Yawn, just another China trip....


Feb 23, 2003
It has been a while since my last China trip. I certainly had an interesting time, but I was a bit disappointed I did not make it to Lhasa. So I woke up one morning, and decided it was time for one more effort to get there. So Chiang Mai, Thailand to Lhasa, Tibet, here I come. This trip I am going to try to cut down my accidents as well. But there are a few obstacles in the way..........
1. It is a hell of a long way. Solution ? Lots of riding .
2.The city of Chiang Mai has been seizing bikes that have foreign plates. So for the last few months my Chinese bike has been cowering in my shop. Solution? Leave at 6 in the morning when the police are sleeping.
3. I smuggled the bike into the country with no import papers. Solution? Try to quickly board the ferry across the Mekong before the customs guy sees me. If he accosts me, plan is to look very sorry and slip him a medium sized bribe.
4. The Chinese registration on the bike has expired. Solution? At the Chinese - Laos border when they are carefully
examining every document, try to look befuddled and hopeful at the same time.
5. No foreigner is allowed to enter Tibet without a special travel permit, and you are certainly not allowed to travel alone. By Chinese law you must book a tour through a travel agent. Solution? Cross the border into Tibet at 5 in the morning when it is not manned. If spotted, keep my visor down, and hunch down to try to look like a Chinese rider.

So that is what I am facing. Plus extreme altitude, bad roads, snow, cold rain, ice, etc.....
No need to waste time worrying, just go !!! But all trips should have a certain amount of preparation . For high altitude training, I rode today to the highest point in Thailand, 2565 meters. A bit lower than the passes in the Himalayas....:rofl

A Thai girl I was riding with, in front of the sign to prove the extreme altitude.

The bike.....A Qing Qi 200, with 14 snarling Chinese horses on tap waiting to be unleashed. I have spent a fair amount of time prepping this bike out. If you go to China to buy one it will not look like this one....
Side view.

Back view.

Cockpit view.

The front ....

And a finally a picture with a friend to keep you guys interested.

Tomorrow morning I hit the road, bound for Laos the first day, then onto China. Am pretty sure this should be an interesting trip..........

An early morning departure out of Chiang Mai, and a smooth uneventful trip to the border of Laos at the city of Chiang Kong. I had to get the bike out on the sly, as I did not have any import papers for the bike when I brought it in. The trick is to follow a truck down the ramp to the ferry, and quickly get on board before the customs guy sees you. I zoom down but miss the ferry by seconds. So had to pull the bike around the river bank out of view of customs and wait for the next ferry. 20 minutes later I was aboard and headed to Laos.

Another smooth segment with a bit of rain coming into Luang Nam Tha, which is a town in Laos near the Chinese border. There I met up with my long term friend David Unkovich for dinner. He is the owner of the Africa Twin in the picture.

Up to the border in the morning, a pretty short trip. Here is the greeting sign just before you cross.

I was asked first if I was sick , or had been near any pigs.....
Then at immigration I presented my passport, while dressed in biking gear. He then sort of fearfully asked where my bike was from. He was stunned to see I had all the proper paperwork for a Chinese bike. Big smiles, a couple of stamps on the paperwork, a couple questions as to why the bike had been gone for two years, and then I was in !!!

Rolling the perfect brand new toll road leading north.

Sights along the way headed north. Did you ever wonder where the tea in the cup you are holding comes from? Wonder no more. The size and scale of these terraced hills of tea
was staggering. It went on as far as the eye could see. Here some workers snapped with a zoom.



Here is a long shot of the road to the Laos border. This is a very expensive road, with lots of tunnels and raised portions
to keep the road fairly straight and level.

Today was a pretty good day, had only one near death experience. I am sure this rate will pick up faster a bit later in the trip. Coming into a long tunnel from the bright daylight, I carefully turn on my lights and flip up my sunglasses. About halfway into the tunnel I see bright lights coming directly at me in my lane. WTF !!! I jam on the brakes, pull over to the edge of the raised sidewalk, and wait while seconds later a large truck comes past me, missing me by inches. For some reason they were doing roadwork in the lane of the oncoming traffic. So the tunnel workers simply coned off the lane, and directed the traffic into my lane for a length of about 200 meters.
Amazing China? It pays to be really careful in a land of no liability.. Here you see the cones starting to move traffic into my lane.

