China: the Bad, the Ugly, and the Really Really Good

Kunming to Dali, the Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La – 2 weeks, 900km

China overwhelms and assaults the senses. It’s also a land of contradictions that has you groping for air from the terrible truck exhaust one minute, and gasping in awe at a 10,000ft deep gorge the next. In the past 2 weeks we’ve been through bike-touring hell and back, but are now perched on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, giddy with excitement at what the next 2,000km and 4 weeks will bring. We sit in blissful high-altitude comfort in the mythical town of Shangri-La surrounded by initial glimpses of Tibetan culture, and the joy of being in the mountains makes it especially hard to reconcile this new wonderful China with the same China we escaped from only 5 days ago.

mists swirling around Himalayan Peaks

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‘Please Go Away: Welcome to China’

We’re here; we made it, the big daddy, the second leg: China. At 5,000 kilometers and after a crazy 12 days of riding since Hanoi, we’ve hit the next of the big cities on our route – Kunming, China. Population: 6 million. Neon lights, friendly people, bike lanes and eerily quiet electric scooters everywhere. Silent killers, those things. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

It was time to leave Hanoi. We’d been there 10 days, recovering, waiting for visas, repairing bikes. More to the point, it was time to leave Southeast Asia. Continue reading