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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

YUNNAN CHINA ADV RIDE: PREPARATION, DAY 1 - 2

I always feel this ‘pain’ whenever I saw biker friends posting their pics riding in main land China. I longed so much to do the same, but being a solo rider, its almost impossible for me to ride my own bike in this land of the dragons bcos I alone can never afford to pay the high permit and guide fees. Having reached the Laos – China border, Boten, twice, I always wondered, "how would it feel to ride at the other side of the yellow border gate?" 

Flash back.....June 2012, my first time here. I reached Boten on day 53
after I start learning how to ride a motorbike
DREAM with the legendary Lil G (Hadi Hussein's bike)
Flash back.....Feb 2013.....this time solo lah



Until one fine day, suddenly the idea came to me when I (as usual), found a cheap package to Shanghai. It crossed my mind, why dont I just rent a bike and ride in China? Its much easier and cheaper compared to taking my own bike. Then the hunt for a reputable bike company begins. Unfortunately, the best reviewed bike company was located in Kunming, some 3000kms away from Shanghai. After some mailings and Q & A, I made up my mind to rent a bike in Kunming and explore Yunnan, one of the 34 provinces in China. 
So here the story goes...


PREPARATION


These days I didnt prepare myself as detailed and as careful as when I did my Stans ride. I didnt know why. Perhaps I’m getting lazy.....or perhaps I felt I’m in a comfort zone after some abroad riding experiences. But the truth is, it seemed that I rather want myself to be surprised during the ride itself (yes, it did!!!). I prefer to be there and explore the unknown without having too much infos beforehand. I found that the thrill excites me more, compared to experiencing something which I had already expected. I read and researched only very little, as my time was very limited anyway. So for this ride, I rely on the bike’s owner to suggest me the best routes. He only gave me the town names, not the route numbers, so for that, I had to check on google map and planned which route to take.

YUNNAN CHINA ADV RIDE...the black arrow to Boten is last minute additional :)

Before leaving my country, I bought a China paper map (RM31) and digital map for my GPS (RM110). I also purchased an air mattress (RM200), two air pillows (RM25) and a light portable electric stove (RM100) as I am going to cook my meals most of the time. I also applied for an International Driving Permit (RM150) from JPJ and printed out important chinese basic phrases translation. As usual, I brought along my camping equipment such as my chap ayam tent (I love it bcos its small and very light), a mat, a plastic sheet to cover my water resistant tent, my Deuter sleeping bag, torch light, a dry bag, some cooking utensils, cooking wax, canned food and instant noodles / beverage. Not forgetting, I also brought along my student card (50% discount on entrance fees to attractions), medicines and Diamox tablets, left over from my previous Everest Base Camp trek which I kept inside the refrigerator.




A must to bring – GPS and its holder, bike camera holder, gadjet chargers and USB cables, my Dell netbook, Lumix Panasonic DMC FT5 digital camera, Gopro Hero 3 Silver action camera, a mini tripod, power bank, extra mobile phone and my multi function watch. I also brought along my SOL off road helmet, my four seasons riding jacket with a waterproof inner, a pair of rain coat, a pair of knee and shin pad, a pair of waterproof riding boots, a pair of riding gloves, a pair of woolen gloves, a pair of thermal wear, two pairs of winter socks, mufflers, winter coat and my official riding Tshirt, apart from other necessities. Can u imagine how heavy was my backpack?


I brought 3 currencies - RMB, USD and Euro
Small and handy plastic prayer mat,
I hv two of this given by Yang Adilah and MRA. TQVM


For visa, I asked a local Ipoh travel agency to sort it out for me (RM110 with service charge). Its hassle free and much cheaper as I dont have to go from Ipoh to KL twice to have it done. I purchased my flight ticket online, KUL – Shanghai Pudong with China Eastern Airlines (RM888), and KMG – KUL with Airasia (RM448 with 20kgs baggage allowance). As for the bike itself (250cc, USD30 per day, deposit USD1000), I leave it to the owner, who also happen to be a two wheels tour guide to ready it for me. I put all my trust on him by saying that if the bike gv me too much problem, I will simply leave it by the road side. HAHAHA. Anyway, I did asked him to change the engine oil, lubed the chain and lowered the bike as its too high for me prior to my arrival.

I’m now ready to roll.....and the rest.....TAWAKKAL.....


1st Dec 2014: SHANGHAI – KUNMING


I arrived Kunming, the capital of Yunnan after a torturing 36hrs train ride from Shanghai. I’m not going to elaborate much about my experience on the train, but just a piece of advice, never ever take a hard seater on a China train if the journey is more than 5 hours. I have thought that the seater is a comfy one, like in Malaysia or Thailand...but how wrong I was. Yes, its expensive to take the sleeper, but in this case, believe me, its worth to spend the extra money. The train arrived Kunming station at the wee hour of 6.30am. I made my way to the exit and since I had a very heavy luggage with me, I hailed a taxi to send me the the hostel which I had booked earlier. However, the throat cutter taxi driver asked for RMB60 (RM30) for a journey of less than 3km. I tried few others but the price they quoted were ridiculous, so in the end I ended up taking a motorbike taxi instead.

Unfortunately, the hostel which I booked was closed for renovation. Using hand signals, I asked the motorbike taxi driver to help me call the number pasted on the wall. The hostel owner who can speak English said that he had no idea how his hostel still appear in the web site which I booked bcos it was under renovation. He gave direction to the driver to send me to his branch hostel, some 10km away. I was dead tired and sleepy due to the sleepless train ride, so I had to agree even though the other hostel was away from the central and pricier compared to the one I had booked. It was at 9am that I finally checked into my room and get the sleep that I desperately needed.

