Where are we now? – Malaysia!

I know I still haven’t blogged on Thailand and Cambodia but for those of you wondering about our status we’re still alive!!  We’re in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and just made reservations for the bike to fly out 23rd November and then we fly out 24th to New Zealand so all going well we’ll be back on the road the end of next week!

Reminder, you can always check our last/current location on our SPOT Map with the Password china2014

In the meantime, here’s a few photos from Malaysia.

John and Ger

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14,000 miles from Germany and counting!

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Beach scene in Penang – Bikinis to Burkas and everything in between!

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Chinese Funeral Ceremony in Cameron Highlands

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Fresh Tea anyone??

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Not sure what this is but I think it means this is the part of the prayer building (highway rest area) for women.

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Hillside shop in Cameron Highlands

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Malaysia – a motorcyclist’s friend! No tolls on highways, special lanes on the highway to bypass the toll booths, designated shelter areas under highway bridges to change into wet gear and secure airport motorcycle parking for $0.30 all day (or even weeks by the look of it)!!!!

Laos – Undeveloped, Wonderful and Beautiful!!!

For those of you that aren’t connected via Facebook we are still alive and mobile and are currently back in Thailand after touring Cambodia.  As a result, we are three countries behind in blog updates!  Sorry for slacking on the blog updates but since leaving China we’ve been basically on our own as far as planning out the daily route and making lodging arrangements which has limited our free time at the end of the day (as well as WiFi speed to upload photos).  We’ll try to provide a Laos overview in one update.  To summarize, it’s a beautiful wild country (can’t capture it in pictures with our cameras), with wonderful friendly people, inexpensive and great motorcycling opportunities but not great road conditions.

Our route took us “off the beaten track” onto roads rarely frequented by the typical “westerner.”  We arrived as the rainy season was ending so many of the roads had been blocked to landslides which left slippery clay/mud on road surfaces and meant a few sections were challenging for us to navigate two-up with luggage on a big/heavy bike.  As a result, the first few days we were there we arrived after dark at our destination – not something I enjoy doing as a habit!

The whole time we were there I don’t recall seeing any police and we didn’t encounter any traffic lights until arriving in the capital, Vientiane.

If we were doing this again, we would plan to spend more time in Laos and less time in Thailand (more developed).  Anyway, here’s some pictures to capture our time in Laos.

Made it out of China late afternoon.

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Ger in “no man’s land” between China and Laos.

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One of the first tasks after entering Laos was obtaining motorcycle insurance.

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…. and local SIMs for our cell phones so we could keep track of each other!

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Waiting at the border Customs Checkpoint for our bike documents.

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The Laos side or the border station.

On our way into Laos we noticed lots of roadside fires apparently from burning piles of corn cobs – possibly to keep mosquitoes away or just to burn them for disposal?

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Our first lodging in Laos was in our own bungalow in a small village.

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Woke up our first morning to this beautiful daughter of the family we stayed with.

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First breakfast – small but really delicious bananas.

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….. and finally, after more than 30 days – bread and butter!

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Chicken (as good as Germany’s “Chicken Man”” and rice at the Night Food Market the day we arrived. Didn’t get food poisoning!

Our second night was at a wonderful small hotel on the Ou River.  Shame we got in late and didn’t fully enjoy the place and village.

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Ger on the breakfast patio.

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Yours truly and “herself.”

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Brian on our scenic breakfast patio on our third day.

The village scenes and people along the way were the main attraction.

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Even the youngest children contribute to the family chores by carrying whatever is needed at the time in the baskets on their backs. Aren’t they beautiful?

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Typical roadside scene – family bath time.

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Head/foot ball match.

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This lady was spinning here own thread on the side of the road and weaving traditional cloth on her loom.

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Many families live in huts and many only a landslide away from collapsing.

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Hard to capture the beautiful landscape with our camera skills and cameras.

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The road surfaces were poor especially where they had recent landslides.

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Moist sand and gravel on corners – recipe for disaster on 2-wheels!

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Remnants of a recent landslide on a turn – typical scene.

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We went by Luang Prabang – nice town but too touristy (too many yanks and other westerners) for our liking!  Brian decided to get his haircut as he was starting to look like a hippy.

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Kurt relaxing by the Mekong River.

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The hippy getting a haircut in a shed from an ancient barber.

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Birthday Boy Chris with his bag of insects present at dinner in Vientiane.

 

We did do one “touristy” thing and visited Site 1 of the “Plain of Jars” which has an old and more recent (bombings in the 1970s). history associated with it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plain_of_Jars

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We had to change over to riding on the LEFT side of the road before crossing the Friendship Bridge to Thailand.

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China – Getting Tropical towards Laos

Update on the last post – here’s some pictures of Simon’s school and students and a video of our “bridge” crossing the day we got lost.

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Also, here’s a video of the landslide that our police escort had cleared so we could pass through.

