Trains and Boats and Planes

Jiayuguan (The Wall), China to Nong Khai, Thailand
25th November 2018 to 5th January 2019

We had arrived at our destination. We’d reached the wall. So what now? Sometimes in the excitement of planning an event the planning of the aftermath is often forgotten. I think Chris and I were slightly guilty of that. I think we thought we’d jump on a train, or a plane or ship… but surely an element of flexibility makes for an exciting life. So we were flexible but now it was time to make plans. Discussions ranged back and forth but the ship was a front runner.
There was one thing we had foreseen. Way back, towards the start of our journey, we received an email from Firuza who worked at the British embassy in Beijing. She’d come across our blog quite by chance and wondered if she could include us in a book she was writing which celebrated 45 years of a relationship between China and Great Britain. Of course she could! We kept in touch over the following months and with the end of our journey in sight we asked Firuza if it would be possible for us to meet somebody at the wall who would say “well done chaps” and save the whole thing from being an anti climax.
Firuza did us proud!
It seemed that the second secretary from the British embassy in Beijing, Jane Fallbrook wanted to meet us along with Mr Chen Huai (on behalf of The Great Wall Station) and Zhang Xiaoyan (from the Great Wall Research Institute). We were presented with a beautiful scroll, a copy of Fituza’s book and two books about the wall written by Mr Chen. We were then treated to a VIP tour of the Jiayuguan Fort. We were very flattered and felt very humbled.

It was time to start the journey home. We sent off the first email to the specialist cargo boat travel agent and a little reluctantly decided that there wasn’t anything like enough time to cycle all the way from the Wall to Singapore so we’d have to take trains and buses but maybe cycle a small section of the way.
We ‘consigned’ our bicycles.

A system that allows you to take oversize luggage or of course bicycles, to an office a couple of days before you travel and then you collect your luggage at your destination. Straightforward. Simple even. Nevertheless Chris was distraught. Emotionally traumatised. It was as if she’d handed over her baby. With only a bottle and a clean nappy…
On the way back from the station we came across a demonstration! In China! We thought demonstrations wouldn’t be allowed. I took a photo of the banner and later asked somebody to translate. It was a promotion giving away free eggs at the local supermarket…

The following day we boarded the train to Kunming, 2000 kilometres away down in the south of China. There are three classes of train travel in China. There’s hard bed, soft bed or seat. And then there’s the high speed train and the train… Chris coined a wonderful phrase – the Bubble of Bewilderment. We knew we’d booked a ‘hard bed’ which wasn’t hard at all it just meant that it was in a bed in an open carriage rather than a compartment of four beds. And that was about all. Up until we actually saw the train in front of us we had no idea if it was a high speed train or just a train. We didn’t have much of an idea when it was going to arrive either…I was pretty sure it was about 10 in the morning in two days time. Chris thought maybe 10 the evening and logic suggested somewhere in-between…

The train that pulled in was not a high speed train. One question answered. We found our berth and settled down for the next two days. There were six beds in our open plan compartment. Fortunately we were assigned the lower berths. I’m really not sure I could have made it onto the top bunk. Our fellow passengers were crunching chicken feet and slurping noodles. The desert rumbled past out of the window and for quite a while we watched excitedly as we spotted long sections of crumbling Great Wall running alongside the line.

The desert mountains turned to crimson and at 10 o clock the lights were dimmed and everybody went to sleep. The train wheezed through the night. The next day saw the landscape changing to fields of crops and towns were more frequent. We spotted bamboo. We were in giant panda country! We tried the restaurant car for a change of scenery and enjoyed some noodles and tea. We dozed through another night and the next morning awoke to lush greenery. We wound our way through hills covered with trees. Things were very different here.
We had left Jiayuguan in cold crisp sunshine and when we emerged blinking into the sunshine of Kunming it felt like a beautiful late summer’s day.

Kunming is known in China as the city of ‘eternal spring’. It does have a wet season but by and large it remains a pleasant spring-like temperature all year round. It’s a fairly small city by Chinese standards, of six and a half million with its ubiquitous skyscrapers of flats, hotels and offices.

