Yunnan Province, Southern China

Discussion in 'Global Trip Reports' started by yempaul, Feb 22, 2012.

  1. Two years of planning paid off when all the pieces came together for a much anticipated overland trip to Yunnan Province, China. 7th Dec 2011, all 5 riders set to go and will be joined by 2 pillions in Chiangmai, Thailand. Got a Chinese tour agent amongst a few which is mandatory by Chinese regulations if you're travelling with own vehicles in Chinese territories. Our agent, a 58 year old ex goverment officer based in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, suggested that we can make do without the so called mandatory 4WD escort as claimed by most operators that I contacted. He didn’t even demand deposit prior to our entry. I was very anxious and worried about his possible no show at the custom border. Nevertheless, he was there at Mohan border and all went well from start till the end. From riding on ice in Shangrila, mindblowing sceneries, extreme sub zero temperature, worst that you can imagine public toilet experience, the long wait at international border crossings, taking the less travelled back roads and the flood evacuation exercise warning in Hatyai. Every moment was priceless. Following images summarized our 28 days of journey covering from Singapore - Malaysia - Thailand - Northern Laos - China.

    Day 1- 4

    Singapore - Hatyai - Bangkok - Chiangmai - Phu Chi Fa - Chiang Khong

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    After almost 10 hours cruising Malaysian NS Highway, we arrived Dannok and headed straight for Hatyai Junction Railway Station.

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    Train left at 1810hrs same day, managed to get 2 1st class tickets and 2nd class sleeper for the rest. Few hours spent on massages, some others making purchases for Thai prepaid card while waiting for the train.

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    1st class still looks cramped with all the luggages squeezed in. And woke up to the sight of recent Bangkok floods.

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    Arrived Hua Lamphong and purchased the next train to Chiangmai the same day. Some 9 hours later, we're in Chiangmai train station. All this arrangements allows us to save an extra day and your train ticket and cargo fees covers your hotel, petrol and mileage.

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    Called up Phillip Gibbins, owner of Rider's Inn and he's left with only one room which can accomodate 3. So we had to source for 2other rooms where 2 pillions will fly in from Singapore the same night. Nevertheless, we dropped in Rider's Inn. Been wanting to meet him.

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    And caught up with Round the World Rider's, Alex and Andre from Germany.

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    In the meantime, Umar and Hus tagged Phil, who's hosting few friends up to Doi Ithanon where they met fellow Singapore rider, Deen who is on a solo trip with his wife.

    I managed to get a decent room few soi away for 400 baht. Bike week was going on coincidentally so most rooms were full.

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    It was my 5th visit to Chiangmai but this was my 2nd time staying there. The rest of the time were a touch and go affair. So a couple of us walked quite a bit around time before me and Kaz head for the airport for our passengers.

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    Next morning, had breakfast at Phil's who has been helpful in giving us route suggestions for day's trip to Chiang Khong. He called it fun route. He even downloaded the routes into our GPS.

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    Here's Dave from the US. He's doing some charity ride soon in Cambodia

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    All set to go

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    We made our way to Chiang Khong via Phu Chi Fa

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    Arrived Chiang Khong late.

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    Day 5

    Chiang Khong - Boten

    Distance covered: 269km

    Left early morning hoping to catch the 1st barge to Huayxai, Laos. 1st barge only available at 10am. Barge costs 500 baht and purchased Laos insurance for 200 baht which covers for 7 days.

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    Insurance and ferry ticket booth

    Doesn't take long to cross and once we're in, took us almost 2 hours to settle all our necessary personal and vehicle documentations.

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    A couple of stretch with road works going on but other than that it was a super road.

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    Sue handing out candies

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    Until we've reached Boten Custom House

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    Rode further in to find a ghost town

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    Checked into Royal Hotel run by Chinese. Room cost 150 Yuan.

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    Called our Chinese agent later the night to arrange for timing at the border. At this point, I knew he will show up.
     
