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Old 02-01-2011, 10:44 AM   #1
GRF_Hans OP
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Talking Great Ride Forward - Yunnan, China and SE Asia

!!! Edit: Most of the pics should be back to normal now.

Hi All,

Just wanted to make a quick introduction. Been following the community here for a while now, been a world of help as I prepare for this:

Great Ride Forward www.greatrideforward.com

Last week, my colleague Peter and I set off on what will hopefully be a two-month journey through southern China and SE Asia. Starting from Kunming, we hope to cross through 5 countries before heading back north to Shanghai.

We're riding Chinese Shineray GY-7s, thanks largely to the tales from SuperSignet on the mychinamoto.com forums. We've had the bikes for around 3 months and have hammered on them during a few day trips outside Shanghai (never expected to see sand dunes around here..). We shipped the bikes from the eastern coast of China to southwestern Yunnan province last week and have been riding now for about a week, with plans to cross the border into Laos tomorrow afternoon.

We'd love to connect with any riders out there in Yunnan or SE Asia, just pass along a note here or to pbwinter @ greatrideforward.com We're lucky enough to have very few obligations during our ride, so if you are anywhere near our intended route, let us know. Any tips for great sites and rides, we'd definitely appreciate them.

While our equipment isn't as extensive as the MK Ride guys (cheers to Ryan for helping us plan our journey!), we do hope to get enough footage/pics/stories for a short documentary or series of articles. We plan to update the website consistently during the trip and will be sure to keep the ADVrider community updated as well.

Best,
Hans




GRF_Hans screwed with this post 03-05-2011 at 02:29 AM
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Old 02-01-2011, 01:42 PM   #2
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Thanks for the intro... be sure to update this thread as your ride develops
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Old 02-01-2011, 03:42 PM   #3
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Looking forward to your pictures and ride report. Interesting part of the world.
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Old 02-01-2011, 05:00 PM   #4
Wolfgang55
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The offical toe tapping begins now.

Did I say we are many & waiting.
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Old 02-04-2011, 01:16 AM   #5
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Just wanted to post up a pic (I think I'm limited to 1 at the moment). We've made our way south to Luang Prabang, Laos, plenty of tales along the way. Will get up some ride reports shortly, along with video. Check out the website for more pics and will post more here soon enough!

-- Picture is from the ride to Jinghong, Yunnan, China, just outside the city of Yuanjiang
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Old 02-04-2011, 03:21 AM   #6
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damn nice pic! looking forward to the rest of it!
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Old 02-07-2011, 06:56 AM   #7
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JingHong to Luang Prabang

Finally, time for an update! GRF_Pete and I have been pretty busy seeing the sights and generally having a great time being in relaxing (and hot!) Laos. Everybody has been incredibly friendly and helpful, and we've managed to pick up enough Lao phrases to get some smiles. The ride from the border to Luang Namtha was gorgeous, and the Route 13 Highway (the country's only major north-south road) has been epic. According to www.gt-rider.com, between Luang Namtha and Vang Vieng lies the best stretch of riding road in the Golden Triangle area.

We have spent 5 days riding the ~750km of road (leisurely) and travelled over an absolute elevation change of about 6km. Great stuff, but definitely slow on the 200cc Shinerays. By the way, for anyone intent on riding the region, the GT-Rider map is an absolute MUST. It features elevation data, accurate distances, major city maps, and sight-seeing musts. Would like to thank them profusely and will be looking for the Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam editions.

Anyways, what I'm sure everybody is waiting for is some pictures!

The first day we were able to ride 200+kms from Jinghong, Shishuang Bana, Yunnan to Boding/Boten, the Lao border. The process of getting the bikes (and us) across was relatively painless, taking only about an hour.



What astounded us was the warmness of the people on the other side; despite the Chinese developments for the next 5kms across the border, you could just feel that you were in a friendlier place. The next ~50kms to Luang Namtha involved us stopping multiple times to capture the sights.



A great landscape by Pete of some fields 8km or so outside of Luang Namtha.



We eventually got to the town by about 6:30pm (gaining one hour from Beijing time), met a Chinese bicyclist trekking the same route that we were on, who promptly led us to a Chongqing hotel just off the main road in Luang Namtha. Being Chinese New Year, we thought it fitting to spend the time with Chinese friends chugging beers and telling stories, despite the fact we had literally just crossed the border away from China and were eager to start absorbing the new and already fascinating Lao culture. The dinner conversation was fascinating, with the hosts sharing insight as to the unfair treatment of the Chinese minority in the country. I also found out later that one of the few Lao guests was a top-ranked competition target shooter. Cool.

