MCM thread with photos. I'll add photos here later today. East Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China - Chiang Rai, Northern Thialand Jan-March 2015 Outbound Departure: 30km east of Ningbo, PRC - 2015 January 2nd Arrival: Chiang Rai, Thailand - 2015 January 5th Inbound Return: Chiang Rai, Thailand - 2015 March 1st Arrival: 30km east of Ningbo, PRC - 2015 March 4th Distance: ~3,600km (Ningbo - Boten border crossing Laos). Total distance: ~25,000km+ Bike: 2014 650GS purchased in September '14 Bike Accessories: Factory ABS, factory wire wheel rims, factory powerlet accessory plug, factory centre stand, factory heated grips, 20mm bar risers, Givi tall screen, headlight protector, bar mounted 12v accessory combined USB (x2) plugs, bar mounted Smartphone/device holder with adaptors, aluminium skid plate/sump guard, lower engine and upper fairing crash bars, ADV side stand extender plate, ADV alloy ABS bracket guards, Givi panniers and top box with brackets, LED riding spot lights (pair), rear splash guard flap, clip on tank bag & a whole host of little do-dads. Navigation: GarminXT on (x2) HTC HD2 WinMo 6.5 Smartphone's. I also had Mapking MapAsia GPS software with all maps of Asian countries including PRC but these are all date back to 2009 or thereabouts. I have a hard copy map of PRC in Pinying, but it's more than several years old. I did look at purchasing a Truckers map but they're only available in CHS. I prepared two HTC HD2 (T8585 - Leo) phones that I had flashed the ROMs of and ran everything so they were identical, operating the same apps, address books - everything. Unfortunately the GarminXT map of PRC was from 2012. Quite a bit of date given the speed of the changes going on in the middle kingdo0m. I have later maps, but the file size is 1.2GB and I found that my HD2's struggled a little with such a big map. If I removed/un-installed much of the apps/software I'm sure the maps would've operated faster. Unfortunately I need much of the software on the HD2 or more precisely software that operates on WinMo v6.5 OS. Utilising the HD2's as I had them configured the only real issue I had was that for some unknown reason both HTC HD2's lost satell!te connections in Kunming, GarminXT and MapKing lost satell!te reception and consequently I got lost there for ~4 hours riding round and round. Food: I packed, crackers and some pre-packed hot rice, meat and veggie meals (x6) which took up quite a bit of space in one of the Givi panniers. Crazily I only ate 3 the entire trip down, one nearing the end of the first 24 hours (January 3rd) at an Expressway petrol station someplace. Another about 24 hours later the morning I stopped at a road side pagoda some 30km north of Xishuangbanna (January 4th). The third meal I ate in the hotel in Xishuangbanna I stayed in. Motorcycle gear/clothing: Shark Evoline series 3 helmet (white). Jacket: Cycle Spirit multi-vent (German) Pants: HELD (German) Gloves: multiple pairs summer & winter gloves Mask: Respro anti-pollution mask with several replacement filters (needed!) (UK). Boots: ARCX Enduro (Ch!nese) <photo 1> Not a lot of photos this second trip especially for the leg inside Ch!na. I was focused on iron butting the distance to get as far as I could in the shortest possible time while also riding as economically as possible so I could keep the number of Expressway Service Centre refuelling stops to a minimum - thus hopefully decreasing my chances at being evicted from the Expressway. I carried 5L extra fuel. This is my second trip to ride in northern Thailand - which IMO is a 'mecca' for all things motorcycle and motorcycle riding. This was another reason that I also didn't take many photos this trip compared to my first. Despite having ridden round northern Thailand January 2014 covering some 15K km's+ for 7 weeks this second trip didn't disappoint and I will likely be departing again in another fortnights time to do it all over again. If anyone else is interested in joining me for all or part of the ride, PM me. The ride. <photo 2> Day 1: After a big breakfast, I departed from home 30km east of Ningbo riding local roads, a few highways through Xikou, Fenghua out to Shengzhou. At Shengzhou I turned south towards Yiwu. Before reaching Yiwu I turned toward the west and rode through the northern outskirts of Yiwu through a few towns before riding into the major mountain ranges to the west of Yiwu. Rode towards Sanlu which is north of Pujiang, then out onto the G320 which runs beside the S31. Riding from home to the G320 between Tonglu and Jiande took about 8hrs, compared with 3 hours if I'd taken the Expressway. Jiande is close to the tourist area of QianDao Hu (1000 island lake). I've ridden this leg literally hundreds of times, taking one of several routes (including the Expressway by car). I could have tried my luck entering the Expressway at any number of on-ramps, but I didn't fancy my chances closer to home. Most Expressway on-ramps are big and long. The one I entered near Jiande was small and quiet. The leg from home to Jiande, I only stopped for fuel. My loose plan was to ride out to Jiande and evaluate my options of either grabbing a hotel room beside the Lijiang river in Jiande or checking out a small two booth on-ramp north of Jiande onto the G25 Expressway. I arrived at the intersection to the G25 on-ramp and seized my chance. With only 2 booth on/off-ramps the toll stations were quiet and only one LHS on-ramp booth was open. I rode round the barrier of the obligatory RHS booth, and as I did so I heard a female attendants voice yelling something inaudible. I rode on regardless and took the left hand lane onto the Expressway overpass bridge which lead onto the Expressway travelling south. Fantastic... on, so far so good. <photo 3> The Expressway was my preferred route/means to cover the distances needed to get to Thailand. I know full well the condition of many of the alternative Highways and secondary roads that I'd otherwise have to ride on, and they are less than ideal. Expressway was a drone, but I was thankful to be on it as I knocked out the 'miles'. Once on the Expressway, I only stopped for fuel. My modus operandi was that as I covered 100-150km I would look for the next most opportune petrol station, despite knowing I had a range of approx a further 250-300km in addition to the 100-150km already covered. I preferred to have the fuel tank/bladder as full as often as I could - just in case. Some Expressway Service Centres were either busy or major stopping points. Some Service Centres had a greater 'Police' presence - I avoided those wherever possible. I carried everything needed to be self sufficient, including a 5L plastic fuel container - full (the red approved type available in most countries). In Guizhou (or it might have been the top of Guanxi) and Yunnan provinces, obtaining petrol on the Expressway was sometimes an issue. In parts of either province some Petrol Stations weren't able to provide me (the bike) with petrol as they didn't have the farkin Teapot. I was told at one such Station to proceed to the next Station down the road - (I think this was in Yunnan province where the Expressway sometimes merged with highways or some other weird amalgamation). I obliged and upon arriving at the next Petrol Station, all the staff got in a flap - although a pleasant flap. One of the young attendants went inside the big Synopec and came out with a new dust covered Teapot which she wiped clean, before proceeding to fill the obligatory 'pot'. Meanwhile I used my 5L plastic fuel container and proceeded to fill my bikes tank (which ironically fills via a filler on the LHS beside the pillion seat). Very little chance of any petrol fuelled fire caused by a hot engine as an ignition source on the smaller BMW GS models. Once my 5L of petrol was in, I then used the full 'pot' to refill it. Repeating this as needed. Only one Petrol Station proved almost insurmountable. The attendant wanted to fill my bike, at least that's my suspicion, but we spent 15 minutes or more as he proceeded to fill other car tanks, all the while looking over his shoulders frequently. Eventually I guess he got a sense that the coast was clear, and filled my bikes tank. I just shake my head at the logic free zone (LFZ). Unfortunately I didn't pack a bed-roll/tent - and I wish I had. Serious case of Monkey butt developed over the 48 hours of ~3000km. I slept uncomfortably for approx. 30 minutes after the first 20 hours (about 4 A.M.) in the shadow of a petrol station, perched on my bike seat. Yowsa! No matter which position I tried, Monkey butt stifled any attempt I made at getting any form of meaningful ZZzzeeeeessss! or REM sleep. I rode across quite a few crash scenes, mostly after the hours of darkness and in the wee small hours of the morning. Most were trucks, a few involved big truck and trailer units but mostly smaller 5-20 tonne trucks and all but 1 had rolled onto the side (roll overs). From memory all appeared to be single vehicle crashes. At all crash scenes, Traffic Police were in attendance and I must have looked quite the spectacle, appearing as a triangle of bright lights, only then to turn out to be a motorcycle with a rider with a white helmet and full green/yellow fluorescent jerkin, often not too indistinguishable from what many of the Police were wearing themselves. I just rode on through. I only had a couple of near misses with eviction with some Police at the provincial border toll crossings who attempted to intercept me as I rode out through the toll booths. Day 2 & Day 3: Often times I found it near on impossible to try and use the very RHS booth as there were 2 or 3 lines of trucks queued at the RHS toll booths. This presented a challenge a couple of times, since I was then forced to use an alternative toll booth, where the barrier arm poles are often longer (as most long-term PRC expats might appreciate) the RHS booth usually has a shorter barrier arm pole making navigating round the barrier easier. Only adding to an already difficult task was that I had a set of panniers albeit slimmer than normal/standard. Added to this was that I found that the mirrors on my GS were at a similar height as the barriers - when I was leaning my bike and bars attempting to manoeuvre round said barrier. At one or two of these provincial toll stations after passing through the booths I was chased down by one Police Officer or another on foot upon seeing me - I just rode on. While at other toll stations, one attendant even directed (helped) me as I was manoeuvring my bike alongside a truck and the lane through the booth. Kunming: The queues of traffic heading into Kunming, Yunnan were immense. The Expressway became confusing, as though the Expressway became at one with the Highway and vice versa. Making it into Kunming proper despite what seemed like hours to travel something like 10-20km or at least that was how it felt and how I remember it. As I got closer to Kunming I was making a mental note of landmarks and where I needed to turn. Zooming in and out of the GarminXT map. As I neared a lake in Kunming the GPS lost satell!te reception. It happens occasionally. I rode on, expecting the reception to resume. It didn't. I replaced that HD2 with my new HD2 and powered it on. Got GarminXT up and running but only after a short moment it too lost reception. I had a general sense of where I needed to be heading (toward Xishuangbanna), but I got confused multiple times. I rode on and off different Expressway entrances/exits, found the lake, but was it the correct lake? I became confused which way I should head in relation to the lake as when I zoomed in and out of the map there appeared more than one lake (so I questioned myself was it the correct lake?). I lost sense of my situational awareness. I rode round and round areas that became familiar after one too many visits. Rode along a new Expressway though I didn't recall entering through any tolls... beside or near a lake. The road (Expressway) was new, quiet and turned into an elevated bridge over a body of water from what I could work out. Getting a sense I was heading in the wrong direction I wanted to exit so I could ride on the opposite side in the direction from which I had come. I had to exit down a ramp where a toll booth sat. At the top of the ramp were two Police officers stood giving me a good visual as I approached, so I stopped and asked them 'Xishuangbanna'... that took like 30mins - or it seemed like it. 'No bikes' but you have to go that way (gesturing toward the other side of the Expressway), given this was a bridge and looked to be the only direct way back the way I came. I haggled and negotiated with them the best I could for permission to go back (using the other side). It seemed they gave somewhat of an approval or tired of me and lost interest. I rode down the ramp and out through the toll booth. I had to ride some distance away to be able to do a U-turn as there was a central divider which could only be crossed about 500m-1km away. Making the U-turn I approached the on-ramp on the other side and as I entered I was challenged verbally by the attendant in the LHS booth as I rode up the right of the RHS booth toward the closed barrier. The booth was not operating. I stopped. I could have ridden on, but I chose to stop. Discussions ensued. The booth operator was insistent that I couldn't ride on, I insisted I had to. The assistant stayed in her booth, but soon tired, she looked away disinterested - so I rode on. Somehow I found my way in the direction of the main Highway slash Expressway leading to Xishuangbanna. Leaving Kunming the GPS's found satell!te reception again. I surmise that there is something that interferes with GPS/navigational aids in Kunming. I'd wasted hours in Kunming. After Kunming getting petrol direct into the bikes tank/bladder returned to standard practice thankfully. <photo 4> Riding towards Xishuangbanna was surreal - mountains, rivers but I was riding late at night and into the early hours. I stopped a few times. Got gas at a surreal Petrol Station opposite a T-junction. There was a block of shops next door which shared the Petrol Station drive way. There