Painted Roads Blog
May 25, 2015 by David Walker

Yunnan Cycling Tour 2015

cyclist in red rides round Er Hai lake near Dali on a Painted Roads tour of Yunnan

A lone cyclists rounds Er Hai lake, Yunnan Province China

Our third Yunnan cycling tour through China’s most diverse province came to an end at the weekend and I feel it safe to say that this beautiful tour goes from strength to strength.

Last year we met the delightful Cathy who is not only a jolly fine bicycle racer but also a wonderful personality and a great agent for cycling tours in China. And so it was that we began this years tour with a new agent, a new guide (Cathy again) support driver and mechanic in the shape of the very fit, mild mannered and omni thirsts Lee (Cathy’s husband) and the ever jolly Mr Yuan driving the second support vehicles and keeping the group fed and watered whilst on the road. Many of you who have toured with PaintedRoads will by now know Echo, and it was Echo along with Cathy who effectively ran the tour taking care of all our accommodation, food and translation needs. Rounding up the final crew members were Frodo the frog and that usual tour leader who seems to tag along on every PaintedRoads tour with little more use than talking gibberish and opening beer bottles.

Now, as you know, PaintedRoads always seems to attract lovely people and our groups are all great fun, but I think it fair to say without fear of contradiction that the Yunnan group of 2015 really was amongst the best. So without further ado a big thanks to all who came along, both guests and crew, for making this such a wonderful fortnight’s cycling. And now for a few photos.

Cyclists on the main square of Shaxi during a Painted Roads Yunnan tour

The group arrives on the main square in Shaxi, the rather splendid venue for our rest day

cyclists on a Painted Roads tour ride through mountains in China's Yunnan province

Cycling south away from Shangri-La the deserted road and stunning mountain scenery offers wonderful bicycle touring

A Chinese man sits near cyclists during a bicycle tour of Yunnan Province

Stopping for a pic-nic lunch as we cycled from Shangri-La towards Tiger Leaping Gorger we befriended a few locals

Cyclists on rural Chinese road under blue sky and white cloud during Painted Roads tour of Yunnan

Beautiful weather accompanied us all the way as we cycled through Yunnan

Our cycling guides great our ferry across Er Hai lake during Painted Roads Yunnan tour

Echo and Cathy guide the cross lake ferry to our rather rural mooring place

cyclists in red dance by Er Hai Lake  during a Yunnan cycling holiday

Despite appearances to the contrary these two home sick cyclists were indulging in a quick nostalgic morris dance

early morning on The Yangtze River

The Yangtze river all silver and grey in the morning light

Landy cyclist looks out over the plain below as we cycle downhill in Yunnan Province China

Admiring the view of the plain far below as we cyle the 23 kilometre downhill to Tiger leaping Gorge

Our in country agent and bicycle racer Cathy was a hit with the group and with PaintedRoads' mascot Frodo

Our in country agent and bicycle racer Cathy was a hit with the group and with PaintedRoads’ mascot Frodo












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May 17, 2015 by David Walker

Photos from the road – Cycling Yunnan

girl sitting in water at Baisuhaitai hot spring

Day two away from Shangri-La and we visit Baishuaitai white water terraces – much like rice terraces, only more water and lime stone involved = very nice

Recipe: great group + great route + great weather + great food, and of course some post ride beers = a thoroughly splendid tour. And that, as fine providence has it, is exactly what we have in China just now.

A group of 13 friends, both old and new have gelled wonderfully into a top-hole bunch of adventurous cyclist having a smashing time exploring the mountains, hills, gorges and valleys of China’s most diverse province.

So without further ado, a few pics from the tour thus far:

three people walking on white lime rock beneath  blue sky and white cloud

Blue sky and white cloud fill the sky for our climb to the white water terraces

cyclists touring Yunnan ride past mountains rock face

A group of touring cyclists ride through deep valley during a PaintedRoads tour of China’s Yunnan Province

Chinese girl in red short drinks beer during cycling tour

Enjoying post ride beers at Sean’s Guest House in Tiger Leaping Gorge

Cyclists in red ride through Yunnan's Tiger Leaping Gorge

Distant cyclists carve their way through the curves of the stunning Tiger Leaping Gorge

Lone cyclitst in red on quiet rural lane in Yunnan Chine

Leaving Tiger leaping Gorge we head into an altogether different region of Yunnan Province, with a more agricultural feel


two cyclists in red China tour tee shirts watch a boat on the Yangtze

Towards the end of the days ride we cross the First bend Of The Yangtze by ferry

Bicycle touring group in red tee shirts Yunnan Province China

The group celebrate fine cycling


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May 10, 2015 by David Walker

Street Scenes From Shangri-La

man walking on stone street with wooden buildings and Tibetan prayer flags

One of the wooden streets that survived the fire of Jan 11 2014.

