[To view the full post, click here]
Ah, the old lapse into blogging delays! A quick update for a start, to keep you all informed. Firstly, I am now in China! I crossed the border from Mong Cai in Vietnam to Dongxing in the PRC. China is, so far, mindblowingly Chinese. By that I mean it instantly felt like China even though I've never been here before - there is an atmosphere that floats in the air like a foreign accent, a gait of the people that is quite unique. That said I haven't been here very long, but even just the scale of things is impressive. Dongxing is very small by Chinese standards, but even so the size and quantity of buildings is a sight to behold. Already I have encountered great hospitality - an elderly gent in the street gave me a map of the Guangxi province, while some giggling girls in a pharmacy managed to call a friend who spoke English and could direct me to a cheap guesthouse. I still, honestly, don't really know where I am, how to get out of here, or which roads I'm allowed on - but I feel positive about it. If everyone is as helpful as the folks here, I'll have no problems.
Which brings me, briefly, to my Vietnamese experience. I will post the details of my travels in full soon, but suffice to say I crossed the border from Laos and arrived in the central coast, at a city called Dong Ha. From there it was 6 days ride along Highway 1 to Hanoi where I spent a week, then 2 days to the famous Halong Bay and a further 2 days to the border city of Mong Cai. In short - I did not have the best time in Vietnam. I found the ride north from Dong Ha miserable at best. Hanoi was wonderful, but my desire to stay was fueled as much by a reticence to go anywhere near the Vietnamese highways again as it was by a love of the city itself. Highway 1 was devoid of character in the northern section, and the towns and cities along the way seemed only to exist in order to find new and exciting ways of parting me and my money. I won't go on much more because I will only complain, I think the best I can say at this stage is that my Vietnamese experience is one which was acutely coloured by the stain of circumstance; that is to say the routes I took and the people I encountered were not perhaps the choices one would make when looking for the 'quintessential' Vietnam. That section of Highway 1 for instance is rarely visited by tourists - there is, in my opinion, nothing to see along it north of the de-militarized zone, and to subject myself to 6 days of horrendous traffic, bad road surface, overpowering headwind and nothing else but bitumen and rice paddies -well, in a way I was asking for it.
So, hold tight for that blog post, especially those of you who revel in reading of misery! The other thing I should mention at this stage is...
I'm coming home! Yep, it's nearly all over. Southern China is essentially the final section, leading as it will to my destination of Hong Kong. That's still a few weeks off, but suddenly the end is in sight, and a return to all things 'normal' must become a reality. I have plenty of thinking to do about that one. I can't face coming straight home though, so I'm going to fly from Hong Kong to Paris, readjust there and then ride from Paris to London as the very final stage of my journey. I'd love to organise teaming up with a few other riders for the Dover to London stretch - if you're interested in riding that with me get in touch. It'll be on a Saturday for sure, and I'll get a date asap. Think early March.
I'll update again soon, but from now on it'll all be on here - no Facebook, Twitter (or YouTube!) here in China! For all things Leon-related, this is the place to come!