Saturday, December 31, 2005

Day 120. Laos jungle, Bokeo province

Start: Jungle 44 km west of Houay Xai, Laos
End: ??? Somewhere else in the jungle, perhaps around 80 km south-west of Louang Namtha, perhaps not too far from Viang Phukha
Distance: 76 km
Time: 8'03"
Avg: 9.5 k/h
Max: 42 k/h
Total: 7265 km
Total riding days: 78
Riding hours: 0720 - 1750

There is a 2-km strip of asphalted road in the middle of the jungle. The rest is more dust and rocks. Road due for completion by mid-2007, according to roadside panels. Hills all the way, hard on the legs but harder on the bike. Dust and ruts are not good for it. Road crew are having a new year's eve sing-song somewhere down below my campsite.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Day 119. Chiang Khong to Laos

Start: Near Chiang Khong, Thailand
End: 44 km west of Houay Xai, Laos
Distance: 67 km
Time: 6'03"
Avg: 11 k/h
Max: 52 k/h
Total: 7189 km
Total riding days: 77
Riding hours: 0720 - 1730

Excellent bike shop/bike club in Chiang Khong - go south through town over the bridge, turn left at the Esso garage, and it's on the right after 100 metres or so. Good kit at 'club' prices, much cheaper than Chiang Mai etc.

2-minute ride in a canoe over the Mekong, and I'm back in Laos (visa on arrival available here, 30 US$). The road to China is 'under construction' - currently made of dirt, rocks, and dust - sometimes the dust is 6 inches deep, it's like riding in snow. Hills all the way. A few villages but nothing in the way of food, accommodation etc. Camped out in the jungle.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Day 118. Mae Chan to near Chiang Khong

Start: Mae Chan

End: 15 km north-west of Chiang Khong, Thailand

Distance: 122 km

Time: 6'57"

Avg: 17.5 k/h

Max: 43 k/h

Total: 7122 km

Total riding days: 76

Riding hours: 0730 - 1730

Camped in a haystack. Good deep-fried bananas in Mae Chan this morning. Big barges coming down the Mekong carrying cartons of apples from China. Passed the "Golden Triangle" point where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet - formerly and perhaps still a centre for opium smuggling. Seems like tourism is bigger business now though - there is an opium museum....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Day 117. Chai Prakhan to near Mae Chan

Start: Chai Prakhan
End: 11 km west of Mae Chan, Thailand
Distance: 116 km
Time: 6'07"
Avg: 18.9 k/h
Max: 55 k/h
Total: 7000 km
Total riding days: 75
Riding hours: 0735 - 1720

Camped in an orange orchard tonight instead. Nice swim in the silty Mae Kok river. Long tailed speedboats speed by.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Day 116. Chiang Mai to near Chai Prakhan

Start: Chiang Mai
End: 12 km south of Chai Prakhan, Thailand
Distance: 124 km
Time: 6'12"
Avg: 19.8 k/h
Max: 54 k/h
Total: 6884 km
Total riding days: 74
Riding hours: 1000 - 1730

Away from Chiang Mai karaoke hell at last. Good to get the new wheels turning. Legs feeling good after a two week break. Camped in a banana orchard.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Day 113 - 115. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Happy Christmas.
New wheels.
Time to get out of town...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Curse of Christmas strikes again; some notes on non-verbal communication; of mice and men; a spontaneous sex-change; and other observations

I've got a broken wheel. It must be Christmas time.

Yep, bang on 365 days ago, not counting time zone differences or this year's forthcoming leap-second (not sure that would have any retrospective effect, particularly since it hasn't happened yet), my rear wheel broke in the outskirts of the lovely Hunanese town of LiLing in central China. It was snowing.

This year, the Christmas wheelcurse has struck in Chiang Mai, up in the tourist-infested badlands of northern Thailand. But a Canadian bloke called Tom has sold me, at a vast price, a new set of rotational translocation devices, and it isn't snowing, so I don't really have too much to complain about.

Those of you who spend your days jabbing at your "Check Mail" button, waiting for news from The Man Who Cycled Half Way Around The World, Didn't Much Like What He Found, So Turned Around And Headed BackAgain, will have had a pretty quiet couple of months, and for that I apologise.

I will try to make amends below.

Last time I wrote (here), it was to say that I was stuck in a town whose name I now forget, unable to find my hotel, or for that matter, my bicycle.

Since then, much has happened.

First, I found the hotel, and the bicycle, using a sophisticated hotel-and-bicycle-finding technique, details of which I will send youfor only $59.99 including postage and packing.

Second, I went to Vietnam, but I can't tell you much about what happened there because it's all in my old diary which I have just sent home. I do remember having a hard time finding my way around, though,because the only map I had was (a) in Chinese, and (b) wrong.

When cycling in China, I can gabble in toddler-Chinese, at a level which might not get me a job interpreting at the United Nations, butis just about good enough to buy a loaf of bread. If only you could get bread in China.

But across the border in Vietnam, I was utterly helpless. Lacking a phrasebook of any kind, all I had was the word for 'hello', which I had taken the precaution of looking up on the internet before I arrived.


This was a problem. What kind of 'ch' is that?

A soft one as in "Chinese"? But that would make it sound like anItalian 'ciao', and it seemed unlikely that the Vietnamese and the Italians would use the same greeting, even though they both come from long, thin countries.

A hard one as in "loch"? But that would make it 'kau'. Too bovine.

You can't go about cheerily saying something that might or might not mean 'hello' to everyone you meet. Both variants earned me nothing but blank looks, in any case, so I resorted to a kind of mumbled sneeze (try it), which worked much better.

Of course, when language fails, we always have mime to fall back on.

Note to travellers visiting restaurants in Vietnam: attempts to order meat by means of audio-visual representations of the animal inquestion are generally not successful.

Leaping around, squawking, mooing, waggling your fingers for horns, flapping your wings, all these are met with bemused astonishment or, on a good day, astonished bemusement; go in and imitate a dog and people will think you are barking mad.

Try to convey your vegetarian status by performing a number of these tricks, followed by waving of the hands, shaking of the head, and a frown, and you will leave the chef with, at best, the notion of: "I am not a hippopotamus".

Just when I had got to grips with counting from one to ten inVietnamese (which is frankly not a lot of use in a country where 100 dongs won't even buy you a peanut), it was time to be in Laos.

Laos has rubber borders; I kept bouncing off them. The first time I tried to get in, I cycled a very long way up a very steep hill to the crossing-point, only to be turned back because Foreigners Aren't Allowed.

Three days later I tried again at another checkpoint, at the end of an even longer and steeper mountain road, and this time Foreigners Are Allowed, But Only If They Have A Visa In Advance.

But the Lao National Tourism Administration says clearly on its website that visas are issued at the border, I squeaked.

The Lao National Tourism Administration is wrong, they apologised. You will have to go to Hanoi to get a visa.

But my Vietnamese visa expires today, I protested.

OK, now here are two sets of adjectives:

A. Corrupt, mean, unpleasant, grasping, petty, thieving, officious.

B. Helpful, courteous, understanding, upright, honest.

Question: Which set, A or B, would you normally associate with customsand immigration officials at remote border crossings in poor countries (and in England, for that matter)?

What better candidate for a shake-down than a foreigner on a bicycle with an about-to-expire visa?

I would like to put it on the record that the officials on theVietnamese side of the border at Na Meo fall squarely into category B.

"Don't worry about that," they said. "Go to Hanoi and get your visafor Laos, and come back here as soon as you can. We will overlook the matter of your expired visa. And you can leave your bicycle here with us, if you like."

And so I parked my dear beloved bicycle in the little bamboo and rattan hut that is the Office of the Customs Officer at Nameo Border Checkpoint, and went to Hanoi.

And the bicycle was still there when I got back three days later. But I arrived late, and the border had closed down for the day. I had to stay the night in the nice little guest-house down the road.

As I lay in bed writing my diary in the nice little guest-house down the road, a large mouse (or it may have been a small rat, but let's not split hares, it's not worth rabbiting on about in any case)dropped from the ceiling and landed, with a medium-sized thud, fourand a half inches from my head.

I had often wondered what I would do if a large mouse or small rat were to fall unexpectedly from the ceiling and land within, say, 6 inches from my head, and fondly imagined that I would do some thing very brave and masculine like, for example, grunt "Ugh" in a gravelly baritone, pick the creature up by the tail and eat it.

In the heat of the moment, though, this was not what happened.

Ladies and gentlemen, I screamed. Like a woman.

"Yaaaeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaah," I said, only louder.

The next day, I went to Laos, where I very nearly tripped over an unexploded bomb. I had walked down to a river for a wash, and there onthe riverbank, half submerged in the mud, was a rocket-propelled grenade.

I said "Ugh" in a gravelly baritone, picked it up by the tail and ate it.

Further down the road, I was looking for a place to stop for the night. As dusk turned to darkness, I followed a track off to the left,and thought I had found a peaceful camp-spot when I heard, and then saw, three very loud motorbikes with very bright headlights coming down the track towards me. On each of the motorbikes was a man with anAK-47 assault rifle slung across his chest.

Kamikaze mouse eat your heart out. This was scary. I repressed a strong urge to say "Yaaaeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaah"; somewhere in a travellers' handbook I had read that when confronted by a gang of armed men, it is best to cooperate, and not to say "yaaaeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaah" unless strictly necessary because in some cultures it is a provocation to shoot.

"Follow us," gestured Man With Kalashnikov #1.

I didn't feel particularly comfortable about the idea, but then saying"I'm frightfully sorry old chap but it is rather late in the day, could it wait until tomorrow?" didn't really seem an option.

I followed them.

Shall I leave you on a cliff-hanger?

Yes, perhaps I will.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas to you all. Thank you for all your messages over the past month or two. Keep them coming - they keep me going.

Oh, and if you have any pennies left over after all the fun and festivities, please consider making a sponsorship-donation to FORCECancer Charity at
or to Sustrans at

All donations go 100% to the charities, not to my banana-porridge slush-fund.

Thanks for reading.

Edward Genochio

And many thanks, as always, to my sponsors:

* Decathlon China

* Drennan Co., Ltd., Shanghai

* Eclipse Internet

* P&O Ferries

And especially this month to Carl Wackan at UK Production Services Ltd for his much-appreciated Christmas Care Package - see

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Day 97 - 112. Chiang Mai

O km. Holiday.

Clean bike. Look at rear wheel.

Oh dear. Not so great for 6700 km. Why didn't I spot this on my first day in Chiang Mai, rather than my last?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Day 97 - Saraphi to Chiang Mai

Start: Saraphi
End: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Distance: 24 km
Time: 1'56"
Avg: 12.4 k/h
Max: 25.4 k/h
Total: 6759 km
Total riding days: 73
Riding hours: 0640 - 1200

Made it from Shanghai to Chiang Mai with 8 hours to spare. Emily's flight arrives at this evening at 2010. Nicely judged, eh?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Day 96 - Thung Kwien forest park to Saraphi

Start: Thung Kwien Forest Park
End: Saraphi, near Chiang Mai, Thailand
Distance: 134 km
Time: 7'08"
Avg: 18.7 k/h
Max: 59.5 k/h
Total: 6735 km
Total riding days: 72
Riding hours: 0645 - 1800

I have done the stupidest thing - somehow I have lost the two spare tyres which I have been carrying all the way across China and south-east Asia. I am heartbroken. But I have a hunch. It involves a 70 km round-trip back-track, but for my tyres, it's worth it. I cooked some rice in Lampang park yesterday, and I have a funny feeling my bike felt a bit light after that.