The next morning found us enrolling in a zip-line canopy tour of the jungles surrounding Pakxe, giving us the one and hopefully only deadline to meet of this entire trip. We then departed Luang Namtha for Luang Prabang, passing through some gorgeous twisties and awe-inspiring views.



We got into the city at around 8pm due to our slow start, managed to find a hotel, and promptly crashed out exhausted. The next morning, however, held great suprises.



Luang Prabang is a very interesting city/town built on a peninsula wrapped by the Mekong river (I don't know how to refer to these places since by Western standards they are definitely small towns, but by Lao standards they are quite big). It is an extremely developed up-scale tourist destination built around several beautiful Buddhist temples, many of which are still in active use. It fascinated me waking up to see dozens and dozens of young monks trekking from their houses to the temples through all the western restaurants and resorts.

During lunch we had seen several burly Jeeps and Land Rovers ferry across the Mekong, so we decided to give it a gander, cramming our bikes on to a tiny boat with several scooters, a big SUV, and then a truck loaded with PVC pipes.



Needless to say, we managed to find some great trails.



30 minutes into the ride, Pete was having so much fun that he just couldn't contain himself over a short and technical rock obstacle. The result was a popped front inner-tube, which manifested as such:



Pete laid the bike down and it slid towards the pictured ditch. Due to his cat-like reflexes and mastery of Starfox on n64, he was able to “do a barrel roll” and get away unscathed. I then had to romp around the area looking for help, as we had not brought an extra inner-tube or any tools to remove one. I found a small town about 10 or 15 minutes down the trail and after some awkward gesturing and amused stares and chatter from the townsfolk, I managed to get the message across and they jumped on their scooters to come to our aid. We propped the bike over the ditch and removed the inner-tube, which was patched up. Only took 2 hours!



More coming soon! Please click forward to www.greatrideforward.com to read the blog entires, view pics, and hopefully soon watch some video.
The up-to-date route can be seen on Google Maps here.
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GRF_Hans screwed with this post 03-04-2011 at 09:18 PM Reason: Misspelled a few of the names of towns. Also "leisurely"
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Old 02-16-2011, 04:39 AM   #8
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Update - Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng...and crash...

Time for another ride update.


The past week has been a very up-and-down week, both altitude-wise (lots of hills), and also physically (a lot of rest for the knees after the crash and Vang Vieng inner-tubing). We had the pleasure of cruising Route 13 past the capital of Laos downwards towards the south. The geographical difference between the north and the south is astounding, with Peter remarking at times that due to the intense sun and dry heat, it felt like we were in Africa.


We left Luang Prabang at around 1100, despite waking up at 0700. It seems that no matter how hard we try, one thing or another always holds us up.







After getting the bikes loaded up and all the appropriate stickers (USA, China, and DPR Laos) from the night-market applied, we set off for a leisurely ~250km ride down to Vang Vieng, where the plan was to overnight and then head off to Vientiane, or perhaps if we were efficient, to Pakxun.


The first part of the ride presented us with some of the most intense twisties and were an absolute blast to bomb!




Just as Peter had expected, as we neared the capital of the country, the roads would only get better. Our confidence grew with every turn that we made, and soon we would be getting one of the most impressive views of Phou Bia, the tallest mountain in Laos. We crested a peak, and the soaring, craggy rock was formidably rising up right in front of us. I brapped the bike all the way up to the viewing station, much to the disgust of the meditating tourists, but I just had to get a photo!





Unfortunately, the cloud cover made it difficult to take a decent shot of Phou Bia itself, but I hope this will suffice.


We continued probably another 30-40km down the road when the unthinkable happened. We had been warned that laying the bike down at some point on this trip was an inevitability, but despite the advice, it was still quite a shock. As Pete approached the curve, the front wheel slid out. I was following maybe 50-60 feet behind (a distance much too short in retrospect) and saw it happen, but to no avail. When I tried to slow down, the exact same circumstance befell me. The shade of the trees and the slope to the right of the rode hid the hazardous oil slick left on the road. Pete and I crashed identically, with the bikes even coming to a rest mere inches apart.