  2. Day 6

    Boten - Mohan - Mengla - Jinhong

    Distance covered: 170km

    Found the actual Boten Immigration Checkpoint few kilometers up. The guard was crossed we didn't stop at the stop sign and demanded that we turn back to that stop sign and instructed the pillions to walk. Apologized profusely before he gave us the nod to get our paperwork done. Costs 10,000 kips to process our passport and they didn't even ask for our import papers.

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    A couple of minutes later, we arrived here.

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    After a couple of pictures, we proceeded into arrival lobby to get our passport stamped. Being Singaporeans, any visit into China below 14 days are exempted from visa application. How convenient. What is more impressive is that we did not even need to fill in an arrival card. A booth where you just need to scan your passport and the arrival card is automatically generated. Super.

    The pillions continued to the other side while the riders went back to push the bikes forward to the inspection booth.

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    I'm one happy man.

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    Throughout my emails with the Chinese agent, Mr Wang insisted that to save costs, he doesn't mind sitting on our bikes as pillions. Most of other operators "claimed" that a 4WD escort is a must. Mr Wang has proven that this is not true. His only request was that we provide a riding helmet for him. Plus Mr Wang was very transparent about his prices. No hidden costs and he provided with all the breakdowns. I didn't get such from other operators. In the end, we ended up paying around $USD70 lesser than the original costs. The only small problem i had with him wass his response time when replying to emails. But he does this for a living and as we get to know him further, he's always away from home in the deserts or his specialized Silk Road for tours.

    After all the necessary documentations and inspection done at the border, we head 60km up to the town of Mengla to get our provisional Chinese driving license and further inspection on our bikes. Everyone was smiling ear to ear while cruising the Chinese highway.

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    Arrived Mengla Traffic Police Station exactly 11am.

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    Unfortunately, they closed for lunch at 1130am, so they couldn't process our application on time. And re-opened at 3pm.

    So we walked around Meng la town to find lunch.

    Omar getting his boots shined.

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    The start of my many horrifying toilet experience.

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    School children having recess

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    We went back to have a chat with Mr Wang. I must say he's holding my most ideal job.

    Bikes lining up for inspection. Here they checked our chassis number against vehicle registration details and making sure all our lights and signals are working.

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    At 6pm, we were still in the application office as they were having problems with printers. We were the last to leave the office.

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    And finally, our temporary Chinese driving license.

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    Next, 120km ride to Jinhong town.

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    Checked into Home Inn, 120 yuan ($S24)

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    Being resourceful, Mr Wang managed to find Muslim restaurant in any towns we stopped in. And he insisted that we eat in a Muslim restaurant.

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    It was an early night after dinner and nobody anticipated the gruelling ride we had to go through for the next day.
     
  3. Day 7

    Jinhong - Pu'er - Ning'er

    Distance covered: 180km

    Early morning route discussions

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    Chinese petrol costs about $S1.30.

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    At this point, we were denied entry into Chinese highway. It's Chinese law stating that motorcycles are not allowed on motorways. We had to take the back roads. Mr Wang mentioned this ruling is not really enforced in other province.

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    So it's either turn back to the entrance of the back roads or take a short cut.

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    And were rewarded with some nice greeneries of Xishuangbanna's mountains and tea plantation.

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    Stopped over in Pu'er for lunch

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    And proceed further to Ning'er after lunch.

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    Everyone with Omar's trademark pose.

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    Arrived Ning'er after a total of 7 hours which covered only 180km. Checked into Ding Hao Hotel. Ride was restricted to endless twisties and hairpin corners, elevations, slippery and narrow road.

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    Early dinner and ventured a little bit into the town. The cold started to seep in.

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  4. Day 8

    Ning' er - Lincang - Yunxian

    Distance covered: 320km

    Another long ride but the scenery got better and better each day. Temperature was 10 degrees C when we moved off.

    The cold was unbearable especially every morning. Here we stopped by a local shop asking for hot water. Mr Wang reminded that it's going be much worse in Shangrila.

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    The bridge across Lan Tao river not laid yet. Had to detour about 10km of dirt road.

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    Checked in Long Stay Hotel for 220 yuan. Managed to enjoy some colors downtown and a warm foot massage

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  5. Day 9

    Yunxian - Dali - Lijiang

    Distance covered: 390km

    Left early morning to a temperature of 6.5 degrees C. Best ride in China. View along the way was simply breathtaking.