A few days ago we discovered the heel of one of Ger’s motorcycle boots had started to come apart from the sole so we tried a temporary SUPER Glue fix but it only held about a day.  At our next stop we were lucky to find a woman n a stall at the hotel entrance that was repairing shoes and other things.  We showed (mimed) what was needed and she looked like she could fix it and started to cut the WHOLE SOLE off (or so it appeared). What she was doing was cutting a slit around the whole sole so she could sew it shut!!  It was amazing watching her fix what we thought was unfix-able (we should have had her do the same to the “good” boot).

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Also, here’s a video of her at work. 

Well the rear tire still had a slow leak so we limped along (stop to put air in every 30 miles or so) to our next hotel where I decided to change out the tire (we had a spare set in the support van).  We found a great tire shop that agreed to do the tubeless motorcycle tire and they were so glad/surprised to serve us that they refused payment!

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The local cuisine over the last 10 days or so has been primarily soup placed in a “hot pot” in the center of the table where you can put in meat, shrimp, vegetables and noodles etc….. to cook yourself.

 

Our last week in China took us on many mountain roads along and criss-crossing the Mekong River with awesome scenery and through rubber tree plantations where we were able to witness the process of rubber making from the latex liquid in the small villages.

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The Latex sap is collected via funnel channels.

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The latex is delivered by motorcycles

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The latex liquid is placed in a vat and processed

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The final product is weighed and sold to processing factories

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Typical gas station attendant

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My two “loves” in the banana fields

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Pit Stop in a remote village.

The local cuisine over the last 10 days or so has been primarily soup placed in a “hot pot” in the center of the table where you can put in meat, shrimp, vegetables and noodles etc….. to cook yourself.

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Lunch being prepared in a rural kitchen. Thought I was going to get food poisoning but thankfully didn’t!!

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Not sure I want Ger around any sharp objects.

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Eating our lunch on the road. One of the few times we actually stopped for lunch.

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Hot Pot Dinner

One of our scheduled stops was up to anther “Tibetan” village but the road for the first 20 miles was horrendous (including a flooded section of road) and took us two hours that we decided to retreat (we had another 40 miles to go and the locals said the road would get worse).  In addition, we would have had to come back the same road then next morning.
A quick change of plans and Abdul found us a hotel that we could stay in (requires police approval) in a small village and we were the first westerners to ever stop there (according to the Police) so we were like aliens from another planet!

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The equivalent of a Dunkin Donuts in this village. They were open at 0630 and a steady stream of locals stopped by all morning to pickup their dumplings.

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Ger with the hotel owner and chief cook. It was the best meal I had in China.

We spent one night in a remote “Shaxi” Village with some quaint backstreets (no vehicles).

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Shaxi Village Street

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Shaxi Village

One of our last stops was in Jinghong where we had our final rest day and I was able to change out my front tire and try to catchup on this blog!!  We also found a Chinese Walmart and apart from the live fish tanks and lack of a decent hardware section it looked very similar to a Walmart in the USA!!

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Black Chickens

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These are not pets. Don’t think this would be allowed in the USA Walmart.

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This the the grocery section (not the pet section).

Random thoughts on China after 30 days and 4,500 miles on the road.  Scenery in the western part similar to the western USA – dry and barren but some lovely vistas.  As you go east it becomes more mountainous and greener eventually turning tropical as you head South past the Tropic of Cancer.  The people are WONDERFUL as long as they are not behind the wheel of a car – then they are downright dangerous and have little sense of lane discipline or right-of-way – probably worse than Southern Italian drivers.  Also, like Germans, they don’t seem to have any discipline when getting in a line (queuing).  They are loud when talking or when in hotels at night and in morning (versus being quiet when leaving early in the morning).  Bus and truck drivers are crazy and have LOUD horns.  Food takes some getting used to and hygiene in some places is questionable.  Chinese plumbing gets an overall grade of FAIL – most places we stayed at had either leaks, poor drainage of poor fixtures.  They don’t seem to maintain anything after it’s newly built.  It’s rare to find soap or a towel/hand dryer in a public bathroom or even one in a supposedly good quality hotel.  No Smoking signs in hotels aren’t worth the paper or plastic they are printed on.  Cleanliness (especially in hotel room bathrooms) is NOT a big priority.

There’s a kettle in every hotel room and that seems to be the only thing that worked with any consistency.  No gas station that I saw had anything to clean headlights/windshields or check/put air in tires. Scooters and motorcycles (under 250 cc) are like midges (small flies) – the electric ones in the city are most dangerous as you can’t here them approaching.  Their use of electric scooters and wind farms and solar panels (energy conservation and environment protection) seems to contrast with the garbage thrown everywhere and people don’t seem to care if they litter.   There is almost no diversity here – at least not as we know it in USA where there are many cultures, nationalities and ethnic groups living and working together.  Up until the last few days I have not noticed any visible tattoos or piercings.    The first question we’re asked is “How Much is our bike worth?” (not, where are you from or where are you going).

