TBR China ADV Riding

Discussion in 'Asia' started by TBR, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Dongqian Lake is a lake lying in the southeast of Yinzhou District, Ningbo in the Zhejiang province of eastern China. It is the largest natural freshwater lake in Zhejiang province with a water surface area of approx. 20 square kilometers. Since ancient times the Lake has been a famous scenic spot in Eastern Zhejiang province.

    Dongqian Lake is an increasingly popular destination for residents of Ningbo (it’s around a 45- minute drive out of the city centre), but the expressway links to the city from Shanghai mean that it’s also a convenient weekend break from here. Although tourist developments are expanding to serve this trade, the lake remains largely untroubled by the sort of crowds who swarm around, say, Hangzhou’s West Lake and the out of town location gives it a far more relaxing air.

    Dongqian actually consists of three lakes, with the North Lake the pick of these. Small villages, temples and even a Song dynasty sculpture park are nestled between mountains and the lake’s shores.
    A quiet road runs the circumference, making it ideal for a run or bike ride.

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  2. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Heading out to the mountain ranges from Dongqian Lake beyond Hengxi in Zhejiang, also called “Zhe” for short which is located in the East of China. With Shanghai and Jangsu in its North, Anhui and Jiangxi in its West, Fujian and Zhejiang in its South. Zhejiang Province, on the whole, a mountainous province, mountains and hills accounting for 70% of the total area of Zhejiang, and generally higher elevations west and south. It has a long history of planting Chinese tea trees. Tea is the leading and sustainable development agriculture in Zhejiang. Zhejiang is also the main green tea producing area in China. Zhejiang carried out natural and organic tea project in order to improve tea quality. Zhejiang established tea business relationship with nearly 60 countries in the world. The main tea it sells to these countries are Gunpower Tea and all kinds of famous green tea. Zhejiang became the biggest place all over the world for producing, processing and exporting green tea.

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  3. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Being a province with a lot of ancient villages and old towns, Zhejiang is endowed with abundant cultural and historical heritages. It is in this very place that the traditional Chinese culture is well-preserved without the steady stream of tourists...

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  4. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    Tasty and excellent food during the farewell dinner from Zhejiang province at Park Hyatt Hotel Ningbo (Seafood House Chinese Restaurant)....

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    Overall excellent days riding the twisty tarmac roads and offroad trails, definetly making my way over to Zhejiang province again soon during 2017....

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  5. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Also known as Duanwujie, Dragon Boat Festival is a holiday of eating sticky rice dumplings, drinking realgar wine (a mix of huangjiu and regular minerals) and racing (or watching) dragon-shaped boats. This year the holiday period in Mainland China = Sunday 28 to Tuesday 30 May, with Double Fifth day itself falling on the Tuesday.

    Now celebrated worldwide, Dragon Boat Festival’s humble origins date back to southern China over 2,000 years ago. As with all great legends, the facts are largely contested, vary from region to region and come heavily embellished. One of the best-known stories holds that Dragon Boat Festival commemorates celebrated poet and minister, Qu Yuan (343-278 BC).

    The story goes that Qu was betrayed by officials, accused of treason and exiled from the kingdom. After wiling away years in exile, Qu threw himself in a river as a form of protest against the corruption of the time. Upon hearing the tragic news, villagers loyal to Qu went in search of his body, splashing their paddles, banging drums and throwing sticky rice balls into the water in an attempt to keep the fish well away from his body. Hence today, Dragon Boat Races and the rice-heavy snack Zongzi.

    Eating Zongzi is one of the customs during the annual Dragon Boat Festival. The pyramid-shaped sticky rice parcels wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves are tasty enough without any fillings, but one can add sweetened bean paste, fresh meat or egg yolk.

    If heading to the actual race events and squeezing in with everyone else is too much work, celebrate the festival by eating the iconic Zongzi. Like mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival (but tastier and not re-gifted as often), this is the traditional snack for Dragon Boat Festival.

    While countless regional variations exist, the foundation of these 'sticky rice dumplings' is glutinous rice packed around a savory or sweet filling like pork belly or red bean, then wrapped with bamboo leaves. Though available all-year-round, in the weeks leading up to the festival you'll see an increase in street stall steamers full of the pyramid-shaped treat. Stacks of them (Zongzi) at any water town around the greater Shanghai region.

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    Traditional Dragon Boat Racing during Duanwujie ~ what's on the Dragon Boat for the racing?

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    Dragon’s Head
    The auspicious dragon. Dragons are obviously popular in Chinese culture, and understandably so: they’re symbolic of power and strength and they’re masters of the water – as well as just about everything else. In dragon boat racing, the dragon’s head is more of a ceremonial adornment, added for festivals. Before the race begins, the dragon’s eyes are dotted with lucky red paint, to symbolise the dragon coming to life.

    Drummer
    A key player in the race, the drummer is essentially the pulse, riding in prime position at the front of the boat. He or she overlooks the paddlers and maintains a steady drumbeat to help paddlers keep the pace and stay in sync.