Am now spending my first night in the town of Samao, a very pleasant medium sized town.
Met some really friendly people, and had a great dinner. The small restaurant even had a picture
menu, saving me the trouble of wondering around the restaurant staring at people's food while deciding what to order. The famous point and shoot method. The soup was red hot.....

While I was checking into the very nice small hotel my first night in China , I asked the man who was helping me what kind of business it was across the street with the garish neon lights. He informed me that I could get a massage there.......

After dinner of course I had to stop there and check it out. There were maybe 5 girls lounging there in fairly fetching outfits. As I cannot speak a word of Chinese, and they cannot speak a word of English, I pantamimed a massage with a quizzical look on my face. She smiled broadly, shook her head, and then took her index finger and poked it in and out rapidly in the circle formed by the thumb and forefinger of her other hand...:rofl :rofl I thought the other girls were going to die laughing. I took a pass, as no one really caught my eye. Sadly no girls inside looked remotely like the advertising girls on the sign outside. :deal

It is pretty common to put your bike inside the hotel lobby. I always had a feeling there was real fear on the part of the hotel that if something happened to a foreign owned bike, it would be serious trouble for them. Because I know this I try to keep my bike fairly clean.

Next morning an early start, and off into light rain. In South East Asia I never worry much about rain. The rain is warm, and localized so if you keep on riding you will generally ride out of the rain. Oopps.... Wrong again. I rode for a while with no rain gear until I was soaked,
and by the time I put the gear on it was in essence too late. I was soaked to the skin, and starting to shiver. Note to self, put on rain gear early.....
While riding along slowly going uphill on the very twisty road, I had my first low side in 30 years. The road had been heavily patched with perfectly smooth asphalt. So just starting into a turn, the front tire hit one of these patches and went down instantly, no chance for a Rossi style recovery... You can see up in front of the bike one of the patches.

After laying there stunned for a second, I realized I was fine except for a bit of hurt pride and a broken handguard. However, I was pinned down by the bike, with my left leg under the left side stand off bar for the soft bags. I simply could not pull it out. When you are pinned like that you have no leverage whatsoever to pick the bike up. For about one minute I thought it was sort of funny. I was going to pull out my camera and take a picture of myself stuck. Then common sense kicked in, as I realized I was now in the middle of the road, could not move, was just past the apex of a blind curve, on a road heavily traveled by trucks.....So I flipped the ignition back on so I could honk the horn in case I heard a truck coming, and now REALLY began in ernest to get out. Finally after maybe five minutes of struggling I was able to get free. Whew....
Not many pictures from that day due to the pouring rain all day. I felt sort of bad for the hotel I was checking into. As I am standing there
waiting for them to finish the paperwork, there is a large puddle of water forming around my feet from the water running off me.

Next day I woke up feeling 55 years old and like I had an accident. Everything in my body was sore. Wait !! I am 55, and I do remember an accident......Took three aspirin, put tiger balm on my back and neck, and headed out towards Dali. The highway sort of heads towards Kunming before looping back and heading west. Very light rain today so I start the day in rain gear this time. :evil Another day, another near death experience... Coming into a turn, I see a large truck just entering the turn headed towards me. Next thing I know there is a car that made a really bad blind pass on the truck in my lane headed right for me. SHIT !!!!!!! Luckily have been riding in Asia enough that I tend to ride on the outer edge of the lane to give myself some breathing room just for events like this. I jammed the brakes, went to the very edge of the road next to the ditch, while he went past just missing me. That would have been one very ugly accident if he had done a head-on into me. Sorry, no photo....
A long hard day on the bike, and I realize there is no way I can make Dali. So finally stop in a fairly large city to look for a hotel.
I stop at two small reasonable looking hotels, who in a flurry of Chinese in essence let me know that they would not rent me a room.
WTF ??? Finally at the third one, the very pleasant girl shows me upstairs to a great room for 30 Yuan, just my style. Not great and not awful. As we go downstairs to check in, the manager shows up and takes a piece of paper and keeps writing " no " on it. I am tired, hungry,
and getting tired of this nonsense. The manager finally calls someone who spoke very good English, who explained to me that I could only
check into " foreigner approved hotels ". I thought that dated back to the days of Chairman Mao, when China was afraid if a foreigner stayed in a substandard hotel he might leave China with a bad impression. So the government picked out certain hotels, and foreigners
could only stay there. I never had this problem the last time I stayed in China for two months, I had no idea why it was popping up now.
So the manager actually walks me about half a kilometer to an officially approved hotel . Of course it is way too expensive, but I have no choice in the matter. The starting price was 260 Yuan, but I bargained it down to 200 Yuan. That is about 32 US dollars......
The room was great. Here are some pictures.