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    In Dali by noon for lunch.

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    The road from Dali to Lijiang offers stunning views most that I've only seen on television. The feeling was magic.

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    UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lijiang Old Town

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    Checked in Yong Ji Commercial Hotel for 100 yuan.

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    The preservation of this site is simply stunning. The atmosphere around the place very enticing. Bought some gears to prep us for the cold up North and next day's visit to Yulong Snow Mountain.
     
  6. Day 10

    Yulong Snow Mountain, Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China

    Today it's ride free day. We purchased tickets for visit to Yulong Snow Capped Mountain or Jade Dragon Snow Mountain known to the locals. Tickets cost 400 Yuan. Includes entrance fees, conservation fees, bus and cable rides. GOing to be my first encounter with snow.

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    Spent a couple of hours before we head back down to Lijiang Old Town for lunch and decided that the base of the mountain provides great opportunity for photography. We didn't waste much time to suit up and ride 15km back to the mountain.

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    More

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    Very satisfying indeed. Didn't know China offers great photography opportunities. Don't need to go far, it's right under my nose.

    After dinner, me and wifey enjoyed brilliant display of colours in Lijiang Old Town.Sitting atop of an elevation of 2600m, Lijiang is everybody's favourite stopover in Yunnan.

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  7. Day 11

    Lijiang - Shangrila (Zhongdian)

    Distance supposedly to cover: 180km

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    It's freezing cold when we set off. I have never been to any place under a temperature of 10 degrees C.

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    Omar, the leader of the pack with Mr Wang was nowhere to be seen. 60km into the ride, i stop by this location as my fingers have taken its toll. None of our bikes were equipped with heated grips or mittens. You dont need those in South East Asia. On top of that the bike had been skidding very often on wet patches. Noticed, snow flakes on the side of the road as well. There's a weird symbol which blinked repeatedly on my instrument panel. One time, the temperature hit - 3.5 degrees C when we were passing through a mountain.

    When the rest of the pack caught up, I was informed that one rider skidded and suffered a minor fall. He said he was allright and mentioned about slippery road surface. We moved forward and there Omar was shivering when speaking. We decided to settle in a nearby stall for hot drinks. Later do we learnt that those wet patches on the road are called black ice. Being dumb Asian who enjoys tropical climate all year round, that's the first time i heard of black ice. And that weird symbol on my panel represent snow. Dumbfounded, we had to make a long and hard decision that our ride cannot go further.

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    Mr Wang suggested we move 20km further to Shangrila scenic Tiger Leaping Gorge town.

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    Slight road rash. Rider and passenger still in high spirit.

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    Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Yangtze River. It is part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site.

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    We head down to Tiger Leaping Gorge town for lunch.

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    Mr Wang suggested that we should proceed to Shangrila nevertheless, but by public. So he sourced for a motel which could accommodate our bikes safely. Parking fees costs 400 Yuan.

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    After unloading, we waited for a bus to Shangrila.

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    Checked in Qilin Business Hotel for 100 Yuan a night. Mr Wang sure knows where to find good and cheap hotels.

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    Comes with heated mattress.

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    That's our dinner

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    Shangrila carries a lot of Tibet culture. This restaurant owner has a distinctive Tibetan warrior outlook.

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    Shangrila during winter is normally quiet with few visitors. Walked a bit around town and witnessed local fire dance.

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    Didn't spent much time outdoor as temperature was hitting - 15 degrees C. The heated mattress was my best companion for the night.
     
  8. Day 12

    Songzanlin Monastery, Shangrila, Yunnan Province, China

    It was difficult to get off those warm and comfortable bed. Early morning we visited Yunnan's biggest Tibetan monastery, Songzanlin Monastery. The name was given by the fifth Dalai Lama. It was first constructed in 1679. Paid entrance fee of 85 Yuan.

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    Back in Shangrila town for a quick lunch.

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    Common sight in most meat restaurants.

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    Natural freezing.

