlight, has been the base for Tibetan government and religion for centuries , prior to the occupation.
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There is a big difference in the east (of Lhasa) in vegetation and scenery, more green and we had rain and sleet in the forested areas and passes. West of Lhasa is almost a plateu and quite barren with stony areas, sand dunes etc. But the scenery was always changing, mountains and mountain passes, hairpin after hairpin, roads carved into mountain sides, trucks with water cooled brakes making life interesting. Wild life, goats, sheep, yaks, cows,dogs and a monkey.
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The tunnels were interesting and once you have a few yaks running amok in a pitch dark tunnel and car parts strewn around, the heart beat goes up, and forgetting to breathe soon lets you know more oxygen is needed, every extra motion adds more demands on the lungs.
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The road to base camp itself is about a 100kms of hairpins and new tarmac , probably motorcycle heaven. Hard to capture the road in pictures as it snakes up and down the mountain passes. Base camp itself has to be accessed by bus from the parking lot, the last few hundred meters a tough walk in the thin air. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and had a beautiful view of the peak. Even got sunburnt. The climbers preparing for the summit are camped a little further up , with no access for us tourists. The peak itself is another 4000m or so higher than our vantage point, but truely a once in a lifetime experience.
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A few hours at the base camp and we start the journey back via a slight more southern route , skirting the Himalayas, with scary roads along the steep rocky cliffs . At Gyanze we had a frozen pass with trucks all over the roads, nearly everyone dropped their bikes at least once on the black ice. A night at the Yeti Hotel sorted us out. Near Zedang had a good view of a glacier.
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Heading further south and lower elevations brought pine forest and winding roads following raging rivers. Had side detour to a hotel with a hot spring, I am guessing the hottest pool was probably 50 C , so nothing for it but to jump in after all the snow, sleet and hail we had endured.
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The return via China once again motorways with amazing bridges and millions of tons of concrete, and hot. China is a real let down after the sensory overload of Tibetan colours and sights. A quick run to the border of Laos, across Laos and into Thailand at Chiang Kong, trickle down to Phrae via backroads and onto 11, 225, to Korat.
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Just over 30 days, 12k , 3 oil changes, one loose mirror, one drop on the ice,approx 450 litres of petrol.
Have to say if you have a chance, GO !
 

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DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
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Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
Amazing trip Harri
How did all the bikes go - any big positives or negatives with any of the bikes?
Was there an overall agreement who had the best bike for that trip?
 

harrythefinn

Ol'Timer
Aug 7, 2003
365
21
18
Got thousands of photos. Doubt if the forum could handle them all.
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The luggage is the Suzuki SW copy top box for tools and daily easy to access needs, like waterproofs,8 litre tank bag from Enduristan, worked well and waterproof. Bumbag for important documents. One 50 litre waterproof duffle bag, which for most of the trip was in the support van with the Tibetan guide, I usually carry all my gear on the bike. Not having the duffle on daily made it a bit easier. Decided against taking the hard panniers , due to filtering in the traffic. There were many occasions when hard boxes would have held up progress in the road works, truck jams, and cities.
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Re the bikes, I would say EFI is almost necessary unless you can tune and jet your own carbs. Saying that the EFI Jailings had a few fueling problems, could have been dirty fuel. Power was a little down on the V Strom at altitude (around 5000m) , but not affecting the bike as much as say the carbed AT. The newer bikes had less problems, older rentals did wheel bearings, water pumps, the AT a stator, CB500X done the fork seals and assorted acccessories falling off. Maintenance and spanner bashing would solve most problems.
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Have to consider that the highway speed limit for bikes in China is 90kmh, and over a 100 if spotted will land you in trouble. The speed limits in Tibet varied ,usually 40kmh, but 30,20 and even 10kmh being posted. The major checkpoints would somehow average your speed and check , so a prudent stop usually required between checkpoints. Checkpoints varied from a casual wave through, to a bag check, passport visa check, licence check, vehicle permit check, tour group permit check. Mostly armed SWAT labelled serious looking Chinese, but usually polite and friendly. Made the mistake of saying thank you in Tibetan once clearing a check point and told to stop again, given a lecture in saying thank you in Chinese.
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Fuel is another interesting story. 92 and 95 usually on offer. But, the process of obtaining it for bikes was convoluted and always varied so you never exactly knew how to get fuel. Mostly it was, park the bike in the designated area AWAY from the bowsers, go inside with Chinese licence and bike permit, the sellers filled in a coupon with your details, what octane and how much fuel in Yuan. Get the coupon copy, go find a metal garden can that doesn't leak, go to bowser, attendant fills to the requested Yuan amount, walk the can to the bike and fill. Variations on this, one coupon for all bikes, no coupon, pre pay, can't carry your own can, if security cameras not working or pointed away , use the bowser. Can take a while to fill multiple bikes with locals also getting fuel, usually only one or two fuel cans. It was said that bikes can catch fire as the reason???
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brian_bkk