Next day the check out nightmare begins. I stop at the lobby to drop the key, then go outside to start packing the bike. After a while I go back inside to get my 200 Yuan deposit back. There on the counter I see two towels from my room, with the receptionist girls giving me accusing looks. ???? The day before I had arrived with a lot of road dirt on me, as well as on my face. So some of the dirt got on the towel.
I thought that was the job of a towel. Guess not in China. So they wanted to deduct some amount of Yuan from my deposit. I was so amazed I had I just had to go out, get my camera and take a picture of the scene. They were not very happy with that, and quickly gave me the full 200 Yuan back. Here are the offending towels.

I had no time to eat dinner the night before, so I was really hungry. This was a 3 star hotel, which normally have a pretty good free breakfast. So when I ask / pantamime about eating, big smiles appear, and they lead me off to a dining room. Except it seems a bit swanky....I receive a pretty good breakfast, nothing special. After I am done the service girls lead me back to the front desk where they now demand 50 Yuan for the breakfast. This seems a bit odd to me, as that amount was more then I had paid for my hotel room the night before, and in the past every nice expensive hotel I stayed at had complimentary breakfast. Soooo...... I refused to pay on principal. Lots of discussions, managers going back and forth, phone calls to mysterious people , but in the end they gave up and just told me to go. Here I am at the VIP breakfast room watching the NBA playoffs.

As I finish getting the bike ready to go, I happen to glance down under the bike. Hmmmmm, looks like trouble.....

Yep....the underside of the bike just under the shift lever.

Still plenty of oil in the bike, I figure I will fix it when I get to Dali. So finish loading, and head out.
Sights long the way. Here is brick factory.

Rice farming. My back hurts just watching.....

Old school using buffalos to pull a sort of sled with teeth on the bottom to soften the ground before planting.

Background is rice ready to be harvested, and foreground is shoots that have just been planted.

Here is an ancestor planted in the middle of the field. First time I had seen this. Maybe instead of being in a graveyard full of dead
strangers, it would be more usefull to be out in the field making sure your heirs are taking care of the farm business...

Navigation.....Almost impossible without a GPS. The trip before I had a so-so highway map that more or less worked for me. So this year I got hold of the official Garmin map of China, complete with very detailed street level mapping of all the cities. So am thinking this will be a piece of cake. Wrong.....I found out later that the Chinese government made Garmin produce a China map with a 600 meter offset built into it. Then when you buy a Garmin unit in China, the hardware somehow takes this offset out. My Garmin was bought in America, so guess what ?? Yes, it is offset time for me.......:cry :cry
Here is another of many mystery intersections, with the road looking exactly the same in both directions.

And here is the Garmin view at the exact same spot. Blue line is my track, purple is the track where I want to go, and yellow is the highway.

Not really a big issue on the highway, as you know about where you are anyway. The trouble really begins in the large cities which are like a maze. There is very seldom a bypass road, generally the highway goes straight into a city, make a bunch of turns , and then ends up headed out on the the other side. Here is where a GPS is critical. With no detail that is correct, I would have to scale the screen way out,
and then just head in the correct direction, trying to follow trucks. Here is one one my favorite screens. Because the GPS is not really locating itself on the map properly, it can lead to some funny routing. Here is my favorite....

As I know I need to change out the oil seal on the shifter when I get to Dali, I figure I should clean the bike before I hit town. It has dirt picked up from detour sections of the road. Here waiting patiently...

Car wash girl hard at work.

As I am rolling into the town of Dali, I see a large professional looking shop that says Suzuki on the front. Hey, wait a minute, my engine is made by Suzuki !! Perfect !! I stop in, they indicate to me no problem to fix it. A guy is sent out for the exact part, and it is expertly installed. Total cost including a spare seal is about $ 6 US dollars. Here hard at work. The guy on the left is stitching up the broken hand guard. When I showed them where it was split, they immediately brought out some epoxy.
I said no, and showed them how to neatly stitch it up with stainless wire ,which is much stronger.
Big smiles all around , and a thumbs up...

