music : The Dead South – In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company
Some news from the other side of the earth…
Sorry, I don’t give news anymore. Since Laos, lot of things happens.
In Thailand, first destination: Bangkok. Here Marion join me, so we get back on the road together, direction Myanmar.
We just had 28 days visa, so, not enough time to cycle the country. We decided to visit it by walking and using local transports (boat, train, bus, …). Myanmar is a wonderful country, still far from mass tourism, where locals are happy to see foreigners being interested by their country.
Back in Thailand, and direction Malaysia, We enjoy, to have some stops on nice beach, then,not really time to visit Malaysia, we are just coming there to have our flight to New Zealand.
Here a heavy program, and with that, not realy time to stop to write on the blog. I admit that, when I have some free time, I prefer to enjoy it with locals people, if I have more, I take it to have a rest, and if I still have some, I take it to write. But it takes time to update the website, writing, translating, selecting pictures, and updating the blog…
This is why there isn’t so much news on the last month. But I’ll try to write more detailed articles about last countries we visited… When I’ll have some time 🙂
I get back on my trips and go back in Cambodia
Arriving from Vietnam, I don’t have realy choice, I have to go through Phnom Penh, the capital. I still love so much big cities, so I find a nice place to stay with Raphael and Claudi, two german cyclists working for a NGO in Phnom Penh, they live in a small village on the other side of the Mekong river, this place is perfect to avoid crowded places and people while enjoying a stunning river views, just down of the garden. However, I’ll pass quickly there, the next day, I take the direction of Takeo, a hundred km south.
I get back in time. In may 2015, whereas she was still in France, Marion met on her road, Gilles, a french cyclist. Gilles sponsoring a young Cambodian girl in a child care center (Orphans and children from families in difficulty) in Cambodia. Learning that we’ll arrive in Cambodia around christmas, he ask us if we accept to get in the center to give a small gift to his goddaughter, Srey Penh. It is with pleasure that we accepted.
Here am I, on the road to Takeo.
Arriving there, I met Chanthy, a former resident of the center, who become a French teacher now. She’ll help me for translation.
These few days in Takeo are occasion to met Srey Penh and her friends from the center, to participate to an english course with her class, as well as going to visit her mother in a small village, 20km far from Takeo.
Well, a short stay rich in sharing and strong emotions, in total immersion with Cambodians
Back on the road, for the next days, I planed south of Cambodia:
Kept, a small nice city on the seaside, full of tourists and hammocks along the road. However out of town, I found an abandoned field overlooking the sea, perfect for me !
Kampott, city famous for its pepper (considered like one of the best in the world) it’s occasion for me to discover a bit more about pepper culture, and I realised that we met fields of it in Vietnam, without knowing what it was. I also discovered that from the same seed, we can make all peppers. Green (Picked in early maturity), black (picked in early maturity, then dried under the sun), red (mature harvested) or white (red pepper, soaked in water for several days, washed and dried) …
I planed to continue through Sihanoukville, famous for its nice beaches, and it’s turquoise water, but the cyclists I met are unanimous, the city is overgrown by tourism, to flee … So I continue my road to Koh Kong. From here, let’s go for 200 km of dirt track in mountains. It’s probably one of the most difficult track I cycled up to there, with gradient over 14% (So I discovered that over 13% my bike is rocking back… Anyway, 14% on track, it’s time to push my bike). For the rest it’s 3 wonderful days, alone in the middle of the Cardamome Mountains. I just cross a small village, along a lac, but I’ve been hosted here wonderfully, with a house only for me, to put my tent, and dinner offered by my one day host family. Next days, it’s the same, red track, blue sky and wonderful green vegetation. For me it’s remains the most beatiful place in Cambodia.
I had planned to go visiting Angkor temples, but two german cyclists informed me that it was possible to make myanmar visa in Phnom Penh for only 30$ in three days. So if I can avoid to go in Bangkok only for that… I change my plans and get back to Phnom Penh. I’ll see temples later.