And sure enough, there they are. My beloved tryes, still sitting there, all alone, wrapped up in a Chinese bag, in the park.

I am very happy, and give them a big hug, to the consternation of early morning joggers, stretchers, and strollers in the park.

There is a little pass between Lampang and Lamphun, but it's a nice long downhill on the other side. Camped out under a mobile phone mast in Chiang Mai's suburbia.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Day 95 - before Lampang to Thung Kwien Forest Park

Start: near Lampang
End: 26 km north-west of Lampang - Thung Kwien Forest Park
Distance: 72 km
Time: 4'38"
Avg: 15.5 k/h
Max: 54 k/h
Total: 6601 km
Total riding days: 71
Riding hours: 0805 - 1730

Curiosity gets the better of me - I just have to see the inside of a Thai Tescos. They have one in Lampang. I have a look around. They sell a lot of tinned sardines.

There is a zoo here in the Forest Park with a crow in a cage. You have to be a pretty unlucky crow to end up in a cage in a zoo, don't you think?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Day 94 - Uttaradit to near Lampang

Start: Uttaradit, Thailand
End: c. 30 km south of Lampang
Distance: 118 km
Time: 7'18"
Avg: 16.1 k/h
Max: 57 k/h
Total: 6528 km
Total riding days: 70
Riding hours: 0745 - 1720

Some hills. Camped out in some srubby land. I thought they were shelling me, but in fact it's fireworks. HM The King's birthday, I think. Many happy returns. Chiang Mai within range now.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Day 93 - Nakhon Thai to Uttaradit

Start: Near Nakhon Thai
End: Uttaradit, Thailand
Distance: 134 km
Time: 6'53"
Avg: 19.5 k/h
Max: 57 k/h
Total: 6411 km
Total riding days: 69
Riding hours: 0705 - 1720

My campsite for the night is the front lawn of Uttaradit fire station. Long story. Might be a good day to practise using my stove inside the tent?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Day 92 - Loei to Nakhon Thai

Start: Near Loei
End: 9 km before Nakhon Thai, Thailand
Distance: 147 km
Time: 7'53"
Avg: 18.5 k/h
Max: 56 k/h
Total: 6276 km
Total riding days: 68
Riding hours: 0725 - 1740

Sunset and sunrise are shifting forwards - I must be making westerly progress. Camped in another orchard. This is low-maintainance riding - a bike here would last for ever, no braking, no vibrations, no accelerating, lots of freewheeling. Nice good flat roads. Dull, really.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Day 91 - Sangkhom to near Loei

Start: near Sangkhom
End: Between Chiang Khan and Loei, Thailand
Distance: 141 km
Time: 6'54"
Avg: 20.4 k/h
Max: 45.5 k/h
Total: 6129 km
Total riding days: 67
Riding hours: 0725 - 1735

Flat and easy up the Mekong. Dashing for Chiang Mai - there'll be trouble if I'm late. 6 days to get there and I'm not sure how many kilometres. Camped out in a sort of orchard by the road.

Still here - Thailand

A couple of die-hard blog-watchers have emailed me to check whether I
am still alive, after a blogless week or so.

The short answer is Yes, but thank you for your concern.

The absence of updates recently is due to the lack of internet access
in the wilder and woolier corners of north-eastern Laos. And to the
fact that I'm in a bit of a hurry to get to an undisclosed location in
northern Thailand, where I have a romantic rendezvous arranged; being
late will I think not be appreciated.

Normal update service will I hope be resumed in about a week.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Day 90 - Vientiane to nr Sangkhom

Start: Vientiane, Laos
End: Thanthong Waterfall, near Sangkhom, Nong Khai province, Thailand
Distance: 116 km
Time: 5'55"
Avg: 19.6 k/h
Max: 54.5 k/h
Total: 5988 km
Total riding days: 66
Riding hours: 0910 - 1720

Over the Mekong, courtesy of the Friendship Bridge, and into Thailand, where they drive on the left, I realise after about three and a half hours of close calls. Topiary is big round here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Day 89. Vientiane

0 km. Taking it easy in Vientiane, strolling the banks of the Mekong and eating baguettes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Day 88 - Near Vientiane to Vientiane

Start: 20 km north of Vientiane
End: Vientiane, Laos
Distance: 16 km
Time: 1'02"
Avg: 15.6 k/h
Max: 24.9 k/h
Total: 5871 km
Total riding days: 65
Riding hours: 0620 - 0845

OK, maybe I was only 16 km from Vientiane. Get stuck in a traffic jam on the way into town. Haven't seen one of those for a while. Vientiane is a tiny place; two pedal-strokes and you're through.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Day 87 - Houay Mo to near Vientiane

Start: Near Houay Mo, Laos
End: 20 km north of Vientiane
Distance: 137 km
Time: 7'10"
Avg: 19.1 k/h
Max: 54.5 k/h
Total: 5856 km
Total riding days: 64
Riding hours: 0720 - 1735

Easy riding; it's flat most of the day. Eat a very large watermelon in one sitting, to the astonishment of the woman who sold it to me. Can't find anywhere to camp; it gets dark - a monk lets me camp in the garden of his wat (temple).

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Day 86 - Phoukhoun to Houay Mo

Start: Phoukhoun
End: North shore of Nam Ngum reservoir, near Houay Mo, Laos
Distance: 127 km
Time: 6'39"
Avg: 19.1 k/h
Max: 61 k/h
Total: 5718 km
Total riding days: 63
Riding hours: 0745 - 1650

BIG descent down towards the Mekong valley. Camped out on the lakeshore - the lake is full of fishermen puttering about in their long-tailed boats, checking their nets. A nice warm swim. The bucket shower in Phoukhoun was very c-c-c-cold.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Day 85 - Phonsovan to Phoukoune

Start: Near Phonsovan
End: Phoukhoune / Phoukhoun / Phoukhun, Laos
Distance: 120 km
Time: 8'00"
Avg: 15 k/h
Max: 48 k/h
Total: 5591 km
Total riding days: 62
Riding hours: 0705 - 1735

Misty morning, sunny afternoon, but it's not hot. This road is supposed to be a bit dangerous, so I rode fast. Went past Phoukhoun and tried to camp but was arrested, in the friendliest possible way, by three plain-clothes soldiers with AK47 machine guns and powerful motorbikes. Sent back to Phoukhoun to overnight in a guest house.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Day 84 - Far from Phonsavan to near the other side of Phonsiovan

Start: Jungle, north of Phonsovan
End: 24 km west of Phonsovan, Laos
Distance: 140 km
Time: 8'23"
Avg: 16.7 k/h
Max: 51.5 k/h
Total: 5471 km
Total riding days: 61
Riding hours: 0710 - 1730

Ooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee a big downhill, then a flatter bit, then up again. And a bit down. Camped out under a tree. It's warmer down here - up in the mountains I had to get my sleeping bag out.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Day 83 - Sam Neua to somewhere quite a long way from Phonsavan

Start: Near Sam Neua, Laos
End: 114 km north of Phonsavan, Laos
Distance: 105 km
Time: 8'11"
Avg: 12.7 k/h
Max: 45 k/h
Total: 5330 km
Total riding days: 60
Riding hours: 0720 - 1730

Ouch. This road hurts. It goes up and up and up. Never a pass, just another ridge to climb and snake.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Day 82. Na Meo to near Sam Neua

Start: Na Meo, Vietnam
End: 21 km beyond Sam Neua (aka Xam Neua), Laos
Distance: 108 km
Time: 7'34"
Avg: 14.3 k/h
Max: 50 k/h
Total: 5226 km
Total riding days: 59
Riding hours: 0720 - 1730

Got into Laos at last. Third time lucky. The roads are good, but they have a nasty habit of climbing every hill in sight. Nothing but tiny villages until Sam Neua, where there is a bank, market and a few guesthouses. But I am in a hurry so I press on, and camp by the side of the road in the jungle.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Day 81 - Huang Phu to Na Meo

0 km.

Takes all day to bus, walk, hitch and motorbike-taxi it up to the border post at Nameo. By the time I arrive, it has closed for the day. My bike is still there, though, being looked after by the customs officer in his hut.

I spend the night in a guesthouse at the border, where a large mouse (or possibly a small rat) drops from the ceiling and lands six inches from my head. I scream like a girl.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Day 80 - Hanoi to Huang Phu

0 km.

Picked up Lao visa in Hanoi (37 US$, 5 hours to process) and caught a bus out of town. Tomorrow I try again for the border.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Day 79 - KM 42 to Na Meo

Start: KM 42, between Quan Son and Na Meo, Vietnam
End: Na Meo, Vietnam
Distance: 47 km
Time: 3'23"
Avg: 13.8 k/h
Max: 36 k/h
Total: 5117 km
Total riding days: 58
Roadkill: A big, fat rat in Hanoi. Hanoi? Yes, see below.
Riding hours: 0600 - 1005

Laos has rubber borders. I keep bouncing off them.

This time, the story is: Yes, foreigners can cross the border at Na Meo. But No, a Lao visa is not available at the border. The Vietnamese border guards were very apologetic (not that it is their fault), and are looking after my bike for me while I make a trip to Hanoi to get a Lao visa from the consulate there. They even gave me an informal 4-day visa extension, since my Vietnam visa expires tomorrow.

'Informal' means that they will let me out, but it doesn't mean that anyone else will recognise it. Which leaves me with a problem, because I can't stay in a hotel once my visa has expired (you have to show your visa at check-in). And my tent is in Na Meo, at the border with my bike. And it is quite chilly at night now. So I may have to buy a bottle of cider in a brown paper bag and sit by the lake all night.

Note to travellers: on Vietnamese buses (I took two in my visa-hunting zip from Na Meo to Hanoi), try not to sit next to women. They all, almost without exception, vomit continuously throughout the journey, into little plastic bags which they toss out of the window when full. For some reason men don't seem to be affected.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Day 78 - Mai Chau to "KM 42" (between Quan Son / Na Meo)

Start: Mai Chau, Vietnam
End: "Kilomet 42", roadside village between Quan Son and Na Meo on the road to the Vietnam - Laos border, Vietnam
Distance: 103 km
Time: 6'37"
Avg: 15.5 k/h
Max: 42.5 k/h
Total: 5070 km
Total riding days: 57
Roadkill: The skin on my left arm and hand.
Riding hours: 0940 - 1740

Another attempt at getting into Laos. I am about 45 km short of the Na Meo border. It got dark on me half way up the valley. A local shopkeeper kindly invited me to sleep and eat in his house in this village. It is a Thai-style house-on-stilts with a thatched roof and rattan-and-tarpaulin walls. He gave me a pool table to sleep on. Surprisingly comfortable.

