IamA girl and cycled from Thailand to China by myself. AMA!
My short bio: So, I was born and raised in Switzerland. I'm 22 now. About 2 years ago I started traveling. I spent about 1.5 years traveling/ living in Asia. Last year I bought a bicycle from a supermarket in Bangkok and cycled from Thailand (started cycling in Aranyaprathet) to China (through Cambodia and Vietnam). I cycled about 3000km (I think. Might be more, might be less). I went on this trip alone, no guide, no travelbuddy, just me and my bicycle. And I made it to China! I cycled to Nanning, where I had to leave my bicycle behind. AMA!
"Cycling to China" on my blog: http://laurainwonderland.org/category/cycling-to-china/
Laura In Wonderland Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/laurainwonderland
Good for you
Good for you too. Why the fuck does It matter that you're a girl either? Stupid ass.
It doesn't. Why does it make you so angry? Get a life, please.
Amazing! I'm surprised you're getting so much hate by neck beards that never leave their house.
Haha thank you!
What inspired you to make that trip? Very impressive btw!
I don't know. I just woke up one day and thought 'Hey, let's buy a bicycle and cycle to China'. I'm a bit impulsive I guess.
Did you get bad sun burns by the end of the trip?
On the first day I thought it's a good idea to cycle in a short dress/ shorts. Wow, I basically looked like a tomato. I don't know what I was thinking. So from then on I was always wearing leggings and a thin jacket. So at the end of the trip I had really really dark hands, feet and head. It looked kinda funny. But I didn't get sunburnt anymore. (I think I was sunburnt on my hands a few times in the beginning, so I bought gloves, but stopped wearing them after a few days.) The problem was that it's just so hot, so you don't really want to wear that many clothes, but you have to unless you want to get sunburnt.
What is a biased against females you encountered?
What is something you expected to be a problem but was not?
Well a lot of people before, during and after the trip told me that I shouldn't do this as a girl. Girls shouldn't travel alone and of course they shouldn't cycle to China alone, unless they want to get raped and die.
I was always so scared of the rain! I thought it would be horrible if I got stuck in the rain. Until it actually happened, and it felt so good! Also I thought I'd get lost all the time. (I only got lost 2-3 times)
- What kind of bike did you use?
- Was communication ever an issue?
- Were there any difficult border crossings?
- What kind of experience did you have with bike touring prior to your trip?
I bought a bike from Big C (local supermarket chain), 3 gears, here's a picture: http://laurainwonderland.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/wpid-IMG_20130403_124534.jpg
Well, nobody spoke English. At all. Excpet for in the big cities or the occasional teenager who could say a few sentences. So I had a few sentences written down in the local languages (like that I'm cycling to China or what I can't eat). But communication wasn't really an issue, because you don't need to speak the same language to be able to understand eachother. I once had a 10 minute long conversation about being scared of sharks without saying a word.
Not really. I think the most 'problematic' border was Thailand-Cambodia, because they try to scam you and get an extra 100 baht from you. But I already knew that from previous trips to Cambodia, so no problem for me. I was really surprised that the Chinese border was so..relaxed? One officer even took a picture with me!
I had absolutely no experience prior to this trip. Maybe 2 weeks before starting to cycle I started going to work by bicycle, but that's pretty much all the preparation I did. I never really cycled before, except for as a kid I think?
Ooh, I saw that bike on Big C before! :D (I don't think they sell bikes anymore though...)
When I was there they sold bikes in SOME big C's. It was such a cool bike! Because it had like a passenger seat in the back :D
How come you went through Cambodia? Is it a border issue or did you get lost?
My Thai visa was expiring and I was living in Bangkok, so Cambodia was the closest border. Otherwise I probably would have gone through Laos.
Next challenge: Cycle through India by yourself.
No thanks. Definitely not doing that.
How did you finance this trip? What were the costs?
I saved up money while working in Bangkok. I think I spent abour 300 dollars a month maybe? The cycling itself was only one month, BUT I spent a lot of time just hanging around with friends in Vietnam and in Cambodia, so I arrived in China after 2-3 months. So it cost me around 1000 dollars I guess, including visas.
I was teaching English.
Hey, I am planning on cycling from the canadian border to mexican border this summer, then from bangkok to how ever far east i get in a month next year.
I think my biggest concerns are road conditions. The city stuff doesnt scare me as i was in bangkok for a month last year and i cycle fixed gear in Los Angeles here, very messenger style with long 60 mile fixed gear rides on weekends.