Here I’m back to Raphael and Claudi’s place. While my visa application is running, I suddenly decided to get back in France, just to spend the Christmas and New Year with family and friends… Not time to think about it, I take the first flight back. I get my passport at the Burmese embassy and I go to the airport.
41 hours later (including 17 of stopover in Singapore and 6h in Jeddah), here I am, in Paris. 🙂
From Hạ Long to Hô-Chi-Minh
Short stay in Vietnam, after two month in China. We are happy to finally pass the border, and arrive in South-East Asia.
We main change is welcome from local people, here a smile call an other one, kids with bike join us after school, trying to communicate with their few english words. Our first feelings are quite positive.
In the north, we found mainly rice fields out out of sight, and more we go south, more crops are diversified, now we have coffee, peper, cassava and hevea (rubber tree)
So ,it’s a bit difficult to find places for camping in the north.
Our first stop will be at the Ha Long Bay, more exactly in the Lan Ha Bay, not classified by UNESCO, it is less touristy and very similar to Ha Long.
For that, we go to the small Cat Ba island, where we found Colline and Mathieu that we met at Yangshuo (China). We decided to rend kayak to visit by ourselves the bay, we also get with us our tent to go to sleep on a lost beach of that bay.
Lost between many island, and floating villages, this bay is magic, but a tropical storm is approaching, we have to get back earlier than expected .
Next we get the « motorised » option to visit rest of the island, with motorbike.
Then we take Hà Nội direction, Vietnamese capital. The idea was to make a visa extension, but we arrive too early, our visa have too long validity, impossible to extend it here… Meanwhile, we don’t realy found interest to this city, most of people move with scooter, so street are full, creating traffic jams of motorbike. Here we can go up to two, three, four, five and even six on only one scooter, here, if there is place, you can go. So, we remains quitely on our bikes, then we get back on the south road.
In Vietnam, there is two main roads:
Road 1, which go from Hà Nội to Hô-Chi-Minh, following the coast, and the HCMR (Hô-Chi-Minh Road) which follow the same direction, but more in the inlands, these two main axes are too big for us, so we use small and quiter roads
More in south, we go to Tam Coc, a nice place, but for us, it looks too much to Yangshuo that we’ve seen in China. We still take time to visit a bit before continuing our way to south.
A bit more in south, we arrive at Dong Hoi, we have to make a forced break, Marion have problems with her lens contact (due to dusty roads). So here it’ll be before all, rest. Then, now me are here, we rend a scooter, to go to Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National park, and visiting one of its caves. It’s in this park that in 2009, the world biggest cave has been discovered. (Sơn Đông cave, is 5 km deep, 200m high and 150m wide), but the expedition is around 3000 $us, so we shall merely visit Dộng Thiên Đường cave (also known as « Paradise cave »), discovered in 2005.
From Dong Hoi, I quickly go to Danang, to request our visa extension, it’s on our way, we’ll get back there in few days.
Then we arrive in Hội An, a small city, with well preserved colonial style, the street atmosphere at night is very nice, and has the advantage of being a few kilometers from the sea, and its surroundings are well suited for cycling. We’ll stay one week there.
Next step is Kon Tum, small village lost in mountains, Around it, are several small villages of ethnic minorities. Thanks to Banh, a contact in Vietnam, we discovered more about ethnic minorities, although not realy respected by the governement. We spent two days over there, but our visa reminds us it’s already time to go.
From this moment, things start to get complicated…
1. We are close to Laos and Cambodia’s border, and this area is forbidden to tourist (we still don’t understand why). , However, after 15km of descent, a military announce us that we have to get back, back to our starting point and climb these 15km… It attack troop morale.
2. Next day, we take a « shortcut » and most of all, a road to avoid too much elevation, it’ll prove that it was a bad strategy. Our road become track, then we cross water, then rivers, track become mud then sand… Here no more choice, we have to push.