Finally reach a guest house in Dali and call it quits for a couple days. Great place, with a little shop in the back to work on the bike. After four days on the road , there are always a few tiny repairs as well as some organizing that needs to be done. Here are the inner bags I found in Thailand that fit perfect into the soft bags. Pretty handy, as most hotels want you to take everything off the bike. So instead of dismounting the softbags, I just pull these inner bags out, and leave the soft bags on the bike hanging open. Here is I am getting everything sorted. This system works really well. So a good night's sleep, then off north towards Lijiang for new adventures.....


Oct 15, 2006
Khuang Nai
As the Siver mentioned,, it sound so easy,, so it came to my mind,, is it really So easy to cross borders basically illegally (th-Lao)
but basically who cares,, just love to follow your process...

Keep us informed,when u have timeplace


Feb 23, 2003
I am pretty proud of the bike prep. I sort of combined the knowledge from the last China trip, along with my pretty extensive SE Asia experience. So far everything is just about perfect. I changed out the rear tire the other day. Before they put the wheel back on, I checked the wheel bearings by sticking my finger in and slowly rotating it around.
There were some rough spots so I decided to change them. The Chinese shop guys were blown away when I whipped out both wheel bearings from my spare parts bag.........


Oct 15, 2006
Khuang Nai
rhiekel wrote: The Chinese shop guys were blown away when I whipped out both wheel bearings from my spare parts bag.........
55555555,, he mostlikey saw dollar sign's in his head as bearing's would need to be ordered and more money to him.

Good work matey, ride safely and keep us posted, really intresting to read and follow you


Dec 28, 2005
nice ride story waiting more story from u bro..intrested to ride china but ..
a lot of paperwork to do..cannot ride without escot...as info from china embesy in Kuala Lumpur(Malaysia).


Feb 23, 2003
While in Dali I decided my rear tire was looking a bit thin for a long trip. I would guess it had well over half the tread left, but I decided to change it anyway. Amazingly enough, the tire had over 11,000 kilometers on it. Had a feeling it was a very hard compound, thus giving me trouble in the rain.

On with the new !! I checked the wheel bearings at the same time. A little roughness, so changed them as well. The tire was 320 Yuan which seemed a bit steep, but I just smiled and paid it.

And of course put on the mandatory Chinese lettered mud flap extension. Nearly every bike in the mountains has one, so I figured I would just join the crowd. No idea what it says, could be " I am a bozo, please keep well back"...........

The lovely guest house I stayed at in Dali, the Jade Emu. The day I got there was the 100th day of the daughter of the owners, Dave and Song. So they put on a free delicious dinner for all the guests staying there. A lot of fun. Here is the courtyard view.

Smiling staff. They both spoke excellent English. So I would tell them what I wanted to say in Chinese.
They would then speak it into my Iphone to record it, so I can just play it when I need it. I started off with " I would like an inexpensive place to stay", and moved onto " You have very beautiful eyes".
They were dying with laughter, but got into the spirit of it by suggesting things like" Your hair is very silky".

Iphone in action. Has a great dictionary in it. Punch in English , and it spits out the Chinese word.

Here are my phrases. I just tap on one, then the Iphone will speak what the Chinese girls put in.
Hopefully they will match up. They were laughing so much they could have put in " Please slap me".

So after some great Yunan coffee , I head off towards Lijiang. Sights along the way. Here is a rice farmer with new school methods, the " iron buffalo". Certainly in Thailand, it is used far more that the real buffalo.

First sight of snow in the mountains outside of Lijiang. Probably boring to you Swiss guys, but it was sort of exciting to me not having seen it since my last China trip.

Stayed at the same guest house I stayed at last time. Nice place close to old town, but not very motorcycle friendly.....First up a ramp I grabbed lying nearby.

Decided to grow some balls, and just rode it down the stairs on the other side. Notice my backup GPS now installed. It has a rough map, but at least it will track accurately. With the two together the navigation is much better.

While in my room I start going over and sorting my stuff. I notice now that the vibrations from the snarling 14 horses has now sort of powderized my critical supply of Diamox. This is my important defense against high altitude sickness. Hmmmmm.....