Our first job was to reclaim our bikes. We found the right office and presented our tickets. And out popped our bicycles! We were reunited! Happiness unalloyed!
We then had to find Claire who had kindly agreed to host us in Kunming. We threaded our way through back streets and once again enjoyed the wide bicycle/scooter lanes that run alongside the main roads in most Chinese cities. But we couldn’t find Claire’s flat. We stopped to consult the map and a lady over the road asked if she could help. I’m sure we have a guardian angel looking after us. Whenever we’re in trouble there always seems to be somebody there to help. Annie, as she introduced herself, certainly could help us. It turned out she was also a warm showers host (there are only about 8 in the entire city!) and she was able to telephone Claire who was happy to cycle over to where we were and lead us back to her flat. While we waited for Claire we invited Annie for a coffee. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I realised that we’d left the cafe without paying. And Annie was still there. With our lunch bill… fortunately we were able make amends when we were invited for dinner to Annie’s home later in the week.
In our travels around Kunming we came upon a strange sight of a bicycle graveyard. I wondered if it was art… but I don’t think it was. It seems not all city bike schemes work quite as they should and these bikes were ‘hired’ ( by scanning with a smart phone) then they were re-locked and dumped where they shouldn’t have been. The street cleaners then gathered them up and made a pile… No, I’m not sure I understand it either.

We also found a shop selling all manner of things wooden. They seemed to specialise in table tops. There were tens of four inch thick gorgeous tropical hardwood slabs of wood for sale. It almost seems that if something is sufficiently rare then there’s a market for it in China.

Around this time we heard back from the travel agent. It seemed the bikes would be no problem to take with us so we started to get down to details and ask about specific ships and dates.
We set off once again – on bikes, and headed for the university campus where we had arranged to meet Subhon, who we’d last seen in his village in Tajikistan where he’d invited us into his house for a meal. He told us back then that he’d won a scholarship to a university in China and if were passing through Kunming to drop by and see him. So we did!

Subhon and his friends treated us royally. They showed us around the university, took us out to eat at a ‘hot pot’ restaurant where you cook your own food in a broth which is kept bubbling in the centre of the table and then gave us one of their own rooms for the night.

We were shown around the university library.

We cycled on. We were skirting a lake where we saw white bait being dried on the ground.

Time, once again seemed to be pressing down on us. We had lengthy discussions. Where will we spend Christmas? which section should we cycle? When could we be in Singapore?

Kunming is in the South of China but there was still another 1000 km or so before the Laos border. We decided to take a bus south to Jinghong, a completely different part of China. Ten hours on a bus. Not very comfortable but uneventful. We gazed out of the windows , both wishing we were cycling…

There is a massive night market in Jinghong complete with an open air stage show. There were food stalls, clothing stalls and souvenir stalls. Everything was colourful, noisy and bright. There were entertainers dressed as monkeys…It was a heady experience. I’ll let Chris describe some of the more interesting food stalls…

We visited the botanical gardens. Beautifully maintained, perfect lakes and rare plants and trees.

We thought it would perhaps be a peaceful place. It wasn’t really. The peace was periodically shattered by the little trolleys that carried tourists around the gardens. The trolleys would stop at particularly beautiful spots, the tourists – mostly Chinese – would jump out and excitedly take pictures of each other.

The little electric bus then gathered back its charges and it moved on, hooting at pedestrians who were on the path. Peace descended again only to be shattered by the squelching and squawking of the guard’s walkie-talkie and him bellowing his call sign and response.
We watched a child feeding the fish. What is it about China? These were goldfish on steroids!

They were 10 inches long and they virtually stood up on the surface of the water to try to get to the food. If they could have thrown themselves onto the land I’m sure they would have.

We had more discussions as to where we wanted to be and when. We decided to head for Laos for Christmas.