What were the rural roads and dangers in east asia? Im worried about crazy drivers, pot holes, how many flat tires you got? Im fine for the physical part of it, but am concerned about the unexpected technical difficulties ??
The roads aren't that bad I think. I mean, there are lots of potholes sometimes, but then again, sometimes the road is really good. Some smaller roads are pretty bad or basically just sand.
Also, expect motorcycles to drive one the wrong side of the road sometimes. And some busdrivers are just mildly insane I think. But you get used to the traffic really fast, especially if you cycle in cities like Hanoi for a while.
I think I got maybe 3 flat tires total? But the good thing is that there are SO many motorcycle repair shops and they can help you with your bicycle. Sometimes they even help for free, sometimes it costs, but not a lot.
You're a very inspiring person, thank you for sharing your journey with us. You mentioned some haphazard traffic at times, did you wear a helmet, and was it very hot wearing one if so?
No, I didn't wear a helmet. I just wore a cap to protect me from the sun. But it was very hot anyway. And thanks!
awesome, thankyou. I plan to read your blog and liked your FB page, so i can get more info later, and i am sure as i am searching blogs later to learn what i need and to expect, you will get messages.
I think its awesome, and cant wait to have the adventure myself!!
Thanks! I hope you'll have a wonderful trip!
Tell us about the most unforgettable person you met on your journey.
I think what impressed me the most was a lady in Cambodia, who refused to take my money for the water I wanted to buy. She owned a really small shop on the highway and was clearly not rich at all, yet she wanted to give me water (and cigarettes, haha) for free.
But actually there are so many amazing people. It's hard to pinpoint to just one person. I've met other travelers with great stories and locals that will always hold a place in my heart.
How did you know which way to cycle, which roads to take, etc? Did you follow maps or just ask around? Did you plan your route from the beginning or did you take it day by day? And how much research did you do before you felt ready to begin? (Sorry for so many questions hehe)
You must have been really brave to do something like that and I think that it's rly awesome! I (am also a girl) and I would be soo scared by the prospect of doing something like this!!
I had a small map from a friend's lonely planet for Cambodia, but I rarely used it because I stayed on the same highway the whole time. I only used it to check what the name of the next town was etc.
In Vietnam I checked the way on google maps every few days, wrote down the places I'm going/ drew the map and then just asked people. But there were so many roadsigns (on the highway), so it usually wasn't a problem. When I went on smaller roads I just asked a few people for the way and went with the 'average' answer I got from them (sometimes they didn't know and just pointed somewhere.)
I did absoluetely no research before the trip, except for checking where I can a visa for China/ Vietnam.
I only planned on somehow getting to China. I'm a bit impulsive I guess.
And thanks :)
I really dont understand all the hate on this (biking alone is dangerous, as a girl its probably 10X more dangerous, especially in some countires). Anyway, what was the scariest moment of your trip? what about most interesting?
Well, this is the internet. It's full of hate. Yay!
The scariest moment was probably when I ran out of water and thought I would die on a small dirt road in Vietnam. Obviously I didn't die and made it off the small road eventually, I've never been so happy to see people and get water before!
Oh and of course the time when a motorcycle driver was trying to help me by pushing my bicycle. It was a really nice idea, BUT he went way to fast and it was really hard for me to control my bike. Also, my hat kept flying away. I was definitely a bit scared then!
For me the first days of the trip were the most interesting, as it was just overwhelming being on the bike all by yourself! (In a good way). Cambodia was pretty amazing too. When I was cycling through smaller towns and villages the kids ran after me and I felt like I was in a movie.
What advice do you have for girls traveling through Asia?
Don't be scared! I mean, it's good to be careful and all, but a lot of girls are way more scared of traveling solo than they should be. The world isn't as scary as it seems!
What was the most unique thing you saw that you didn't get a picture of? If it was something permanent (building, vista, regular event) do you plan to return to get a picture?
I'm really sad I didn't take any pictures in Northern Vietnam, it looked so amazing! One day it was really foggy and the mountains and the whole scenery just looked like out of a movie. Can't believe I didn't take a picture. And yes, one day I'll return and take pictures!
Was there a particular reason that you didn't take pictures in North Vietnam?
No, I just completely stopped taking pictures after a few days of cycling, not sure why.