    After which, we proceeded to Shu Du Lake, 43 km away from town center. Being the largest lake in Shangrila, it sits on an altitude of around 3700m above sea level.

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    Parts of the lake frozen.

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    Loads of yaks grazing by the grassland.

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  9. Day 13

    Shangrila - Tiger Leaping Gorge Town - Lijiang - Kunming

    Mr Wang had already purchased bus ticket to Tiger Leaping Gorge town the day earlier. We decided that our pillions continued in the bus to Lijiang while the riders will retrieve the bikes and ride 80km to Lijiang. The bikes will then be transported back to Jinhong by lorry while we take a night train to Kunming to visit another UNESCO site, Xilin Stone Forest.

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    Our morning breakfast at bus station.

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    Common set up of China's public toilet. Note there's no flushing system and NO DOORS!!!

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    Even the temperature inside the bus is below 0.

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    The riders bidding farewell to the pillions.

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    Talking about security at its best.

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    Back in Lijiang Old Town soon after.

    Mr Wang managed to find a lorry which coincidentally was unloading goods in front of the hotel. After some negotiations, the driver agreed for a total fee of 6000 Yuan to transport the bike 2000km South. That is a good deal.

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    Mr Wang followed the lorry to Jinhong where it will arrive 1 day earlier than us. On top of that he will have to provide a lodging for the driver in Jinhong. We offered him money for accommodation for him and the driver. He refused saying that is his problem. He had booked a night train from Lijiang to Kunming for us and informed us of the necessary arrangements when we arrived Kunming.

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    Lijiang Train Station.

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    Sleeper train

    Day 14

    Kunming - Xilin Stone Forest - Kunming - Jinhong

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    Arrived Kunming early morning to the presence of touts and scheming looking tour agents.

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    A replacement for public toilet. See if you can spot a figure within the bushes.

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    On the way to Xilin Stone Forest, 70 km from Kunming.

    The Magical Xilin Stone Forest known since the Ming Dynasty. Entrance fee, 85 Yuan.

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    By lunchtime, we're back in Kunming city center. Then it's off to some sightseeing around town while waiting for our night sleeper bus to Jinhong where Mr Wang's waiting.

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  10. Day 15

    Jinhong - Mohan - Boten - Luang Namtha

    Distance covered: 250km

    Arrived Jinhong before sunrise. Mr Wang was waiting at Home Inn with the driver and we searched for a location where unloading of the bikes will be made easier.

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    The Pan European was having problems with side stand sensor. KaZ did a good job of doing a bypass.

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    Soon we're back on Chinese road.

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    Road construction ongoing in a tunnel, traffic halted.

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    Arriving Mohan border.

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    Group shot before departing.

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    Those money changer ladies tried to cheat Umar of his Yuan.

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    Camera shy Mr Wang. He's one hell of a guide. I mean it in a good way. This is his 1st time taking a motorcycle group. The furthest he's gone on a bike was 200m. Most of his organised trip were with 4WDs and caravans. His knowledge is very impressive and being resourceful, he comes up with a solution fast. Being Chinese running a business, it's very rare to find one of his character. He doesn't demand for deposit before entry and he only collected full amount when we left China. His reason, I don't like to hold too much money. Based in Urumqi, near Kazakhstan, he had to fork out USD$300 for 2 flights to Yunnan which came out from his own. Took him 2 days. We could have easily made a no show and he would have wasted that amount. I was lucky to find him. I hope he enjoyed his time with us. We hinted of another trip with him soon. His reply, 'send me an email'. Oh by the way, he spoke perfect English.

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    Waiting time again at the border as the re-opened at 3pm. Even so, the officer came almost an hour later to release us.

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    So long China, we wished we spent more time but i'm already planning for future entries.

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    Off to Boten immigration house of Laos.

    After clearing Laos broder, Omar and Hus took off taking Northern Laos route down to OudomXai. The rest of us will cross HuayXai - Chiang Khong Mekong river to get back into Thailand. I have been planning to cover Nan and Loei loop of Thailand.