Awaiting the arrival of the group for this years Yunnan cycling tour is giving me time to indulge in a passion, wandering the streets with my Olympus camera capturing a little of the feeling of life on the old town, and how it is rapidly rising from the ashes.

A dog on a large plaza with tibetan temple prayer wheel

A dog rests on Shangri-La’s dance plaza with Tibetan temple and prayer wheel in the back ground

young Chines boy and colourful prayer flags

The Chicken temple above Shangri-La is well worth a visit.

Carpernters working on a new building in Shangri-La

Carpenters working on a new building in Shangri-La old town

colourful reflections on a wet street in China

A street in Shangri-La after an evening shower

Light and shadow on a dusty street in Shangri-La

Workers in the middle of Shangri-La old town

street scene, shangri-la, china, yunnan, blue sky, sunburst, prayer flags,

The sun rises bringing warmth to the early morn in this cobbled street in Shangri-La

portrait of smiling man in hat Shangri-La Yunnan China

The builders are all a merry bunch, quick with a wave and a cheery “ni hao”/


Chinese carpenter and traditional style wooden buildings

One of many carpenters working hard to recreate the character of Shangri-La old town

man and woman walking beneath Tibetan prayer flags blue sky

The Chicken Monastery is a beautiful place for a morning stroll.

desolate dusty street in Shangri-La Yunnan Chine

This street used to be full of little cafés, then is was rubble and ash. I strongly suspect that by this time next year it will once again be a thriving street of coffee and beer

two ladies in sun hats in a hole in Chinese street

Two ladies in wide brimmed sun hats nattering in a hole in the middle of Shangri-La

man and woman studying apple macbook with beer

First arrival on tour is Arthur, here he and Echo discuss the route of our bicycle ride to Dali










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May 8, 2015 by admin

2015. The Rebuilding of Shangri-La

old tibetan street with light and shadows, smoke and waling man

Fortunately some of the old town remained undamaged

Frozen water left the fire brigade helpless as fire ripped through the tinder dry buildings of Shangi-La old town during the wee small hours of January 11th 2014. People could only watch and pray that the fire would stop before it reached their homes. For some, miraculously it did,  as is evident when surveying the damage and the line where the fire seemed to abruptly stop, but for hundred prayers went unanswered as the old town was all but destroyed.

Before that fateful night Shangri-La, or Zhongdian to use it’s former name, was a beautiful warren of winding cobble streets and one wooden buildings. It was a charming place in which to while away some days and a perfect starting point for our tour of Yunnan Province. Arriving last May I was stunned by just how ravaged by fire the town was and I set out immediately to explore with my camera. For the past year I have been looking forward to retuning to see how the rebuild is progressing, and so it was with much eagerness that we arrived yesterday, dropped our bags at our rather cozy hotel and nipped out for a look around.

Shangri-La new town Yunnan as seen from the remains of the old town

Looking out across the rubble towards the new town

Chinese lady in pink coat working on building in Shangri-La town Yunnan Province

Rebuilding is taking place at a tremendous rate

Tibetan man in fur hat, blue sky, Shangri-La old town Yunnan China

A fine hat for the chilly evenings

Chinese builder working in wooden building light and shadow Shangri-La

Rebuilding work is taking place everywhere

Star burst sun on Chinese builder and brick building Shangri-La

Morning sun bursts on two builders

Blue Chinese truck being loaded in Shangri-La old town Yunnan China

Workers clearing the debris load an old Dong Fan truck


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January 18, 2015 by David Walker

a night train and a perfect day

The second instalment of the exploration our Northeast Vietnam tour.
Cycling the hills of northern vietnam

 Back in the summer of 2011 Phong and I set put to explore a route for a new tour in NE Vietnam, a ride that turned out to be one of the best cycling journeys I have been on. The following is from my blog at the the time.