Late afternoon, people we met tells us that we are on wrong way, they show us the good one but our GPS is like us… lost in the middle of nowhere and sand still is there. So it’ll be pushing on next 15km. We miss time to join next willage (and we don’t know how far it is) and night came, so we sleps in the jungle tonight, hoping to find a village tomorrow (we are missing water, so we’ll apreciate it). It’ll be done next day, after 10km.
After few days, we enter in Buôn Ma Thuột, small city lost in one of the most important region for caffee production (Vietnam is second productor of coffee worldwide, after Brazil). So, difficult not to test the local coffee, and I have to admit that it is good. Nothing to compare with european coffee, first because it is roasted with cocoa beans which gives it a slight chocolate flavor, and also because here it is drunk iced and with sweetened condensed milk … delicious!
From here, we decided to take a bus, the team is exhausted, gradient too hight, we’ll arrive directly in Ho Chi Minh city in few days.
In Vietnam, we found some traces of french dated from Indochine. On the roadside, some nice Michelin kilometer marker give us some precious informations about next village, we also found with pleasure, baguette, quite the same as the french one, it’s just a bit smaller, but the taste and crispness are there.
So, last days in Ho Chi Minh, it’s time for us to separate with Marion.
After seven month cycling, she decided to came back in France, not to stop all trip, but only cause she wanted to have a break.
Next start, when, how ? I hope our roads will cross again.
About me, I go back on the road, direction Cambodia.
Cycling Vietnam, October-November 2015
-Cát Bà island (Ha Long bay and Lan Ha bay),
-Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park
It’s been two month that I’m in Japan, It was for me the opportunity to share Japanese daily life, living a bit with locals without my bike.
While arriving here, I had two objectives: make a new passport (my current one is full of visas) and asking for my Chinese visa. Meanwhile, I wanted to visit Yohann, a French friend living here since around ten years. I hadn’t seen him since 2002
Small story about Nippon’s life
Barely down of the ferry linking Korea and Japan, that I meet Mizuki. He just came to talk with me while I was eating on a bench. I planned cycling a bit today, but when he invite me to his home, I find this proposition much better than cycling…
One hour later, I’m relaxing in a deck chair, under a warm sun with a fresh beer in my hand… No, Japan, couldn’t start better. On top of that, tonight it’s BBQ with Mitsuko’s parents, his wife and kids and some of his neighbors.
Few days later as I was Leaving Shikoku island to join Honshu (the main island), a man came to me on the ferry, His name is Jiro and he is living on Shōdoshima island.
He belongs of WWOOF program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), so this is naturally that he proposes me coming to his farm.
Barely down of ferry at Shōdoshima, I took direction of his small farm… it climbs slightly but it’s a happiness getting a shelter (it rains for three days) and having a warm shower. Tonight I also have my own bedroom and a true bed. To top it all, we eat some vegetables of the garden deliciously cooked by his wife and, Oli and Ploy, two English who came to give a hand for few days.
Unfortunately I cannot stay long time there, I have to be in Kyoto in two days to redo my passport. So, next day, I’m back on the road.
Quick passing through Kyoto. Hard to visit the city due to my bicycle and all my luggage, so I decided to have a rest in a park, waiting the evening where I’m supposed to meet Koki my host.
While I was resting, I met Toako, who intrigued by my bike start, as she can conversation, with a mix of Japanese, English and Spanish… I’ll meet her again in the afternoon, while leaving the park.
Next day, while I was visiting a bit Kyoto (enjoying to leave my bike at Koki’s place) a car honks me, It’s Toako again, this time she invite me on her Mexican restaurant, not so far from the place I was. So tonight to change on pasta, it’ll be mexican salad, tacos, burritos, paella and home made mango yogurt…
Next destination: Iijima.
In Iijima, I meet, Yohann, a French friend who have found happiness in Japan (His wife and their 3 kids). It make 13 years that I haven’t seen him, so I couldn’t imagine coming in Japan without coming there.
No really plans while coming there, I’m here for an unknown duration… I still have 3 weeks waiting before my passport arrive in Tokyo, so I enjoy. My bedroom is Japanese style with sliding doors and tatami on the floor, and of course i slept on a futon.
About communication, Yohann is my translator, and fortunately, cause just arrived, press is already there…It owe me three articles in the press and a meeting with the mayor.
After all, I stayed two weeks there, just time I was needed to clean and dry my stuff, cause with humidity everything start to mold and smelling very bad. It’s also occasion to clean my bike. And of course occasion to get out a bit, meeting new people and visiting Nagano province. A huge thank to Yohann for these two weeks.
My passport is arrived in Kyoto, it should follow in Tokyo so it’s time for me to leave.
On my way I pass by Tokyo airport before going to Tokyo. There I meet Marion, she is arriving from Italy with Fol’Dingo her bicycle. After a bit more than 2500 km in France and Italy, she took a flight to Japan, so we’ll continue together. Up to where, when ? Like with Amir, the future will tell.
My solo adventure is over after a bit more than one month, but it’s with pleasure that I leave with Marion.
In Tokyo, we are first hosted by Roman, a Romanian who teach Japanese literature… then we move at Mio’s place, a friend of Aya that I met one year ago in Istanbul, this is also a good opportunity to see Aya. Then we move to Kazu (Kazumoto) and Tomo’s place where we met Tom, an Australian cyclist and the Saito’s family (owner of Kazu’s home)
Tom get back on the road next day, we stay a bit with Kazu and Tomo, waiting for our Chinese visa. While waiting, we visit Tokyo and in the evening, play with Mr. Saito’s daughters.
As soon as we get our Chinese visa, we can go, but a typhoon is in approach, so we stay one day more. The typhoon season is there, weather is wet and hot. Next typhoon is already in approach from Japan
Small bend to call on Yohann before leaving his paradise island, we take the opportunity to send back in France a box with some useless stuff… Still 9 Kg!
We also book our ferry to Shanghai, it leaves Osaka 31st, which should be ok to join Osaka if the typhoon leaves us, but nothing is sure.
Daily, temperatures get over 40°c, humidity prevents sweat from evaporating, we sweat, we tights. Today around end of morning, we ended last pass of the day, this afternoon, it’ll be downhill only, so let’s have a break close to a very small lake, but under shadow of course.
While were having a rest, a woman came to us talking in French, it’s Emi, a Japanese woman, she learned French in Africa. She is living close to here and came to see us for talking a bit (after her neighbor warn her that he have seen a French flag on bicycles). She invites us to her place, and it’s with her husband, neighbor and their kids that we have lunch today
Unfortunately our ferry is booked in Osaka, we haven’t time to stay there longer. But it was really a nice meeting. Thanks Emi
We are almost in Osaka, but tonight, weather is getting bad, we have to find soon a place to camp, all right, it’ll be close to a dam (well, not so close). For shower we are going little bit upper on the river. While Marion was having her shower in the river we met a woman, walking with her dog. I think she had pity of us, regardless, she propose us to have a « true » shower at her place, not so far. Let’s go.
We are arriving to Takeki and Kazumi’s place, not really time to sit down, that we have a meal ready.
Finally they invite us for sleeping on a true bedroom, for them, the riverside looks too dangerous for us… We leave only the next morning after a good night and super breakfast. Osaka is not so far.
Beyond these meetings, and moments shared, Japan is a green island, where as soon you get out of city, you can get lost in mountains, cycling up and down, and up and down again… So as soon as possible I left main roads to get lost in this jungle, taking roads as small as possible and all right for gradient. This is the way I discovered japan, alternating between rice plantation landscapes and forests, rivers and temples lost in mountains here and there…
But for that pictures tell more than words.
And some pictures of Tokyo
Now, direction Shanghai…
Celui qui voyage sans rencontrer l’autre ne voyage pas, il se déplace.