Now available as an E-Book!

Now available as an E-Book!
Save money and a tree- get the downloadable PDF version of "Southeast Asia on 2 Wheels!"

Previews from the book "Southeast Asia on 2 Wheels."

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135 full-color pages of photos, stories, anecdotes, illustrations, journal pages maps and more!In addition to the four major sections on Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand I have included some back story on both my first (and unsuccessful) attempt to motorcycle through China as well as how the planning for the trip came together.I have chosen the very best of the more than 4,000 photos from the trip as well as the most humorous, moving and fascinating of the several hundred anecdotes for Southeast Asia on 2 Wheels.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Being a Poseur at Hunan International Economic University

Changsha City, Hunan Province.

Staying with couchsurfing.com contact, Tony. From the minute I arrived at Changsha train station, Tony and his friends have been excellent hosts.

Whether I intended to or not, I have become a de facto albeit temporary student of the university here. I've sat in on three classes so far - a Korean class and two English classes. The teachers seem happy to have a foreigner in their class and there has been a lot of support from both staff and students. I will continue with my usual philosophy of "do it until you get caught."

I think I will stay here a few more days - if not just to revel in college life. Being here promotes an urge to seek a master's degree... but in what?! Something to think about.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Communist Art. Big. Boxy. Concrete.

This post is dedicated to a good family friend, Jan - the sister of my step father. Thanks for your support Jan!


Sylvia Kratzer, the German teacher at Nanchang Univ. took me to the "Bayi Square." Bayi, which appears as the Chinese Characters: "/\ -" means "8.1" or "August 1st" which is signifacant to Modern Chinese History and the Communist Party of China. It was on 8.1.1927 that the "Nanchang Uprising" sealed the defeat of the Kuomintang (nationalists) by the communists. The "People's Liberation Army" was said to be founded on this day. You can see the characters in gold on the flag monument at Bayi square.

The square itself is quite large, with a large concrete and stone obelisk-like monument at the far end. The momument is a classic piece of drab, blocky, communist art. A fitting memento to the birthing of a blocky, drab and cumbersome political movement. Across the street stands a massive former communist building, replete with red star and god trim. The building is now ironically used an electronics market.


The irony of the scene is not lost on me. Here, on this square, one sees the dead, lifeless tombstones of a dated ideology surrounded by those living icons of a different ideology: a KFC, a Wal-Mart Supercenter and the Electronics Market. In this light, I muse over a new interpretation of the soldiers' pained expressions carved in the flag monument's sides: the CCP's new struggle to hold their position in a changing economic and political landscape.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Huangshan Pics



Misty, foggy, and finally rainy - the photos of Huangshan were a bit lackluster, even if the moutains themselves were not. Incredible granite peaks of various forms and a heart-stopping vista of the valleys and lands far below.

It began to rain very heavily and suddenly as I approached the summit. Scary! I had to hide in a small cave in the rocks like a drowned rat. Although funny now, at the time I was scared shitless- being way up high and watching sheets of water flood the paths and routes back to the bottom.

I walked several kilometers down the mountain to the main gate at the bottom - still feeling the aches and pains of that long march. Have to get into better shape!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Slow Life in Nanchang


I am wrapping up my last full day living on the campus of "Nanchang University." I've been staying here free and in great comfort and company courtesy of local couchsurfing member Sylvia Kratzer--the local German instructor here at the college. She set me up with an empty apartment all to myself as some of the other teachers are still away on vacation. Highlights so far have included drinking beers on the roof of a 21-floor highrise in the middle of the night (what a view!), a trip to the German import store "Metro" (Think something like "Das Wal-Marten) and some easy and comfortable days spent chilling with expats from Germany, the US and Barundi!

Tomorrow I will continue my push west to the city of Changsha where I will meet with Couchsurfing member "Liqing Tang." He seems like a lot of fun from his emails. It will be interesting to see the birthplace and stomping grounds of the late Chairman Mao ZeDong.

Personal Thoughts as of Late: The China we hear about in western media and the real China that people live and work in are very different. We've been too simple and too lazy in our (mis)understanding of them. Hardly what I'd call an "Oppressive Authoritarian Regime" - I think our views of them haven't evolved enough since the era of the USSR. As for their transgressions - they are grim, yet so were ours (US) when we were growing.

Will write more!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Over as soon as it began..

Believe it or not - I have some shocking news. I have decided to delete the "motorcycle" from this "motorcycle adventure." That's right, I am getting rid of the bike today (if I can.)

I took this ride because I wanted a freeing and liberating experience. In China, it is neither free nor liberating to do this. Here are the reasons why I have made this decision:

1. It is illegal. I am not a Chinese resident.
2. It is a constant stress worrying about running into cops - cops are everywhere.
3. 400 miles in, it is clear to me that the roads I have to use-national roads- are so poor, so dangerous that it just isn't worth it.
4. It took 7 hours to go about 200 miles. My visa will expire before I can reach Yunan.
5. This bike just isn't sturdy enough for this kind of punishment. 2 days ago, there was a road that was just golf-ball sized loose rocks. This bike - cute as it is - was never meant for that kind of abuse.
6. It is all exhaustion and no fun. This isn't like riding in Korea or the US.

Anyway, I will continue my travels - I will just do it with buses and trains like a normal human. In Laos, Cambodia etc., I will rent a motorcycle to take fun rides, because tourists can do that. They have shoppes for this purpose.

I realize this news may be kind of shocking, but yesterday I thought long and hard about it. I wanted adventure, not misery. I think I'd rather just enjoy traveling the world, and not worrying about it. Hope you understand.

I will continue to use this as my travel blog. Then, when I rent bikes in SE Asia, I will post pics of riding there. In the future I will continue to use this blog for my motorcycle trips.

Huangshan

Made it to Huangshan. 400 miles in.

Roads were even worse than previous day. Just terrible.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Objective 2 Accomplished!




It was almost too easy.










First we looked at the 'motorcycle market' that I discovered through the internet. It looks like whatever party was going on there is pretty much over. A few nice Qingqi and Jianshe new bikes for about Y7,000 (USD $1,000.) Not bad, but no plates and no registration. That would take a week and create new hassles costs and problems.

Turns out the guy I am staying with had a friend with a pretty new bike he wanted to sell. We set up a meeting. An impromptu market place formed as not one but 4 guys came with their bikes to sell! I tested each. The Chinese bikes handled badly, including the nearly new one. Less than impressed. Then, one guy had a Chinese body with a Suzuki engine in it - handled perfectly. He didn't want to sell it, but after some convincing and arm-twisting I got it from him for a pricey Y6,500 (USD $900.) I don't mind paying it as it's already registered and has a dependable Japanese engine in it. Also had tons of locks and an alarm to boot!

Last night, to thank them, I took Mac and his wife and their Chinese friend "James" out for a great dinner at a restaurant they loved. This very large, reservation-only dinner for 4 cost me a grand total of about... $22 USD. We talked about all sorts of things and I found my Chinese hosts to not only be very aware of world events but quite opinionated. I learned so much just listening to them go on and on about their lives and the world they live in. I'm beginning to think our interpretation of them in western media is a bit askew.

Well, if the weather permits, I may try to hit my first destination tomorrow!

Signing off. Chris

Friday, 15 August 2008

Inside!

(scene from lake Taihu near the place I am staying.)


I am writing this from inside China - Wuxi city. Objective 1 accomplished. Today, the couple I am staying with will take me to 2 motorcycle markets. Also, he has a friend with a newer bike and all paperwork - I may buy this from him. Will write again when Objective 2 is accomplished - procuring a bike.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Up, Up and... DELAY!

Well Crap. I missed my flight out of Chicago today - so I have to wait until tomorrow morning (8/14). What a crock. So, now I have to kill 20 hours in Shiller Park, IL until my flight leaves tomorrow morning at 8:30AM. This is an odious beginning to a grand (mis)adventure.

Chris