We’ll leave you with some more pictures and the next blog update will be about Laos!

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This chicken is about to be someone’s lunch. Can’t say it isn’t “fresh.”

 

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Fishing on a rural lake. If I can find the video the fish are jumping into the boat!!

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Rice drying

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Stopped for a break and this man wanted us to come visit for tea (or something stronger?)

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Panorama

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Tea Drying

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Bananas!

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These guys carry more luggage then we can!

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Every day is “bring your child to work day” for many people

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China – Buddhists to Pandas to Lost!

Sorry for the lack of updates but getting pictures uploaded and sorted is a little slow with the internet connections – plus we had a mini-adventure involving a long day and the police (more later).

Since the last update the scenery has changed for the better and roads have been more challenging and interesting.  From Xiahe temperatures started to drop as we were at nearly 10,000 feet and Fall/Winter is setting in so we woke up to our first snow when we stopped in Langmusi (another Tibetan village).

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Snow!

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Langmusi Village

On to Chengdu where we visited the Panda Breeding Center (on Ger’s Birthday) and saw lots of Pandas (Adult and babies) as well as the playful red pandas.

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The Panda Nursery

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Red Panda

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Yummee – bamboo!!

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Small World – met one other Western folks and they were from County Wicklow!

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Can’t leave without being asked to do another photo shoot with strange western people.

From Chengdu we headed to Leshan where we continued to celebrate Ger’s birthday with a Chinese Hot Pot meal (including the chicken “head”) and even cake and candles.
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On leaving Leshan we made a quick stop to take a power boat on the river to see the Giant Buddha (quite a popular attraction here).

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On our way from Leshan to Zhaotong we got “separated” from our guide and got a little lost.  We ended up at several checkpoints preventing us from proceeding through a sensitive/restricted area and we had to turn back to find the proper route (or so we thought).

Trying to find the proper route (there had been lots of flooded road sections) we ended up having to cross a makeshift bridge (trying to find the video) but we ended up getting turned around at another checkpoint!

We eventually found ourselves on a rural mountain gravel road with no end in sight, as night time fell and running low on fuel.  We ended up falling off the bike (I lost my footing on a slope while stopped) but luckily no bruises to us (thanks to our padded protective gear) although the left pannier took a hit that we can bend out later!

From what we could tell from the locals going ahead was not a good option so we stopped with a family in the middle of nowhere and waited until our guide arranged for the police to escort us back to civilization.

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Waiting for the police.

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Our “host” family that sheltered us while waiting for the police.

By the time we got back to a town it was near midnight and we had to wait it out at the police station until they “checked us out.”  The Police couldn’t have been nicer and they provided us with warm water to drink (common in these parts) and some meat/veg dumplings.  They had also contacted the local high school and the English Teacher (Simon – also a BMW X1 (Made in China) owner) came by to help translate.  They then found us a hotel and escorted us there where we finally made it to bed at 2 a.m.

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The Fugitives. Do they look worried?

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Bag o’ Dumplings. Tasty at midnight and much appreciated.

The next morning Simon brought me (in his X1) to look for an ATM that would accept our cards but no success.  On the way back he brought me into the school (4,000 high school students) for “show and tell” and it was just like a rock star had walked into the classroom – all his students wanted a selfie with me!

Afterwards Simon and the Police brought us to a “western style” fast food place for some breakfast.

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Simon and Ger at breakfast. The Chicken Burger was delicious!

We were all low on money as none of the ATMs would work with any of our cards and they were prepared to arrange a loan as well but by pooling our money we had enough to get gas to get us further down the road.  Since we were about 100 mile behind our guide the Police escorted us onto the correct road to meet up with our guide. All was going well until we were prevented from going further due to road works to clear a section that had been subject to an avalanche (there was an earthquake in this area 2 months prior).  The police arranged to have the road cleared by a digger just so that we could continue and we were reunited with Abdul  (our guide) on the other side of the blockage.

Abdul then warned us to keep a safe distance between each other as we had to ride under a waterfall.  We thought no big deal as we passed by but then around the corner was what he really meant.  First, we had to ride under this deluge where we got soaked to the skin but the real challenge was riding through the foot deep standing water on the road (the dangerous part he failed to tell us about)  for about a quarter mile or so (luckily we all made it through without incident).

To top off the previous 24 hours we ended up getting a flat rear tire with about 50 miles to go and luckily Jason provided some expert tire repair.  We made it to the next gas station and I noticed that I was still leaking air so we found a second leak and did another repair.

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Jason supervising tire repair – actually he ended up doing it!

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Abdul thanking the Police for helping us.

We were so glad to get to our hotel for a nice rest and clean ourselves and the bike up a little from the last few days!!  We had more adventure and excitement in the previous 24 hours then we had had for the whole trip.

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Al clean and fresh for the next “adventure.”