Have you read 'Full Tilt' by Dervla Murphy? She cycled from Ireland to India.
I haven't, but that sounds amazing. Will definitely check it out!
How was it dealing with repairs and flat tires and such? Did you ever get stranded anywhere? Way impressive btw! I haven't even done an overnight trip with my bike yet.
I'm terrible with repairs. But fortunately there are SO many motorcycle repair shops in Asia, so whenever I had a flat tire I just went to one of those and they fixed it for me. I did have a bicycle pump, but I think I only had to use it 3-4 times. Also, once the little basket in the front of the bike just randomly fell off, so I had to get that fixed (which cost me like a dollar)
I was really lucky and always managed to find a place to stay at night. But there were several times when I thought I would have to sleep outside. Plus once I thought I would die because I ran out of water on a little dirt road in Vietnam.
Do you have abs?
No, I can't think of any moment when I was really afraid. I mean I was a bit worried sometimes, but rather about things like whether I'll find a guesthouse before the sun goes down or where I am/ if I got lost etc. But maybe I was just really lucky.
That's pretty amazing. Somehow all the people that go on these crazy trips do it on the simplest bikes.
I'm planning a 600-ish km bike trip across Iceland, got a serious bike (lots of things to break...), experienced rider and I even work as a mechanic but no experience whatsoever going on trips longer than a couple dozen kilometers on my own. Any important tips?
Having a good bike can make a trip better, especially when it's going uphill! I would have LOVED a better bike while I was fighting my way up mountain passes - or rather while I was just pushing the bike up.
What I didn't know before this trip was how important it is to take enough breaks and really stop when you're tired. In the beginning I was sooo excited, so I tried to cycle as much as possible. It's all well until you suddenly just CAN'T go on anymore and then you're in the middle of nowhere, alone. So make some stops - before you break down :) Also start looking for a place to sleep a few hours before the sun goes down, unless you want to be stranded.
That's all the advice I can think of right now :)
Food, water and places to sleep are my main concern actually. I'm guessing these things are specific to every place.
Yeah I don't know much about other places, so can't really help you with that. But definitely bring more water than you think you need. I mean if you don't get food for a couple of hours, that's ok, but if you run out of water, that's pretty bad.
I didn't worry too much about where to sleep because I thought worst case, I can always just sleep outside somewhere because it was really hot. Are you bringing a tent?
What did you see that you'll never forget?
I don't think I can pinpoint to a single thing. I've seen so many amazing things that I'll hopefully never forget!
Did you ever get robbed on the way?
Nope, not even once.
Would you say you purposefully avoided some potentially not-so-good situations though?
I'm not sure. I think I might have just looked poor because I was cycling with a really cheap bicycle and I didn't have anything 'fancy'.
True. What's quite common though are motorcycle drivers that steal your handbag (happened to me once in Bangkok), but that can't really happen when you're cycling around.
i dont know what to ask :(!!! did u quit smoking yet?
Haha. Kind of. I quit last Friday but I had some cigarettes on Wednesday. And now quit again. :D
quit dat shit! :D
I'm trying! :D Smoking sucks, it's absolutely useless.
Good on you, something I want to do is cycle around Southern Europe, I love the sun and riding a bike, feel so free.
Where did you stay each night? If you camped or slept outside, where did you feel safe to camp for the night? How did you pick a location etc
I didn't camp. I stayed in guest houses, with locals or did couchsurfing.
Great job! But, how did you manage your hunger on the trip?
I stopped every 2 hours and ate rice somewhere :) I ate A LOT.
as someone who has done long tours before, hills and steep climbs are the fucking worst. how grueling was the trip? do you think a better bike would've made it easier?
In the beginning of the trip it was mostly flat and I honestly don't think that a better bike would have made a huge difference.
But there were several mountain passes or just parts where it went up and down all the time and they were quite steep. It would have been SO much easier with a better bike. I only had 3 gears, and when it was too steep I had to get off the bike and push. I didn't enjoy the mountain passes! But then again, it made going downhill afterwards just so much better :)
Just wondering, how much preparation went into going? Like after buying your bike did it take a week to get supplies and decide the route you were going to take? What advice do you have for someone who also wants to bike across a country?(I've been thinking about doing a trek across the US :D)
I didn't really have any special supplies. I had a small backpack, which I attached to the back of the bike with bungee rope (I think that's how you call it) and a handbag which I put in the front basket. I also had a bicycle pump. But that was pretty much it.
