Monday, March 12, 2007


I am often asked questions starting with the word "why". Why biking? Why Vietnam and China? Why now? Why 100 days? Why this route? The simple and short answer is "because I can". The real, true answers are a bit more complicated, and require a few more words.

Why I have chosen to go bicycling opposed to backpacking or go by motorbike as a way to travel you can read here. I have already covered this basic question, as it is the number one question people tend to ask. I guess that is fair because bicycling is certainly not the fastest or most convenient means to travel.

Why Vietnam and China?
I have wanted to go to Vietnam ever since my last backpacker journey more than 10 years ago. Back then, me and my friend Simon traveled Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia together. We parted in Cambodia when Simon continued to Vietnam and I went back to Thailand and later returned home. I never made it to Vietnam. Since then I have heard and read many inspiring stories and facts about this country. Vietnam also happens to be a common country to bicycle through partly due to its long coast and fairly accessible mountains.

As a result, Vietnam was my number one choice. China came into the picture simply because it is nearby Vietnam. You can cross the Vietnamese border in the north (Lao Cai/Hekou) by foot. Therefore, I began doing research on bicycling in China and I soon discovered that bicycling in this country seems to be an amazing experience. Its ancient culture, alien language, famous foods, exotic nature and the mountains, the rice fields, the huge urban areas, the small villages and its friendly people, are all appealing to me.

However, China is the world’s fifth largest country after Russia, (Antarctica), Canada, Russia and U.S.A, thus pedaling across the entire state would be too difficult and time-consuming this time around. Where should I go? I was recommended to concentrate on south-west China at Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum. After having read a travelogue from an experienced biker, who bicycled from Bangkok into Laos and then up north through south-west China, and additional research at, I decided that China was to be my second destination.

Why now? Why 100 days?
Before I can answer the rest of the questions I have to briefly explain why I go 100 days bicycling just at this time.

I currently live in Germany but shortly I will quit my work here and move back to my motherland, Sweden. You rarely get an opportunity where you can take a longer break from working, and now is the time. When I quit work end of March, that leaves me about 4 months until August, when my mother turns 60 years old, and has planned a nice family trip with me and my sister to Bulgaria. This I cannot and do not want to miss it for the world (or Vietnam and China). Also, in October this year my two-year sublease contract of my apartment in Sweden runs out, which means I need to move back.

When you consider all the dates, and do the math, I roughly have 100 days to travel, starting in April. If I could I would have traveled earlier, but financially and practically I could not leave work sooner than end of March.

Why this route?
I have already answer why Vietnam and China, but why this particular route?

Initially I was looking at starting in China, doing the toughest cycling there, and end in Vietnam, taking it easy, staying close to the beach and relax after my endeavor. However, looking at the seasons I reversed my route. In South Vietnam the south-west monsoon starts in May, beginning the wet season. The dry season starts in December and runs through April. Therefore, it makes sense to start in South Vietnam in April when the conditions normally are better, that is, it rains less. The warmer, dryer weather in the North Vietnam usually arrives in May, when I plan to travel in this region.

In south-west China the summer season has already set in mid-May, and it can get very hot. Strategically, I will at this time pedal on higher altitudes where the temperatures tend to be a few degrees lower than at sea level.

As a result of the weather seasons I finally decided to start in Ho Chi Minh City. I know I will not make it to China in a month and a half, thus parts I must cover by bus or train. It seems logical to skip the distance between Hue and Hanoi, as it is mainly a coastal stretch, and I will experience enough coast and beach environment the first weeks of my journey. I plan to travel to north-west Vietnam opposed north-east partly on recommendations and research, and partly due to the easy border access to China in Lao Cai/Hekou.

Once I cross the border into China, I simply head for the next big city, Kunming, a few hundred kilometers to the north. Research and travelogues tell me that the best biking in China is then to the west, closer to the Tibetan region, around Dali and Lijang. The scenery is stunning, in every corner of this area there is something amazing to observe, it reads, and the mountains climb to over 4000 metres. From Lijiang I could continue north, but the mountains are even steeper and higher in this direction, and this route will not allow me enough time to reach Chengdu to complete my journey in 100 days. Instead, I will pedal north-east, where the landscape is slightly flatter. Nevertheless, this route is also recommended and I believe it will be just as exciting, and offer many attractions and a beautiful landscape.

For a full route description, visit The Route.

If you have more question, feel free to use the comment field.


  1. Why? I understand. I am looking to head off to China myself by the end of the summer.

    I will make sure to check in with you hear the stories.

    Best of luck.

  2. Thanks. Good luck to you too. Hopefully I will only have good things to tell.