Videos of our first days on the Tea and Horse Route

So many things go on during our days of pedaling that we thought it would be good to post a video of what we see in an average day so far. This is combined from three days, with lots left out!

Goat to market

Goat on the way to market.

Lucky says he is not ready to comment on this bicycle touring thing, or China. His white is turning gray like us, and everything else here, and the rough roads are taking a toll. He’ll reserve comment until the mountains, soon. I hope the beauty of the high country wins him over, and ends his silence. Claire and I have done this a few times, but it’s all new to Lucky.

The locals in Ya’an make steep uphill signs, raise their eyebrows and exclaim when we tell them where we are going. One man, in elaborate pantomime, told me we should take a bus.

It’s all a bit unnerving, especially the idea of the four kilometer tunnel somewhere ahead, and the rain last night didn’t help. Ah the pleasures of the unknown. It always works out, somehow.

Zippy is ready to roll!

Zippy shrink wrapped and ready for China. The wheels are in two other boxes, along with tools and sharp objects, a third bag will carry tent and sleeping bag for the high mountains. We’ll carry cameras and the computer in …

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Shangri-la: Journey into Myth, search for Reality

Stupa at first pass into Tibetan landsOur original blog articles are now arranged chronological sequence. The first article appears on this page. Simply follow the sequence by clicking another article from the page boxes at the top and bottom of each page. You can leave your comments to each article by clicking the “Replies” link located at the bottom of each chapter.


The British author James Hilton published a small novel in 1933. He was no doubt shocked at the widespread repute the location of his fictional sacred Utopian kingdom would achieve, and the misuse that would subsequently occur.

Las Vegas to Shanghai, luxury hotels, and the no-tell motel in the seedy underbelly of thousands of towns, have expropriated his fiction. Shangri-la is the idea of a magical place where people live long happy lives in perfect bliss. All of these places, even the most plush, fall short of the dream.

Whole countries have laid claim to the title, and all but one are fabrications. James Hilton’s Shangri-La is not in Bhutan, Nepal, or Myanmar, but in China; in Yunnan province of the Tibetan cultural region of the eastern most ranges of the Himalayas. Here the great rivers of Southeast Asia begin with trickles, explode into violent torrent, gather into the mighty forces of nature to embrace one of the most dense populations on Earth, and to eventually braid out across huge fertile deltas from Shanghai to Myanmar.

Misty Morning in Shangri-la (Claire)

Misty Morning in Shangri-la (Claire)

Amazingly, Hilton was not a traveler. He got his inspiration from the National Geographic which published the explorations of the botanist, philologist, Joseph F. Rock, who spent years in northern Yunnan. The collection of plants was Rock’s primary mission, but he also documented the local Tibetan cultures. Rock’s plant collections are said to have sparked the, now ubiquitous, exotic garden craze in the United Kingdom and beyond. Hilton grazed from this material the fictional beautiful and perfect place.

Shangri-la, and surrounding mountains, hold most of the minorities of China, and are one of the last holdouts from complete domination by the Han majority.

The unique southerly curve of the Himalayan range at the east end, allows the valleys to funnel warm wet monsoon clouds to extremely high elevations. This makes for a fecundity of plant and animal life found nowhere else in the great stretch of the Himalayan range all the way to Central Asia.

Claire and I crossed the Tien Shan mountains of far western China on our Silk Road Crossing. They are the western ending of the Himalayan range in Central Asia. This trip we hope to cross the far eastern part of the Himalayan range, in our search for the real Shagri-la.

What will we find? Well, as with the Silk Road, fantasy and reality are not the same, but in Asia, reality is always fascinating and alive, always challenging and rewarding.

From Yunnan we plan to ride into Laos, then Vietnam, where Claire was born, Cambodia and end our journey in Thailand, after about four months.

We hope you will come along with us, here on our New Bohemians site as we begin in Chengdu, Sichuan, where the great earthquake devastated the region and killed thousands. From what we know of will and energy of the Chinese, the people are recovering. We hope so. We’ll visit some pandas of course, along with our Lucky, and then attempt the mountains, monsoon snows, and vagaries of Chinese Communist bureaucracy allowing us to make the trip. Wish us well and then bookmark and follow us on our unusual, and no doubt enlightening, quest documented on this site.

On the road again soon: Shangri-la and Beyond

We leave September 1 for Chengdu, Sichuan, China to begin a tandem bicycle tour of SW China and SE Asia. We begin in Chengdu, Sichuan, where the earthquakes killed thousands last year. We will visit some pandas and probably visit our first important Buddha statue before heading into high country where the Himalayas transition from the Tibetan plateau, giving birth to all the great rivers of SE Asia. After a long crossing into Yunnan, we will drop into the sub tropics of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and end probably in Bangkok, one of our favorite cities.

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