I think technical things (like the best bike, gear etc) aren't that important. The only thing you really need to bring is water. And food and money I guess.
no flat repair kit? ever need to repair or replace a tire? any other maintenance issues?
I only had a bicycle pump. I had to replace my tire once: I went to the next motorcycle repair shop and they did everything for me. Also, a lot of small shops along highways are able to help you with that. There are tons of places that can fix your bike, mainly because EVERYONE has a motorbike.
In Which kanton in switzerland were u raised?
I grew up in Basel
Do you ever skip leg day?
Haha I don't work out. I eat and take naps. The only leg days were this cycling thing. Now all my leg muscles are just disappearing. Sometimes I don't even have the strength to walk anymore and think to myself: I shouldn't have skipped leg day.
How did you handle money? Were you carrying or getting cash along the way or using a credit card?
I had around 1500 dollars cash (because I got paid cash for my last job. Also, I think I lost my debit card or something.) and just changed parts of it into the right currency.
I had a credit card for emergencies, but never used it.
How much time did you spend cycling each day?
I usually started cycling at 5 or 6 am until 3-4 pm. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. I took a short break about every 2 hours. During lunch time I usually took a longer break (1-1.5 hours) and took a nap.
Did you go through Cambodia via Phnom Penh or Kompong Chan? And did you have to cross the Central Highlands in Vietnam, or keep to the east? How did you get a Chinese visa, or did you get it before starting?
I went through Kampong Chhnang and Phnom Penh. I didn't cycle through the Central Highlands, I mainly cycled along the coast.
And I got my Chinese visa from a travel agency in Hanoi. Took about 1 week I think.
Hey stranger, congratulations! From everything I've read, it sounds like an incredible experience! I have a couple questions about your trip...well, I guess I should say about you. I teach English in Asia as well, most positions require a college degree or some equivlelant. How were you able to pay off student loans for 3 months while not working? As for the second question; do you plan on making a career out of teaching English abroad? Once again, congratulations on completing this leg of your adventure. I must admit, I'm slightly jealous.
Right now I don't really know what my career will look like. I'm focusing on travel at the moment, but teaching is definitely on my mind.
I can't really tell you about student loans, as we definitely don't have this problem in Switzerland. So I had no financial problems while in Thailand.
Gave your page a like! Very cool thing you did!(:
Thanks so much, I really appreciate it! :)
I'm sure this is covered in your blog, but why did you do it? Did you ever question "what the heck am I doing" as you were cycling?
I just felt like it's gonna be an amazing experience. I got bored with 'normal' ways of traveling, it simply wasn't exciting anymore. Also, I didn't really have a lot of money, so I thought it's either cycling or hitchhiking and walking.
The night before I started cycling I questioned it all! I started thinking that it's a really stupid idea and that I'll probably die or something. But the moment I started cycling I KNEW that this was the best idea I've ever had.
Can you explain your day trip from Thailand to China? Like what was your routine while you were on this journey.
Depending on what time sunrise was, I set my alarm for 4:30 or 5:00 AM. Usually I would already have some fruits in my room and have those for breakfast, take a shower and get on my bike. After 2-3 hours I usually stopped somewhere for a coffee break (and food. I ate a lot. Everytime I saw something I could eat, I did.) for half an hour, then kept cycling. I took a break about every 2 hours, sometimes more, sometimes less. During lunch time I took a longer break and took a nap. Mainly because it was just too hot! Whenever I felt too tired, it started raining or getting dark, I would start looking for a place to sleep (guesthouse). Once I found a cheap guesthouse I usually took a shower and went looking for some dinner + breakfast for the next day, explored the city/ village/ town I was staying at, went to an internet cafe or simply went to my room and went to bed. Or wrote in my diary. And then the next day it all started again. :)
What was the most dangerous situation you found yourself in during the trip?
I don't think there were any dangerous situations, except for maybe getting pushed through Vietnamese traffic by a motorcycle and going way too fast? Also I ran out of water once. But I was really lucky and there werent any bad situations other than that.
Late, but I'm seriously considering traveling through SEA as a solo female next year. How did you find it? Any security concerns? Meet people along the way?
I'm sure my family and friends will think I'm crazy, but I really want to do it.
It's a great experience. SEA is far safer than you think! I never got into any dangerous situations (but maybe I was just lucky). And you will meet so many people! Especially if you stay in hostels or do couchsurfing.