Ol'Timer
Mar 30, 2010
2,139
278
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Great stuff Harri... Brilliant.
Chatting with Justin.. Sounds like you both had a blast.

Tibet interests me.. China Highways.. No interest.
Think will fly in and rent when I make the journey.

Cheers
Brian.
 

ianyonok

Ol'Timer
Dec 9, 2008
1,017
661
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Thanks for that Harry. Reminded me of my trip to Base Camp a few years ago, on a Bullet with the Himalayan Roadrunners.
Do they still have that novel toilet at the Rombuk monastery GH?
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They needed to do some work on the heating there too. Full riding gear under the blankets.
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We had black ice issues as well. Damn cold trip actually.
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Only dirt roads to base camp at that time.
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Cold, crap food and accommodation, but Oh the scenery...
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The special sight of the biggest mountain...
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harrythefinn

Ol'Timer
Aug 7, 2003
365
21
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Be aware you need to have Tibet permits in advance of travelling , need Tibet entry permit (won't get on a flight to Lhasa without it) and Tibet Alien travel permit. Also need to get temporary Chinese Licence, bike papers with rental. As far as I am aware the Chinese licence can be had with a Thai licence if riding into China, otherwise an International licence is needed to issue the temp Chinese licence in advance prio to Lhasa. ie, most people fly somewhere into China (like Kunming) get the permits and licences , then fly into Lhasa, the bikes are usually shipped in from China as I don't know if any rentals are allowed in Tibet itself. There seems to be no way to travel without a guide, the checkpoints will not let you past without the guide and permits.Allow a few days for getting used to the altitude, it does really take it out of you if exerting your self or even walking stairs.
 

harrythefinn

Ol'Timer
Aug 7, 2003
365
21
18
Thanks for that Harry. Reminded me of my trip to Base Camp a few years ago, on a Bullet with the Himalayan Roadrunners.
I don't think any of the toilets have improved or even been cleaned since you were there ! Had some with piles of shit feet deep around the hole, pretty gross. The new road to base camp is a marvel, can just imagine the old road being not much fun.

Yes cold, yes, ice, most GH had electric blankets if they worked. The food on our tour was excellent , mainly due to our van driver being a food nut and basically working out what we couldn't eat and then ordering for us, can't say I remember a bad meal.

We stayed at New Tigri and did the round trip to base camp the same day( new road) , didn't stay at the monastery. Very lucky with the weather, beautiful and sunny at Everest.
 
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harrythefinn

Ol'Timer
Aug 7, 2003
365
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O.Daniel

New Member
Sep 25, 2017
2
0
1
Bangkok Thailand
Hi Harry,
Looks like a great trip. I would love to be going to Tibet with my bike. Its a dream come true! :)

Some question here:
a. can I take my own bike there? (Its a Thai registered BMW GS800)
b. can you please detail all documents needed and where they can be issued?

I will really be grateful for this.

Thanks,
Oded
 

harrythefinn

Ol'Timer
Aug 7, 2003
365
21
18
To everyone that has asked about the documentation , procedure etc

I did the trip with a group organised by Zed Tours from UK. As I understand
It is a requirement to have a local guide and local tour company to organise all
the paperwork. Thai motorcycles are Ok, need the green book in own name, visa app for China needs an itenerary and sponsor from China. The temporary bike registration and riders licence they also organise. We travelled fairly loosely during the day, but if any check point or police stop you cannot pass without the guide and his permits. It may be possible independantly but I don't know the details.