Closing chapter China, reaching the tropics of South East Asia [PHOTOS]

Closing chapter China, reaching the tropics of South East Asia [PHOTOS]

From desert to vast steppes, snowy peaks, big lakes, rivers, waterfalls, highlands and large green forests. China has it all. I have made an attempt to cycle in two months through this country. I have failed incredible. Still, even though I needed to take a hitchhike or bus at some times, I’m proud that I’ve crossed the whole country from Kyrgyzstan to Laos.

China has left a strong impression on me.

The start

It is also known as the Turkish-China, my Chinese journey began in the city of Kashgar. The Uyghur autonomous province of Xinjiang is not only the largest province in China, but it’s mainly a dry county with lots and lots of plain sand. I started here to cross the third desert in my journey, called the Taklamakan desert.

Into the Taklamakan desert

Taking a break from cycling in the desert

Camels along the road in the Taklamakan desert

The tension between the Uyghur minority and the Chinese government in Xinjiang did not completely go passed me. Together with my cycling buddy I was arrested in already the first week. We were asked whether we were journalists or not.

The Chinese government is developing the area and helps the Uyghurs in order to improve the economic environment. Not everyone is equally happy with it, sometimes the Uyghur people protest about how things are going.

Uyghur man from a village in the Xianjing Uyghur Autonomous Region in China

The villages where I’ve cycled were filled with nice, hospitable people. It felt peaceful between them and the way the people were treating me felt a bit like being in Turkey.

The climb

After a few weeks of cycling through the desert, the road in the neighboring province of Qinghai started to go up. It was the beginning of a beautiful but long and challenging journey across the Tibetan highlands.

Enjoying being in nature

Scenery Qinghai-Tibet Highway

Scenery Qinghai-Tibet Highway

The first peak, and thus the highest of my journey was 4768 meters. I then continued for several hundred kilometers above the 4000 meter altitude. In the vast steppes with herds of wild animals around me.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Highland road in Qinghai-Tibet

Running gazelles

It was the beginning of a journey through the Tibetan culture.

The religion of the Tibetans is Buddhism. Besides the unique monasteries, the region is decorated with colorful flags on which prayer texts are printed. The people pray mainly for health and happiness for eveyone.

Reaching 4700 meters

Tibetan flags in the mountains

Yaks in front of a Tibetan monastery

Older Tibetan woman's with a praying mile

It makes the barren steppes looking very colourful.

The descent

It took me a while to cycle the plateau and after a long distance the first descent began. I cycled from the Sichuan province into the Yunnan province. Still close to the border of the official Tibetan province. The steppes turned into green, forest fields and I cycled my way downhill along the rivers.

Eventually I got some more in the greener mountainous fields with hard-working Chinese farmers. I even came across a hot spring which made my day while it was raining a lot.

River view

Local village in the north of  Yunnan China

Ninety year old Chinese granny dressed traditionally

It went not all without challenges. The weather but also with my bicycle. Frequently I have had a breakdown with the second hand bought and rebuild bike.

Here I put my second wheel together after my rear axle had broken inside.

Bike repairing in Dali, took a new rear axle

In Dali I was able to enjoy a large lake while temperatures were again comfortable. I had now descended to 2000 meters altitude.

Into the tropics

From Dali I went further south and it was started to be a tropical environment. From 2,000 meters I cycled to a warm 500 meters and that was not long before I was leaving China.

I was in the last days for the second time arrested by the authorities in China, now as a suspect of terrorist activities in Xinjiang(!). Fortunately, they quickly understood that I was just a simple cycle tourist. The only thing I put my hands dirty on is a wild pie now and then.

Sorry, really needed a pie photo in my collection

It had all taken a little too much time. I needed to still cover the last 883 kilometers in a short nine days. Otherwise I would exceed my Chinese visa, which costs 500 yuan (about 80 dollars) per day.

And finally I came across the tropics. I suddenly cycled among banana trees!

Mountains between the trees

Banana trees along the road

Banana tree fields in Yunnan, China

The insects around here were starting to be looking serious. It was always exciting to look around at the places that I wanted to consider for a home for the night. I was scared shitless when I wanted to drag my bicycle into the bushes.

I walked almost right into this friendly but dangerous looking creature!

Spider, almost walked in, aaah! Locals eat it. Yannun, China.

Later on, I heard from the locals that they consider this spider as food.

I didn’t dare to try it.

In this way the last kilometers in China passed by. The temperature had change in a number of weeks of 5 degrees to 25 degrees during the day.

I was all sweating while climbing the mountains. They were not so high anymore but it was still tiring. Up and down. Up and down. Fortunately, in some sunshine and I could afford myself some good cheap tropical fruit that I could buy down the road in the villages.

Sweaty mountain selfie

Woman washing clothes in a river - Yunnan, China

Dragon fruit - my favourite tropical fruit

And so the last day came and I spent my latest Chinese pennies on some good priced street food.

Spend my last Chinese money on this local street food - yummie in my tummie!

What she cooked? An octopus on a stick. Delicious!

China, it’s been a journey. At one day and happily without exceeding my Chinese visa, I finally arrived in Laos. The country with low prices. I finally arrived in South East Asia. A visa on arrival for 30 days. Beautifully green, comfortable with some sunshine while the rainy season was just over.

And a cozy welcoem in the first town of Luang Namtha. What I could wish more for?

A welcoem in Luang Namtha, Laos

Here I take my time to re-charge and then I will go for the final sprint through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore.

The end is coming closer, Singapore here I come!