Our first ‘Stan

The first thing that happens when you leave the Chinese border post at the Korgos crossing (besides breathing a huge sigh of relief) is that the road turns away from the Kazakh border post directly in front of you and does a big seven kilometre loop in “No Man’s Land”. I find these empty spaces…

Biking the New Frontier

Sigh. How simple the the route looked on the map when we chose it so many months ago. We would arrive in Urumqi, the capital of China’s north-west province, and bike the week or so to the Kazakh border. This would be an easy leg of our journey, a light introduction to biking in Central Asian. How…

Ich bin ein Beijinger

There are, amazingly, trains that cross almost the entire country of China from Hong Kong to Beijing in eleven hours. There are also trains that are not so fast, like the one we were on, which arrived after over twenty hours. The novelty of train travel had long worn off and we were ready to…

A Night in the Rice Terraces

We decided to visit the Longji Rice Terraces, a famed, 650 year-old series of mountainous rice growing fields just north of Guilin. This is a post about some great planning and some poor planning, beautiful vistas, close calls, and a bit luck. The drive to Longji is about three hours one way, so a simple…

Karst Kingdom

The karst landscapes that we had been biking through in Vietnam reappeared with a vengeance in the Yangshuo area of Southern China. In fact, this area is so beautiful that it is featured on the back of the 20 Yuan banknote. After a hard push during our final days in Vietnam, we were dreaming of a long rest in…

Hanoi At Last

Hanoi had been our destination for a long time, and we arrived in the city with a sense of accomplishment after a month of cycling in Vietnam. We only had one day to explore the city, but we used the time to do some of our typical city things: finding rare foods in a big…

Highway 1, Northbound

The narrow country of Vietnam has two principle roads running north-south. We had already spent a great week riding the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the quieter route running through the highlands in the west side of the country. Leaving Hue, we were now going to ride on the dreaded Highway 1, the flat trunk-road along the coast. No doubt we…

Vietnam: the middle bit

The Vietnam language has not been kind to us, and we have learned probably a quarter of what we learned of Malay. Even ordering black tea at the roadside coffee shops, which requires just saying the word “Lipton”, is met with blank stares (so much so that I have a document in my phone with the…

On Ho Chi Minh’s Trail

We arrived at our guesthouse in chilly Dalat just in time to join the birthday party of our host’s three year-old son. Our host and his buddies were EasyRiders – motocycle guides that lead popular multi-day, design-your-own rides for the backpackers set – and had plenty of exciting tales, food, beer, and of course cell…

Good Morning Vietnam!

How many blog posts about Vietnam are written every day with that title? While we’re on the road we do try to watch a few films that are set in the places we visit (this has led us to Strait Outta Compton, Frida, Invictus, and of course Portlandia). Our Vietnam selections are all pretty distressing…

The Race to Vietnam!

On our last day in Malaysia we were confronted with a big week up ahead: 8 days, 4 countries, 3 borders, and 2000 kilometres to meet our friend BC in Ho Chi Minh City. We were going to be cycling fast indeed! When we sat down in Kuala Lumpur to try to figure out how…

No Penang, No Gain

It’s no secret that one of Malaysia’s big industries is palm oil. Nearly every day that we cycled, we rode through massive plantations of identical trees, always arranged in neat rows. This gives the countryside a green, forested character, but also blocks the view of anything else (Imagine if the wheat of the prairies grew…