Peter's big motocross boots managed to protect him from the weight of the bike landing on his right knee, but I was not afforded the same luxury, with the bike crushing mine. It all happened so fast, and with the adrenaline still pumping, my first instinct was to leap off the bike and grab the video camera to document it. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and there was no oncoming or following traffic. The bikes were unharmed save for Pete's mirrors (which had both been replaced the night before) breaking off and the barkbusters doing their job and saving our hands and the levers.


The most frustrating part of the whole ordeal was that Pete had had no realistically possible way of avoiding the crash, and my stupidity in following too close had resulted in my own fall. Not even 10 minutes after the crash, some children on bicycles made the same turn with one of them wiping out as well. While I applied some basic first aid to his sandaled foot and now bloody toes, knees, arms, and side, Pete got a great photo of a Lao farmer who happened to see our crash trying on my helmet.





After double-checking all our safety gear and bags for any tears or other inadequacies, we hit the road again, albeit at a much slower pace and with intense focus on the road ahead. In a moment of unprecedented facepalm (I literally had to laugh at the situation), we passed a train of oil trucks pulled over not even 200 meters down the road from our crash. Get this: one of them had broken down on that very curve, spewing the dark oil all over the road...not even 15 minutes before we reached it...


So yet again we started the day at 1100, and yet again we found ourselves riding into the night. However, it did give us the opportunity to get some great views and photos, this one by Pete at the “magic hour” right before sunset and in HDR.




In order to let our bruises heal, we decided to take some extra time in Vang Vieng, and boy were we in for a surprise. A few of the tourists we had chatted with during lunch 2 hours outside of Luang Prabang had warned us of this town of debauchery, but we had no idea what to expect. As we pulled in at around 8:00pm, the streets were full of bare-foot, scantily clad, sunglasses-at-night Australians. It felt as if I had just teleported to Cancun during Spring Break.


Vang Vieng is known to have been a small town up until the past 20 years, the first decade of which was a drug-fueled tourism explosion, and the second was a more highly regulated government sponsored project. The drugs are definitely still there, and the main attraction of the place seems to be inner-tubing down the river right outside the downtown. This translates, in our experience, to inner-tubing roughly 400 meters over the course of an entire day, stopping at every riverside bar for the compulsory free shot of Lao whiskey, and getting completely hammered before 5:30, when the sun sets and it gets freezing. Then everyone hops in a tuk-tuk to go downtown, and as our Australian bros put it so eloquently: “you get yoah depozit for the tube bak and get yoaself a buuuuuhhhhgahhhh,” and continues the party at the bars/clubs downtown.


Anyways, despite the crash and the knees and the mirrors and rips in our gear, it has been fun. We are both happy that we are not more seriously injured and looking forward to getting to Pakxe in the south for our 3-day jungle hiking and ziplining adventure!


More coming soon! Please click forward to www.greatrideforward.com to read the blog entires, view pics, and watch some videos. The up-to-date route can be seen on Google Maps here.
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GRF_Hans screwed with this post 03-04-2011 at 09:22 PM Reason: Misspelled "too" twice...
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Old 02-16-2011, 06:15 AM   #9
achesley
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Beautiful pictures and great travel story. Thanks for the time and work to share.
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Old 02-16-2011, 03:09 PM   #10
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Look forward to following this one. Will also check out your website also.
Thanks for taking the effort to post here as well.

mcc66
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Old 02-19-2011, 12:06 PM   #11
GRF_Hans OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by achesley View Post
Beautiful pictures and great travel story. Thanks for the time and work to share.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcc66 View Post


Look forward to following this one. Will also check out your website also.
Thanks for taking the effort to post here as well.

mcc66
Michael
Thanks for the kind words! Glad you're enjoying reading about it because we sure are having a great time writing about it.

Cheers,
Hans
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Old 02-19-2011, 12:11 PM   #12
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Ride Report - Vang Vieng to Pakxe

Ride Update – Vang Vieng to Pakxe...and the jungle!

Before I begin this ride update, I would like to remind everybody that when riding in ovens (a.k.a. one-piece riding suits which you are afraid to open the leg vents on since the one and only time you did you crashed and got road rash on your knee which then got infected and was swollen for a week and a half) through 40 degree weather, it is always important to keep yourself hydrated.



This message was brought to you by Sponsor (a Thai electrolyte drink of which we drink at least 3 a day) and eggs (of which we average about 4 per person per day).