Try as I might I couldn’t get back to sleep; the pleasing green glow of my watch told me that we should arrive in Lao Cai station in half an hour anyway, so donning my shorts I jumped down from my upper bunk to great the day. I peered from the window, “It’s raining” I said little disgruntled. “Oh yes, it’s the raining season” said Phong enthusiasticly. The journey had been quite splendid. We had a cosy AC sleeper compartment that slept four; Phong and I, and a pair of Vietnamese businessmen who provided seemingly convivial conversation for Phong and occasional close company for me as the chap in the bunk opposite to mine scrambled and flayed alarmingly as he tried to get to and from his bed, and, during the turmoil generally ended up clambering around my bunk for a while before apologising profusely and commencing some interesting acrobatics as he tried once again to access his own bed.

We clambered down from the train, “it’s cold” I said, “oh yes” said Phong, it’s the rain season”.

The rain ceased within an hour and we made our way along a lovely narrow winding road, all but devoid of traffic. The road climbed and fell through plantations of rubber, banana, cinnamon, and fig as well as tapioca, which I thought, until Phong informed me I was a fool, was marijuana.

We lunched at a convivial little spot where, it would appear from his popularity with the jovial hostess and her family, Phong dines regularly. We sat for a while after lunch digesting and observing the increase in temperature and the lack of decrees in humidity. The sun was by now having a look at the day and was encouraging the recent rain to evaporate, turning Vietnam into a sauna. It took quite some cajoling and encouraging, as well as a few prods with a small stick to get Phong away from the fan and onto his bike. “How hot is it do you think?” he asked as he threw a leg over his bike. I checked, it was thirty nine degrees.

cycling the hills of northern vietnam

cooling of at a road side fountain

I find that below 35ºC I function quite normally, above I begin to feel warm, a tad sweaty, and somewhat lethargic. Fortunately as the altitude increased the temperature dropped. 37, 36, 35. When it reached 34º I became concerned about the clothing I had with me. I was travelling with just summer clothes and started to lament not bringing a couple of layers of marino wool. “I could buy something” I told myself, and then I realised that it was still 34ºC and that hyperthermia was unlikely.

The following day dawned cool and overcast, I know that is how it dawned because my companion had expressed a keenness to leave early and, being the considerate soul I am, I did all I could to accommodate and consequently very nearly witnessed the day dawn. Not only did it dawn convivially for cycling it also proved to be one of the finest days cycling I have had for………well, one of the finest days cycling I have had. It was steep and rough and rural. Most of the ride was on unsealed tracks close to the Chinese border, trough scenery that, at the risk of using overworked cliches was fairy tale like, Lord of the Rings-esque, beautiful, stunning, remote and, well, it was just wonderful.

As you may have gathered, I am enjoying this ride, and very much looking forward to whatever may lay ahead.

vietnamese rural fuel pump

a rural petrol station

The way was populated by minority people. In the beginning we had Flowery Hmong, so called because they are Hmong and unlike the Black Hmong who favour black, they wear bright multi coloured skirts and colourful hats. There were Blue Tay who were distinguishable from the Green Tay, with whom they seemed to get along very well, by their blue skirts and hats. There are many minority peoples in Lao and Vietnam and China, and in general so far as I can ascertain the only difference between them is the colour of the ladies hats and shirts and skirts, all that is except for the Dzao People who are distinguishable by their overwhelming lack of beauty. It strikes me as quite astonishing that in a country populated by the most remarkable abundance of remarkably beautiful women there should be one small group of people who are so visually unappealing. There was a comic when I was a lad called The Eagle that in one story featured a race of aliens (weather goodies or baddies I cannot recall for sure, baddies I suspect though) who had the most incredibly huge foreheads, and as a result were rather un-hansom. Whenever I see the Dzao people it is these aliens that spring to mind. I mentioned this to Phong and he assures me that their foreheads are no bigger than normal and they too are beautiful, their’s is a look that is cultured and cherished and amongst themselves is considered the hight of visual agreeability. The look is created apparently with over zealous use of a razor, and I, apparently, am an ‘uncultured philistine’

adventure cycling unpaved vietnams mountain roads

Unpaved trails

The ride was, as I have mentioned, quite wonderful. Like many wonderful things though it did not come without a little effort, or what at some stages we considered to be considerable effort. The tracks were in places quite rough and rocky, and the climbs were of a gradient where putting enough power through the peddles to chivy the bicycle into motion was enough to have a chap quickly sitting on the ground behind his bicycle wondering quite how he had got there.

remote rural cycling road north thailand

a beautiful rural road

Vietnamese mountain biker and water buffaloes

Biker and buffaloes

gravel road cycling vietnam

gravel road NE Vietnam



cycling past rice terraces north Vietnam

Rice terraces north Vietnam


me on a train


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