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Hanging out in Kunming  15th July 2011

A lie in this morning. Luxury. My room is on the 2oth floor of a very strange hotel. Great views of the city, but the bathroom lights don’t work and the bog’s blocked! Sod it, I’m off into town.

The gardens leading up to the Taoist temple in Kunming

Mad Frankie Fan decides we need to climb yet another mountain first to see another temple. This time though it is Taoist not Buddist.

Just what my knees and thighs need after the last too days, but I’m happy to go with the flow and the park that leads up to the temple is lovely and quiet so a nice easy morning.

Kunming is huge and expanding at a rate of knots. It’s noisy, polluted and the traffic is mental but I like the place.

I spend the afternoon wandering round the shops with Frankie (all the big brands are here including B and Q!). Frankie fancies KFC for lunch so to my eternal shame I agree. I’ve counted at least 6 KFC outlets and they are all mobbed. Bloody shame. Globalisation! No one is immune to it.

Downtown Kunming

Later we collect Geordie Sh and head for dinner. We find a restuarant that is run by people from Geordie’s home town in NE China, a place called Harbin so we dine on Harbin specialities including a type of black pudding and a pork and cabbage stew that reminds me a lot if good old Irish boiled beef and cabbage. Great grub.

Zhao Tong to Kunming  14th July 2011

After washing off the half inch of pink mud off the bike I head for Kunming.

Triumph Tiger 800 XC caked in pink mud

Blagged my way onto the Express Highway again so the road is smooth, fast and winds it’s way thropugh more fabulous scenery. It’s still cloudy but it’s cool and dry, so I’m a happy bunny. My knees and arse are even happier.

On the subject of my arse (please note the correct English spelling), several people seems to be interested in the state of it. So, for my sis, uncle Dai, my brother and Peter, Barb and Marj (the 3 lovely New Yorkers I met at the Terra Cota Warriors), my arse is in fine fettle, thank you for asking 🙂

Arrive in Kunming early evening and dine on more great food before bed. Day off tomorrow so plan on going for a wander round Kunming.

Leshan to Zhao Tong  13th July 2011

What a day!

Left Emei Mountain to head back to Leshan to pick up the main road towards Kunming stopping off on route for the night.

All started well enough, if a little damp – all my clothes are wet as it has been raining non stop for days and it’s so humid, trying to get anything dry is impossible. It’s definitely the rainy season. The Sichuan mountains were as stunning as ever. The towns and villages are a little scruffy and dirty; it doesn’t look like the new market economy has reached here yet.

Then we find that the main road is closed. No reason is given, but judging from the heavy earth moving gear that’s in the area there’s been a big land slide. So we get shunted onto Chinese B roads. The sat nav and route maps are no use, so we rely purely on local directions. I spend the next 4 hours out of the saddle and on the pegs as we barrell along dirt roads through the mountains. The surfaces are unreal.

  • Old cobbles – covered in mud and gravel
  • Rock – covered in mud and gravel
  • Mud – covered in mud and gravel

A big ravine on my left and a solid red rock wall on my right. Scarey but loads of fun.

The mud is bright pink! I guess as a result of the red rock it’s been ground from … and it’s slippery as snot on a door knob (my thanks to Andy Lessels for that delightful analogy)

We finally hooked up with the express highway and I pulled my usual stunt to get past the barriers so the last two hours were a little more sensible.

Just ate a huge Chinese Hot Pot with the lads, washed down with a few beers and dog penis vodka (seriously). Off to bed. Knackered. Knees are shot after today.

Nice flat road tomorrow …. I hope

Mount Emei  12th July 2011

Up early this morning to ride up to the summit of Mount Emei to see the temples and the Golden Buddha.

Mount Emei

Trekking up to the lowest temple on Mount Emei. The water in the stream is bright blue even though the sun's not out, so I guess it's due to some mineral. No one cantell me

It’s raining hard-ish and the summit is wrapped in cloud but I’m not bothered. The road is spectacular again, following a mountain stream up the valley to the first stop off  point at temples mid way up the mountain. And it’s a bit of a trek in soaking wet riding kit, but well worth the sweat.

On the way back down I lost Mad Frankie Fan (as he has become known this week) for a about 10 minutes only to be acosted by some very young Chinese girls all wanting a picture with me … I’m old enough to be their grandad, never mind father. How come this never happened when I was a teenager?

Then further up the mountain towards the Golden Buddha and Golden Temple. A ride, short trek and a cable car ride to get there. The place is mobbed mainly with Chinese tourists but also dozens of old ladies on a pilgrimage who all out me to shame buy tackling the thousands of stone steps with ease while my knees and thighs are screaming “enough!”.

