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Asian Journey
By Bill Weir - (contact)

The Next Big Ride in Asia!

Wednesday March 2, 2011

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Originally I thought of riding a route something like this. I chose Mukdahan, a small city beside the Mekong River in northeastern Thailand, as the starting point because I rode here from Vietnam in March-April 2009. This new ride will feel as a continuation of that trip.

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Here's the 7,600-kilometer ride that I made from Mukdahan in northeastern Thailand to Lanzhou in north-central China. The original plan turned out to be wildly optimistic! Perhaps if I had received a 6-month China visa instead of a 4-month one, I might have ridden to Beijing and perhaps a bit beyond. The road to Beijing will have to be a future ride in China.

I've become very fond of cycling in Asia for its friendly people, diverse cultures, history, and scenic delights. As you can see from the maps above, the Thailand-China route twists and turns through a lot of mountains, and this is where I've always found riding to be most memorable. My India route has far fewer mountains, so it's more a cultural than scenic journey.

The Start
On the night of January 2nd, I flew to Bangkok, Thailand on Taiwan-based China Airlines. I like this airline because staff have always taken the bicycle for free. Food is good too. After just a few days in Bangkok, I took a bus and boat to Koh Phangan in southern Thailand for a 19-day meditation retreat at Wat Koh Tahm www.watkowtahm.org. Afterward, I hung out in Bangkok several weeks, then took a bus to Mukdahan in northeastern Thailand for the beginning of another grand cycling adventure in Asia!

From Thailand I wound my way north through the mountains of Laos and Vietnam, then entered China at the Friendship Pass. I rode through very scenic limestone hills and visited cave systems on the way to the vicinity of Kunming. The going got tough farther north as I climbed onto the Tibetan Plateau in western Sichuan Province. I made a side trip to Dege, famed for its Tibetan printing monastery, though it took two tries. Next I continued northwest into Qinghai Province and visited the Tibetan areas there. A long ride north through grasslands led to vast Qinghai Lake, where I turned east to Xining, the first large city in a long time for me. Lastly I took a scenic route through hills above the Yellow River before the last leg along the river to Lanzhou in Gansu Province. Here I ended the ride and flew to Bangkok with a week's layover in Chengdu.

From China I had hoped to cross the Khunjerab Pass from the far west of China to northern Pakistan and cycle amongst the friendly people and spectacular mountains there. Those hopes evaporated after severe flooding hit the region in August. So I changed plans to go to India after a month's interlude in Thailand. Research led to the idea of riding three interconnected routes across the middle of India to regions I've not been to, but this turned out to be too ambitious with the time that I had.

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This was the original plan for cycling across India, but I'll just do the western third, which will take two-three months. There's a lot to see here!

After a pleasant 30 days in Thailand, I flew to New Delhi and wound up staying six weeks--far longer than I had planned--to take in the many festivals. An overnight train brought me to Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city; I spent a few weeks here exploring the history and working on a writing assignment. First I headed north to beautiful temples in and around Ambaji. Mt. Abu in Rajasthan State was so close that I made a sidetrip up the peak for the scenery and a group of spectacularly carved Jain temples. Then back south into Gujarat to an ancient step well and a sun temple before swinging west along the Little Rann of Kutch, where I went out on a safari. Farther west I explored Kutch, famed for its crafts, palaces, temples, and the Great Rann of Kutch. Next up was the Saurashtra Peninsula with two mountain-top temple groups, one Hindu and the other Jain. After a detour to coastal Diu, a former Portuguese colony, I rode over to southern Gujarat and visited Daman, yet another Portuguese colony on the coast. Lastly I turned my wheels inland to the holy Hindu city Nashik in the vast state of Maharashtra and end of the ride. I hopped a train for Kolkata and a 12-day visit to take in Bengali culture. From here I fly to Bangkok on March 4th, stay until March 31st, then fly onward to the U.S.A. for a visit.

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Actual route cycled from Ahmedabad to Nashik

Cycle-Touring Information
Are you interested in long-distance cycle touring? Cyclist friends Andrew and Friedel, the "Traveling Two," have produced a free 60-page eBook Bike Touring Basics available at http://travellingtwo.com by signing up for their free newsletter.


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"Asian Journey" Copyright © 2009-2014 By Bill Weir - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on December 13, 2009 22:08 PDT, last updated on May 5, 2012 09:16 PDT
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