The Big Ride

China: Chicken heads and tired legs

Scenery in Yunnan and Sichuan, The food - really good, always available and varied, Peking Duck,Good roads... mostly, Tibetan areas, More developed than we expected, Cycle paths in the cities
Gross public toilets, Cost... no longer cheap, Everyone spitting and hocking up phlegm, bad drivers (selfish), difficult to get off beaten track
Things we are loving
Sunflower seeds


Our foray into China was one we debated quite a bit. We talked about skipping the country all together, because of time, visas, many other reasons and well…. China is big. Really big. There was no way we would have the time to cycle from Vietnam to South Korea… and I’m not sure I would want to anyways. But in the end we decided that we would be missing out on a pretty interesting part of the world, and skipping China altogether would leave a void in our trip.
We knew we needed to focus on one area of the country and we opted for somewhere less populated, a bit more remote and culturally diverse. We chose to start our ride from Kunming, Yunnan Province and cycle to Chengdu, Sichuan Province which did not disappoint. It was one of the most interesting, challenging and beautiful sections of our trip so far and unbeknownst to us one of the most popular cycle routes in the country.


When people talk about China I think for many they have an idea of a country that is steeped in history with some great heritage and a lot of rice paddies on the one hand and on the other a developing country that has emerged as a mighty producer with endless miles of factories churning out black smoke and cheap products. Although this may be a reality in some parts of the country it is not what we experienced at all. Apart from the odd factory and bizarrely overbuilt towns we passed on the way through the country, we were surrounded by some beautiful nature, cycling next to grand rivers and towering mountains.
After a bus ride with an disgruntled bus driver from the border town of Hekou we arrived in Kunming, a relatively small city for China with around 6.5 million residents!
Our first Chinese city experience was interesting. Construction seems to be rampant with new tower blocks going up everywhere while numerous complete buildings seem to stand empty. The infrastructure of the city was pretty impressive with dedicated bicycle lanes throughout the city and large wide roadways everywhere. However, it seems that speed rather than proper design was the driving force in nearly all elements of the city. Many things were often not well thought through and the ‘fit and finish’ of nearly everything from buildings to roadways, highways and utilities definitely deserved the label “Made in China”. But I digress….. we managed to take in some of the culture of the city visiting the local temple and massive lotus pond. But the true cultural experience of modern day China came when we went to KTV with our Belgian host, Sander and some of his friends. KTV or “Karaoke TV” is something of a national past time and it isn’t just for friends to go out and rip up the mic, its also somewhere to bring your business associates for an evening of schmoozing. Needless to say the locals were good, really good, the two cyclists who just arrived in town, were not. It was a blast and a great introduction to modern China.



Your lowlights of cycling through China are pretty much the same as mine lol. We cycled into China from Kazakhstan and cycled to Urumqi which was not a pleasant ride at all. We were flying home from Beijing, so decided to ditch the bikes in Urumqi then train the rest of the way, via Chengdu (which is probably my fave place in China – so it’s no surprise this was the nicest part to cycle through). Well done not skipping the country. We will probably end up cycling a part of China again in a few years, though this time we will probably pick a nicer part to cycle through.


Hey thanks for getting in touch! Cycling in China is definitely not easy but I think it really does depend on where you are! We are jealous you got to cycle in Kazakhstan – something we want to do in future. When did you finish your trip?


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