    Paddlers
    Depending on the size of the boat, the crew is usually made up of ten to 20 paddlers, sitting in two rows, paddling in unison to propel the boat through the water under the watchful eyes of the steersperson and drummer. Not to be confused with rowers, paddlers face forwards and use paddles, not oars, obviously. Paddlers at the front of the boat set the pace, while paddlers at the back are used for strength to keep the speed up, especially in faster waters. And paddlers wouldn't be much without...

    Paddles
    Some people say that the paddles are symbolic of the dragon’s claws, wading through the water. Different from oars, paddles are not connected to the boat in any way and are in total control of the paddler.

    Steersperson
    No surprises here, the steersperson is in charge of steering during the course of the race, using the sweep oar. As the only one who can really see what’s going on outside the boat, it’s also the job of the steersperson to alert the crew to any signs of danger or potential collisions. So no pressure or anything.

    Dragon Boat Racing, if you’re looking to get in on the action yourself while around Shanghai (China), the Shanglong Dragonboat Club (Shanghai) welcomes newcomers and paddlers of any background throughout the year = http://www.dragonboatsh.org

    Short promotional video (2016 by Thoi Teresa) for those never seen or been at a Dragon Boat Racing event...



    Skipped the usual PRC national holiday crowds, went trail riding and "greenlaning" around some of Shanghai's nearby watertowns...
    Life is an adventure, having motorbikes to get out on somewhere is a real great enhancement to my days. I like to get on one of my bikes, leave the house and if for a day trip I'll just go whichever way I turn the handlebars. Before I leave I'll know approx. what time sunset is just so I can be home before. At some point Ill turn on the GPS and hit the way towards the home-base. I'll pay attention and adjust my return home route based on the arrival time displayed on my GPS. If an overnight or multi day trip I may put in certain benchmark / stopover locations and still let the GPS arrival time function help me decide if I want to ease along for more sightseeing or step it up to arrive while there is a bit of daylight involved. With the Baja Design LED lights, sunset is not quite the defining moment it used to be while out and about on the orange hooligan bike must say'....

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    Texas Aggie likes this.
  6. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Battle of the Water Towns around the greater Shanghai region ~ Ever wondered which water town is really the best?


    Wuzhen ~ What’s it like? Split into two sections – east and west – Wuzhen is undeniably pretty, but it’s also one of the most commercial and tourist-filled towns on this list. The west area is supposedly best at night when the lights come on, though in the day time it’s just as picturesque. The east part, meanwhile, features a smallish park and regular kung fu performances from several retired gentlemen atop a boat. Both areas are based around one long stretch of canal, each with narrow lanes either side. The town is most famous for being the former home of Chinese literary great Mao Dun.
    Manageable on weekdays, Wuzhen is incredibly claustrophobic at peak times. Limited to the two sections, tourists are funneled down into the same main streets with few chances of escape. A free open air cinema screening old black-and-white Chinese films on a wall in the west area (9-11pm, daily) provides some rare respite, but generally it’s hellish at weekends. Wuzhen’s beauty is also its downfall, causing steep entrance prices and overwhelming tourist crowds. Although it’s bearable on weekdays, at weekends the frustration of fighting through the tourists makes it hard to justify a trip.

    Qibao ~ What’s it like? When it comes to water towns nearest to Shanghai, it’s hard to beat Qibao for convenience, located as it is on metro line 9, though this is probably its only real advantage. With just a couple of small old streets left and a serviceable canal area that runs for a mere block, Qibao doesn’t boast as many photo opportunities as places such as Zhouzhuang or Wuzhen, but there is a pleasant temple and a tiny shadow puppet theatre that are worth visiting.
    Given the lack of options for wandering, avoiding the crowds at Qibao is tricky. Come on a weekday, though, and you’ll find it manageable. Qibao is fine for an hour or two, but it’s not the most authentic water town experience around.

    Zhouzhuang ~ What’s it like? Zhouzhuang is one of the country’s oldest water towns and, according to posters plastered throughout the streets, sees itself as ‘China’s number one water town’. Unfortunately, so do the tourist groups, meaning it’s one of the busiest water towns in the region. It’s a shame, as Zhouzhuang is certainly one of the prettier sites in the area, and one of the larger ones too, though there’s little to see off the main T-junction of waterways at the town’s centre. Various Qing and Ming dynasty residences are dotted around the town, though the real beauty of Zhouzhuang is in the dozen or so stone bridges that cross the water (provided they’re not packed with tourists). Even on weekdays, Zhouzhuang gets busy, with few places to escape the hordes herded down the main streets by flag and megaphone-wielding guides. The 900-year-old Taoist Chengxu Temple provides one of the few spots for respite, though even this can become crowded at peak times. It’s pretty, but the tourist crowds and commercialism are relentless, even on a weekday

    Xitang ~ What’s it like? Xitang is one of the more attractive water towns in the region, presumably the reason Tom Cruise and co chose to film the roof-hopping scene toward the end of Mission Impossible III here, but that also means tourists flock to it. Other than photos of Cruise with smiling locals dotted in various restaurants, and a big picture of him looking all action hero-like beside a stone bridge, there are thankfully few references to the film. Nine rivers criss-cross the town, with regular stone arch bridges and narrow lanes either side of the waterways, which are prettier than most. Busy on weekdays, Xitang is overrun at weekends – megaphones and matching caps abound. Undeniably picturesque in terms of its layout and architecture, Xitang is another water town that has become a tourist trap, meaning that taking in the beautiful scenery is usually punctured by someone elbowing you out the way to get to the stinky tofu stand.

    Tongli ~ What’s it like? Tongli is one of the smaller water towns, centering on a main junction of canals and arched bridges, but it has some unique attractions that make it worth a visit. Waterside cafes, tree-lined streets and a boat of cormorants kept for the tourists mean that it’s a photogenic place – but one of the main motivations for visiting Tongli, and what made it stand out from the myriad water towns surrounding Shanghai, was the only China Sex Museum (closed during 2015 ~ yet to reopen somewhere).
    On weekdays, Tongli is pleasantly empty. Weekends naturally see larger crowds, but generally the pace is slower here than in other water towns. The traditional scenic part of Tongli is relatively small, yet it doesn’t feel as bustling as other water towns.

    Zhujiajiao ~ What’s it like? Zhujiajiao’s mix of bridges, canals, wood-panelled buildings and narrow lanes is fairly standard, but it’s nonetheless attractive. The Qingpu town has an appealing combination of accessibility and places to escape the crowds. The town is centred on a large main canal where you’ll find the longest of its numerous bridges, Fangsheng Bridge, which is also known as ‘setting fish free bridge’ – for a few kuai you can buy a goldfish to release into the water (they’re fished out again a little way downstream and resold).
    Zhujiajiao’s accessibility from Shanghai means that it’s a tourist favourite, but in its favour the town offers more escapes from the crowds than the average water town. The whole town is worth exploring, with numerous side streets to avoid the tourists, and a number of kooky cafes to hide in. If you decide to stay for the evening, open air Kunqu opera performances and classical music shows taking place every summer. It may not be as spectacular as some neighbouring water towns, but the mix of accessibility, no entrance ticket and cool cafes to escape the hordes mean that Zhujiajiao is still a worthy day trip.

    Nanxun ~ What’s it like? Although much of Nanxun itself is a grimy industrial town, and some of the water town area has succumbed to the tourist tat virus, large parts of it are green, peaceful and filled with locals relaxing (and not trying to sell you anything). The best part of the water town area is the south-west, where you can escape the crowds on even the busiest days and find trees arching over the peaceful water – we like the tranquil Little Lotus Garden, a grand former residential house with a small lake at the back, and the Jiayetang Library, home to a large collection of ancient tomes and tree-covered grounds, where locals sip tea and play cards beside the water.
    Nanxun is absent from the main tourist trails, making it pleasantly light on megaphones and matching baseball caps. You’ll still see the odd tourist group, particularly in the southern part of town and at weekends, but it’s a far cry from tourist traps such as Wuzhen. With charmingly rustic residential streets and relatively few tourist trappings, Nanxun is our new favourite water town. Just get there before everyone else does.

    ***various watertown pictures below in no particular order***

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  7. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    Working on one's bike is also the gift that keeps on giving, there are many zen-like moments to be had just focusing on a bike repair, modification or just some maintenance ~ ~ few personal tips and tricks below...

    KTM450EXC ~ got it all sorted now for long distance touring with the installation of the Acerbis 3.2gal. tank, Akrapovic Titanium slip-on muffler (incl. ECU remap), Clake SLR and a Globetrottin' luggage rack.

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    Looked at the cheap universal MIC = Made In China fuel tank socks (not impressed on material and most probably fitment issues), got some KTM-EXC (2016) fuel tank sock filters by Profill - Australia.

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    Couple of month ago installed the Clake SLR (hand & foot dual rear brake control), after extensive testing, brilliant setup going around the asphalt twisties and during offroading ~ right turns are great fun now as foot stays in position on foot peg or easily extended for the "slide" or real technical sections...

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    Love doing my own bike work and maintenance, DRC wheel balancing and truing stand (Gyro Stand), works brilliant and easy as for maintenance with the earlier mention spoke torque wrench by Warp9....

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    Having a few sets of reusable spoke weights on standby if needed but fine for now...

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    Texas Aggie likes this.
  8. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    Texas Aggie likes this.
  9. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    Well ~ the mighty Ducati MTS-PP 2012 was sold just recently, herewith in loving memory the "For Sale" notice I had emailed out... Now gone but the MTS-PP will always be remembered as a very enjoyable high performance sports-bike during my years of ownership...

    The perfectly modified BMW-F8GS (Shanghai) was sold November 2016 and have made the ultimate betrayal ~ got some different reliable European bike brand for the first time! The white & blue BMW guys everywhere were cursing my name as I drank and enjoyed the orange cool-aid.... So far, I've found that just about everything anyone ever said was true about the other European branded bikes but thats another story for a different day and time. Now ~ quite sure, the worldwide loyal Ducati community will complain and moan heavily....

    Italian Mistress ~ smoking hot and healthy but she's just too much for me nowadays. Every time I get on her, she's left wanting more than I am willing to give her due to other important commitments. Athletic, sexy and beautiful, she deserves someone that will treat her right and ride her hard the way her proud Italian creators always wanted.....

    Different plans and directions come around in everyone's life cycle and might be rattling the cage once again as not offering a cheap as chips MIC = Made In China motorbike with dodgy rego & plates or the so called public license plates, but what the heck, here we go as a true enthusiast and serious rider might be just out there looking for the perfect Mainland China stress reliever. Absolutely not pressed on time, as not selling the MTS for the Shanghai "A" plate allocation (few legal Shanghai plates from the gone but not forgotten golden days in my possession). Herewith putting the word out on a very special all inclusive "Ready to Rock n' Roll" Ducati package deal available in Shanghai (PRC), motorbike alone around approx. xxxxxxx RMB.

    There are faster bikes for sure, but the Ducati Multistrada 1200S Pikes Peak is a very special bike. The ride experience is pretty unique ~ like a super motard bike on steroids with an upright dirt bike stance. Well ~ no longer need to stop for coffee in the mornings as you will arrive at the office sufficiently stimulated.

    DUCATI Multistrada 1200S Pikes Peak (2012) Limited Edition
    Shanghai / China, purchase date = 11/11/11 by the seller (owner) and this particular bike is the first ever MTS-PP in Mainland China imported through Ducati China (Shanghai).
    Approx. 43000km (all maintenance, installations and frequently serviced by Ducati Shanghai ~ not some chain smoking & spitting, dodgy tree shade + back alley mechanics)
    Fully transferable legal Shanghai "A" private registration & license plate, either sold with plate "market price" of the day or without the registration / license plate (Shanghai"A" rego & plate going approx. XXXK RMB nowadays)

    -Termignoni Full Titanium / Stainless Steel Exhaust with Racing ECU by Ducati
    -Stainless Steel Exhaust / Muffler Hanger (custom)
    -Ohlins Suspension ECU (limited release suspension upgrade)
    -R&G Racing Tail Tidy
    -Custom LED Tail Light (integrated rear indicators)
    -Barkbusters Handguards (alloy / black)
    -Brembo 2-pot CNC Caliper (rear)
    -Hardware (every nut / bolt / screw possible replaced with titanium hardware from Pro-Bolt UK / Podium Racing USA)
    -Altrider Luggage Rack (rear / black)
    -Altrider Crashbars with sliders
    -Rizoma Rear Axle Slider
    -SpeedyMotoFront Axle Slider
    -Altrider Header Guard (black)
    -Altrider Cylinder Head Guard (black)
    -Evotech Radiator Guard (black)

    Spare Parts available and for sale (not included with the bike pricing listed above as complete separate deal to be negotiated)
    -Marchesini Wheel Set (Front + Rear / 10 Spoke / Forged Alloy / Black / brand-new boxed) fit various Ducati bikes (single sided swingarm)
    -Termignoni Full Titanium / Stainless Steel Exhaust System (brand-new complete system with UpMap USB Stick MTS 2013 up)
    -Exhaust Custom Hanger Bracket (stainless steel)
    -Evotech Cylinder Head Guard (brand-new / black)
    -Evotech Header Guard (brand-new / black)
    -Altrider Header Guard (two guards)
    -Brembo Clutch Lever (spare hand lever / black)
    -Brembo Brake Lever (spare hand lever / black)
    -Fairing Monting Hardware (ProBolt UK / black)
    -Rear Tyre 2x (Scorpion Trail one tyre / Scorpion Trail 2 one tyre)
    -Front Tyre 2x (Scorpion Trail one tyre / Scorpion Trail 2 one tyre)
    -Fairing Kit Pikes Peak (brand-new with decals / carbon fibre)
    -Fender (rear / short / carbon / brand-new)
    -Hugger (rear / carbon / brand-new)
    -Carbon Beak Set (left / right)
    -MTS Pikes Peak Decal Kit (complete / brand-new)
    -Belly Pan Set (black / left-right-centre)
    -Airfilter (brand-new)
    -Spark Plugs (brand-new)
    -Brake Pads (brand-new / various brands)
    -EMS Duc Shim Kit (complete 4-valve Ducati set for valve / desmo shim service)
    -R+G Racing Tail Tidy Kit (brand-new)
    -Custom LED Taillight (brand-new)
    -Drive Chain (2x / brand-new)
    -Sprocket / Ergal (42t rear)
    -Cyclops LED Headlight Bulbs (three bulbs / brand-new)
    -Sidestand Switch (brand-new)
    -Brake Light Switch (rear / brand-new)
    -Altrider Crashbars Sliders (brand-new / black)
    -Ducati Paddock Stands Front / Rear (red)
    -Ducati MTS Indoor Storage Cover (cotton)

    All original OEM parts like complete exhaust, ECU, rear hugger fender, Brembo rear brake caliper, etc..etc.. available (not included with the bike pricing listed above as complete separate deal to be negotiated) ***quite sure, forget some available spare parts but will take full inventory if any real serious buyer***

    >>>Very important fine print concerning the bike sales procedures<<<
    MTS will be on display later on at a premium Shanghai motorcycle dealership, will advise once available for public viewing but dream on and get wet undies about free joy test rides. Thanks very much for all the incoming comments and emails up front, as quite sure will read some rather strange comments & inquiries once again incl. abusive hate mails, lengthy monthly payment plans / trade-in suggestions (sorry, really in no need of some dodgy cheap MIC = Made In China motorbike). Furthermore, absolute no interest in renting out the Ducati MTS-PP for a lovely motherland tour or exhilarating weekend sprint. On another note, the MTS-PP will not be sold with the plate + registration (Shanghai "A") under the owners name for a cruise around the lovely motherland called China. You need to either find a person willing to register the bike (Chinese = PRC ID Card / Foreigner = Passport with the right class of visa and additional supporting documents) or purchase the Ducati MTS-PP without the Shanghai plate / registration.

    I am not a subscriber to any social media as my time is very valuable, can't be bothered looking at or answer annoying incoming electronic messages all day long, leaving that to the hipsters and attention seekers... Email contact = mtsppxxxx@gmail.com and once sold and paid for in full, the email address will be taken out of service.

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  10. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
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    Hot, sometimes cold and dusty sandy with a chance of thunderstorms incl. hail around the higher located mountain regions.... Well ~ I don't know how to describe the senses and smells one would encounter on a multi week road-trip through China starting at our Shanghai home-base and ending in Shanghai again. Let's give it a go and tell another China story with simple pictures to back it all up...
    The elements we encountered varied as we reached some of the high mountain ranges and some of the drier points around China during the annoying hot & humid rainy season (Plum Rains) that hits greater Shanghai region annually during the summer months (July / August)....

    Went light ~ went fast ~ went far for YAKATTACK 2017 as “I Can’t Afford Not to Go” with my best riding mate ~ Made a decision to give the Amdo Tibet region another go during the 2017 Summer, after such an exceptional experience during 2015 and this is one of many visit to the Labrang (Gansu) region over almost three decades riding in China. It wasn't just the fact it was Amdo Tibet, but that combined with the character of the bikes, coupled with the terrain we were traversing fulfilled a desire in me that, other than those nagging feelings of something missing, I didn't realise I had... There's one thing that keeps me coming back to the Tibetan Plateau and that's the desire to see all these places, the culture and people who are more often than not desperately poor, yet in practically every case happy, extremely generous and incredibly welcoming - and that's what's opened our eyes once again....

    Only this time we are in the Gansu province of China, part of which is formed by the traditional Tibetan region of Amdo. The journey from Lanzhou to Xiahe goes up, one can take the road partially along the mighty Yellow River. Up along the route we pass the terraced potato fields of a narrow valley, leaving the concrete blocks of the Gansu capital (Lanzhou) behind for village houses roofed in black tiles. The river that runs through it is watched over by golden-domed mosques, one for each hamlet. As we get closer to Xiahe, the mosques are replaced by golden-tipped stupas, Tibetan chortens, representing major events in Buddha’s life.

    Few simple impressions taken along the mighty Yellow River on the way up to Labrang Monastery (Xiahe) with a slight detour detour due to extensive roadworks via Rebkong (Qinghai) region.....

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  11. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    It smells like Tibet, of yak butter melting in candle flames, pine branches and juniper smoking & smouldering through layers of heated stones around fire pits. The very familiar scent jolts me back to my extensive travels around the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) over the past three decades, a combination of ingredients that is uniquely Tibetan. Prayer beads, coral necklaces, small and large, sombre and bright, adorn the wrists and necks of passersby. Colourful sashes, hot pink, burgundy and violet hold up their bulky draped cloaks, extra long sleeves protect against the cold and double duty as wrap-arounds or scarves. Cheeks are red from the wind, foreheads brown and weathered from the sun. It is cold during the nights and bright sunshine during the day, well ~ feels like Tibet....

    Labrang ~ one of the mystic China destinations....the alluring monastic town of Xiàhé (Labrang) attracts an astonishing band of visitors: backpack-laden students, insatiable wanderers, shaven-headed Buddhist nuns, Tibetan pilgrims in their most colourful finery, camera-toting tour groups and dusty, itinerant beggars. Most visitors are rural Tibetans, whose purpose is to pray, prostrate themselves and seek spiritual fulfilment at holy Labrang Monastery, around which Xiàhé has grown up.

    In an arid mountain valley at approx. 3200m above sea level, Labrang has a certain rhythm about it and visitors quickly tap into its fluid motions. The rising sun sends pilgrims out to circle the 3km kora (pilgrim path) that rings the Labrang monastery. Crimson-clad monks shuffle into the temples to chant morning prayers. It’s easy to get swept up in the action, but some of the best moments come as you set your own pace, wandering about town or going riding in the splendid encircling mountains.....

    The Labrang Monastery was one of the largest Buddhist monastic universities and one of the six great monasteries of the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism, the “Yellow Hat” sect often closely associated with the current Dalai Lama. During the Cultural Revolution, monks were sent to work in the fields, deserting Labrang, but they returned to reopen it in 1980. Its walls now house around 2000 monks. Founded in 1709, the monastery played a large role in the conflict to maintain regional autonomy between 1700 and 1950 and has always been in the middle of a strategic melting pot of Han Chinese, Hui Muslim, Tibetan and Mongolian cultures. Today, thousands of pilgrims come to make their prayers at the cultural heart of the Tibetan Amdo region.....

    The bridge over the Sangchu river leads to the first prayer wheels of the Labrang monastery kora. Persimmon red, gold calligraphy and blue green waves spin dizzily as the pilgrims push the hexagonal wheels into motion, a blur of symbols as mantras are repeated under their breaths and malas (prayer beads) rubbed and counted.

    Women in braids and men in hats walk round and round, the heels of their shoes scuffed and dusty, but nothing deters them as they follow the route, round the monastery walls or looping a white chorten, a mission to fulfil. The kora is a Tibetan word meaning “circumambulation” or “revolution”. Usually it is part of a pilgrimage, ritual or ceremony where the believer walks round a sacred object or place. At times this includes large sites, such as sacred mountains and high passes. Following the path of the sun, the pilgrims proceed clockwise, chanting and spinning, waiting for empowerment from this holy site. We walk in their footsteps, mesmerised by the whirling, hypnotic swirls, but I am temporarily distracted by the pairs of shoes shuffling before me, all seemingly one size too large for the feet they protect.

    On any morning, people within the walls of the monastery start migrating towards the courtyard of the Grand Sutra Hall. Tibetan pilgrims and camera-toting tourists alike swarm towards the steps leading up to the entrance, awaiting something they have been told will be worth it. One by one monks in crimson robes appear, taking up different positions on the steps, some on the lower right, some on the upper left. One by one they begin a chant, like a choir, one group holds the melody, another the beat and another the stable monotonous background hum. One by one they put on their saffron crescent hats, like a sea of yellow-crowned bishop birds looking up. They sing in unison, their harmony only broken by the occasional tardy monk rushing to join his ensemble.

    At times it can be easy to focus on the camera clicks, reminding you that you are not alone, but there is a moment when you decide to follow the throaty tones, basal hums and soft rhythms and we felt lumps rise in our throats. For an instant we forgot where we actually where....

    Two Tibetan horns, also known as a dharma trumpets moan from the roof, and pilgrims begin rising to their feet. Palms are joined in front of mouths and knees are bent to kneel, shins touching the cold stone slabs as they lower their foreheads to the ground and repeat. The monks remove their shoes and there is silence. The crimson tide turns in one swift motion and enters the monastery. The steps are now empty, save for hundreds of boots, an ocean of black velvet rimmed in red and green.

    Most Tibet temples and prayer halls don't allow picture taking, yes ~ we do respect the requests and refrain from photographing... Inside, the wide hall is held up by antique wooden beams, the walls adorned with images of Buddha painted as thangkas, rows of pillows line the floors as the monks chant on in semi-darkness. The beat speeds up as drums and cymbals join in the chorus, solid and baritone. In the middle section sit six monks sorting through offerings, three of them rapidly separating piles of cash from prayer papers, three of them counting stacks of single note chinese renmenbi. The spell is broken.

    The pilgrims enter next to join the ritual, some of them wearing a single glove to protect their right palm from a day of rotating wheels, others with stone slabs attached to both hands as they perform full prostrations along the kora.

    There is a wider, longer and steeper kora on the hills behind the monastery, the sacred outer circle. One need to pass a small village behind the monastic walls, shrunken alleys fringed by boxy Tibetan houses, patios covered in glass to let the light in. Here, the smaller Red Sect is performing their chanting ritual, a louder and wilder version, horns and drums coming together in ceremonial cacophony. These monks are wrapped in red and white organza, their longish hair surprising in contrast.

    The climb is slow, from 2850m up to approx. 3200m, the mountains surrounding Labrang are green and luscious, looking more like parts of Colorado (USA) or the Victoria High Country (Australia) than the rolling grasslands of Gansu (Amdo Tibet). At the top, a pillar of prayer flags is dancing in the wind, the multicolour cloths fraying and disintegrating, their messages sent up and onwards into the heavens.

    From here, the town is laid out below, some will gasp as they realise so far they have only seen a quarter of what lies within the monastery’s walls. Across from the principal buildings are neat rows and blocks of accommodation, houses surrounding mini internal courtyards, repeating their pattern again and again ~ grey and symmetrical.

    Personal recommendation and side-note, wait for sunset to descend, find the pilgrims where you left them; circling the white chorten, time and time again, their mantras and prayers released clockwise into the sky.....

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  12. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    YAKATTACK 2017 ~ ain't no friggin' plan, we just go as the weeks go by, just serious riding to clear the mind is the ultimate goal.... Your blood hums, your hair stands on end; it's like drinking six Latte Macchiato at once. For me personally, riding around the Amdo Tibet grasslands (quite often 6th. gear pinned) with a perfectly set up KTM450EXC bike is pure priceless freedom or lets just say Enduro paradise for a couple of relaxed weeks... Here we go with the Sanke Grasslands, spent a few days exploring approx. 30k's out of Labrang Monastery....

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    Smackit and Texas Aggie like this.
  13. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    The usual daily morning traffic / roadside views around the greater Labrang and Sanke grasslands (Amdo - Tibet) region...

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  14. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Relaxing morning ride to the Prayer Flags atop Labrang Monastery in the grassland hills... 35.233552 102478919

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  15. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    From the Prayer Flags atop Labrang Monastery its steep interesting downhill ride to the Meditation Caves near Labrang Monastery... 35.213869 102.478092

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  16. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    Tibetan Nomads ~ Nomadic herders in Tibet are known usually as Drokpa. They make up about 35 percent of Tibetans in the Tibet regions. In some Tibetan counties they make up 90 percent of the population. Herding families tend to be very poor, with a family typically getting by on an income of between $100 and $300 a year. Money is earned by trading animals for grain or selling them or their meat for money. Some traders and pilgrims are regarded as nomads as well.

    Generally, Tibet can be divided into farming areas and pastoral areas. Those living in pastoral areas are called nomads or pastoralists. These people sometimes build houses as home bases, for their old folks and for storage. Otherwise, they live the nomad life and in traditional nomadic tents. Nomads are people who graze animals within particular places. Those in Tibet are specially adapted towards high altitudes. Their primary aim is to feed their animals with the best available grass and foods. They have traditionally worn thick clothes, lived in tents and moved from place to place in order to feed the animals. Their income is derived from their animals: namely from selling their meat and skins, which they have traditionally had to do in towns and cities. Tibetan nomads have a lot in common with Mongolian nomads. Tibetan nomad culture is quickly disappearing as more Tibetans each year are being relocated off of the grasslands......

    Nomads across the Tibet plateu have for decades always welcome us with open arms, we ask nothing from them but they always try to help out in every way they can, they have basically nothing but offer you everything.
    One learns quickly in remote regions, they further away from the big cities we travel, we seem to meet people that are far more nicer and helpful.

    Well, here is one of our many Tibetan Nomad stories, the lonely helpful Nomad guide, we met him by accident in valley near his Yak herd and tent camp, approx. 3 hours before we reached our planned riding destination, the Prayer Flags on the way back to Labrang... Well ~ local nomad on his carbureted 125cc domestic motorcycle followed us without our knowledge as he kept some distance. He insisted to guide us back to Labrang (Xiahe) town limits starting at the prayer flags, unsucessful ~ we tried to tell him in two China dialect (Mandarin / Shanghainese) that we know our exact location and the way to town, what can one do ~ he rode in front of us all the way for approx. 90min. Tried hard to hand him some cash to replace the petrol he used up as he had to make the return ride up the mountains to his camp. Wedged a 100RMB note on his bikes cockpit for petrol as he was admiring the pictures we took for him on his phone, still he tried to run after us shouting to hand us the money back....

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  17. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Nomads lived in large yak hair tents moving camp three to four times in a grazing season, following their animals to new pastures. A generation or two ago, families were much larger and everyone participated in the daily chores; women milked the dris and processed the milk, making butter, dried cheese and yogurt and made the dung ready for use as combustible. Children from the age of six took sheep to graze, and men lead the yaks to higher pasture and brought them home every night. In the evenings, everyone gathered around the fire and a meal of thukpa, and the elders told stories.

    Now families are smaller and scattered, children at school, old people nearer to the monastery and the children, leaving the young couples to tend the animals. The tents are more reduced in size and lighter, and most often made of canvas. Lungta is a cooperative comprising about ten families and their common animals, 140 yaks. They have set up a yak hair tent as they were in the times of large families, with a large mud stove in the middle, bringing back typical nomadic implements, bags containing supplies lined up on the inside, yak hair ropes and cheese drying cloths woven from yak hair and sheep wool. It is a beautiful and inviting space for all to get a glimpse of a lifestyle on the wane.

    Lungta Coop brings together 19 nomad families from Tsayig, and area over the hill from Sangkok. Most people in the area lived from a mixed economy, a combination of farming and yak and sheep herding. Lately, they found the area could not support large numbers of yaks, they formed a cooperative they called Lungta, and pooling their resources, leased pasture in Sankhok, moving there with 140 yaks. Twenty years ago, the Sangkhok grassland, along with many other areas, was divided up between the local nomads each parcel fenced off. Over time, some nomads choose to sell their animals and lease their land, as in the case of the pasture acquired by the Lungta Cooperative.

    Lungta has 140 yaks, that are milked daily. The milk is made into butter and yogurt which is sold locally and highly popular and appreciated for its purity. Milking the dris takes place twice a day, early in the morning and in the late afternoon, when the animals return from the wide grazing areas that extend all around the Cooperative. We watched the process every foggy morning during our stay. The dris were tethered, waiting patiently for their turn, while the yeko, the babies born in the Spring hovered around their mothers, or played in groups. Up on the hill, the horses were let out of their corral, while the mastiff barked at the intruders. Lungta Coop is part of the Norden Travel group of companies = http://www.nordentravel.com

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    Tibetan Nomad Tents, many nomads live in four-sided or eight-sided tents made from black yak hair or wool and held up with wooden poles. There is a slit to let out smoke. In the old days some had a bearskin front. Sometimes Tibetans live in yurts. Every nomadic family has several yak hair tents that can be easily dismantled and moved. In hot weather, the loose wool weaves let wind blow through, keeping the air fresh and cool inside. On cold weather, the tent weaves become tight, keeping wind, cold and rain out.