We heard back from the ship travel agent with a definite offer of a ship. We poured over the terms and conditions. We read that the ship could change its schedule if it so pleased , we had to be connectable 24 hours of the day in case it left a day or two early, it may or may not arrive in Southampton on the day it is scheduled, it may not even go to Southampton! The agent accepted almost no responsibility at all – for anything – up to and including the seaworthiness of the ship, we had to get a doctor’s certificate that declared us fit enough to travel by cargo boat – fit enough to do nothing for three weeks…and it was very expensive!! Much more expensive than flying. But the condition that stopped us in our tracks was the one that stated – no excess baggage. Our bikes were ruled out! Did I mention the rule about the hard hat and rubber apron when on deck? This was crazy. We were determined though, to hold onto our principles and not buy an aeroplane ticket. We emailed the agent who had assured us that the bikes would be no problem and asked for written assurances that the bikes could board the boat. The ship was nearly a half of a kilometre long for goodness sake!

We decided to make one more hop southwards by bus. So we duly presented ourselves at the bus station in plenty of time. We were ushered through security to the waiting bus. Which when we found it, had six other bikes on board. There was no way they could fit ours in. We made our way back to the ticket office and found out that the next bus was in two days time. We sat and had another good think. And a cup of tea. Then the lady in the ticket booth called us over. We couldn’t understand a single word but it was clear that she had a solution. We were back in our bubble of bewilderment. We followed directions and found ourselves loading our bicycles into the back of a large four-wheel drive. We had no idea where it was taking us but clearly they knew where we wanted to go and the lady in the booth took money for our fare! It was very comfortable. Soon we were on the motorway heading south. Ten minutes later we overtook a bus that was stopped on the hard shoulder and we pulled over in front of it. Now we understood! We had caught up a different bus and this one had plenty of room for bicycles on the back seats.

At the border with Laos the bicycles had to be taken out of the bus, re-assembled, taken through customs and then loaded back onto the bus. A long, tiring 12 hours later we stopped just short of Luang Prabang and our journey was over.
We decided to be tourists for a few days. We hired a motorbike which was ridiculously small (in size, not power) and visited some gorgeous tropical waterfalls.

The day after we signed up for a half day with elephants. We actually rode them! With the mahout behind us. Sitting astride their huge necks with our legs tucked behind their ears. They were ponderous, friendly, intelligent animals and it felt very special to be so close to them. We actually rode them into the river and scratched and washed their heads with coconut fibres. The Mekong! It was a ‘tourist’ experience but I’m sure the elephants were treated well and they all had apparently been ‘rescued’ from logging work.

After the elephants we were directed to a boat. I don’t remember a boat being part of the package but safely in ouŕ bubble of bewilderment we jumped on board. Five minutes later the boat tied up at a jetty and off we trouped into a village. Chris and I still didn’t have the slightest idea of what was going on. We filed up through the village admiring the fabrics on sale from the stalls and it was only after we’d seen the bottles with snakes curled inside that we realized that this was the ‘whiskey’ village which was part of our tour…

Luang Prabang was a town with temples on every street and a huge night market where the stall holders set out their wares every night for the strolling tourists.

After the frenetic hubbub of China, Luang Prabang was laidback and relaxed.

We spent several happy days in Luang Prabang and soon it was time to set our pedals southwards again. We were heading for Vang Vien which up until a few years ago had a reputation for being the place to get totally hammered on alcohol and drugs and go tubing down the river where there were bars every few kilometres. ‘Tubing’, is sitting in a large inner tube and drifting downstream. There were also rope swings where you could swing across the river and leap into a pool. These unrestricted hedonistic activities resulted in tens of deaths and injuries every year until the government cracked down and closed many of the bars along the river.

There wasn’t a whole lot of Christmas in evidence. One or two people wearing Santa hat’s, a snowman in the European bakery and we did spot a crib outside a hostel. In the evening we ran into young couple who were teaching English in Vietnam and we ended up having a great evening with them drinking wine and eating pizza. On Christmas day we walked up a hill and wished everyone we passed a happy Christmas.

A slightly strange Christmas. We missed our family especially our grandchildren. Skype just doesn’t quite do it.