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    Sun's setting when we approached Luang Namtha

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    Checked into Manychan Guesthouse. Comes with free Wi-Fi. Something that we don't get in China.
     
  11. Day 16

    Luang Namtha - Chiang Khong - Chiang Rai

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    My easy meal in Laos, French baguette.

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    Arrived Chiangrai late due to long waiting time for barge at HuayXai border. The STX rider continued solo to ChiangMai.

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    Checked in Tin Inn for 600 baht.

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    Steamboat for dinner

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    And round up the night with a little souvenir shopping at a night bazaar.

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  12. Day 17

    Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai

    It's time to head back to ChiangMai ... The pillions had to catch an afternoon flight back home.

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    Back at Phil's. Met with Chris, who did a solo ride through Ho Chin Minh trail.

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    After sending off, we walked along huge night market in ChiangMai. Stayed the night at Phil's Rider's Inn.

    Day 18

    Chiang Mai - Nan

    The bike felt so much lighter now with more than half of my luggage gone. As always Phil was always ready to give suggestions on routes.

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    Back in Phayao

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    Route 1148. They've got some nice bends there along with beautiful scenes. The tarmac was one of the best Thailand roads i've taken. Spectacular scenery with little vehicles along the way. The road itself is a major attraction. It was simply amazing.

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    Checked in Nan's Amazing Guesthouse for 300 baht.
     
  13. Day 19

    Nan - Phu Soi Dao National Park

    There's a nice and warm feeling i got staying at Amazing Guesthouse. Christian and wife who helps to run the place did a good job creating that special atmosphere he maintains with his guests. We caught up with Colin aka Captain Slash who has done tremendous effort in his contributions on trip reports in motorcycle forums.

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    Christian and wife, they're a wonderful host.

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    The road ended suddenly and a lady asked where we're going. I said Loei and she signaled us to get on.

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    We were riding through the National Park and by the time it turned dark, we realised we haven't seen any vehicles for the last hour and we haven't got any phone connection on our mobiles. Found a lone army who directed us to the resort few kilometers up. We begged the lady at the reception to open up the kitchen as we're starving.

    Checked into Phu Soi Dao National Park resort for 600 baht. With no TV in the room and no phone connection, we had little to do except planning on our next possible routes.

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  14. Day 20

    Phu Soi Dao National Park - Loei

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    Very quiet along route 1268

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    Found a small town of Na Haeo for breakfast and petrol stop.

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    I enjoyed Loei. I find that it is unspoiled and that's what makes it beautiful. The back roads brought us to refreshing rural life.

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    Tha Li border crossing into Laos.

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    Read that this border crosing is only accessible for locals.

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    Checked in RoyalInn Hotel for 300 baht.

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  15. Day 21

    Loei - Chiang Khan - Khon Kaen

    We left for Chiang Khan to check out another border crossing.

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    Chiang Khan border crossing, also for locals only.

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    Back to Route 12, the big boring highway. But actually it's not that bad.

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    Khon Kaen is one of a big city in Issan. Not a big fan of big cities.

    Day 22

    Khon Kaen - Bangkok

    Took Route 2 all the way to Bangkok. Checked in Asia Hotel, Ratchatewi area.

    Day 23 - 24

    Bangkok

    Nothing to show. Everybody knows Bangkok. Massages. MBK. Wanted to check out Krong Thom but was closed for New Year. Big fireworks for New Year countdown. Left the camera in the hotel.

    Day 25

    Bangkok - Hatyai

    Rail time. 2nd class sleeper this time. Many empty seats.

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    Day 26

    Hatyai

    Woke up to the sight of floods enroute to Hatyai.

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    Checked in New Season Hotel for a whooping 1150 baht. It's the long holiday season they claimed.

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    Hatyai was surprisingly not crowded as expected. There was a flood evacuation exercise a day earlier and the locals mentioned the flood around Hatyai reached 2 meters high.

    Day 27

    Hatyai - Singapore

    Omar and Hus were in town waiting at the lobby. We left Hatyai together for lunch in Dannok, Sadao. They decided to stay one more night at the border town so we parted again after lunch.

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    Getting ready for another long and boring 800km ride along Malaysian North South Highway.

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    This Highway is the fastest way to get to Thailand from Singapore. Most of my ride here, I do it at night when there's fewer vehicles and the air is cooler.

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    Dinner in Seremban R&R Highway.

    Day 28

    Still along Malaysian Highway

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    After almost 11 hours, we arrived final pit stop before entering Singapore to enjoy my favourite drink.

    The riders and companions

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    Umar. Route leader. Travel light. Positive attitude. Highly adventurous. Off road maniac.

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    Hus. Very disciplined rider. Gadget man. His V strom has been serving him well.

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    Zach. The "cool" dude. Long time riding buddy.

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    Kaz & Lynn. Very happy for them. This trip has brought multiple milestones they've achieved. Thanks for the company. The back roads of Thailand was one of the highlights of this trip for me.

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    Yem & Sue. Till our next adventure. Ride on.
     
  16. Thank you so much for taking the time to put together this great report on your amazing journey. Shows us all what is possible in this great area of the world.
     
  17. Wow wow wow!

    What a fantastic trip report!

    Brilliant pictures and excellent commentary.

    A 21 day tour from Singapore to ShangriLa- EPIC!

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful journey! Very inspiring!

    Ride On!

    Tony :happy1:
     
  18. WOW fantastic trip report Yempaul, Thank you very much for sharing with everyone. China looks very interesting for a riding holiday, I think I would rather miss out experiencing the cold weather though. How did you find / can you supply the name of your Chinese tour guide? This person could be the difference between a good and bad trip experience, I enjoyed your report immensely.

    Cheers Ken F
     
  19. Wow! Thanks Yempaul.

    That's one of the most adventurous trips you've accomplished there. Great report and stunning photos.
    Might be of interest to some of the guys for the contact details of your guide in China.

    Looked to be fantastic fun and I bet you guys have great memories of it. Thanks again.
     
  20. Yempaul
    WOW! Amazing trip & report. It will take a few days for all this to sink in.
    A big thanks for taking the time to post it all up on GT Rider as well. It is highly appreciated.
     
  21. Amazing report some awesome pictures!! Pity that it's so difficult to enter China with a motorbike. I'll sit here at my desk in the office with my thoughts far away from my work. Thanks for the post!!
     
  22. To copy Your comment about the guide: "That was a hell of a tripreport".
    Now I have spent 2 hours going trough it, and I think I will spend another
    2 hours with it again tomorrow night. AMAZING !
    Many Thanks !

    Leif
     
  23. Hi guys

    Thanks for the comments. China is not difficult. It's expensive. Those tour operators are making the most out of this. I was turned off intially by the prices set my many of them. And I got a big break when i stumble upon one who surprisingly gave me quite a low quotation. Not only that, he provided me with all the breakdowns and lists of prices. The rest of the operators just provided me with one final sum. And the requirement of a vehicle escort is all bullshit. It's not even a recovery vehicle. Just a vehicle where the guide sits with his driver. And yes you've guessed it, we have to pay the services of that driver as well. I'll be transparent with the costs.

    Chinese entry permit: USD 500 per group
    Chinese license plate: USD 80 per bike
    Chinese driving license: USD 60 perbike
    3rd party insurance: USD 80 per person
    Rider's insurance: USD 10 per person
    Mohan pass fees: USD 50 per bike
    Guide fees: USD120 per day per group

    That's about all. This does not incur petrol, meals and accomodation. These things are relatively cheap in China. You also have to pay for your own sightseeing entrance fees. The guide paid for his own on all these extras. He said it's all included in that USD120 he charged. Not so according to the rest of the operators i contacted. But out of goodwill, we insisted that we pay for his meals.

    It was an eye opener in China. All of us had a great time. I just suck at photography.
     
  24. Yempaul,

    Tremendous report, enjoyed reading that. Well done guys for putting up with that freezing weather and those toilets..........
     
  25. Just re read this & thought it would be worthwhile noting the text highlighted above for those pondering a China Ride.

    And I'd like to say again - fantastic trip report.
    Many thanks once more for the contribution.
     

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