Solution ? Find a straw, then fold over one end and tape it closed. I then took one of my last remaining pills and powderized it. I then carefully poured the powder from the one pill into the straw. Saw where it filled it up to, then cut the straw at that exact point. So now each day just fill my little measuring straw until full, and then take the medicine. Here is is ready for action.

Arrived early afternoon, so time for a bit of walking around old town Lijiang. The entire area was destroyed by an earthquake in 1996. But it was rebuilt to look old, and it actually sort of works.

A local bike, with a lot of accessories for good luck. Maybe that is what I need...

Pretty cool at night, with a lot of lighting.

I met a university student that I knew from my last trip. We had a dinner of BBQ Yak meat along side
one of the many streams that flow though the new " old " city.

Along one small walking street there were a lot of bars that had live dancing girls. Their dancing was a sort of fascinating mix of the old and the new. Very interesting to watch, with powerful movements.

Beauty and the beast.......She was a local tribal girl dressed in a traditional outfit. The seven disks on her head represent the seven prominent stars seen in the nothern sky for this area.

There were a LOT of people out having a good time. According to my friend, they were mostly local people enjoying a night on the town.

Next day is catch up day. Sort, clean, recharge batteries, throw away useless stuff, repack, etc.......
The bike has no center stand. This makes it difficult to lube the chain by spinning the tire, as well as trying to fix a flat tire. So time to make a stick with a notch at the top. Lean the bike over on the side stand a bit, then just jam the stick under the chain adjuster. Works perfect, holding the rear tire in the air about three inches. The price was right too.. Now truly ready for Tibet..


Oct 15, 2006
Khuang Nai
Again, very intresting to read and that "Stick" is what cleaver people do when lacking something,there is always away around... :wink:

Looking forward your next stop and you seems to have local"Friend's in every port,,mean town....55555


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Just got into Vte & checked out your posts.
Great stuff there man - you're right out there doing the biz.
Now after reading it too, I know why your SMS said "no accident today." You'd already had one! :roll:

I can relate to your low side, as on R13 south from LPQ there are a lot of new patches of tar for road repairs, that in the wet are just like ice. More than once these almost caught me out on the flat in the straight heading into Vte from Vang Vieng! Any unnecessary movement of the bike or throttle & you could immediately feel the bike starting to slide.

Take care, keep riding & reporting.

Last but not least, I'm not sure about your early morning start from Chiang Mai though. :lol: :lol:


Apr 20, 2008
Hi Robert

Great pics and ride stories of you trip. It's amazing that you have the way to ride into China again with your QQ bike despite you're are CNX farang....hehehe.....whereas I'm a M'sian Chinese can't do that.

Lokking forward to read your ride reports and wish you " Yat Loh Shung Foong"........chinese saying.....".Smooth journey all the way".


Lip Meng


Dec 18, 2007
Great stuff Robert!!

Have missed your adventures. Loved your planning for border crossings.......am taking notes.

Mmmmmm white powder? In China? Chasing the Dragon?

Look forward to your next installment. Stay upright.


Oct 17, 2006

when I read many decades ago Sven Hedin's Transhimalaya I was fill with awe too.
And he made it as simple sounding as you do today, only a bit sooner=

Between 1893 and 1932 Hedin led five major expeditions and several lesser ones.
The first (1893-1897) started from Orenburg, crossed the Ural and Pamir mountains, went over the Takla Maklan Desert twice, the second trip nearly proving fatal, and reached Lop Nor, the great salt lake of the ancient Chinese geographers. From kashgar he visited the Pamirs again and then made his first entry into Tibet. After returning to Khotan, he followed the Tarim River to Lop Nor, crossed Inner Mongolia, and arrived at Peking. He had covered 6,300 miles in 1,300 days= nearly 5 miles per day !!!
If you dont know his travels you may want to read his accounts. They are very well written. What would be really interesting to see if anything has NOT changed in 120 years.



Dec 6, 2005
rhiekel wrote:

Let's see... an enormous attention attracting white guy, carrying a suspicious white powder in snap lock plastic bag with a little straw, sneaking across the border into Tibet, under the nose of notoriously humourless Chinese officials... can't see where it could possibly go wrong :rofl:

great write up Robert, keep it coming...

one question, what is this a map off???

Cockpit view.