I crashed twice today. I have never crashed before. Both times the immediate cause was a silly cow in the road, and the slightly less immediate cause was a silly bugger on my bike. Or perhaps it should be the other way around.

Anyway, after yesterday's brakeless near-end, today I had new brakes in. I suppose I was used to having to squeeze the old brakes hard to get any stopping power. Now a light touch is enough. A hard squeeze locked up the rear wheel, and on both occasions it slid, once in mud, once in a cowpat.

Afterwards, I swore at the cows. They looked blankly at me, and said moo. This made me quite angry.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Day 77 - near Moc Chau to Mai Chau

Start: village near Moc Chau, Vietnam
End: Mai Chau, Vietnam
Distance: 120 km
Time: 7'47"
Avg: 15.4 k/h
Max: 52 k/h
Total: 4968 km
Total riding days: 56
Roadkill: very, very nearly me. I should probably be dead now.
Riding hours: 0630 - 1720

Two things:

1. The road from Moc Chau to the Vietnam-Laos border (signposted to 'Cua Khao') is 32 km long, almost all uphill, and very hard work. At the top, a very polite Vietnamese border official will inform you that this border is no longer open to foreigners, and you will have to go back down again. So I am not in Laos.

2. From Moc Chau east towards Mai Chau, the road climbs for about 25 km, and then descends steeply and longly on a winding mountain road. There was near-whiteout fog and drizzle. My brakes failed. (My fault, I did not maintain them properly.) The pull of gravity down the slope outweighed any remaining friction in my brakes, and I lost control. The bike was going faster and faster, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I hit 52 km/h, my computer tells me later. One overtaking car, broken down truck, vehicle out of position, motorbike coming round a bend, landslip, roadworks, cow, old woman... anything would probably have killed me, and quite possibly them too if it was something animate that I hit. All of these things are extremely common on this road. I must have been going 3 or 4 kilometres in this condition, screaming all the way hoping that people would get out of the way.

I had both brake levers pulled right down to the handlebars, and I was still accelerating. I tried using my feet as friction brakes, scuffing the soles of my sandals on the road, but they kept catching on the road surface and being pulled backwards (nearly breaking my legs in the process).

Eventually, when the road flattened slightly, I was able to get onto the crossbar of the bike and 'run' along astride the bike, gradually taking more strain on the legs and pulling the bike up with my arms.

I stopped. But I was very, very lucky. My chances were probably worse than 50-50, given the frequency of broken-down trucks on the road (but none, by a miracle, on my runaway stretch). In retrospect I should probably have baled out and taken the cuts, bruises and breaks; they would have been less life-threatening. My bike would probably have gone over the cliff though.

Afterwards, as I stood shaking by the roadside, unhurt apart from some bruising on my thighs from stopping the bike, a man past whom I had hurtled a minute or two previously, yelling like a lunatic, came down to check that I was all right, and shook my hand. He stayed to help me adjust my brakes, too. People can be very, very kind.

Message to any other cyclists as foolish as me: do not let your brakes get to the point where they are at full-stretch to stop you in the dry. When it rains, you will not stop.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Day 76 - Son La to south of Moc Chau

Start: Son La, Vietnam
End: village, name unknown, 10km south of Moc Chau on road to Cua Khao on the Vietnam-Laos border
Distance: 133 km
Time: 7'17"
Avg: 18.2 k/h
Max: 60 k/h
Total: 4847 km
Total riding days: 55
Roadkill: none.
Riding hours: 0745 - 1720

Look at that downhill between Son La and Moc Chau. I don't think I've ever hit 60 k/h on a laden bike before.

This road must have been designed by M.C. Escher. It follows a river, upriver, for about 20 km and yet the road is consistently downhill, without ever changing much its height above the river level.

The reverse scenario, in which uphill roads follow rivers downstream, is well known and understood by cyclists, if not physicists, but I believe this example, of the magic working in the cyclist's favour, to be unique.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Day 75 - Near Tuan Giao to Son La

Start: At the pass above Tuan Giao, Vietnam
End: Son La, Son La province, Vietnam
Distance: 71 km
Time: 4'10"
Avg: 16.9 k/h
Max: 44 k/h
Total: 4714 km
Total riding days: 54
Roadkill: none. A good day for animals. Except that probably means someone else has already eaten them all.
Riding hours: 0730 - 1230

The morning's promised views were swallowed by a thick fog that covered the pass.

Some nice bread rolls half way, though, in Thuan Chau.

Pretty easy riding, with just a little pass at the end to warm up the legs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Day 74 - Dien Bien Phu to beyond Tuan Giao

Start: Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam
End: 17 km beyond Tuan Giao, near the top of the pass on the border between Lai Chau and Son La provinces.
Distance: 99 km
Time: 6'53"
Avg: 14.3 k/h
Max: 41 k/h
Total: 4643 km
Total riding days: 53
Roadkill: The odd snake, a broken fan-belt that looked like a snake (they always do, and they always make me jump), and, unusually, a live snake too (not roadkill, I know - or not yet, anyway).
Riding hours: 0910 - 1730

An easy day, I think the double rest day helped... Planned to stay in Tuan Giao, but the only hotel was a little expensive and not very nice, so, since it was early, I bought an ice cream and headed on up what was supposed to be tomorrow's pass instead.

An 800 metre climb, but if you've got to climb, there is no nicer time to do it (no nicer time for any sort of riding, in fact) than in the late evening around sunset.

I got lucky with a camp-spot again - nothing all the way up, then just as the sun set the road flattened towards the top of the pass, and a perfect, hidden, flat and easy-to-reach camp-spot materialised.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Days 72, 73 - Dien Bien Phu

One rest day becomes two. This can easily happen.

An army museum, and a hill preserved (restored, in fact, I think, if that is the right word) in the state it was in during the battle at Dien Bien Phu. The hill has the poetic name A1.

Met Thomas and Iris, cyclists from Germany. They have been riding for 12 months; at the end of this month they are going home. I still have 12 months to go I think.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Day 71 - Lai Chau to Dien Bien Phu

Start: Lai Chau, Vietnam
End: Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam
Distance: 106 km
Time: 7'15"
Avg: 14.6 k/h
Max: 49 k/h
Total: 4545 km
Total riding days: 52
Roadkill: the road, being bulldozed and JCB'd into oblivion in a couple of places

Another long, hot, hard day. The legs are struggling.

Dien Bien Phu is the scene of the final defeat of the French in their efforts to keep hold of their empire in Indochina. I will stay here a couple of days to rest and look around.

Met a couple of Germans on a motorbike.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Day 70 - Lai Chau to Lai Chau

Start: Lai Chau (aka Tam Duong), Vietnam
End: Lai Chau, Vietnam - the other Lai Chau, this one the one that is called Lai Chau on most maps.
Distance: 109 km
Time: 6'04"
Avg: 17.9 k/h
Max: 48.5 k/h
Total: 4439 km
Total riding days: 51
Roadkill: small pretty bright green snake
Riding hours: 0910 - 1630
Hard work today. Nice tropical valley, but it is very very hot, and little shade.

More trouble at 'works, this time the chain is sagging. I had tightened the freehub too much, I think.

Another puncture! Two in the last month. This is becoming a habit.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Day 69 - Sapa to Lai Chau

Start: Sapa, Vietnam
End: Lai Chau, Vietnam - but not THE Lai Chau. There seem to be two Lai Chaus, and this is the one nearer Sapa, that is called something like Tam Duong on most maps
Distance: 75 km
Time: 4'41"
Avg: 16.1 k/h
Max: 49 k/h
Total: 4330 km
Total riding days: 50
Roadkill: a big, fat snake
Riding hours: 1330 - 1820

What a difference a freehub makes! Thank you Michael Zhao at Decathlon Shanghai for arranging that. I can now pedal and turn the wheel, which makes a big difference in terms of riding a bicycle.

I left Sapa rather late (it was starting to feel like home, had to tear myself away...), and got benighted, finishing the ride in the dark and pouring rain. In fact it rained, hard, almost all day. Luckily I had seen most of the view a week earlier, on my aborted exit from Sapa before the freehub finally kaputed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Day 68. Sapa, Vietnam

My rather fantastic sponsors in Shanghai have sent me a new freehub!!!!!!

It is now in Hanoi, and barring train derailments, missile strikes, or other mishap, will be here in the morning.

That is news just in, hot off the wires to my email.

So just as I was getting to know and love the place, I learn that this is to be my last night in Sapa.

But then, I've said that before...

As a precaution, though, it has started raining - the heavens are weeping at my impending departure.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Day 67. Sapa, Vietnam.

A new dawn, a new day. But still Sapa.

I devote most of the day to turning out my panniers and doing a complete inventory of what I've got in them.

Preliminary findings are as follows:

1. There is a lot of junk in there.

2. Most of it I didn't even know I had.

3. Which suggests to me that some of it might not be strictly necessary.

4. Almost everything is damp.

5. Anyone care for a small Chinese umbrella (broken)?

6. Or want to trade a soggy copy of For Whom The Bell Tolls or Madame Bovary for something else for me to read while I strut and fret my life away here?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Day 66. Sapa Sapa Sapa Sapa Sapa Sapa Sapa Sap

Do you think this blog page will start to be the #1 site on Google when you search for 'Sapa'?

It can only be a matter of time.

I suppose I should do the decent thing and actually say something interesting, relevant or useful about the place. So I shall:

1. It rains a lot here.

2. Coming here may be bad for your bicycle.

3. There are many places to stay in Sapa, but #403 in the Quynh Anh Guesthouse is currently unavailable.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Day 65. You know where.

I sit in my hotel room and read For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway.

Sapa has a church, whose bell rings from time to time, so I suppose there is a connection.

I dreamt last night that I was playing rugby for the England team - something that that is about as unlikely as my ever getting to leave Sapa, on present form.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Day 64. Back in Sapa.

Start: Just over the pass in Lai Chau province, near Sapa, Vietnam
End: Sapa, Sapa, Sapa
Distance: 24 km
Time: 2'38"
Avg: 9.2 k/h
Max: 38.5 k/h
Total: 4255 km
Total riding days: 49
Roadkill: westerly progress
Riding hours: 0645 - 0940

I push back up the rest of the pass, and freewheel down into my "favourite" place in Vietnam, Sapa.

Although it is the weekend, my little guesthouse still has a place for me. Back in the same room, #403.

I have a shower and buy a kilogram of potatoes.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Day 63. Sapa - near Binh Lu - Sapa

Start: Sapa, Vietnam
End: Somewhere over the pass towards Lai Chau, west of Sapa
Distance: 53 km
Time: 4'35"
Avg: 11.6 k/h
Max: 48.5 k/h
Total: 4230 km
Total riding days: 48
Roadkill: Broken freehub, this time totally.
Riding hours: 1200 - 1730

A day of three halves.

I take a chance on the repaired freehub.

It takes me 16 km up to the pass quite happily.

And 24 km down the pass even more happily, no pedalling, no problem.

It's 3pm. I have just descended 1000 metres down a beautiful valley. I am somewhere near Binh Lu.

The road flattens out; I may have to pedal.

Round go the pedals, but the wheels: no. The pedals spin very merrily but I come to a halt. Not a grinding halt, more a wobbly one.

So half #3 of the day is something that you can do for fun with a bike, but I don't recomment it. Push it, laden with 35 kg of stuff, back up a 1000 metre pass.

I get about 2/3rds of the way up when darkness catches up with me. Then, something works out for me, the way things do sometimes, when you're on a bike. Or not on a bike, in this case. The only possible camp-spot on the whole pass appears in the mist round the next bend.

Out comes the tent, and it's a happy night under canvas for me. The bike stays outside with the frogs.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Day 62. That place beginning with S, Vietnam

Start: Victoria Hotel, Sapa, Vietnam
End: Quynh Anh Guesthouse, Sapa
Distance: 8 km
Time: 0'34"
Avg: 14.6 k/h
Max: 39.5 k/h
Total: 4177 km
Total riding days: 47
Riding hours: 1200 - 1235

My freehub has come back from Hanoi. They do not sell them there.

Well, 98% of my freehub has come back from Hanoi. It is missing one of its pawls. Pawls are little sticky-outy bits. A freehub should have 3. Now mine has 2.

On a rainier day, this might make me quite upset.

But, as it is, (a) at least this way I get to find out what a pawl is; and (b) since the thing is broken anyway, I don't really suppose it matters too much.

My days of indolence and folded down lavatory paper have come to an end; I am now slumming it at the Quynh Anh Guesthouse down the steps from the Victoria. The price tag is about 1/40th of what it costs at the bright shiny place up the hill; but then, here I have to fold my own bogroll.
Oh, the depths to which a man can sink.

I take the bike with the semi-repaired 98% of a freehub with its 2 remaining pawls and a third bodged pawl that a local engineer manages to fashion out of something he found down the back of the skirting board. Remarkably, the wheel goes round and things feel, if not quite perfect, then at least worth a shot.

Tomorrow, we will see.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day 61. Same old Sapa, Vietnam

Still peering at your atlas trying to find this place?

Look a bit closer, it's the little town with a frustrated immobilised cyclist jumping up and down in it.

I have found an approximate grid reference for the lat'n'long inclined among you:

104 degrees East, 22 degrees North.

Altitude about 1600 metres, in case you're trying to get a 3-D fix.

My broken freehub has been sent to Hanoi, and persons unknown are scurrying around trying to find a replacement.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Day 60. Sapa, Vietnam

No freehub, no kilometres. Big spiders.

Sapa's official tourist slogan is:

'Sapa - a real destination for tourists'.

They clearly didn't get many entries in their 'Let's think up a new slogan for Sapa' competition last year.

Possibly, they didn't even get any entries. Neighbouring Laocai's tagline is the eerily familiar: 'Laocai - a real destination for tourists'.

Now who's borrowing from whom here?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Day 59. Sapa, Vietnam

No kilometres or any of that nonsense.

I'm going to try a DIY fix of my freehub, but I'm a bit nervous as to how long it will hold for. In any case, I'll stay here in Sapa for a few days to give the bike a bit of a break.

Thanks to the Magazine Formerly Known as Voyage (and now known as Asia And Away, which has too many A's in it for my liking), I am staying in the lap of luxury here, at the Victoria Hotel. It is very amusing. A woman comes around at 6pm every evening to 'turn down your bed', as if I wouldn't be able to climb in otherwise. Even better, they fold down the end of the toilet roll for you, in case otherwise you might cut yourself on the sharp corners.

Perhaps this is everyday life in 4-star world. All a bit odd after my usual sort of lodging-place, where 'service' means they might have changed the sheets this year.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Day 58 - Laocai to Sapa

Start: Laocai, Vietnam 104 deg E, 22 deg N
End: Sapa, south-west of Laocai
Distance: 37 km
Time: 4'02"
Avg: 9.2 k/h
Max: 34 k/h
Total: 4168 km
Total riding days: 47
Roadkill: Broken freehub.
Riding hours: 0830 - 1300

Uphill the whole way. Rain and mist and cloud the whole way. At least it wasn't a hot climb. Cold at the top. And a broken freehub to go with it all. Bit of a problem, that, no more bicycling for me until I get that fixed/replaced.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Day 57 - Bac Ngam to Lao Cai

Start: Bac Ngam, Vietnam
End: Lao Cai, on the Chinese border on the Red River in north-western Vietnam.
Distance: 46 km
Time: 3'31"
Avg: 13.1 k/h
Max: 29.9 k/h
Total: 4131 km
Total riding days: 46
Roadkill: I was hungry, I wasn't looking.
Riding hours: 0630 - c.1100.

The dry season in Vietnam begins in November, so I suppose I can't complain that it rained very hard this morning. I got very, very wet, and cold too, even here in the tropics. The rivers are swollen and red with the washed-out soil from the mountains.

China is 50 metres away across the bridge. I will cycle up into the hills to Sapa tomorrow, though; I will be back in China in January, insh'allah.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Day 56 - Lang Dat to Bac Ngam

Start: Lang Dat, Vietnam
End: Bac Ngam, 38 km south-east of the Chinese border at Laocai. Approx 104 deg E, 22 deg N
Distance: 135 km
Time: 8'27"
Avg: 15.8 k/h
Max: 38.5 k/h
Total: 4085 km
Total riding days: 45
Roadkill: Nothing noticed.
Riding hours: 0700 - 2000.

More winding up into the mountains. Bac Ngam has nowhere to stay and nowhere to camp. After watching Vietnam U23 beat Thailand U23 2-1 at football, I eventually found an electrical repair depot where the electricians put me up for the night. First, we had to watch the repeat of the football though.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Day 55 - Viet Tri to Lang Dat

Start: Viet Tri
End: Lang Dat, near Yen Bai, Vietnam. Approx 105 deg E, 22 deg N
Distance: 90 km
Time: 5'08"
Avg: 17.4 k/h
Max: 38 k/h
Total: 3951 km
Total riding days: 44
Roadkill: Snakes again. St Patrick missed some.
Riding hours: 0820 - 1530

Winding road upping and downing hills all day. Was force-fed one of those fruits that they call youzi in China (don't know what they are called in English, they look a bit like an oversized pear-shaped grapefruit, which you eat in segments) when I accidentally stopped to look at my map outside a row of 200 youzi-selling stalls.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Day 54 - Bac Ninh to Viet Tri

Start: Bac Ninh, north-eastern Vietnam
End: Viet Tri, Phu Tho Province, Vietnam. Approx 105 deg E, 21 deg N
Distance: 111 km
Time: 6'28"
Avg: 17.2 k/h
Max: 30.5 k/h
Total: 3861 km
Total riding days: 43
Roadkill: Rodents
Riding hours: 0840 - 1755

Vietnamese provinces are small. This is my 6yh in 3 days. In China, it takes weeks to get through one. Viet Tri is one of those disappearing cities - you ride through it and you're out the other side again before you've noticed it. There must be a town centre somewhere, but I couldn't find it.

Stayed in a guesthouse run by a returned refugee - he had learnt some English in his time in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Day 53 - Langson to Bac Ninh

Start: Langson, north-eastern Vietnam
End: Bac Ninh, north-east of Hanoi
Distance: 125 km
Time: 6'29"
Avg: 19.3 k/h
Max: 38 k/h
Total: 3750 km
Total riding days: 42
Roadkill: No snakes! Has St Patrick already ridden through this country?
Riding hours: 0915 - 1615

Spent all day looking for a turning to Thai Nguyen. Didn't find one, so ended up nearly in Hanoi. Such is life. Northern half of the day through karst scenery; southern half dead flat. The road mostly not too busy, but it does not satisfy the Mark & Ju McLean test of a quiet road.

I still don't know how to say Hello in Vietnamese. I can write it, like this: Chao.

But how do you pronounce it?

"Ciao" sounds too Italian.

"Cow" sounds too bovine.

Either way, people don't seem to understand me, so I say Hello instead. Not very impressive.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Day 52 - Pingxiang to Langson

Start: Pingxiang, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Langson, Vietnam
Distance: 48 km
Time: 3'34"
Avg: 13.3 k/h
Max: 47 k/h
Total: 3625 km
Total riding days: 41
Roadkill: The end of my 13 month stint in China - for a while at least
Riding hours: 0900 - not sure. Time zone has changed.

Arrived in Vietnam. I speak not a word of the lingo, I have no
guidebook, no phrasebook, and no map. And the bookshops don't sell 'em
either. Which way is the Exit? Quite a pretty town, Langson, though.

Internet is 'internet', I think - so I do speak a word of the
language, after all.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Day 51 - Ningming to Pingxiang

Start: Ningming, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Pingxiang, Guangxi province (just short of the Vietnamese border)
Distance: 52 km
Time: 3'35"
Avg: 14.6 k/h
Max: 39 k/h
Total: 3577 km
Total riding days: 40
Roadkill: A half-killed dragonfly
Riding hours: 0900 - 1245

My last day in China for a while, after 13 months in the country. Pingxiang is a smelly sort of border town, designed to make you feel not too sorry about leaving. Signs in Vietnamese everywhere. I am a bit apprehensive about going to Vietnam, where I don't speak a word of the language.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Day 50 - Shangsi to Ningming

Start: Shangsi, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Ningming, Guangxi province (approx 1-7 deg E, 22 deg N)
Distance: 127 km
Time: 7'30"
Avg: 16.9 k/h
Max: 50.5 k/h
Total: 3525 km
Total riding days: 39R
Roadkill: My puncture-free record
Riding hours: 1000 - 1900

Hoped for a fast good road with a tailwind and a descent. Got the tailwind... The road west from Shangsi is in a bad way, I think they are 'working on it', which means basically turning it into a rocky sandpit. Next year it will probably be a beautiful dual carriageway.

I GOT A PUNCTURE! I am very excited about this because it is my first since England, 24,000 km ago.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Day 49 - Nanning to Shangsi

Start: Nanning, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Shangsi, Guangxi province (south-south-west of Nanning, towards Vietnamese border)
Distance: 112 km
Time: 5'53"
Avg: 19 k/h
Max: 50 k/h
Total: 3398 km
Total riding days: 38
Roadkill: Snakes, rats
Riding hours: 1215 - 1835

Left after lunch. Muggy. Got lost coming out of Nanning. Nanning, like most cities round the world, is very happy to accept incoming roadsigns for hundreds of miles around, but is loath to offer directions to anywhere else. Ended up on the airport expressway; right direction, wrong road. Tried again, and found a winding gravel road that eventually took me onto the G322.

The G322, the direct road to Pingxiang and the border, is fairly narrow and busy, so after 50km or so I turned off and headed south to Shangsi, on a nice road across some low rolling hills.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Days 47 and 48, Nanning

19th & 20th October 2005.

Stayed in Nanning, eating, sleeping, and waiting for my visa.

Picked it up on 20th October. Visa collection time is 6pm.

I was premature in my comment earlier that the 400 yuan visa fee does not include a smile. You get a little one when you collect your visa.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Day 46 - Nanning to Nanning

Start: Nanning, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Nanning, Guangxi province
Distance: 1 km
Time: 0'3"
Avg: 11.2 k/h
Max: 17.6 k/h
Total: 3286 km
Total riding days: 37
Roadkill: The previous world record for the shortest day's bike ride
Riding hours: 1120 - 1123

I packed up and moved to another hotel, to pass the time. Waiting for my Vietnam visa to be processed.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Help - has anyone seen my hotel?

More from the mailing list:

Sorry to trouble your inboxes twice in one day, but since I last
wrote, I've had a little difficulty locating my hotel... and my
bicycle... and all my worldly belongings...

As I walked out of the hotel a couple of hours ago, I took care to
note that it was the one just down the road from the bus station, at
the back of a shoe shop.

Returning to that street, down the road from the bus station, I now
find a row of at least twenty shoe shops, each indistinguishable from
the next to the naked eye, and all with much-of-a-muchness guesthouses
at the back.

I have now walked into about a dozen of these places, looked around
for something familiar (my bicycle, for example), failed to find
anything, smiled feebly, muttered something in half-Chinese about
"silly me", and walked out again.

This process is easy enough the first few times, but as I get deeper
into double figures, I'm starting to feel more than a little

So I suppose I'm just sending this message on the off-chance that the
proprietress of 'my' hotel is on my mailing list; if you are, could
you please stand outside and wave, in about ten minutes' time?

Thank you very much.

In which I visit Mr and Mrs Mao, Senior, hang out with some Chinese birds, and get arrested (again)

In case you missed the latest instalment on the mailing list:

First up, a request:

While it is nice to know that people are following my daily 2wheelin'
progress across China on my blog at, can I ask
those of you who are tracking me by sticking flags into wall-maps to
be a little less precise with your pin-pricks? I keep getting a sharp
stabbing sensation in my right buttock around 3 o'clock every

Thank you.

I left you last time in Jingdezhen, out of which I eventually pedalled
weighed down by half a hundredweight of spare pottery foisted on me as
souvenirs by various locals.

Slowly, chucking out porcelain ballast at the foot of every climb, I
made my way toward Hunan province.

Now, the Hunanese are tremendous people and I'm very fond of them. But
they do suffer from a collective inability to pronounce their 'H's and
their 'N's, and this, particularly if you live in a place called
Hunan, you might consider something of an inconvenience.

The Hunanese get round the problem by claiming to live in 'Fulan' -
for some reason the final 'N' doesn't seem to cause them the same

Of course, looked at another way, it might be that the Fulanese can
pronounce all their letters quite happily, thank you, and it is
everybody else in China who has problems with their 'F's and 'L's,
causing them to mis-pronounce Fulan 'Hunan'.

Whichever way you look at it, it was in Hunan (or Fulan) that on 26th
December 1893, a son was born to Mr Mao Shunsheng and his wife, Wen
Qimei. They called their son Zedong, and he went on to cause quite a
bit of trouble.

In the village of Shaoshan, you can (and I did) visit the very house,
nay the very room, in which the Dear Boy came into this world. The
stable and the manger are also on display, just across the courtyard.
There is a distinct Bethlehemian air hanging over the whole place; I
didn't actually see any shepherds, but then they were probably busy
abiding in their fields.

When you've finished having your photograph taken in front of Chairman
Mao's childhood home, at the Official Having Your Photograph Taken In
Front Of Chairman Mao's Childhood Home Photography Spot - sponsored by
Kodak, "Share Moments. Share Life.[TM]" - you can go up the hill to
the grave where old Mr and Mrs Mao are buried. And, if you feel the
urge, you can burn incense to pay your respects. It's OK to kowtow and
mumble a few prayers to the Great Progenitors of the Great Helmsman,

Or is it?

What would Mao, the man who wanted to sweep Confucianist
ancestor-reverence out of China, say if he knew people were coming
over all humble and weak-kneed before his parents' tomb?

One thing is for sure, if Mao were alive today, he'd be turning in his
grave. Perhaps any readers planning to visit Beijing soon could pop in
and check out his mausoleum in Tiananmen Square, to see if they've
mounted his body on a spit, and let us know.


Ah yes, those leggy Chinese birds.

Just west of Jingdezhen is a big lake called Poyang Hu. The place is
full of migrating water-fowl and quite possibly some interesting
viruses too. Among the many species which pass through is the Siberian
black-necked crane. Unfortunately I lack the ornithological expertise
to be able to say whether or not I saw any, though I think my
bird-spotting talents have come on quite a bit recently - allow me to
pass on a tip: if it has two legs, a tail, a beak and flies around
saying tweet, then there's a good chance it's a bird you're looking

Back to Hunan/Fulan. I left/neft that province a little quicker than
planned, courtesy of the Boys in Blue (formerly the Boys in Green) of
the Public Security Bureau of a town so secret that not only is it
forbidden for foreigners to go anywhere near it, but it is also
forbidden to tell foreigners that it is forbidden for foreigners to go
anywhere near it, until they actually arrive. By which time it is too
late, and they have to arrest you.

So I arrived, whereupon I was arrested by the local PC Plod for Being
a Foreigner in a Town So Secret that it is Forbidden etc.

After much questioning and fingerprinting and signing of confessions,
a spot of wailing and a few half-hearted gnashings of teeth, they told
me that, since I had expressed sufficient remorse, and since they had
heard of Liverpool, they would let me off with a warning, rather than
meting out the official punishment (the nature of which was not

They didn't let me keep the Official Warning Notice, though, which was
a pity because it would have made a nice souvenir and I think my
fingerprints look good in red ink.

Instead, my passport was confiscated, and I was escorted by no fewer
than 5 (five) police officers to a hotel, told not to leave the
premises, and to be ready at 0630 the following morning, at which time
I would be deported post-haste from the province. I squealed and said
that any use of motorised deportation aids would break my bicycling
'line' between China and England, but they were adamant that there was
only one was I was gonna be leavin' their town, and that was inside of
a bus.

At 0630 the following morning, one of the five appeared at the hotel,
dressed in his pyjamas and yawning melodramatically. He gave me my
passport and said:

"You have 90 minutes to cross the border. Have a nice trip, and make
sure no policemen see you until you're out of the province."

I took my passport, and ran.

Something felt wrong.

Realising I had forgotten my bicycle, I ran back again, jumped into
the saddle and pedalled hard for the border. At 0812, 12 minutes after
the pyjama'd policeman's deadline, I crossed into Guizhou province.

Where I met men carrying blunderbusses, shared a room with a lonely
minnow, and got drunk by mistake with Mr Lu, who only knew one
sentence in English: "Drink some more".

More of which some other time.

For now, let me risk re-arrest for divulging state secrets by
revealing the name of the Forbidden City into which I strayed. It is
called Huitong. Don't go there.

I leave you with my thanks to you for all your entertaining messages
of support and abuse over the last few weeks, which help keep the legs
turning, and to my kind sponsors, who include: -

* Decathlon China - for all your bicycling and sports needs in China:

* Drennan Co., the premier player in China's specialized equipment,
components and parts market. "Nobody knows China like Drennan! "

* Eclipse Internet, for web hosting and broadband internet access in
the UK, whose sponsorship of the 2wheels website will shortly enter
its third year.

* P&O Ferries, Providing Cross-Channel Solutions. (My slogan, not
theirs.) They paid for my trip from Dover to Calais in 2004, and have
kindly agreed to sort out the same journey in reverse some time in

Edward Genochio
Bingyang, Guangxi, China bicycling from England to China and back again

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Day 45 - Bingyang to Nanning

Start: Bingyang, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Nanning, Guangxi province (Capital city of Guangxi)
Distance: 97 km
Time: 4'59"
Avg: 19.5 k/h
Max: 46 k/h
Total: 3285 km
Total riding days: 37
Roadkill: Little yellow ducklings
Riding hours: 0720 - 1400

Flier of a ride, averaged over 21 km/h until I got into Nanning and started looking for accommodation. That is fast for me on a laden bike. Nanning is a huge and modern looking city, not what I expected. I have just put my passport in to the Vietnamese consulate here for a visa. It costs 400 RMB and takes 3 days to process. A smile from the consular officer is not included in the price.

Accommodation is a little hard to find in Nanning if your budget is tight. Most cheap places turn foreigners away (which is rare in China these days, though it used to be the norm), and everywhere has jacked up their prices in any case because there is a big China-ASEAN expo of some sort going on, plus a Folk Singing Festival starting tomorrow.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Day 44 - Heshan to Bingyang

Start: Heshan, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Bingyang, Guangxi province (town north-east of Nanning)
Distance: 82 km
Time: 4'24"
Avg: 18.7 k/h
Max: 38 k/h
Total: 3188 km
Total riding days: 36
Roadkill: Chickens
Riding hours: 0750 - 1335

Nothing much to report. The karsty peaks gradually subside as you descend southwards on the G322, a so-so and not too busy road. Bingyang has some very cheap accommodation - 8 yuan (less than one American dollar) gets you a small single room with a fan.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Day 43 - Yizhou to Heshan

Start: Yizhou, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Hezhou, Guangxi province (small city approx 160 km north of Nanning)
Distance: 110 km
Time: 6'12"
Avg: 17.7 k/h
Max: 48.5 k/h
Total: 3105 km
Total riding days: 35
Roadkill: Rats
Riding hours: 0830 - 1645

Easy day downwind and gently downhill through karst hills of decreasing size.

Heshan must be the world's smallest city. It consists of a single
street, half a dozen cheap hotels, and 17 shops selling beds. Very
little else.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Day 42 - Rongshui to Yizhou

Start: Rongshui, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Yizhou, Guizhou province (small city south-west of Rongshui)
Distance: 111 km
Time: 6'09"
Avg: 18.1 k/h
Max: 54.5 k/h
Total: 22995 km
Total riding days: 34
Roadkill: The usual snakes
Riding hours: 0830 - 1645

First half of the day, as far as LuoCheng, was on an inverted curate's egg of a road - bad in parts. Second half was a perfect smooth downhill all the way, through more karst scenery.

For the second day in a row, I find myself staying in a room on the 6th floor of a hotel. This is a severe test for my leg muscles, which are now quite happy on the bike but object strenuously when called upon to walk more than 150 metres.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Day 41 - Sanjiang to Rongshui

Start: Sanjiang, Guangxi province (south-western China)
End: Rongshui, Guangxi province (pretty much due south of Sanjiang)
Distance: 119 km
Time: 6'45"
Avg: 17.6 k/h
Max: 54 k/h
Total: 2884 km
Total riding days: 33
Roadkill: Butterflies
Riding hours: 0910 - 1800

Downhill all day, more or less, on a perfect new road. Very dull. One pass - but that has now been cut off by a tunnel, so not even any climbs to keep the mind occupied.

Rongshui is, unexpectedly, set among very picturesque limestone karst scenery, of the sort more famously found around Guilin and Yangshuo. For some reason, the tourists haven't arrived in Rongshui, but it's every bit as pretty and karsty. The town itself isn't much, but there are nice little roads in the villages round about.

Most of the day's riding was dull and downhill on the new road south, nothing much to look at and no trees for shade. The last 20 km, off the main road, were lovely, down shaded lanes and along the river.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Day 40 - Diping to Sanjiang

Start: Diping, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Sanjiang, Guangxi province
Distance: 69km
Time: 5'54"
Avg: 11.6 k/h
Max: 30.5 k/h
Total: 2765 km
Total riding days: 32
Roadkill: Not on a road like this
Riding hours: 0800 - 1545

Supposed to be a national trunk road, the G321, but it's in a terrible condition and unsealed. Arrive covered in dust.

Met Li Chong Ling, a Chinese cyclist who left his home in Fujian province in 2001 and has been riding around China ever since. He's just 3 months from the end of his 5-year ride, in which time he has ridden in every province of China (apart from Taiwan...). When he needs money, he works in road crews for a few months - they pay 30 yuan a day (about 2 pounds). He says it's best in Tibet, where they pay more - 50 yuan/day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Day 39 - Zhaoxing to Diping

Start: Zhaoxing, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Diping, Guizhou province (village between Congjiang and Sanjiang)
Distance: 38 km
Time: 4'02"
Avg: 9.3 k/h
Max: 23.9 k/h
Total: 2696 km
Total riding days: 31
Roadkill: On roads like that, an arthritic sloth with a heavy weight tied around its neck would have plenty of time to get out of the way of uncoming vehicles.
Riding hours: 1145 - 1700

The day began with a hangover, for reasons which I will explain later, shortly followed by a steep climb on a rocky track to a pass. Thereafter it was a long painful slow descent down a sand and rock track.

Diping used to have a "wind and rain bridge", until it was swept away in a flood in July 2004. It is now a rather miserable little place.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Day 38 - Langpao to Zhaoxing

Start: Langpao, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Zhaoxing, Guizhou province (village north-east of Congjiang)
Distance: 29km
Time: 2'48"
Avg: 10.4 k/h
Max: 59 k/h
Total: 2659 km
Total riding days: 30
Roadkill: None, except a drowned rat in the river in Zhaoxing
Riding hours: 0815 - 1200

Zhaoxing is a pretty village which I'll tell you all about some other time. Staying in the Potato Service Hotel, mainly because it is called the Potato Service Hotel, and I have always wanted to stay in a hotel called the Potato Service Hotel.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Day 37 - XiaJiang to ? LangPao

Start: Xiajiang, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Crossroads on bank of river opposite small village (?LangPao), between Congjiang and Sanjiang, Guizhou province
Distance: 89km
Time: 6'22"
Avg: 13.9 k/h
Max: 41.5 k/h
Total: 2629 km
Total riding days: 28
Roadkill: My front rack
Riding hours: 0830 - 1845

The good road ends at Congjiang. Shortly after, my front rack broke, down where it screws into the fork. Not a good thing, though better it happens here than in the middle of the Tibetan plateau in winter, I suppose.

Temporary repair job with bike bandages (zip ties).

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Day 36 - Yongle to Xiajiang

Start: Yongle, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Xiajiang, Guizhou province (village between Ronjiang and Congjiang)
Distance: 117km
Time: 6'43"
Avg: 17.5 k/h
Max: 48.5 k/h
Total: 2540 km
Total riding days: 28
Roadkill: snakes
Riding hours: 0850 - 1745

Down, down, down, a wonderful desent on a wonderful road - but in drizzle and fog so I couldn't see the views. Must be very spectucular when you can see beyond your handlebars though.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Day 35 - Leishan to Yongle

Start: Leishan, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Yongle, Guizhou province (village south-east of Leishan)
Distance: 59km
Time: 4'35"
Avg: 12.9 k/h
Max: 41 k/h
Total: 2423 km
Total riding days: 27
Roadkill: Praying mantises
Riding hours: 0820 - 1500

Camped out last night. Would you believe it, it rained. First time
since Shanghai I've camped - and the first rain too.

Whichever god the praying mantises are praying to, it's the wrong one.

Interesting market in Yongle. Post Office Hotel gives a great view.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Day 34 - Kaili to Leishan

Start: Kaili, Guizhou province (south-western China)
End: Leishan, Guizhou province (south-east of Kaili)
Distance: 47km
Time: 3'22"
Avg: 13.9 k/h
Max: 47.5 k/h
Total: 2364 km
Total riding days: 26
Roadkill: Nothing new to report, sergeant.
Riding hours: 1130 - 1800

A passing film crew from Beijing TV's Travel Channel picked me up half
way through the day and thereafter filmed my every move. Hollywood

A sign says that "You are sure to experience the marmony of human
being and the nature".

Fantastic scenery.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Day 33 - Huangping to Kaili

Start: Huangping, Guizhou province (China)
End: Kaili, Guizhou province (China)
Distance: 67km
Time: 5'29"
Avg: 12.1 k/h
Max: 52 k/h
Total: 2317 km
Total riding days: 25
Roadkill: Didn't notice any
Riding hours: 0950 - 1800

Laurent and Anouck were right. More hills. Populated, it is said, by
hill tribes, which stands to reason. Chong'an village is supposed to
be very exciting on market days. Today wasn't a market day. It was
nice and quiet. Matang village is famous for its Gejia people who have
been making batik things for over 2,000 years, apparently. I wonder
who bought batik things 2,000 years ago, I don't suppose they had many
backpackers in those days. It is a fine place to visit if you enjoy
surround-sound high-pressure batik salesladies.

The road to Kaili cuts through an impressive limestone gorge,
apparently with coal mines deep inside the limestone. I am not a
geologist so I don't know if this is possible, but there were
certainly mineworkings with coal coming out and coal trucks beating up
and down the road hauling the stuff down to the giant Kaili power

Day 32 - Zhenyuan to Huangping

Start: Zhenyuan, Guizhou province (China)
End: Huangping, Guizhou province (China)
Distance: 81km
Time: 6'24"
Avg: 12.6 k/h
Max: 42.5 k/h
Total: 2250 km
Total riding days: 24
Roadkill: The usual snakes
Riding hours: 1110 - 1810

Met first cycle tourists of the journey. Laurent and Anouk from
Switzerland have been riding round Guizhou and Guangxi for a month,
and they have one thing to report: hills.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Day 31 - Tianzhu to Zhenyuan

Start: Tianzhu, Guizhou province (China)
End: Zhenyuan, Guizhou province (China)
Distance: 121km
Time: 8'24"
Avg: 14.4 k/h
Max: 44.5 k/h
Total: 2169 km
Total riding days: 23
Roadkill: Nothing much, but I did see the biggest moth you ever did
see, as big as my hand. Not dead though, so it doesn't count.
Riding hours: 0920 - 1840

Perfect, quiet road through the hills from Tianzhu to Sansui. Very
rough road up over double pass to Zhenyuan.

Legs were flying today, after feeling dead yesterday.

Bike now mud-caked after a climb and descent on a slick mud surface.
Made it into Zhenyuan just as it was getting dark. First town in China
I've ever been in where all the hotels are full. It's still holiday
time (National Day) and Zhenyuan is apparently a big tourist
destination (all Chinese tourists I think - I've not seen any
foreigners in town). Eventually one little place found a room in the
back for me. I am sharing a room with a small aquarium containing a
lonely-looking minnow and two red roses.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Warning - closed areas in Hunan province

Other cyclists may find it useful to know (see previous posts) that the "closed" counties which aliens (foreigners) are not supposed to travel in south-western Hunan are (according to the Huitong PSB):

JingZhou (Miao and Dong Autonomous Zhen)
TongDao (Dong Autonomous Zhen)

I was picked up while out on the road, far from any town. Someone must have reported me when I went through a village. The PSB in Huitong say they arrest several foreign cyclists every year.

I got away with a formal 'warning' - including 3 1/2 hours of questioning, form-filling, fingerprinting, baggage searching, institutionalised faffing, etc.

In theory they could fine you quite heavily, and they will probably want to sling you out of the province by taxi at your expense.

This "closed area" precludes riding the G209 between Huaihua in Hunan and Guangxi in the south.

Day 30 - Huitong to Tianzhu

Start: Huitong, Hunan province
End: Tianzhu, Guizhoun province
Distance: 73km
Time: 4'51"
Avg: 15.1 k/h
Max: 41.5 k/h
Total: 2047 km
Total riding days: 22
Roadkill: Rodents
Riding hours: 0630 - 1400

Last night's policeman showed up at the hotel where I was being held (better than a cell, I suppose, even if I did have to pay for it) at 0630, gave me my passport, and told me I had 90 minutes to get out of the province. "Good luck," he added, as I pedalled off, worried that he would change his mind before I got out of sight. "And try not to be seen by any other policemen between here and the border."

103 minutes later, I crossed the border into Guizhou province, passing about a dozen police cars along the way.

A nice road and an easy ride, but I can't recommend the Hunan side, for legal reasons....

After four hours' sleep last night, I felt pretty dead wobbling into Tianzhu, so I have checked into a zhaodaisuo (guesthouse) for the night.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Day 29 - Anjiang to Huitong

Start: Anjiang, Hunan province
End: Huitong, Hunan province
Distance: 93km
Time: 6'47"
Avg: 13.7 k/h
Max: 40 k/h
Total: 1974 km
Total riding days: 21
Roadkill: My clean-slate criminal record
Riding hours: 0800 - 2000

I have been arrested by the Huitong police for being in an area that is not open to aliens. I must remember to retract my little green antennae when I'm not using them.

My passport has been confiscated and I have been told that I will be expelled from the province at 6.30 tomorrow morning.

Quite a nice ride, until the boys in blue (formerly the boys in green) showed up.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Day 28 - Xiaoshuijiang to Anjiang

Start: Xiaoshuijiang, Hunan province
End: Anjiang, Hunan province
Distance: 104km
Time: 7'34"
Avg: 13.7 k/h
Max: 48 k/h
Total: 1881 km
Total riding days: 20
Roadkill: Just the usual snakes
Riding hours: 0820 - 1720

It is the day before China's National Day. Everyone has gone to the
market to buy ducks, chickens, and pigs, which they are carrying home
in wicker baskets.

I got my big descent to start the day, after yesterday's epic climb.
Really got the rims glowing.

Then it was up again, on a terrible road, and down again, just as
slow, on a rubble surface.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Erratum - day 22

Observant readers will already have noticed that my reference in Day
22's entry to the Long March in Tonggu in 1927 was historically
suspect. The Long March came 7 years later. I must have mis-heard or
mis-translated what the museum curator was telling me. I'm sure she
said something about the Long Something. I assumed it was March, but
that can't be right. Perhaps it was Lunch - Mao came to Tonggu in 1927
and enjoyed a Long Lunch. I'm not sure about that though, because when
I looked around I couldn't find anywhere decent to eat.

I think in fact this was all part of the Autumn Harvest Uprising.
Google it to find out more...

Day 27 - Xinhua to Xiaoshuijiang

Start: Xinhua, Hunan province
End: Xiaoshuijiang, Hunan province
Distance: 76km
Time: 7'04"
Avg: 10.7 k/h
Max: 46.5 k/h
Total: 1777 km
Total riding days: 19
Roadkill: A duck
Riding hours: 0920 - 1720

Wow, that hurt. Look at the average speed for today. Uphill, all day.
At the end of it, I managed somehow to jamb my big toe between my
bicycle pedal and the pavement. The bicycle, laden, probably weighs
about 60 kg, and that hurt too.

Moan moan moan. It was a nice day in other ways, not so much dust,
pretty mountain villages, some sunshine and a little rain to cool me
off when the climbing got heavy.

My next "target town" is Kaili in Guizhou province. It still seems to
be about 5 days away, on the map, as it has been for the past 5 days.
Somehow it doesn't seem to be getting any closer.

Xiaoshuijiang is a small village; it probably won't show up on your
map. It's about 1/3rd of the way between Xinhua (nr Liangshuijiang)
and Huaihua. There is one place to stay here, with one room, and I'm
in it, so save your visit till tomorrow. The bed is very damp though.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Day 26 - Loudi to Xinhua

Start: Loudi, Hunan province
End: Xinhua, Hunan province
Distance: 100km
Time: 6'02"
Avg: 16.6 k/h
Max: 46 k/h
Total: 1702 km
Total riding days: 17
Roadkill: Chicken
Riding hours: 0840 - 1600

Dust! You hear quite a bit on the news about massive projects
involving tunnels, canals, pumps and aquaducts to move water from
China's watery south to drought-prone north. But you don't hear much
about the Great Chinese Dust-moving scheme. Basically the way it works
is that every vehicle in the country is pressed into the dust-moving
effort, carting huge tonnages of dust around the country to ensure
that the stuff is evenly distributed. That they go to such lengths is
surprising, given that the whole land is already coated in a thick
layer of dust of many colours, red, black, white, grey, green (yes,
even green). Those not employed in hauling dust are paid to create the
stuff, squatting by the roadside, in courtyards, on their front
porches, smashing coal, rock, concrete, rubble, stones, bricks,
whatever they can lay their hands on into smaller and smaller pieces
until at last it reaches that magic consistency: dust. Then people
come along with special up-turned brooms to flick it up into the air.

That's all I can think of today. Dust. It has to be seen to be
believed, how dusty this place is. But you can't see it, for the film
of dust on your eyeballs.

Xinhua - I don't know anything about this place. Usually I like to
Google the town I'm staying in to find out a few key facts.
Unfortunately Xinhua shares its name with the official Chinese
government news agency, so I can't find anything relevant.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Day 25 - Shaoshan to Loudi

Start: Shaoshan, Hunan province
End: Loudi, Hunan province
Distance: 84km
Time: 5'18"
Avg: 15.8 k/h
Max: 46 k/h
Total: 1602 km
Total riding days: 16
Roadkill: a kitten, a puppy, a little black and white bird. And lots of snakes.
Riding hours: 1205 - 1730

In the morning I went to visit the house where Mao Zedong, aka Chairman Mao, was born. Up the hill is the place where his parents are buried. Visitors were burning incense sticks at the tomb and muttering prayers. Or curses, maybe.

Again I found roads that my map knows nothing about. Where I was between Shaoshan and Loudi, I have no idea. But somehow I have ended up 55 km or so south-west of where I started, as the crow flies, which is more or less where I hoped to be.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Day 26 - Xiangtan to Shaoshan

Start: Xiangtan town, Hunan province
End: Shaoshan village, Hunan province
Distance: 96km
Time: 6'33"
Avg: 14.7 k/h
Max: 40.5 k/h
Total: 1518 km
Total riding days: 16
Roadkill: my sense of direction.
Riding hours: 0830 - 1730

Lost all day.

I think I found all of the roads in Hunan that aren't on my map, and none of the ones that are. Finally found myself in Shaoshan, after going round in several spiralling circles. This little village was once home to Mr and Mrs Mao, whose son, Zedong, went on to cause quite a bit of trouble.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Day 23 - Liuyang to Xiangtan

Start: Liuyang, Hunan province
End: Xiangtan town, Hunan province
Distance: 103km
Time: 6'00"
Avg: 17.0 k/h
Max: 41.5 k/h
Total: 1422 km
Total riding days: 15
Roadkill: my sense of humour.
Riding hours: 0900 - 1700

A nothing day. I didn't enjoy it very much. Start in a bad mood and got worse. Everything is dirty, dusty, gritty. You can chew the air and spit it out.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Day 22 - Tonggu to Liuyuang

Start: Tonggu, Jiangxi province
End: Liuyang, Hunan province
Distance: 108km
Time: 6'32"
Avg: 16.6 k/h
Max: 48.5 k/h
Total: 1319 km
Total riding days: 14
Roadkill: Stoat (or was it a weasel?); more snakes.
Riding hours: 0900 - 1620

Good roads most of today; much easier going than yesterday. A small climb to a minor pass on the border between Jiangxi and Hunan. Museum in Tonggu illustrating the local episode of the Long March, when Mao's rag-tag Red Army passed through the town in September 1927.

Stoat or weasel? Usually I can tell the difference: A weasel, after all, is weasily wecognised, while a stoat is stoatally different. But one they've been run over, the difference is not so easy to make out.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Day 21 - Shangfu to Tonggu

Start: Shangfu, Jiangxi province
End: Tonggu, Jiangxi province
Distance: 100km
Time: 7'25"
Avg: 13.5 k/h
Max: 46 k/h
Total: 1211 km
Total riding days: 13
Roadkill: My leg muscles.
Riding hours: 0900 - 1715

A day of two halves.
The first half - long, hard, steep climb up gravel road, followed by descent from first pass down terrible sand-and-rock road that was so bad that the descent was slower (around 6 k/h) than the climb (around 7 k/h), and the braking muscles in my hands were as tired as the pedalling ones in my legs.
Then another climb to the second pass, on mud and rock road. Very hard work. At least the weather is still cool.

Second half - down from the second pass, suddenly a perfect new tarmac road, freewheeling almost all the way to Tonggu, where I eat a very large bowl of aubergine and red peppers, with several top-ups of rice.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Day 20 - Nanchang to Shangfu

Start: Nanchang, Jiangxi province
End: Shangfu town, Jiangxi province
Distance: 129km
Time: 7'29"
Avg: 17.2 k/h
Max: 40 k/h
Total: 1110 km
Total riding days: 12
Roadkill: UFO (unidentified furry object)
Riding hours: 0845 - 1740

Windy, but COOL! Got through the day on less than 3 litres of water. Even rained a bit. Had to ride a G-road (national trunk route) for 25km or so, but then back onto small hill roads. Getting through Nanchang this morning took a couple of hours - big city. Seriously windy crossing the huge bridge over the river at Nanchang - almost had to choose between being blown over the railings into the river, or being blown under a truck. Thereafter, the wind kept more or less where it belongs - on my tail.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Day 19 - [near Yugan] to Nanchang

Start: village north of Yugan, Jiangxi province
End: western outskirts of Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province
Distance: 110km
Time: 6'20" *
Avg: 17.4 k/h
Max: 32.5 k/h
Total: 981 km
Total riding days: 11
Roadkill: Birds, snakes, frogs, fish (!!)
Riding hours: 0840 - 1730

Still very hot, 38 degrees plus all day. Then after I stopped, 7pm suddenly the wind blew and the temperature dropped for the first time since I left Shanghai, down to a more comfortable mid-20s. Got some sleep at last. Busier road for the second half of today, a new road that isn't shown on my map, that cuts across the southern edge of Poyang lake, via a series of causeways and bridges. Ate my breakfast of fried noodles at a little pavement cafe, watching all the local rice-harvesting machines roll along the road into the village mechanic's shop for servicing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Day 18: Jingdezhen to ??

Start: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province
End: Small village, not sure of the name - 20 km north of Yu Gan, Jiangxi province
Distance: 92km
Time: 5'33" *
Avg: 16.5 k/h
Max: 32.5 k/h
Total: 871 km
Total riding days: 10
Roadkill: Fat silver-scaled snakes
Riding hours: 1130 - 1815

* Time bicycle in motion, as measured by bike computer.

Pretty flat today. I decided to go south of Poyang Lake. Nice ride on quiet country roads. Leaving Jingdezhen was a bit of a struggle, I was starting to feel at home there. Cross the An river by ferry - no bridge. Beautiful wetland area. Siberian cranes are supposed to stop here on their migrations, not sure if I would recognise one though if were perched on my handlebars.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Day 17 - Jingedezhen again

Another day recovering from my week off the bike. 0 km. Spent the morning wondering whether to go north or south of Poyang Lake, and the afternoon staying put, as a compromise.

In case you missed it

The latest 2wheels email update, in which I narrowly avoid becoming Russian, Japanese, and a Muslim, has just gone out to the 2wheels mailing list.

You can read it here, but, to avoid the annoying line-breaks in future editions, I recommend you subscribe to the emailing list.


Maoerabilia from Jingdezhen

Porcelain Mao, legs sold separately, Jingdezhen.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Days 12 to 16. Jingdezhen

0km, 0k/h, 0 roadkill. I have pedestrianised myself to wander round the glories of Jingdezhen. To read all about it you will have to subscribe to Asia and Away magazine, or wait three months for their period of exclusivity to expire.

Actually, I have been out and about on the bike a bit, but without the bags, so the computer doesn't go on and the miles don't count.

On returning from the bathroom last night from brushing my teeth, the key to my hotel roomlet snapped off in the door. The front desk sent for a Man, who arrived with an enormous hatchet, with which he proceeded to smash the living daylights out of the doorknob, eventually overcoming its resistance and leaving it a pile of wrenched metal and mangled springs on the floor. The door opened.

This morning, the management have presented me with a bill for damage to said doorknob.

I must devise a new high-tech counting system for days. 700-odd kilometres in 16 days looks a bit wimpy. Perhaps I will have to distinguish between cycling days and non-cycling days. Then I'll have Lance Armstrong glancing nervously over his shoulder.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Day 11 - Wuyuan to Jingdezhen

Start: Wuyuan, Jiangxi province
End: Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province
Distance: 103km
Time: 6'18"
Avg: 16.4 k/h
Max: 41.5 k/h
Total: 779 km
Roadkill: The Australian cricket team.

Supposed to be an easy short day, which it was (85km), until I spent nearly three hours getting hot and bothered going round in circles in Jingdezhen looking for a place to stay.

Eventually I found a place right back where I had started, by the railway station.

Incredibly hot today. Had to take an hour off the bike in the middle of the day - up into the mid-40s on the road. I sat in a roadside internet cafe and read about the final Ashes test.

Ate Moon Cakes all day. They are supposed to be round to symbolise the full moon, but my ones were square. Not sure why. They're a bit like mince pies in England, festival food stuffed with nuts and fruit and any other goodies you can lay your hands on.

Sometimes they have a little hard-boiled egg yolk inside, rotting quietly. This is a disappointing embellishment to an otherwise satisfactory form of biker's nourishment.

My thoughts on Wuyuan: it looks much like most Chinese cities, though much the same could be said for most Chinese cities.

I am going to stay in Jingdezhen for a while to write an article for Voyage magazine about its ceramics industry. I mean Asia and Away magazine. They have changed their name, the better to confuse their readers and distributors. Nothing like a good name change every so often to keep them on their toes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day 10 - Huangshan to Wuyuan

Start: Huangshan, Anhui province
End: Wuyuan, Jiangxi province
Distance: 107km
Time: 6'33"
Avg: 16.4 k/h
Max: 46 k/h
Total: 675 km
Roadkill: Little green snakes.