Southward again. This time heading for Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
We found some quiet roads away from the clouds of dust and high-speed railway building next to the main road and took a half days break in a beautiful quiet guesthouse by the side of a river.

There were kayaks available and I persuaded Chris that a lazy paddle on the river would definitely not be a white knuckle, rapids shooting adrenaline experience. We donned life jackets and made our way down to the jetty where our kayak awaited.

Trying to exude as much confidence as I could muster I told Chris to jump in first. Maybe that was my first mistake. The canoe started to sink. Chris clambered out. Ok, not to be deterred, I suggested we try again. It started to sink again. This time she stuck it out a bit longer. The back of the kayak lifted out of the water and Chris slowly disappeared into the river. The canoe then bobbed out from underneath her. I tried to hold on to Chris. Then the canoe. And failed with both. The canoe was taken by the current and gently swung into the centre of the river. Chris was up to her armpiits holding on to the jetty. She managed to clamber out and went to confess to the guesthouse that we’d lost their kayak. Meanwhile I tried to follow it’s progress downstream. All ended well. A fifteen year old boy jumped into the river, retrieved the lost boat and tried to persuade us to try again. This time Chris was emphatic .

We have now received written confirmation that we can take our bikes on board the container ship. The only snag was that they had to be stored in our cabin… More discussions. Should we, shouldn’t we??? What about a train???

Two more days cycling brought us to Vientiane. The traffic was calm, in fact Vientiane must rate traffic-wise as one of the easiest cities we’ve cycled into. We found a lovely colonial style hotel that we think used to be the Indian embassy and spent a very enjoyable few days over the new year period exploring the markets and sampling the many cafes.

We celebrated the new year with a couple of beers and a nice meal out and meandered back to our hotel through the crowds, bright lights and music shows. Once the Thai embassy re-opened we applied for our visas, picked them up the next day and we were ready to go again!

We crossed the Mekong and entered Thailand! On the left hand side of the road! That will take some getting used to!

MUSINGS

Bubble of Bewilderment
I think for a large part of our time in China Pete and I were very befuddled. I don’t think that this was just our deteriorating brain function although that definitely played a part but there really was something extra confusing about China which we called our Bubble of Bewilderment. I suppose generally not being able to communicate with people or understand them or even be able to recognise any letters of their alphabet is a bit like losing one of your senses. We could see, hear and feel but most of it didn’t make any sense. The effect of this was sometimes just to throw ourselves into situations and see what happened.
One night we were walking along a pavement and 2 men were walking along the road next to us but walking backwards and clapping their hands with each step. I would very much like to have asked them why they were walking backwards clapping their hands at that time of night but of course it was impossible.
Food has of course been an endless source of fascination and bewilderment.

Fried grasshoppers, cicada pupae and bamboo worms. Delicious.
Grilled spiders. Scrumptious.

The lovely Claire who was our Warm Showers host in Kunming told us of a coffee shop there that sold cat pooh coffee or to give it its official name Kopi Luwak. This is coffee that is made from the partially digested coffee beans that have been eaten and then passed by a civet cat. Apparently the digestive process causes a sort of fermentation that adds a special flavour to the coffee and it is in great demand and extremely expensive. We decided not to take Claire for a coffee and she wasn’t too keen anyway.

Of course all this adds to the joy of travel and excitement of not knowing what is going to happen from one moment to the next. The bubble is completely of our own making and could have been burst by us learning Chinese but we didn’t and as a result had a very different experience than if we had but it was a great one anyway.

Laos

Laos was very beautiful. It was like being in an extensive botanical garden with thick green jungle, colourful and aromatic plants, frangipani, hibiscus, bougainvillea, magnolia, unidentified flowers with ridiculously vibrant colours and design. All huge and healthy.

We could hear frogs, cicadas and noisy unseen birds. We no longer needed jackets or fleece and we could sit comfortably in the shade of a palm tree or as I am now, a tree dripping with large pomelos which are the cousin to our grapefruit with a thicker skin and a less intense taste but sliced and segmented for you by the side of the road so all you have to do is eat. Papaya, bananas, melons, pyramids of tangerines always tempting us off the road for a few minutes before cycling off again.