Oct 15, 2006
Khuang Nai
daewoo wrote: [quote quote=rhiekel]<img src=""one" question, what is this a map off???

Cockpit view.
http://ktm-boy.smugmug.com/photos/533920782_amus2-L.jpg" alt="" />


That looks like opening screen just before it loads maps in Zumo when one can install one's personalized wall paper,,i.e. family, GF or similar things


Dec 6, 2005
Marco wrote:
That looks like opening screen just before it loads maps in Zumo when one can install one's personalized wall paper,,i.e. family, GF or similar things
Maybe I should have inserted a :lol: to make sure there was no misunderstanding...

I was going to suggest it might be a map of the Australian island state, Tasmania... but it is from the wrong side... have a look at a map and you might understand... :lol:




Feb 23, 2003
Departing from Lijiang , I decide to take the long way through Tiger Leaping Gorge. Here is a look down at the middle rapids. That is a walkway that has been built recently.

No need to worry about injury if you blow a turn, as your death will be a certainty. But because of oncoming traffic, the best plan is to keep to the outside of the road. If you become wimpy and ride the center of the road, and meet a bus coming at you, you will have nowhere to go. So then your choice will be either a head on, or a wild veer which will send you off the cliff.....:deal Slowly and lots of horn honking is the way to do it.

Here is link to a video ofme riding Tiger Leaping Gorge. Pretty bumpy as the camera is mounted directly on the handle bars. Have to come up with a different mount !! Let me know if you can view it, I have never tried this before.....

This detour through the gorge is about 100 kilometers longer getting to Shangri La , but it is very scenic and the road is almost perfect.

Here is a local guy turning a round object into a square object, all by hand. Think a chain saw would come in handy here.


Feb 23, 2003
Finally reach Shangri La. Am not really sure why they call it that as it bears little resemblance to the city of the book Lost Horizons.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shangri-La It is located on a 3200 meter high windswept plateau. It is cool by day, and downright cold by night. There were a lot of Chinese backpackers which I was not used to seeing. All the backpackers I meet in Thailand are foreigners. Two nights and one day there doing work organizing stuff on my bike. Also spent a lot of time trying to get a better Garmin map of China. This 400 meter offset the Chinese government forced Garmin to put in their map is killing me in large Chinese cities which are like a maze. Then on the way north to Tibet. I did meet a great guy named Kevin who runs an equipment rental place in Shangri La. He gave me some tips on the locations of the checkpoints which made me feel I could avoid them. So after a couple days there, time to head north to Tibet for the final try. Here is a yak attack. They are very docile, just pass slowly so as not to startle them. The closest one on the right is looking at me, and probably thinking " Hey moto man, I've got the horns. You mess with me your gonna get them".

As I am riding towards the border feeling pretty bad ass, I see this guy walking along the road. I stop to chat with him. He is excited to see me, and takes several pictures of me. Turns out he is walking to Lhasa. :eek1
I take one picture of him, then he carefully gets this flag from the back of his pack and unfurls it so I can take a picture of it. No idea what it says....

Reach my first major pass. The bike is running a bit weak, but ok. 2nd gear only for the last section. :deal Yep for sure not in the states any more...

Nearly 14,000 feet. Ok, you guys in India crossing 18,000 foot passes stop laughing. :nono I came up to altitude slowly, and was also taking Diamox. Felt absolutely great. :clap

Nail beds still nice and pink. An easy visual way to check if you are being oxygenated properly. On my last China trip where I went up too fast the nail beds were light blue at the high passes....

Passed a small village where this old woman was spinning a giant prayer wheel. She also had rosary beads in her hand.


My birth year !!!!! These markers are every few kilometers. The number 1953 actually represents the distance from that marker to Beijing.
I think it is a subtle way of letting these far off provinces know that Beijing is the head of the country. It seemed a bit silly, a bit like putting in milage markers in Arizona that had the distance to Washington DC in America.

Here making asphalt at about 4000 meters. China is making this entire road into a major highway which will be named the Yunan Tibet Highway. The scope of the project is astonishing, amounting to in essence a 200 kilometer roadworks. It was amazing to watch these guys work hard at such high altitude, breaking rocks and moving lots of gravel around.