I woke up at 2.30pm, feeling dizzy, weak, and pain in the throat. However, I must go to the bike garage to meet the bike owner and test ride the bike. The problem now is I am unsure of my location. I asked the hostel ppl, but communication was bad. So I just walked, hoping to find the subway station somewhere. I ended up taking a bus to the central and a subway half way back, and walked the remaining distance back to my hostel. I was lost few times bcos my GPS gave me confusing direction. 

Tumpang posing ya.....
Green Lake, Kunming
Kunming subway station




2nd Dec 2014: KUNMING – ANNING – CHUXIONG (225km)


The worst thing that can ever happen to an adv rider is when u lost the most precious thing – YR VOICE. Not just that, I also suffered from fever, cough and a terrible sore throat. Thanks to the torturing and sleepless Shanghai – Kunming train ride. After checking out, the hostel staff walked me to the main road to hail a taxi to send me to the bike garage. Jah, the bike owner was already waiting for me. The bike had been lowered, but its still high and I had to tip toe. This put a little concern in my mind of how am I going to manage this bike when riding on off road later. 

Her name is Jia Ling, but since I didnt ride a she,
I changed her gender and called him Laling 

After some discussions, signing of papers and rental money paid, Jah escorted me for about 5kms. Thats the furthest he could send me. I switched on my GPS but as yesterday, the GPS was not functioning as how it should be. I followed the direction it gave me, but it kept recalculating and in the end, I was going in circles. Haihhh...the same thing as how I experienced in Tashkent happened again. I stopped by the road side and studied the map in my GPS. Then I noticed that the GPS had detected my location wrongly. I was actually on A Street, but the GPS detected me on C Street, a 80m – 100m difference in distance. No wonder it kept recalculating. 

I switched off the GPS and tried to ask locals. No one seemed to be speaking English. I rode back to the place where Jah last left me. I saw the signboard to Chuxiong, but it had the small green expressway logo. No choice, I took the turning, but someone by the road side waved at me frantically saying something in mandarin which I understood that the road was leading to the expressway which was not permitted for motorbike. FYI, motorbike (doesnt matter which cc) are banned on expressway. I asked the man the correct way, but he replied in his language which I couldnt understand. I said “wo pu che tau mandarin”, but he kept on talking in chinese but with a raised intonation. (This happened many times throughout my journey in China). It seemed to the locals, when they raised their voice, I could understand them. LOL....I still couldnt understand you lah, doesnt matter how loud u shout at me.

I didnt know how....but in the end, after going round and round for 2 hours, I managed to exit Kunming. It was still very tough for me to find my way to G320. Theres no sign of G320 at all. I was lost many times. Only until I had passed Anning that my navigation was slightly easier, not much, only slightly.

I only saw the route sign after I had left Kunming for about 60km.
Notice that the route number is written on mile stone, not on road sign board.

Most of the time I can only ride at 40kmh, due to the off road, badly damaged paved road or due to the slippery and wet bumpy road which was dangerous for motorbike. Roman alphabet signboard was close to none and English was non existence. Its tough, especially when I had lost my voice and I couldn't even ask for direction. What came out from my lips were mere whispers. Not just that, its cold too as Yunnan was a mountainous country and its winter now. Few times I suffered toe cramps while trying to change gear when ascending @ descending the winding mountain road. However, the view saved the day. I passed some lakes and terraced vege fields.






Theres one time when I was nearing Lufeng that I was puzzled when I didnt see any vehicles coming from the opposite direction for quite a distance. After I crossed a bridge, I was confused on which way to take, either left or right. Theres no one for me to ask for direction. I took the left turning, but after riding for few kms, I realized that on the other side of the river was the road which I had rode just now. Then only I realized that the road that I’m riding now, and the road across the river were a one way road, and instead of heading to Chuxiong, I am now heading back to Kunming!!!  I was so pissed off with myself. I stopped a motorbike and asked him how to get back to the other side. He guided me until I reached an off road leading to a very narrow bridge. I must cross this bridge? Oh nooo!!! But this is my only option, or else I had to ride further more. I managed to get back on track, but I wasted 40mins due to this mistake :(


A mosque I saw on my way

Ohh, forgot to mention, during my ride today, I passed not less than 10 very very very dark tunnels. The light from my headlight was pretty dim. It was scary when I coudnt see a thing and theres a lorry trailing behind me. Thank god the tunnels were not so long in length.

I had actually targeted Dali as my destination today, but Jah had told me to take it easy on the first day. Now I understand why Jah had said so. The bad road condition and the navigating and communicating difficulties were the reason why I shouldnt be too ambitious. Nevertheless, I survived in all difficulties and managed to reach Chuxiong after 7 hours straight riding from Kunming with only one short break. However, I almost fell from my bike once, when I had to hit the brakes to avoid some rocks on the wet road. The tires slid and the bike swayed. Thank god I managed to keep its balance while screaming on top of my lungs.

The road always looks shiny as if just being polished


Upon reaching Chuxiong, I tried to find a place to sleep by checking POI in my GPS, but it was of no help as the GPS kept recalculating. I asked locals, but when they gv me directions, I couldnt understand them. It was really frustrating. I finally found a place, but using a translator on her hand phone, the receptionist told me that her place couldnt take foreigner. Ohh cmon, I’m dead tired, I am so sick and its getting dark. Have some pity, will you? The girl pitied me but she couldnt help me. In the end, even as much as I tried avoiding the police since I didnt own a chinese driving license, I had no choice but to get them to help me find a room. The police brought me to a nice hotel. I thanked him for his kindness. Only god knew how tired I was.

Only RMB98 (RM49).....equivalent to a three star hotel in Msia



2 comments:

  1. Kak Anita.
    Tripled thumbup...Cannot imagine how difficult with one way communication and puzzled GPS.
    Following your journey..

    ReplyDelete

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