Just so you know right from the start that we LOVE cycling in Yunnan province. It’s hard work climbing the hills but infinitely worth every ounce of sweat.

An enraged local man punches Eric in the face, busting his glasses.  That’s how our China tour began.

Actually, there were two men.  The middle-aged guy shook Eric by the collar while the younger one threw the punch.

A case of road rage gone really  wrong  Here’s how it all went down…

The Chinese guys are cruising in their $50,000 Porsche Cayennne SUV the wrong way down the road.  They flash their lights(universal developing world signal that you’re about to execute an illegal road maneuver) and hang a sharp left right in front of Eric.  Our man on the bike swerves to avoid a head on collision and nicks the side of the SUV.

No harm done, thinks Eric and continues merrily on his way.  I’m out in front oblivious to the entire incident. Eric catches up to me and we drop  in to a bakery to enjoy some hot sesame rolls.  Eric mentions not a word about the road incident and as far as I know it’s just another nice morning on the bikes.

Not so fast

Soon we’re off again.   Suddenly out of nowhere an irate individual jumps in front  of my bike and begins shouting and shaking his fists.  I’m caught completely off balance. Who is this dude and what in the world have I done to infuriate him?

Eric rocks up and recounts the events.  Mr Porsche is shouting like a mad man and gesturing at his Porsche.  I check it out.  There is a little dent.  Could a little jolt by a slow moving cyclist really have caused that sort of damage?  I wonder.

That’s when Mr. Porsche briefly goes bonkers and Eric gets whacked in the face.

Cops on the way

In hindsight, it’s a good thing Eric got hit (he claims it didn’t really hurt anyway and the glasses were $10 cheapies purchased in Jakarta).  When the police rolled up, they were obviously troubled by the inconvenient assault of a tourist.  With physical injury, we had leverage.

After three tense hours at the police station, the matter was sorted out to our satisfaction.  We relinquished our right to press charges for assault and Mr Porsche dropped the charge of property damage.  I think Mr Porsche was satisfied, too.  He realized the seriousness of his actions and I’m sure the money to repair his vehicle is just a drop in the bucket compared to all his wealth.

Interrogation time

Now, we’re not admitting any fault here.  The guy was driving the wrong way and HE caused the collision. But we can’t deny the little dent in the Porsche.

Anyway, being interrogated by the Chinese police is not how we envisaged starting off our tour.  I will say that all the officers involved were highly professional and courteous.  Two of the female officers spoke decent English and assured us that the police would find “the right answer.’  We have no complaints about the Chinese justice system so far.

That was, fortunately, the one and only mishap we’ve had in Yunnan province.   We’re having a great time here and Southwest China will probably turn out to be one of our absolute favorite destinations.

Back on the bikes

The cycling has been excellent.  Beautiful rural roads with light traffic.  Some big climbs, but never too steep.  Scenic villages, delicious food and even some friendly people.

Yes, I know tourists rarely rave about the warm welcome they receive from the Chinese.  But locals are really quite nice if you smile and greet them with a hearty Ni Hao.   One guy we met even dashed off to the bakery to present us with some bread, knowing ‘foreigners can’t eat rice.’

I think a few photos will give you a good feel for the region:

The first thing that strikes you about China is how hard the people work (but you probably already know this). Rural life is still pretty tough and all day long we cross paths with people carrying heavy loads. It’s not surprising so many young people flock to the cities and gladly snap up factory jobs.
I was really surprised the first time I got overtaken on a big climb by a guy with a heavy load on a rickety old trike–then I spotted the motor. Sadly, China is no longer a bicycle nation. People have moved on to motorbikes and the wealthy are in the throes of a love affair with the automobile.
It won’t be long before a water buffalo strolling through town will become something of the past.
Experiences like this will be impossible, A decade from, all the animals will be safely segregated behind sturdy fences.
Yunnan is best known for it’s steep mountains covered in tea plantations and neat patchworks of crops, mostly rice and corn.
Pretty little villages dot the mountainsides and almost every inch of available land is cultivated.
And the roads are often almost entirely devoid of traffic…at least in the early morning hours. It’s like night and day compared with our experience biking China’s busy eastern seaboard in 2011 (THAT was a nightmare).
The food (and the fact that Eric is down with comfy hotels) is one of the best parts of cycling China. Portions are humongous compared with Thailand and there’s always a wide selection of veggies plus tofu is a staple. A great place to be vegetarian. A typical meal of two dishes usually sets us back around 25 Yuan ($4). Hotels cost around 40 Yuan ($6.50) for a simple but nice room with hot water and attached bathroom. With all the comforts, actually spend slightly more in China than in Japan or Australia.
The absolute best part of cycling in this part of China is all the interesting people you cross paths with. Yunnan’s population is comprised of about 34% ethnic minority groups. Every tribe has a traditional way of dressing and practice a different type of Buddhism than the majority Han Chinese.
The guy on the left was smoking the ubiquitous Yunnan water pipe. The pipes are traditionally made of bamboo but metal ones are becoming more popular. You can see men smoking water pipes in every village and town you pass.
This determined lady was off to the weekly market.
Beautiful hand-woven baskets.
Met this tiny lady with the amazing smile in a little village tucked way in the hills. A warm welcome indeed!
We won’t be seeing much of this type of lush landscape once we begin cycling on the high plateau. Can’t say I’ll be miss the daily downpours.

Total Kilometers Cycled: 154,077

China route:  Border crossing from Laos at Mohan-Mengla-Menglun-Puer-Jing gu-Jingdong

Thanks to Hana Black and Mark Watson of Highlux Photo for their detailed route info and inspiring images.

Road Rage: a rocky start in China
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6 thoughts on “Road Rage: a rocky start in China

    • September 21, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      We were really very lucky that the Chinese police took our side!

  • September 6, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    Absolutely beautiful!

  • September 20, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Hi Amaya and Eric, that looks marvelous……I am so much looking forward to see so much colour again !!!
    And by the way….I had rain every single day !!!!
    Cheers from Sichuan, Heike

    • September 21, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      Yes, we’ve had our share of rain here too! And the forecast says 6 straight days of ain once we leave Shangi-la. UGH.


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