The mountains start to get higher, and completely devoid of any vegetation. It felt like a mountainous desert. The river below in this gorge in a young and small Mekong River. Seemed odd to me, as I am used to a huge and brown Mekong River along Laos and Thailand.

Some kind of mining operation alongside the river. There was a scary foot path in from both sides. Yet they had this tractor and trailer operating in the mine. They must have brought it in in pieces.

Dramatic vistas, complete with a waterfall created by excess water from a hydroelectric plant.

I am now getting up close to the Tibet border. I did pass one sleepy checkpoint, the kind where the bar is always up and the guy is inside watching TV. I just blast on through closely following behing a car full of some new Chinese friends. Do not think the guy ever saw me in the cloud of dust.....It is now getting late.

I am on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, but my new car friends insist there is a town ahead with food and accomadation, indicated by them of putting two hands together next to your head, and cocking your head at an angle. Am thinking this is perfect. The local knowledge I had from Shangri La was that the next check point was in Mangkang, well inside Tibet. That was only about 40 kilometers ahead. Visions of glory were dancing in my head......I now planned on getting up at 4 in the morning, and going through the Mangkang checkpoint before they opened. Yeah baby !!!!!
As it was almost dark, and I did not want to lose the car guys because I knew they were going to be stopping very soon , I was following them closely. Come around a corner, and BAMM, checkpoint time. No way to turn back, as soon as they saw me three police men come running up to my bike.
Where is your permit ? Uhhh I do not have one. I tried to get one , but was refused.
You must turn back, this is a special zone and you are not permitted.
My passport is taken away, and I am led to a small restaurant next to the checkpoint. The police did not speak a word of English, however there was a young Tibetan student there who spoke very good English. He acted as a interpeter during my grilling. First I am told that Tibet is dangerous and I should not go. I laughed and said I liked danger. Then they said if something happened to me they would be responsible.
I told them it was far more dangerous to ride in big cities. If a bus ran me over in Chengdu, who would be responsible then ?
It was a classic circular arguement, because in the end I know they will not let me in. At one point they show me a copy of a Tibetan travel permit. I tell them thanks in Chinese, and grab it. That got a big laugh from them. They then wanted to take a bunch of pictures of me with various officials there. ????? So I went along. When the head guy who was stopping me took his picture with me, I put a mean look on my face and put my fist next to his face like a playful threat. His friends were dying with laughter. But in the end, there was no way they were going to let me in. So in essence I was detained, since they kept my passport, and told me I had to spend the night in this terrible room that
truckers used I think. The checkpoint closed down at around midnight, so they kept my passport so I could not sneak through in the middle of the night. In the morning I packed up my stuff, got my passport back, and was ready to head back. I did snap one picture of the checkpoint before I left. The head guy comes running over and keeps saying no. I cannot begin to understand the attitude. They are worried about me taking a picture of a bar across the road ????? I took it anyway, and left to go back down.


Feb 23, 2003
Here is a dejected Beemer boy, on the way back down the mountain. A smile did pop out, just because I am such a stunning enviroment.

I did meet some Chinese long distance bikers about 100 kilometers down the road from the checkpoint. They guys are beyond cool. Hardcore to the max, they take 125 CC machines, put on a top box, strap on a duffel bag, and head off on long distance rides. Of course they greet me like a long lost brother. :clap They then pictures took of me with every one of them. Using my Iphone translator and a map, I indicate that I had been turned back from the checkpoint. They invite to travel to Lhasa with them, acting like the checkpoint was not problem. Hmmmm. I tried to ask them if one of them was a government official, concept being maybe with a bit of juice they could get me through. Answer seemed to be no. I think they were just being hospitable, not realizing the difficulties of a foreigner getting into Tibet. If I went back with them and got turned around again, it would have been another frustating 200 kilometer dirt road round trip. In the end I regretfully said good bye to them and wished them luck..

I did not feel so bad, because traveling in this area you are in fact in Tibet. No matter what the Chinese maps say, this was Tibet. If you look at the housing and the faces of the people, they are clearly Tibetan. I loved the rammed dirt houses.