My absolute favourite and most heavenly fruit is the mango which I cannot eat enough of and you can have it turned into smoothies and shakes but there was certainly nothing more pleasure inducing than guzzling one sitting in a hot spring and not having to worry too much about the juice running down my chin and the mess I was making. Added to all this a friendly people with a relaxed attitude to life. We have been told that The Laos PDR does not really stand for The Laos Peoples Democratic Republic but The Laos People Don’t Rush which does seem quite fitting. We have also heard that the people here feel sorry for those who think too much. We have not heard one car hoot since leaving China.

We have been greeted by waves and huge white toothed smiles as we have cycled along the roads. The children bounce up and down like coiled springs shouting sabaidee sabaidea, hello, hello and can hardly contain their excitement and amusement at seeing two strange foreigners go by on bicycles. We pass golden temples that dazzle the eye with their blingy architecture and watched orange clad monks lounging in the shade smoking and looking at their smart phones.
It has all been lovely and a huge contrast to Northern China with its freezing temperatures and harsh dry environment.
However, even paradise has its issues. There are mosquitos and lots of ants. It is humid to the extent that washing and then drying clothes isn’t easy. We sweat a lot and complain about the heat. The roads have been potholed and dusty to the point of hardly being able to breathe at times.

Trying to keep the dust down…….

The Laos People love loud music and karaoke and we stayed in one place where the speaker was right next to our room and we could hardly speak to one another. The food has by and large been delicious but it has sometimes surprised us with its weirdness. Pythons and other snakes in bottles of whisky presumably adding some taste or effect. For a few days of cycling we could get nothing but noodle soup with some unidentifiable grey balls of something floating in it. When I threw one of the balls to a waiting dog and missed,it bounced. What food bounces ?
The country is obviously poor with people living a hand to mouth existence, dependent on the land and what it will grow. 80% of people are employed in agriculture growing mainly rice, beans and sugar cane. It seems there is limited access to health services and education for the majority of the population.

Laos also has the unenviable title of being the most bombed country in the world and this was largely due to the American Secret War and what we know as the Vietnam War. Between 1964 and 1973 the U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos during 580,000 bombing missions. This is the equivalent of one planeload every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years.Many of the bombs were cluster bombs which release hundreds of small “bombies” about the size of tennis balls. Many didn’t explode and are now largely responsible for the 50 or so deaths occurring every year in Laos, 40% of which are children. It’s easy to imagine a child seeing something like a ball and wanting to pick it up and play with it. Apart from the deaths, many people are left with terrible injuries and in a country with limited health resources and job opportunities this is a personal disaster for them. When we were in Vientiane, the capital of Laos we visited COPE a rehabilitation centre for people with disabilities. A major part of its work is to provide prosthetic limbs to the victims of unexploded ordinance. It was an inspiring place obviously doing amazing work but also very harrowing. We watched a video where a mother described the death of her little boy after he went out to play with his friends. They found a bombie and started to throw it around before it exploded. We don’t know what happened to the 2 friends but her son was badly injured and taken on a lorry to two hospitals neither of which could help him . His parents then took him home to die. Her face was contorted with grief as she described all this and it amazed me that she blamed his friends for picking up the bomb in the first place, the hospital for not having any blood or oxygen or indeed any facilities to help someone so seriously injured, but never did she mention the Americans who were responsible for the bomb being there in the first place. I felt ashamed and also amazed that despite this terrible history that is still affecting their lives the people here are so friendly and welcoming to everyone including Americans. If you would like to know more about the work of COPE they have a very nice website at copelaos.org

On a positive note the Americans are the main funders for a massive clean up operation of the unexploded ordnance and they reckon that the country will be clear by 2022.