Me and the golden buddha

Scuse me chief, have you seen a golden buddha round 'ere anywhere? Bout 50ft tall and gold

There wasn’t a great deal to see at the summit as the rain cloud had completely engulfed the Buddha and temples but there’s something very special about this place.

While I was there I had a word with the big fella to see if he coould fix us up with 3 lovely young ladies to join us for dinner. We’ll see what happens.

World's Largest Buddha, Leshan  11th July 2011

Since the Taliban destroyed the Buddha carvings in Afganistan, the giant Buddha at Leshan has taken the title of world’s largest Buddha.

Giant Buddha Leshan

Giant Buddha Leshan

I took a boat trip rather to look at it rather than climb to the top as I figured I’d get a better feel for the scale of the giant Buddha and I wasn’t wrong, it’s truly awe inspiring! I’ve just posted some pictures in the gallery.

I’m now in the Emei Moutains, the spiritual home of Buddhism in China visiting the temples. More tomorrow.

Sichuan Food  11th July 2011

The food all the way down through China has been great, but now that we’re in Sichuan, I’m really loving it.

Last night we went into downtown Chengdu to the old part of town which has been renovated and is a great place to spend a few hours just hanging out … BUT ..,. the restaurants there, lovely as they are, charge London prices. One plate of food is £30! So we beat a hasty retreat to our usual type of establishment where the 3 of us eat very well for about £20 including a good few beers.

Geordie Sh always orders the food, and the man know’s his stuff, last night was no exception. Outsnading food, fresh ingredients all washed down with some cold Tsingtao or Harbin (Geordie’s home town brew).

Chinese takeaway in SW15 will never be the same after this trip.

Apologies  11th July 2011

Apologies to everyone who has tried to contact or add me on FB, Twitter or YouTube but they are all being blocked from here.

Panda Research and Breeding Base in Chengdu  10th July 2011

Took the short route from Guanyuan towards Chengdu which is only an hour down the road, stopping off at the Panda Research and Breeding Base near Chengdu. Proper title Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Pandas Chengdu China

Having had a fine feed of babmboo shoots, this big fella is about to sleep. Pandas in Chengdu China

It’s great to see that so much is being done to protect these animals. They all seem very happy in their surroundings. The park itself is well organised and well run. Once inside it’s hard to believe you are so close to a major city like Chengdu.

Check out the gallery for Panda images. I’ll upload videos as soon as YT is unblocked.

Guanyuan to Deyang  9th July 2011

I had to laugh this morning. As we’re were leaving the hotel, 2 young lads started kocking seven shades of s..t out of eachother on the pavement. It went on for about 2 minutes by which time one was getting a proper battering from the other. A police car pulled up with 6 coppers and soldiers in it. They started shouting at the two lads which made no difference so they let rip with the siren. The two lads suddenly stood to attention, straightened their shirts and acted as though nothing had happened.

Riding through the mountains known as the 27 Peaks was stunning and a great ride. We stopped off at a defensive gate halfway up to find that there is a monument to my new Chinese namesake, Marshall Xianqian.

Marshall Shiung Tchien

Monument to Marshall Xianqian - me with the newly names "Geordie" Sh

Later that day we take in the Sanxingdui Bronze Relics – more than 5,000 years old. The two baffling things about these relics is the quality of the casting and why do the figures depicted have big noses making them all look more modern. I guess we’ll never know.
Sanxingdui Bronze Relics

Sanxingdui Bronze Relics



Xian to Guangyuan, Sichuan Province  8th July 2011

We’ve come up with a cunning plan that will help us avoid any floods or landslides. I won’t go into detail at this moment in time as I don’t want to drop the lads in the doodoo if you catch my drift but it will allow me to keep a decent speed up for the next few days.

After a quick wash down, chain adjustment and chain lube, we run for the hills. The weather is superb, hot and sunny. Not what I’d expected. The 4 or 5 days before we arrived in Xian were awful. Rained solidly pretty much every day and managed to crash the bike in a tunnel on a patch of mud mixed with diesel.

On the road to Sichuan province

But it’s different now. And the mountains that separate Xian from Sechuan province are just breathtaking. I really am struggling to find words to describe how beautiful this is. It’s the China that I’ve built up in my mind’s eye over the years. Pointed, jagged peaks with rivers flowing down the valleys into rice paddies and orchards. Even if I had the wherewithall to film all this in 360/3D/HD/Widescreen it still wouldn’t do it justice, so I tell you, if you’ve ever fancied doing this kind of motorcycle trip, just do it. Sell the kids, rent out grandma, get a bike and a visa and go!

Li Bai, China’s most famous poet once wrote about the route from Xian to Sichuan

“It is more difficult to reach Sichuan than it is to touch the sky”

Maybe … but it’s fun trying!