This section about Hekou is the ninth instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – 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.

As I arrived just thirty minutes late to get my Vietnam visa done on Friday, I had to wait the entire weekend for official services to resume on the Vietnam side. In a town like Hekou, that’s a bit of a punishment. The town is not really boring, but isn’t interesting enough either to spend three full days in.

Fortunately, two French cyclists (Anaïs and Romain from Toulouse on their trip from France to Thailand) made the boredom bearable. It’s fun to listen to their descriptions of the cultures they’ve encountered and they kindle in me the desire to ride around Turkey and Iran some time. At the same time they remind me of how difficult it is to enjoy China without speaking any Chinese and on how much great food you miss out if you don’t know where to find it.

The riverside juice shop I used to go to has a new owner now and there’s no more Vietnamese ice coffee, which is a bummer, but the Vietnamese coffee on Vietnam street is still great – even though they get the coffee out of a bottle rather than making it fresh. There are also Banh mi stands (like French baguettes with pâté and veggies and eggs), a refreshing novelty in this town.

Hekou railway station
Hekou railway station, once a major stop on the metre gauge line Hai Phong – Kunming

(more…)

This section from Manhao to Hekou is the eighth instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – 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.

Lao He and his cool motorcycle
Lao He and his cool motorcycle

It’s only 9pm and the Chinese are already on my nerves. I’m sitting at a communal tofu grill, shovelling down a quick bowl of mixian. Around me, it’s raining prejudice. I’ve never heard a Chinese person say anything bad about me or other foreigners, mind, even if they’re unaware of the fact that I can understand them. But the prejudice is just outrageous. “Oooh don’t put peppers, they don’t eat peppers,” a woman next to me says to the cook. “Woah, this one can use chopsticks,” says another. A passer-by urges her kids to say “hello” to the foreigner. And then there’s always know-all who feels the need to explain to the whole group that we only eat bread and steak.

I finish my bowl, pay the bill and tell them in my best Yunnan dialect that we eat rice every day – and meat only on holidays. A blatant lie, but that’ll teach him to be a wise guy. It has no effect: “ooooh this one speaks Chinese. Exchange student, right?” I grunt a goodbye and make for the town gate. (more…)

This section from Jinping to Manhao is the seventh instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – 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.

People watching over the mountains
People watching over the mountains

I’m having some motivational issues this morning. I woke up at 5 but didn’t feel like getting out of bed at all. It’s partially the delightful bed, the air-con exactly at 20 degrees and the absence of any noise outside. But who am I kidding, the real issue is obviously the hangover. On the other hand, however, it’s thanks to last night’s early drinking that I’m able to wake up early and write the last two posts.

When I finally leave, it’s 11:30. The owner personally bids me farewell and so I deduce that I haven’t been terribly misbehaving myself yesterday night. We discuss quantities of fruit and then routes to get to today’s target, Manhao (three spellings, used seemingly randomly: 蛮耗, 曼耗 and 蔓耗). Without prompt, he informs me that the old road is good enough to ride on, that there are less cars and more views and that it’s therefore preferable to the new road. This man understands me! I wonder if he’s a rider too. (more…)

This section from Shiping to Honghe is the second instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – 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.

Shiping west gate
Shiping old town’s majestic West gate

I awake from a deep and long sleep with a little “woah” – first time I can remember me doing this, really. It isn’t painful, but I think this is what time travel should feel like. I feel fully recovered. Somewhere in another dimension, little blue beings with funny faces have restored my body. I mess around in my room for another hour or so because I’m sure outside it’s still grey. A mistake: when I open my curtains, a weak little disc makes respectable attempts at piercing through the thick layer of clouds. (more…)