Elephants

If anyone is at all worried that we really did eat an elephant on this trip then be reassured that we didn’t because here she is alive and well and very much in one piece. Her name is Mai BounHome and her mahout is Mr Long. She eats 250 kgs of food and drinks 65 litres of water a day and particularly likes bananas and sugar cane.
Neither of us like the idea of animals being used as tourist entertainment but when we saw an advert for an elephant sanctuary where elephants who had been rescued from cruel practices in the logging industry go for a better life we decided to go and have a look.
It was a happy place and the elephants did look well cared for and although I’m not quite sure how you know an elephant is happy we got no feelings that they weren’t. They earn their keep by allowing us to ride them and wash and feed them. They do this for about 4 hours a day and the rest of the time is theirs to spend in the surrounding jungle.

It turned out for me to be a really wonderful experience and one I’ll never forget. Being so close to such an amazing creature and relating to her so closely for a couple of hours was humbling. I admit to being very nervous when I first got on her back. She kneels down to let you on and after a rather undignified push from Mr Long I found myself sitting comfortably behind her ears but with nothing to hold onto. I’m sure she knew I was nervous as she wrapped her ears around my legs and off we trundled into the jungle. The mahout sits reassuringly behind you and gives one word commands that she obeys instantly. You could tell that their relationship was built on trust and not fear and he was so gentle in all his dealings with her.
Our journey through the jungle took us down to the Mekong river and I had to pinch myself that I was really there on an elephant about to ride it into that mighty river. But I was and we did and it was great fun. I’m sure this was the bit that she enjoyed the most and she stood absolutely still as I scrubbed around her ears and back with coconut fibre. I could almost hear her saying “oooo arrrr, down a bit”. Mr Long then gave her the command to submerge for a rinse and down she went taking us with her with just her trunk sticking up above the water. Shrieks of delight and excitement all round and a lot of laughter after my neighbour’s elephant that seemed a little more frisky than Mai started to slap the water with her trunk. We were all having such fun.
After we slurped out of the river we went back for feeding and I gave her about 50 small bananas and almost the same amount of sugar cane . She impressed me by carefully taking each banana and wrapping it in her trunk until she had about 6 which she then popped into her mouth. Obviously one on its own wasn’t worth the effort.
I think I fell slightly in love with Mai and was sad to say goodbye. I’m sure for her I was just one more over excited tourist but I hope she knows that she gave me such a tremendous and memorable experience.

Carbon Footprint

We have spent many a happy hour discussing our trip home, the route , when to do it and how to do it. Anyone listening to us would have fallen into a zombie like state of intense boredom but for us it provided hours of fun but I think by the end we had even bored ourselves to tears. We had plans A to Z that almost slipped into plans 1 to 100. Many ingredients had to be taken into account which were put into the soup of the dilemma. Route, cost, time, emotions and home sickness, climate, visas, speed and carbon footprint. Trains and boats and planes had become the theme tune to our lives.