Now on to the fun stuff.

Departing from Vang Vieng after a few quiet and relaxing days found us having two of our longest rides almost back to back. Deviating from Route 13, we skirted around the capital city of Vientiane to make it to the Kong Lor caves, about 450km away. And this time we did it right. We woke up at 7am and were out of there by 9am. We stopped once every hour and a half, making good time. We ran into TWO other groups of BMW-mounted adventure riders! We should have arrived before sunset at around 6pm. It just felt right.



Gotta get your stretch on.

Things just never work out though, huh. The last turn we had to make down Route 8 to get to the caves was marked as 30km on the map. It wasn't. More like 60. The town was named Ban Khoun Kham in Lonely Planet. It wasn't. It was called Nahin. The guest-house recommended in the book was “just on the west-side of town!” It wasn't. It was 40km down the ever-darkening road and with no signs. What a nightmare. We ended up riding into the steepest mountain roads so far of the trip, and came away at over 510km on the day.

So at 9pm, we stumbled past the nearby hydroelectric dam's workers' barracks and into a quaint little guest-house. Too bad it turned out to also have an hourly room rate that we weren't aware of until the walls started shaking at midnight. Pete, always the one for a quick one-liner, still cheerfully said, “At least I couldn't hear you snoring, breh!”

Unfazed by the previous night, we woke up the next day to ride the 90km round-trip to explore the Kong Lor caves.



For those of you planning on making it to Laos, this excursion is a must. Over the course of several thousand years, the Hinboun River has tunneled its way underneath a mountain, connecting two villages on either side via the 7.5km waterway. Supplies are still ferried back and forth between the two villages every day from the Ban Nahin side...



...through the enormous 70 meter high and twice as wide caverns, past the stalactites and stalagmites (they ran a generator so we could see, otherwise all you have is your and the boat man's head lamps to see)...




...and out the other side about 35 minutes later.



It was a great day with a lot of smiles and amazement. On the way back to the guest-house, we came across a giant, wandering herd of 30-40 water buffalo that just needed to cross the road right in front of us.



And the next stop was for the children getting off school; some crammed onto school-buses made from welding a cart onto a large power tiller, the older ones weaving around on their hand-me-down scooters, and the younger ones riding their bicycles.



We met an ex-Buddhist monk named Ae near our hostel and chatted about all things Lao until the wee hours of the morning. The next day would be a long one as well, as we were hoping to get all the way to Pakxe in Champasak, another 450km or so south. It turned out to be an extremely uneventful ride, with no problems, no delays, no nothing. We arrived at around 6pm and repacked all our belongings in anticipation of spending 3 days in the surrounding jungle swinging from trees, ziplining over 120 meter waterfalls...



...and playing some impromptu rock-bocce atop those waterfalls.



The Treetop Experience was a great time; we made some new friends and got some amazing video. I have never ziplined before, and on the second day we were already hootin' and hollerin' across a 420 meter wide valley. After the 3-day session, it was good to get back to warm food and cold beer, though, and we are extremely excited about the next stop: Thailand!

More coming soon! Please click forward to www.greatrideforward.com to read the blog entires, view pics, and hopefully soon watch some video. The up-to-date route can be seen on Google Maps here.
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Old 02-19-2011, 06:34 PM   #13
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Following your trip with interest. I love those chinese bikes, although they look awfully narrow and hard on the butt. I'm in Vietnam (HCMC) and happy to share expertise, advice and what have you... pm me when you are on your way.

BTW, how are you planning on getting your bikes into Vietnam? They (apparently) don't allow you to cross with bikes, especially ones over 175cc (although you may be under that limit). Of course, this being Vietnam, anything is possible, so worth a try.

Watching for the next installment.

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Old 02-19-2011, 08:22 PM   #14
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absolutely wonderful RR. i'm planning a similar trip in indochina as well, but probably starting from hanoi to saigon for 2 weeks? new rider too, less than 300km under my belt haha
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Old 02-20-2011, 01:45 PM   #15
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A great adventure..

I saw you commented on my China ride and I have to tell you, I'm likewise enjoying your adventure a lot -- Laos is one of my favorite places. Glad to see you guys really dodged the bullet when you walked away pretty much unscathed after crashing on the curve. Nice pics and story-telling, keep up the good work, looking forward to your next posts.
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