    There are two kinds of tents: black yak wool tents and white cloth tents. People in pastoral areas are used to living in yak wool tents. In agricultural areas some people still use Tibetan cloth tents. The black yak tents generally have no adornment, but whenever people raise a tent, they hang prayer flags to bless the grassland and their animals and other living creatures with enough food. The black yak tent is viewed as a huge sky mastiff (sky spider) resting in the vast plain. At the top of the tent is a smoke escape symbolizing the highest mountain's tallest gate. The smaller and elegant white tents have traditionally been used by Tibetan girls. Pastoral people generally have a couple of these lighter white cloth tents. They are good for traveling and multitudes of them are set up at religious or racing gathering. Elders, teens, and guests usually stay in these kind of tents. The fireplace is usually outside the tent. There are big hexagonal tents, well decorated with religious signs, set up around monasteries or for the use of religious occasions.

    Nomad tents and other possessions are carried by horses or yaks or by truck. Inside the tents is an altar dedicated to various Buddhist deities and protector gods. Next to the altar is a box for jewelry and other valuables. Other possessions include a cooking stove, sheepskin sleeping mats and yak-hair blankets. Because there is so little rain they often sleep outside. A nasty dog is kept around to keep away predators.

    Making and Erecting Tibetan Nomad Tent, to make a black yak wool tent, people use yak wool to make big ropes first, and then tie the ropes together. A good size tent, which covers about 28 square meters, requires about 90 kilograms of wool. The tent is square at the base with a window at the top that let smoke out and sunlight in. On snowy and rainy days, the window can be shut. The front part of the tent is split into two pieces to make a door. There are generally no beds, chairs or furniture inside the tent. People sit on carpets and cushions. In the middle of the tent, a stive is set up. Behind is yak dung fuel.

    Nomads traditionally have spun the yak hair into threads and weave it into striped cloth, then they sewed the cloth into a square tent of 2 pieces, which are joined by 10 ouches or so to form a completed tent. This kind of tent is usually square-shaped supported by 8 upright pillars. On one end, more than 10 strings of yak hair are tied to the pillars at the top of the tent, while the other end is tied to the poles about 3 meters away, making the tent flat and firm. To pitch a tent, people first use sticks to make a frame as high as 2 meters, and then they cover it with black yak felt, leaving a chink in the middle with a 15 centimeter width and 1.5 meter length. This split lets smoke out and sunlight in. As well, the 4 sides of the tent are secured to the ground with yak wool ropes.

    Inside a Tibetan Nomad Tents, Tibetan tents are about average 20 square meters in area and 1.7 meters high with a ventilating slit at the top to let out smoke and heat when opened and to keep the tent warm and protected from wind and rainwater if covered. In the front of the tent there is a string tied to the door curtain which can be drawn to control the opening. On hot days, the door curtain can be propped up to let air in making the inside cool and comfortable. The yak hair material is instrumental to the success of the tent, making it wearable, thick, and durable enough against strong winds and snowstorms. Meanwhile, it is also convenient to be dismantled, put up, and removed, fitting for nomadic life. Inside, people build a 50 centimeter high wall made of grass-earth blocks, earth blocks, or stones, on which barley, butter bags, or yak dung (used as fuel) are usually placed. The tent is typically poorly furnished, without many household items. In the middle (near the door) of the tent, an earthy fireplace is set up, and behind is a worshipping place equipped with Buddha statues. People often spread a sheepskin rug on the floor for rest or sleep.

    The tent is divided into two quarters. Males occupy the left half, and females the right half. The inner part of the left side is the worshiping place equipped with Buddha statues, scripts, and lamps. The right side is for utensils and food storage. Outside the tent, sometimes people build a wall of sod or dung to guard the animals or protect them against cold wind. Adults and children share the space inside the tent. They usually each have their own area and gather around a fire made of yak dung and juniper branches in an open hearth the middle of the tent. Yak cheese hangs from the walls above piles of heavy blankets......
  18. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    Why I Love Tibet You May Ask ~ personally, for me Tibet is a uniquely spiritual and relaxing place. Those moments of peace, fleeting and precious, when everything seems to be in its proper place, just seem to come more frequently here. Tibet is a place that will likely change the way one sees the world and remains for years to come. And that for me is the definition of the very best kind of travel. Tibet offers fabulous monasteries, breathtaking high-altitude treks, stunning views of the world’s highest mountains and one of the most likeable peoples you will ever meet. Here we go ~ Deerlong Temple and a religious festival near Luqu (Amdo-Tibet) during 2017 August....

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  19. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
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    Visit any Tibet region and you’ll likely come away with memories of jaw-dropping scenery and warm, friendly locals. The regional cuisine however, is less likely to stick in the mind – at least not in a positive sense for most. Dominated by yak meat and various spin off foods from the animal’s milk, Tibetan food is generally little to write home about. Hoping to change that perception, using excellent locally sourced products like cheese / meats, etc., is American Chef Andy and the fantastic team at Norden Camp (Sanke Grasslands near Xiahe / Labrang in Gansu province (Amdo - Tibet): http://www.nordentravel.com

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    Sidenote: check out NIRVANA Hotel + Restaurant while exploring and discovering Labrang (Xiahe): http://www.nirvana-hotel.net
  20. TBR

    TBR One Life ~ Live It...

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Oddometer:
    2,339
    Location:
    Cruisin' China since '89..
    Amdo Tibet grasslands, riding as the wind blows with just a couple of important "security" waypoints for emergency orientation on the tracker, no real destination ~ twisting the throttle to the limit and ride all day long with a few stops to smell the flowers... priceless!!!

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