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  1. #1 Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
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    Introduction:
    http://www.mychinamoto.com/forums/sh...t-Ride-Forward

    Website:
    http://www.greatrideforward.com

    Up-to-date route:
    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UT...f5bca1ce4d&z=7

    So since GRF_Pete and I have been a week away from home as of tomorrow, thought it would be cool to update everybody. As mentioned in the introduction, Pete and I will be riding from Kunming southward to Thailand and maybe even Malaysia via Laos, and then hopefully back up through Cambodia and then Vietnam (although that remains to be decided due to restrictions at the border). Today we find ourselves in beautiful Jinghong in XiShuangBaNa having our first rest day. Hopefully within the next 2 days, the dreaded New Years holiday notwithstanding, we will be across the border and updating everybody from Laos!

    The Shinerays have been holding up magnificently, with the only losses being Pete's horn, my head- and tail-lights, and a few screws. The fact that we had them prepared for a timely departure at all was a feat in and of itself. A miscommunication caused our bikes to be delivered a day late to Kunming, with the happy coincidence of the Kunming Shineray dealer being closed the day they were scheduled to arrive. Luckily, the day before we had met Zhao Feng, manager of the Kunming Shineray MotoX racing club (www.stmoto.com) who did us the favor of keeping his clubhouse open an extra day during the holidays and gave us access to his tools. With his and his friends' help, we were able to get the bikes assembled, refueled, and road-ready. The next conundrum we faced was where to park the bikes, as we were staying at The Hump smack in the middle of Kunming (no motorcycles allowed in Kunming). We solved the problem by picking a parking garage in the nearby Xin Yazhou Tiyu Cheng and hoping for the best. Not even 1 day on the road and we were already improvising. It just goes to show that no matter how much preparation you do, you must always expect the unexpected.

    We have now travelled 700+kms over magnificent foggy hill-tops and through lush valleys. The adventure has always been present; be it motoring almost 100km on an unfinished highway between Honghe and Yuanjiang as the sun set, or skirting toll-gates and pleading with police between Pu'er and Jinghong. To be honest, it's quite hard to believe we have only ridden 3 days since meeting up and exchanging laughs with fellow mychinamoto forum members Naim (slabo) and Mike in the smoke-filled Hump bar in Kunming. Needless to say, after this past week, I am certain that we will be having an experience of a lifetime.

    Please check out the website for more pictures. We have been recording almost everything on our Drift Innovation HD170 Helmet-cams and with a small Kodak Flipcam, but it will take some time to compile, organize, and edit everything. Please stay-tuned, we will be posting updates as we progress and we hope you enjoy! Also, if you happen to be in any of the areas that we will be riding through, it would be a joy to meet up.

    Cheers,

    Hans
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  2. #2 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
    C-Moto Not-so-Noob
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    I'll follow that up with a few pics. Hans nailed it - just a few days riding and we've had to improvise just about everything. Drying laundry on the bikes has to be my favorite.





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  3. #3 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
    Administrator-tron CrazyCarl's Avatar
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    Hans,

    Good stuff. Please keep us updated and post plenty o pics!

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  4. #4 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
    Moto Scholar moilami's Avatar
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    Wow this looks very promising! Excellent photography! Somehow I guess you are doing a trip of your life so far. I can be wrong though, but every trip is a new trip anyway! Very much appreciated if you can keep posting pictures and write something here during your journey.
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  5. #5 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
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    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.
    Last edited by GRF_Hans; 03-05-2011 at 05:44 AM.
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  6. #6 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
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    nuked
    Last edited by GRF_Hans; 03-05-2011 at 05:45 AM.
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  7. #7 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
    Duct tape savant felix's Avatar
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    Looks great so far, thanks for posting the stories and pics up here as well as on your blog, much appreciated!
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  8. #8 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
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    Nice to see the old camels are holding up. Any damage to the front wheel, or are you taking it off?

    What cruising speed are you getting on flat tarmac? Just asking because I see you've changed to DS tires instead of the original knobbies. What difference did that make?
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  9. #9 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
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    Quote Originally Posted by slabo View Post
    Nice to see the old camels are holding up. Any damage to the front wheel, or are you taking it off?
    Pete's wheel had no damage to it. The inner-tube had an inch-long tear in it that we patched up, although we ended up choosing to swap in the spare one anyways.

    Quote Originally Posted by slabo View Post
    What cruising speed are you getting on flat tarmac? Just asking because I see you've changed to DS tires instead of the original knobbies. What difference did that make?
    Remembering our conversation about the speedometer on these, I am unsure of the cruising speed. Generally my speedometer is hovering around 100-110 on the straights, but I believe the actualy speed to be closer to 75-80. The DS tires have smoothed the ride out SO MUCH!!! My hands no longer hurt after a long day of riding. A great upgrade!
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  10. #10 Re: Great Ride Forward - Yunnan and SE Asia 
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    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.
    Last edited by GRF_Hans; 03-05-2011 at 05:46 AM.
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