was a big tree with a little garden in between and I attempted to find a shaded spot there in the shadows. It was like 1-3 A.M. I was tired, but my serious Monkey butt meant that try as I might getting sleep perched on the bike seat, it was near n impossible to get anything more than maybe 30 minutes of shut-eye. I started the bike and rode on. The closer to Xishuangbanna I got, I observed an increasing South East Asian influence. I noticed many of the kerbs near intersections, corners and bends etc coloured with red and white paint, a phenomenon often observed in many South East Asian countries. The nearer I got to Xishuangbanna tourist town (with a back-packer vibe sort of enclave) the more the geology and geography changed to reflect the warmer/tropical climate found in many parts of South East Asia. The foliage changed accordingly. On the last <100km into Xishuangbanna, the Expressway was more like a surreal country highway. There were places one could stop on the road side. I stopped at a kind of park. Well it had been a park, landscaped with gardens, a small disused building and a pagoda. I heated one of the meals and spent approx. 1-2 hours eating and allowing my serious case of Monkey butt rest. I brushed my teeth here, washed my face etc. My face was almost black from the grime of 48 hours and 3000km+ of riding. The signs to Xishuangbanna were great, a sense of relief, except as I got closer to Xishuangbanna. All road signs seemingly dispensed with Xishuangbanna and instead referred to Jinghong. I had to stop and check several times, zooming in and out of the Garmin map, panning here and there. Xishuangbanna is the major tourist town with a kind of Yangshou vibe (a former foreign backpackers mecca - now overrun by local travellers instead) near Guilin. At the last exit before Xishuangbanna I had stopped my bike on the Expressway/Highway on the chevron dividing the off-ramp and the Expressway. I was checking my whereabouts on the GPS when a Police car stopped behind me. The male Police Officer who'd been driving got out and walked up to me, accompanied by a female Officer. The male officer was turse and stated I should not be there, no motorcycles... the female was polite and nudged her male colleague. She asked me if I needed help? I pointed to the GPS and asked Xishuangbanna - where is it? She replied 'next exit' (last exit as it transpired). I thanked them and rode off, as they both walked back to the Police car. I got into Xishuangbanna at about 7 A.M. Xishuangbanna: Xishuangbanna sits opposite Jinghong divided by a river. Where Xishuangbanna is quite the bohemian tourist town - Jinghong is larger and quite unremarkable aside from 'its' chaos. Chalk and cheese IMO - maybe there's more to Jinhong aside from chaos? The Expressway just kind of ends in Xishuangbanna - there's no tolls as I recall. One rides of the Expressway into a large round-a-bout. Xishuangbanna enclave to the left. Jinhong staright ahead over a bridge. Xishuangbanna road layout is made up of perpendicular roads/lanes. I spent a few hours (to kill time) riding the streets in Xishuangbanna, as the little town started coming to life. I also searched out some hotels, and needed to kill time to approach the usual 'check-in' time. I found a 4 star Hotel which had some off street parking which appeared a bit of a premium in Xishuangbanna. I did like another Hotel (new which seemed popular with a younger affluent set) but no off street parking though the interior of the Hotel and the room was spot on - it was also a few hundred kuai cheaper. I chose the more expensive, checked in, unpacked the bike of luggage and after dropping my bags in the room, showered and caught up with a few hours of sleep. The night of 4th January I chatted with Prince666 who would wait for me on the Thai side at the Chiang Khong border. We talked through the different border crossings etc, reviewed the final leg out from Xishuangbanna out past Mengla to the PRC-Laos border town etc. We went through the various processes for the umpteenth time. We arranged a rough ETA (which as it transpired I failed to met). We walked our way using Google maps as well as my GarminXT while I was in the Hotel. I hadn't realised that my Garmin Ch!na map was missing the newer G213 & G8511 Expressway slash Highway. I'd input my destination 'the border' and thought all was good... little did I realise... The next day January 5th, I departed the hotel after having packed my bike and getting a big breakfast in. The breakfast area was beside a pool. I didn't have time, though the pool looked inviting. My plan was to ride the G213 Expressway down towards Mengla and then to the Ch!na-Laos border (known as Bolten Border Crossing on the Laos side).