Back to Shangri La to spend the night, the head out the next day to Dali. As I am leaving I see some kids alongside the road. Am thinking this would make a great picture, as they were dressed up in tribal outfits, but were grubby like any other kid in the world. As soon as I stop they come running up to me. When I pull my camera out, the negotiating starts.....The leader , the boy, holds up one finger which I think means 1 yuan. Ten would have been a bit steep.... As soon as my money clip appears, four more fingers pop up. As there are four of them, I now indicate 4 yuan with four fingers. Smile of agreement..... As I get ready to take the picture they break into song and dance. Not really sure what the two fingers pointed at me means....

Yumm !! Roadside strawberries, some of the best I have ever had. That basket was 10 yuan, about 1.50 US. They were grown nearby.

Field usage of The Stick for chain oiling. Don't leave home without it......

When you see this......

This could be around the corner. I love these massive repairs that are all done right on the road. On a multiday job, they just camp by the road until the job is done. I have seen complete engine overhauls done on large trucks just like this.

About 60 kilometers outside of Dali, I come upon this accident scene. Think it had just happened. No one had stopped, and there were two guys by the edge of the road. One guy was pretty cut up pretty bad , and had either broke his leg or hip as he could not move. His friend was propping him up into a torso upright postion. I saw several cars go by, with no one stopping except me. I had a feeling the guy went through the windshield due to the cuts all over him. I brought over my first aid kit. I do not carry much in the way of pills, but have a LOT of stuff to stop blood. I indicate I want to help him stop some of the bleeding, but he politely refuses. I think he was worried about him being a burden to me. He kept saying thank you in Chinese. He was one tough guy, as I could see he was going partly into shock. Yet he was holding a blood soaked mobile phone making calls......
In a surreal moment, the first vehicle on the scene was a tow truck. A minute later a local police SUV showed up. 5 guys picked him up, and put him in the dusty cargo area in the back of the police vehicle. He only moaned a bit when they were moving his broken leg.
Then a bizarre scene happened. While the guy is lying in the back of the SUV in severe pain,and going into shock, a long discussion takes place about something. I am no medical expert, but certainly know about " the golden hour". After a traumatic injury, you need to get to a hospital as soon as possible in case there are internal injuries such as bleeding. I listen to this dicussion for a couple of minutes in amazement, then I become EXTREMELY insistent that the police need to take this guy to the hospital. They then left right away. I went to the friend of the injured guy, and using my Iphone translator wished good luck for his friend. He then thanked me profusely. I rode away a bit slower, really really hoping I do not have an accident here...

Getting closer to Dali, I come upon an army camp by the side of the road. As I am zipping along, I see two Chinese tanks with crew members parked on a dirt road next to the highway. Cool !!! I love tanks. So of course I have to turn around and go back to look at them.
As I stop on the on the road about 6 meters from the tanks, I am giving them a good long look to see how they are built. Not very impressive, they looked like something out of WW2. A far cry from an Abrams M1 battle tank from America. After about 10 seconds the crew becomes very agitated, point down the road, and keep shouting " go ". I was dying to take a picture, but Mama didn't raise no fool, I knew it was time to go. So sorry , no pictures............A bit later down the road I get passed by an exact Chinese copy of a US Army Humvee.


Feb 23, 2003
Traveling here in many ways is fascinating, but also very frustrating. The simplest things become a long drawn out problem. I have traveled to many countries, and it is always interesting to me to compare and contrast behavior in different countries. If a Chinese biker went to America to tour arouind, I wonder how he would feel if:
1. The American government had stipulated that the Garmin map for America
was off by 400 meters, so now he would be lost in every large city.
2. He was forced to stay in three star hotels in every large city, with small
reasonably priced hotels refusing by law to book a room for him.
3. He could not travel on the freeways, so all traveling would have to be done
on time consuming secondary roads. Painful if you are trying to make a
long trip.
4. He had his heart set on seeing the Grand Canyon. However the American
government had declared Arizona to be a Special Zone that you could
not enter without a permit. And a permit would not be granted if
you were on a motorcycle....

I am sure he would return back to China and tell all his motorcycle friends that America was a terrible place to tour around in. :evil


May 29, 2006
Mate, fantastic ride, report and photos. You're a legend.

The link to the video just came up as text in the post for me, but I found it on Vimeo. Here's the link for those that are interested:


Wow, Heck of a trip! Balls of Steel as the lads say at work. Great video considering the impromptu setup. Link didn't work but I'm in Vimeo also so the search was easy. A shame to get turned back but you're right you made it into Tibet. I would love to make that trip sometime. Good on you.