I think you should do it!
What was the wierdest/scariest thing that happened to you? Have you considered to just stop and fly home at some point. ?
There was one day when I just wanted to go home, because it was just shitty and so many things went wrong. When I was cycling up the road (and I'm pretty sure I looked disgusting and sweaty and not very attractive in that moment, just saying) a guy on a motorcycle slowly approached me and grabbed my boob. While I was cycling. Why?! So I got angry and threw a water bottle at him and started screaming like an insane person. Fun times. Later that day I had to sleep in the dirties guesthouse ever, where they had no water and the owner was slightly evil and followed me around. Plus I ran out of cigarettes. And that was the only moment I wanted to just go back home, I think
I just want to say, congrats on doing that, but I am truly sorry for a lot of assholes here.
My question to you is what country was your most favorite to visit or be in? Would you do it again but instead through another set of countries? (South American, European for example)
I loved all the countries. People warned me of Vietnam (because people are unfriendly or something?) but I also loved it. I can't pick my favorite. I guess Thailand is the one that feels the most like home because I spent the most time ther.
And yes, I totally want to do something like this again. Next time probably something longer. Maybe cycle the Americas :)
I know I am late to the party but where are you know? Is your bicycle lonely?
Oooh late answer - sorry, was hitchhiking back to Thailand from Switzerland, so not so much internet haha
Bicycle is somewhere in China and I'm in Phuket, Thailand :)
Out of curiosity....do you lose tons of weight and have amazing abs after doing so much biking?
I did lose some weight I think. I didn't really pay attention to that to be honest.
It was probably the most incredible experience of my life. There were lots of good days and one or two bad days. I really loved the kindness of all the strangers I've met. The people were definitely the best part of the journey.
Um, thanks? ^
Hahaha whaat, I love that, would have been a much better title.
well then it would give the impression that you were enslaved, possibly in the sex trade as you specified you are a girl, and that your freedom was something that had been taken from you and had to be purchased to be regained.
kind of a downer if you ask me.
Yes that would be a bit of a downer. It could also mean that I went to China to buy like a doll or something that looks like me. Or a clone. That would have been cool.
Or a riksha! I think a riksha would have been better. I would have been able to relax all day while my clone is doing all the cycling.
and we're back to enslavement...
Does it really count as enslavement if it's my clone? I mean we're like the same person and I would feed the clone. The clone would be more like a pet maybe. Like a horse. That carries me around. Just that instead of being a horse, it's a riksha driver.
Would it be possible to leave a note on your blog that you're doing this AMA, thanks!
I put a small note at the beginning of my latest blog post: http://laurainwonderland.org/2014/02/05/travel-diary-preparing-for-the-big-trip/
What are your thoughts on the locals? Did you run into any asian men that you would consider attractive?
Haha this might come as a shock to you, but yes, Asians can also be attractive.
I wonder if there would be even half of this hate if you wrote "Iama girl WHO cycled..." etc.
Can you tell me what languages do you speak? And where did you usually sleep?
I still think it was amazingly lucky that nothing happened to you.
I didn't put much thought into the title of this AMA, I didn't realize people would get offended by the word girl or and or whatever.
I speak German and English.
I usually slept in guesthouses, got invited to people's houses or did couchsurfing.
Did you ever consider just flying?
Not really, because cycling is way more fun and exciting.
Nothing, I just needed a word after I am a. And I am a girl. So I thought, hey, let's write that.
Also, a lot girls are afraid to travel alone, so I guess it does matter a bit.
Are you the town bike?
IamA Girl I'm 22 now
When do your parents grant permission to call yourself a woman?
I'm a bit older than our bicycling wonder here and I still call myself a girl. Wtf?
But only because your parents didn't grant you permission to call yourself a woman. Poor girl!
I don't know, you should ask them.
So lots of people do this, lots do it alone, and I personally know two women who have done long distance cycle tours (since I am active in my local cycling community). I've done solo 2000km tours myself. What makes you think anyone cares? Are you special because you're a girl? Or you're Swiss? Sounds like you knew people along the route so it's not like you were totally winging it. I'm just saying, this isn't exactly special.
- I didn't know people along the way, I met them and we became friends.
- I never said this is special, I just said that I did this.
- I get asked lots of questions about this in real life. That made me think anyone cares.
I know that lots of people do this and much longer tours. That doesn't mean I'm not allowed to tell people about my experience.
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