One joy of this trip has been doing it in what we felt was an environmentally friendly way but even riding a bicycle has an impact and apparently if we had ridden the route eating only air freighted asparagus we might as well have been driving a huge gas guzzling monster of a car. However if we had done it fuelled only by bananas we would have contributed 65g of Co2 per mile as opposed to the 2800g with the aid of the asparagus. These figures were gleaned from Mike Berners-Lee book How Bad are Bananas? He also points out that if we had done the trip fuelled by only cheeseburgers we could have both shared a fuel efficient car at the same cost to the environment. So the conclusion to all that is that by choosing to eat as locally as possible for most of the time we probably have done ok and also would our relationship have lasted anyway if we had both been eating all that asparagus?
Mike also points out that cycling keeps you fit and avoiding the need to use health services leads to less of a footprint. Actually dieing in an accident would be very carbon friendly but needing an operation would be disastrous in terms of our tally as health services have a huge footprint. So in view of Pete’s accident on Wall to Wall 1 and the necessity of then flying home if we add the two trips together we have already done rather badly increasing the need for us to look very carefully at our means of getting home.
The ideal scenario for both of us would have been to carry on cycling. We have loved this trip and using our bicycles to get us this far has been amazing but we know that we have had the luxury of time and now the draw towards home made us feel we would like to get home sooner rather than later. Also once we had reached the Wall and our destination, I wouldn’t say that the balloon actually burst but it did develop a slow leak and we became a little deflated and lacking an aim affected us both.
One journey we considered very seriously was to get a train to Beijing and then the Trans Siberian Express to Moscow and then another train to London. The one big problem with this were our bikes, as the Trans Siberian train doesn’t have room for bikes and you have to put them into your sleeping compartment. I love my bike very much but sleeping with it for 7 nights didn’t sound good. We considered freighting the bikes home but need them to cycle back to Hallbankgate from wherever we land in the country. Also they would have gone by air which seemed ridiculous and we might as well have got on the plane with them.
If we travel by cargo ship our carbon footprint would be virtually zero on this journey as the added weight of Pete and I and our bikes will make very little difference to anything. One of us will contribute 0.0003% of the power required to push the ship, a tiny 2.78kg of fuel. So I think we can happily say that for us personally this is the least damaging way to travel home. Other advantages are that it is slow. The thought of getting on an aeroplane here and 12 hours later being in London may cause our already befuddled brains to go into an absolute spin so I think for the sake of our mental health a slow boat home sounds ideal. Quite what we will do for 3 weeks surrounded by containers, no wifi or email, and very little space for much activity remains to be seen but for sure it will be a new and interesting experience. We’ll let you know.
Rather worryingly we leave the day after our country leaves the European Union and when we asked our agent if he knew whether this may cause any problems he replied by telling us that ” it’s all a cup of sick that nobody wants to know about and nobody wants to deal with” . I couldn’t have summed it up better myself !

We’ve reached our final decision! We’re going to cycle down through Thailand, through Malaysia and into Singapore. We’ve booked our passage on a ship leaving Singapore on March 30th and arriving in Southampton around the 20th of April. And the plan is to then cycle up through England and arrive back in Hallbankgate on the May 5th. At least that’s the plan…

Comments

  1. Sarah Wilson says:

    Amazingly inspirational. Thank you for taking the adventure and writing the blog. See you in May. Sarah w

    1. Peter Lloyd says:

      Hi Sarah
      Thanks but we need to apologise as the blog published before we had finished writing it and I think you got an incomplete version. The gremlins have been at work and the technology causes us far more stress than cycling to China!!!

  2. Eileen Titterington says:

    Amazing! What an adventure enjoy rest of your journey and look forward to seeing you in hallbankgate no doubt with more tales to tell good luck take care Eileen X x

    1. Kate Allan says:

      So good to read the next instalment of your adventures and to see yet more wonderful photos.
      Looking forward to seeing you in May. Kate Allan

  3. Yvonne says:

    The lady at the tea-shop looked at me as if I was nuts when I laughed out loud reading about the demonstation! Free eggs! Hilarious!
    I said it before I think, I love your stories!
    I am also heading for Malasia. In a few days I will cross the boarder at Padang Besar. I go slowly so we might meet again…
    Yvonne

  4. renee bales says:

    Well done you two! The offer is still on for a warm apricot crumble at our house, whenever you are ready. Or was it a peach crumble? Whichever you prefer.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip and we’ll see you when you get back.

    All the best,
    Renee

  5. Randall Cook says:

    Everytime I get an email about a new blog from you two; I’m excited to read your words! This one as all your blogs created images of wonderful travel, places, and people!

  6. brigitte et jean yves pavec says:

    bonjour Chris and Peter
    merci de continuer a nous envoyer de vos nouvelles . nous pensons vraiment que vous avez fait le bon choix en rentrant lentement par bateau
    nous vous souhaitons un bon voyage de retour .
    Bonne mer et bon vent
    Brigitte et jean Yves

  7. Diana Brown says:

    What an adventure! I was going to suggest meeting up in Holme (remember the pineapples on the gates) on your way back north and offering our hospitality, but our plan is to move house to Congleton, Cheshire in February/March. Sadly our paths are unlikely to cross, unless you are passing that way.
    My health is much improved since we met and I’ve been encouraged along my own road back to fitness from reading your blog. Anything is possible, bite by bite, when you set a goal, whatever size your elephant. Thank you.

