Luang Namtha – Jinghong (China)

7th May 2014
Luang Namtha – Jinghong (China)     27’C     231km

An early start from Luang Namtha, saw us head to the border at 7am. I’ve now joined up with Mick, who is also riding across China with me.
Exiting Laos was fairly straightforward and only took a few minutes to hand in customs forms and stamp out of Laos.
Two more minutes riding across no-mans-land and we were standing at the Chinese immigration building. I sent a quick SMS to our fixer, Ken from NAVO, and he soon appeared to guide us through the process of importing a foreign vehicle into China. The sign at the front of the building indicated it would be a many step process, but Ken had us fill in two short forms, and then passports were stamped and we were welcomed to China.
We were then guided to a vehicle checkpoint, before a further 40km ride to the town of Mengla for vehicle inspection, Chinese registration and Chinese drivers licences.


The road to Mengla was magnificent, perfectly built and a huge change from Lao roads. The scenery was also excellent, with many tree covered mountains.
On arriving at the vehicle inspection depot in Mengla, Ken ran off to sort out documentation while we waited and had photos taken with spectators. At 11:30am the office closed for 2.5hrs while everyone went to lunch. We were concerned that we would need to wait for the office to reopen, but Ken appeared with our Chinese vehicle registration and my Chinese drivers licence. We were now cleared to ride on Chinese roads.

We took a break in the restaurant next door for lunch together with our guide vehicle driver, Mr Neo. Ken took me out to the kitchen to do the ordering, as the restaurant had no menu. You just walk out the back, look in the fridge and tell them what you want and in a few minutes your selection of dishes appears at the table. It was a nice meal.

wpid-dsc01048.jpg wpid-dsc01047.jpg wpid-dsc01049.jpg

We hit the road further north, and China turned on a brilliant day to greet us, with a blue sky and pleasant temperatures.
The road weaved through the mountains, sometimes passing under them, through long motorway tunnels. I rode through more than 20km underground today, the longest individual tunnel was 5.3km long, but with no lighting and little ventilation, the inside of the tunnels were not much fun. I took a photo that shows just how heavy the particulates were inside the tunnel. It looked like snow, but far more noxious.


On arriving in the town of Jinghong, the sky darkened and it started to rain, just as Ken found us a strange hotel which appeared to be an unfinished apartment building. The corridors were littered with building materials, but the rooms themselves appeared nice, so we checked in. Of course, after we had checked in I found that there was no running cold water, only hot. And the wifi, while it worked, was not connected to the Internet, making it useless. The hotel said, maybe the cold water would be turned on after 7pm. I have my doubts the cold water will materialise. There was a big bucket in the bathroom, so I filled it with hot water and let it cool to be able to wash. On the floor above there is a regular jackhammering, that we have been assured will stop after 5pm. The bed is super soft, a big change from the stone hard beds of Laos. The supplied toilet roll is pretty short, you wouldn’t want to be staying for two many days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA wpid-dsc01052.jpg wpid-dsc01053.jpg

The town is fairly non-descipt, although there is a large minority population here, so alot of the signage is in both Chinese and the local minority language, which looks similar to Burmese script.

Tonight we will go to dinner and a briefing with Ken and Neo, to discuss the plan for the next 32 days.


12 Comments on “Luang Namtha – Jinghong (China)

  1. Hot water but no cold water? That’s a bit unusual!

  2. Looks like Ken has done this before and is good value 🙂

    What’s the story with the Chinese drivers license? Did they take the other one away – or you now have 2?

    • I sent them a scan of my Australian license a few months ago, which I guess they used to issue the Chinese one. They never looked at the physical Australian one, Jay handed me the licence, the number plate and a book of road rules. Which I have not even looked at, because it’s obvious most Chinese drivers never did!

      • So traffic is like Thailand/Vietnam then 🙂

        Do you get to keep the Chinese license?

        • I don’t know. But I have a feeling it might go missing accidentally on the last day in China. 😉

          • Sounds like a good plan – that’s what I’d do!

    • Yes, it was super easy. Cash does that I guess! Have a look at one of the photos, there is a flowchart that shows the entire process for importing a vehicle to China… With about 14 steps! Btw, I found 5 yuan on the floor of the immigration hall! So it was a good start

  3. Hi Luke,
    Just stumbled across your blog.
    Great write up.
    I just started reading it.
    Was it costly to get through china with the guides?
    I was actually contemplating riding up to Europe from Singapore as well but ended up flying to Ireland last May,buying a bike there and touring Europe for 32 days.

    • Hi Surinder,
      Thanks for the comments. China is a bit costly due to the guide situation, you end up paying for the guide, their meals, accommodation, expenses, etc.

      Great to hear of your ride around Europe, it’s certainly faster to fly than ride, but riding is alot of fun. 🙂
      Ride on!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *