At 7:30am, we disembark the stuffy train and breathe the crisp Lijiang air. Ahead of us looms the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang’s undisputed landmark which attracts gazillions of tourists to its much over-hyped new-old town. Yet behind the city walls, adventure lies in ambush. We’re stoked to surprise it right where it expects us.

Leaving the station
Leaving the station

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Provided you are eligible for a Vietnamese visa, you can get a same-day Vietnamese visa at Hekou 河口, the Chinese border crossing with Vietnam’s Lào Cai 老街 (allowing access Hanoi by train or to Sapa by bus). It is easy and quick, although possibly not entirely legal. Below is how you do it, why to do it and what the risks are.

Vietnamese visa
Vietnamese visa

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This section from Yiwu 易武 to Jinghong 景洪 is the forty-seventh and last instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Pretty good 米线 mixian for brekky. Love the condiments and the early morning light on the wall texture.
Pretty good 米线 mixian for brekky. Love the condiments and the early morning light on the wall texture.

After yesteday’s absolute system failure, I cannot believe to be awake by 7 am already. Yes I hit the sheets pretty early, but I didn’t think I’d be able to stand until much, much later. Yet here I am, packing up my stuff and getting ready to ride all the way to Jinghong, a ride of no less than 130km. I remember the road pretty well, and I believe it’ll be a walk in the park, but then, well, on wheels.

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7 February 2014

This section from Mengla 勐腊 to Yiwu 易武 is the forty-sixth instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Only if you have forest, there will be water; only if you have water, there will be fields; only if you have fields, there will be food; only if you have food, there can be people. Ironically, the forest on either side of this sign have been cleared to plant rubber trees and a banana plantation.
Only if you have forest, there will be water; only if you have water, there will be fields; only if you have fields, there will be food; only if you have food, there can be people. Ironically, the forest on either side of this sign have been cleared to plant rubber trees and a banana plantation.

Oh, I know, I should’ve planned better. But planning takes time, too, and today is the first time I’ve been blessed with proper internet access since – well, since Bangkok. I have a blog backlog of more than seven entries so I spend the better half of my morning uploading pictures, writing captions and completing ride accounts.

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6 February 2014

This section from Luang Namtha to Mengla 勐腊 is the forty-fifth instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Morning Luang Namtha!
Good morning Luang Namtha! Now where does this come from.

I feel grungy. Yesterday’s outing with the Belgians took us past a pizza establishment where beer flowed abundantly and where I had an extra spicy “hot head” pizza with Lao sausage and random chunks of chilli pepper scattered over the surface. It was quite good but now I’m bearing the consequences. I roll over, put ear plugs in, take my clothes off (yes – it’s one of those nights) and sleep another three hours.

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This section about Luang Namtha is the forty-fourth instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Stunning views as the morning sun peeks through the fog.
Well spotted, this is yesterday’s pic. I didn’t take any today.

Spent most of my morning on one of the Belgian guys’ scooter riding back to Vieng Phou Kha to retrieve my sponge-bag. The petrol for the 120 km end up costing around 38000 kip which is well worth the contents of the bag (a shaver, the bag itself, and all kinds of medicine).

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4 February 2014

This section from Vieng Phu Kha to Luang Namtha is the forty-third instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

One of the things I forgot about Laos is that rural people (which is pretty much everyone outside Vientiane) wake up to the lovely sound of news and other government propaganda. The voices and music starts squealing from 6 am through old-school conical loudspeakers mounted on electricity poles all around town. It also doesn’t quite stop until 7.30 or even 8 am, that’s how much news there is. Well I guess if you’re Lao, everything is news.

These megaphone thingies will entertain the town several times a day with long news broadcasts and music. Just wish they would keep quiet until 8am.
These megaphone thingies will entertain the town several times a day with long news broadcasts and music. Just wish they would keep quiet until 8am.

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This section from Huay Xai to Vieng Phu Kha is the forty-second instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

 With over 120 km and steep hills ahead of me, I deem it a good idea to get up at 6.30. Yesterday’s Beerlao is still in my system but I roll out of bed anyway, pack my bags, and sneak out the door of the empty hotel. The air is pleasantly cool and the sun has just begun peeking over the horizon, giving it a nice purple shade.

Sunrise over Huay Xai
Sunrise over Huay Xai

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2 February 2014

This section from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai is the forty-first instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

The day has come for me to leave Thailand. There’s only one day left on my visa and the election day has kicked a pretty unpredictable hornet’s nest down in Bangkok. Never a bad time to go. After an extensive breakfast and a talk with my Spanish roommate, I wheel to the bike shop where they install new brake pads while I wait. I also trade 40 USD for 1320 baht from the Spanish girl, the current rate. I need the cash for the brake pads and to avoid another ATM which will undoubtedly charge me 4 euros just to access my money.

The bike shop (near the traffic lights) only has one pair of fresh brake pads and they replace my rear brakes. Upon examining the old brake pads, it seems I had quite a lot of them left. Perhaps the steep gradients and the extended braking distances have scared me into buying new ones, but then why was there such a shrieking sound every time I applied the brakes? At any rate, it feels good to have new ones, and I can still use the spare pads for my front brakes when needed.

Ah blast, I'm supposed to go through that gate in the distance, and over the bridge on the right.
Ah blast, I’m supposed to go through that gate in the distance, and over the bridge on the right.

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This section from Mae Sai to Chiang Khong is the fortieth instalment of my bicycle loop through South-East Asia from Yunnan – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Mae Sai in the morning. Burma border gate in the distance.
Mae Sai in the morning. Burma border gate in the distance.

 I start off with Chinese breakfast. That’s right, like every self-respecting town, Mae Sai has a sizeable contingent of Chinese denizens. I’m appealed by the sign that promises me a bowl of Yunnan’s very own over-the-bridge-noodles 过桥米线 and Shanghai small-basket-buns 小笼包. The order comes out wrong because so I end up having pot stickers 锅贴 instead. They’re horrible. And so are the noodles. Sweet, minging, lacking spice and a layer of oil floating on top. My fault for trusting Chinese food outside China (or at all).

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