This place is the hometown of Jiang Zemin, apparently, if that's anything to write home about.

Can't write more now, though - plugged into the final hours of the final day of the final Ashes test. Every ball is a nerve-jangler.

Collingwood has just been caught Ponting bowled Warne. I don't like the feeling of this one now.

Jangle jangle jangle.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Day 9 - Jiakou to Huangshan

Start: Jiakou (Zhejiang province)

End: Huangshan City (aka Tunxi) - Anhui province

Distance: 110km

Time: 6'33"

Avg: 16.8 k/h

Max: 49 k/h

Total: 568 km

Roadkill: Bats, snakes, praying mantises, mountains (blasted out of existence to make way for expressway)

Proper hilly day. Uphill all morning up to the pass marking the border between Zhejiang and Anhui. Downhill most of the afternoon. Wonderful riding - hardly any traffic all day on a decent road winding through small villages.

Light drizzle much of the day - trying to blow it towards to the Oval in London: seems like England could do with a spot of rain in the final Ashes test. Flintoff has just LBW'd Hayden though.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Day 8 - Changle to Jiakou

Start: Changle
End: Jiakou- Zhejiang province
Distance: 107km
Time: 6'09"
Avg: 17.4 k/h
Max: 41.5 k/h
Total: 458 km
Roadkill: Chickens, unidentified furry substance.

Jiakou is a small village towards the Anhui border. Another hilly day.

Got caught out by the old trap - riding on the nice new smooth highway that's not open to traffic yet. Great for 5km until I reached a bridge they hadn't built yet. A bit of a scramble down the slope....

Just bought some moon cakes for breakfast tomorrow.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Day 7 - Huzhou to Changle

Start: Huzhou
End: Changle- Zhejiang province
Distance: 95km
Time: 5'42"
Avg: 16.6 k/h
Max: 45 k/h
Total: 351 km
Roadkill: Large green grasshoppers.

First hilly day, via Moganshan. Took it a bit easy to spare the knees.

Didn't quite make it to Anji - "The Hometown of Bamboo". But everybody everywhere in this region is busy chopping, stripping, stacking and hauling bamboo.

Mr Bean attempting not to eat steak tatare is on the TV in the guesthouse in Changle.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Day 6 - Jinze to Huzhou

Start: Jinze
End: Huzhou - Zhejiang province
Distance: 100km
Time: 5'58"
Avg: 16.7 k/h
Max: 28.9 k/h
Total: 255.7 km
Roadkill: Mainly butterflies, sparrows.

Beautiful day riding on very quiet country roads (once I got off the G318) along the southern edge of Lake Taihu. Warm, sunny. Flat all day. Reached the edge of the mountains, so will be climbing tomorrow.

Passed near PingWang, then turned off onto small roads via Hengshan, Qidou.

Very friendly and clean zhaodaisuo (hostel) tonight, decent bed for 15 yuan.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Day 5 - Shanghai to Jin Ze Town

Start: Shanghai (Xu Hui district)
End: Jin Ze Town (Jinze), Shanghai Municipality
Distance: 62.4 km
Time: 3'49"
Avg: 16.3 k/h
Max. 26 k/h
Total so far: 155.4 km

Left Shanghai (finally) after lunch. An easy afternoon's ride west on the Huqingping Highway. Stayed in the same hotel I stayed in last year, in December 2004, leaving Shanghai on route to Hong Kong. The boss not only recognised me, but still had my registration form from last year on the desk - which saved a lot of fuss trying to decipher my passport a second time round. She asked me what had happened to my beard.

Sunny, warm.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A nasty case of astro-rash

I know, I know - I'm supposed to have left Shanghai today. But I was talked into a game of Ultimate Frisbee last night - and limped off the astroturf after 2 hours with no skin left on my knees and elbows.

And woke up this morning with aching legs, thighs and buttocks.

Try again tomorrow....

Day 4

0 km.
Shanghai still. Another rest day to allow the skin to grow back after yesterday.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Day 3

0 km.
Extra rest-day in Shanghai...

Played Ultimate Frisbee instead, removing skin from legs and arms in pointless astro-dive moment.

Feedback from readers

Several people have written in response to the previous post.

A.M. in Boston says "I got a place for you to stay in Serbia".

Thank you, A.M.

Another A.M., a former Shanghai resident, says "Just a word on the Shanghai street facists: I lived there for a year and you are not being fair on them (I have cycled all over the city). I like to think of them as 'pavement nazis'.".

JH says "Surprised to see that you missed out spitting on your list of Shanghai loves," and goes on to say that while on a visit to Aswan in Egypt last year, "I picked up a copy of the daily rag, the Egyptian Gazette, and lo and behold! I found a small write up of your Mongolian horseman ordeal! News clearly travels far and wide!"

Only a small write up in the Egyptian Gazette? What could be more relevant to Nilotic folk than a story about an English cyclist having his bicycle stolen in Mongolia? The editor of that esteemed rag was clearly off sick the day they did 'priorities' at journalism school.

TH of Wokingham says, on the question of what qualifies as the Atlantic Ocean, "In answer to your question about dipping your finger in the Atlantic if you can get to the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift I reckon you've hacked it. According to my Edinburgh World Atlas - published by Bartholomew - this flows towards the NE past Eire and Scotland but significantly splits to the SW of the UK flowing,   to some extent,  into the St Georges Channel and the Bristol and English Channels.  So I judge that Lands End should be fine."

He signs off as "retired RAF navigator", so I'll take his comments as authoritative.

However, GF of Eton puts the cat among the oceanographic pigeons by asking "Only one thing - why the Atlantic?  What's wrong with Hull?  The North Sea?"

Please add your comments by clicking on the comment link below.


Back on 2wheels - Dipping a finger in the muddy Pacific (2wheels mailing list posting)

If you are on the 2wheels updates mailing list, you will have received this yesterday. If you're not on it, you can join here.


Yesterday I dipped a finger into the muddy waters of the Pacific Ocean (muddied by the silt that pours out of the mouth of the Yangtze River), and so officially began my bicycle ride back home, from Pacific to Atlantic, China to England, Shanghai to Exeter (I might have to carry on to Land's End to make sure I really do reach the Atlantic...).

To old-timers on this mailing list: hallo again, apologies for the deafening silence that has been pouring out of the 2wheels updates machine for the past half a year or so, and welcome back.

To newcomers to the 2wheels list, thanks for signing up.

To recap:

Last year, 2004, I rode a bicycle (well, two bicycles actually, after the first one was stolen by a Mongolian horseman near Ulan Bator) from England to Hong Kong.

This year I am going to try to ride back again, via a different route that you can map-gaze on

The general plan is to head south and west across China down to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, and then, at the turn of the year, head north again back into China, across the Tibetan Plateau and the Taklamakan Desert into Central Asia.

First up in the 'Stan department will be Kyrgyzstan, followed by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Cognoscenti of the former Soviet republics will notice that Kazakhstan is not on the list – but then neither is Filthistan, Ghastlistan, nor for that matter the far-flung Utterlighastlistan.

If the good people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Islamic Republic of Iran are kind enough to issue me a visa, then Iranwards I shall go, before pedalling west along the Anatolian coast of the Black Sea, across the Bosporus into Istanbul, up the Balkans, over the Alps, down the Rhine, across the Channel and so on to an as-yet undisclosed location in the south-west of England.

Since this journey started at the Pacific, it seems that the only decent thing would be to end it at the Atlantic – but I would like to consult more widely (this means you) as to which (if any) parts of
England can be said to have an Atlantic coastline. Does Land's End count? Or do I have to keep going to the Isles of Scilly?

But that is 25,000 km and a year or so's ride away.

Today, I am cycling through Shanghai for the last time.

Will I miss it? Well, yes and no.

I won't miss the automobilist madness of the no-bike road system that blanks out most of the town centre to two-wheelers.

I won't miss the small nation of petty-minded, brown-trousered, life-diminishing whistlocrats who patrol Shanghai intersections with their shades, white gloves and delight in taking control of the
minutiae of other people's lives. The other day one of these proto-fascists ran across the road, whistling, waving and hollering, to move my big toe two and a half inches kerbwards.

I won't miss the incessant noise of Shanghai's latest urban design fad: jackhammering half-decent pavements into rubble and replacing them with something slipperier.

I won't miss having a few pieces of food with my oil at every meal. Or perhaps I will – it could be that it's an acquired taste, and I've acquired it.

I won't miss the silent but deadly electric bikes, which cruise the pavements at twice the speed of regular pushies, but with half the stopping power. You don't hear them coming until they've smashed your hip through your armpit, and should be banned immediately, or retro-fitted with noise enhancers. Perhaps that way they could drown out the pavement jackhammers.

I won't miss the drivers of sleek black tinted-windowed poncemobiles who know that might is right and that a right turn on red is just fine fine fine, especially if it means mowing down a column of bike-laning bicyclists on the inside track.

I won't miss dying of asphyxia, lung cancer and an overwhelming sense of malaise every time I sit in a wangba [internet cafe] to send an email. It can be hard to see the screen through the fug of cigarette smoke. No, I won't miss that, and I won't have to, because it's the same in every wangba in China. Anyone know any smoke-free wangba chains, please let me know.

I won't miss having to lie to everyone and telling them that I'm a student at Fudan University, just because that's what foreigners living in my part of town are supposed to be, and my Chinese isn't
good enough to convince people that in fact I'm just a lazy, good-for-nothing cyclist on a break from cycling.

But everything else, give or take, I'll miss. Shanghai can be fun, especially on days with no Ys in their name. Other days can be OK too; after all, at least you can breathe the air – so long as, to borrow the fine words of Tom Lehrer, you don't inhale.

Some words of thanks to a pair of very fine Shanghai institutions:

Decathlon China, and their bike team headed by Michael Zhao, have done a great job in kitting me out with a new bicycle, sleeping bag, socks, bells, whistles, etc. Thank you, Decathlon, Michael, Haro, Cyril, and the rest of the team. Anyone passing through Shanghai in need of bicycling or outdoor gear could do worse than to check out

Roger Owens at Drennan Co., Ltd, has saved my emotional bacon by fixing it for me to have my old Mark I bicycle, as stolen in the Great Mongolian Bike Robbery, and subsequently, against every expectation, found by the Ulan Bator Police Department, shipped back to the UK, after the Chinese post office declined to do so on the grounds that it didn't fit in the right sort of box. We went through a lot together, that bike and I; I'm glad we'll be able to spend some more time together when I get back to England. Anyone passing through Shanghai in need of engineering equipment or components could do worse than to check out

I must stop there. Some of you have jobs to do.

Next stop: Jingdezhen in China's Jiangxi province. I'll write more from there. In the meantime, have a peek at If you haven't been there recently, you'll find a lot of new stuff, including 600+ photos from the UK-China ride last year at, and a new blog section at

Thanks for reading. If you know anyone else who might like to join the list, please point them in the direction of

Edward Genochio
Shanghai, China bicycling from England to China and back again


FORCE Cancer Care in Exeter
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* Decathlon China

* Drennan Co., Ltd., Shanghai

* Eclipse Internet

* P&O Ferries


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