  8. Hi Chris and Pete I’ve been reading and loving every bit of your blog over the months and Liz Hind and I talk about you on our fell walkers Wednesdays. Hope Cumbria won’t be too routine for you when you return but May is a brilliant month to arrive here. My favourite sentence in your latest blog: “What food bounces?” Nicky x

  9. JULIENNE DE VONALD says:

    So pleased to read your latest instalment and see the photos. Have an enjoyable and safe journey home on your “cruise”. Look forward to hearing about that too. Love, Julie xx

  10. Marilyn Bray says:

    Great to read the latest instalment and that you’re taking a slow boat – even if it’s not to China! Singapore – mmm it rains every afternoon and the food is great. Eat out in Bugis Street and then pop to Raffles for a Singapore sling. Look forward to hearing more in due course. Marilyn

  11. Alison x says:

    Happy New Year you lovely people. Just love reading your blog. Enjoy Thailand a beautiful country. Singapore will be a shock after all your incredible adventures. Safe journeys x

  12. Daphne Roberts says:

    Hi Chris and Pete, thanks for sorting the slight glitch which meant I couldn’t read this post to begin with. What an amazing journey you are having, so many extraordinary experiences. I’m glad you’ve sorted out how to get back to your satisfaction and hope it’s not too much of a culture shock when you get here! Enjoy the rest of the trip and travel safely. With love from Daphne and Mark

  13. GUILLERME Philippe says:

    Hello !
    It’s nice to see how you carried on your trip through Laos and a pleasure. All of this is really inspiring. Hope to see you one day in our French countryside.
    Philippe & Manu
    From the Creuse

  14. Corrie says:

    Hi Chris, Pete,
    Lovely read this sequel, bery descriptive. I’m happy that your arrival at the wall was a marked occasion. And more happy that the two of you are having an amazing time in general. The elephant trip sounds so wonderful. Good luck with the rest of your trip. Corrie. Xx

  15. Inspiring and well done!! Nice meeting you on the road. I wish you a tremendously good last leg and a safe trip home
    Maybe see you on the road once more one day.
    Best,
    Nicolas and Lisa (from Belgium)
    http://www.instagram.com/byebiking

  16. Sue says:

    Hi Pete and Chris – Annie sent me the link to your blog about 3 hours ago and I have spent all one snowy morning here in Oxford reading it! All I can say is WOW!! So impressed! I have passed it on to other friends (all keen cyclists, some of whom have just been to China) and my son (keen cyclist, not been to China). So your exploits are doing the rounds! Wishing you the best of luck with the remaining part of the trip – and the voyage home – in a very large boat 🙂
    Looking forward to meeting you again at some point – I met Chris at a Festivol in Nottinghamshire a few years ago, then again at Annie’s big birthday party. All the best, Sue x

  17. Bob and Eeke says:

    Hello intrepid travellers.
    Really enjoy your tales but specially your blog from Laos.
    We have been there and loved it. In fact we went to visit a friend who at the time was training Laos people in orthotics. And met the man who did most of the fundraising for COPE.

  18. Clive Edwards says:

    Hi Pete and Chris

    It was great to meet you on the road (twice) in southern Thailand in February 2019 (I realise that this comment is not possible at the time at which this blog was written). It made me realise how tame cycling with an organised group is – as you always know that a van is close behind carrying your kit and that tonight’s accommodation has been booked.

    The reason for my commenting here is that I visited Laos a few years ago and so could relate to the comments you made about the friendly people but the devastating effects of the bombing during the Vietnam war. The Laotian leader of my cycling trip had a congenital defect caused by the chemical pollution during the war through his mother. I also visited (and bought the tea shirt) at the UXO information centre (MAG – Mines Advisory Group) at Phonsavan in Laos, which was a harrowing experience, and that same evening drank civet pooh coffee!

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