Our last stop in the China leg of our trip was Xishuangbanna (西双版纳).
Xishuangbanna (hur hur) is in the south of China. It neighbours Laos, and is as tropical as it gets in China in winter. In fact, it was so warm that Jo and I were able to walk around wearing ONLY a T shirt and long pants.
Since it was the last stop, we wanted to do something we’ve never done before. We decided to rent a motorbike to explore the outskirts of the city. No, we were not suicidally sad because we had to leave China, we were just badly traumatised by our bus ride from Yuanyang to Xishuangbanna.
We thought the traffic in Xishuangbanna was fairly benign compared to the rest of China (only nine vehicles would try to occupy a three lane carriage way), and since most of the attractions are outside of the city, we thought we could have an adventure getting there as well.
Any hopes I had of being a Hell’s Angel for a day was quickly dashed when we were handed our motor bike – a mechanical wonder that looked like the bastard child of Transformers’ Bumblebee and (I’m being very kind here) Dora the Explorer’s magical rainbow tricycle.
I was understandably finicky just before taking to the roads. You see, I am not classically trained in the handling of a motorcycle per se, in the sense that I do not personally own a motorcycle license. The only training I had was six years ago. I spent a grand total of ten minutes with a fifteen year old Cambodian boy. THAT particular road trip ended with me and my passenger in a Cambodian ditch with our bike on top of us.
Jo, understanding how nervous I was, tried to calm me down by constantly whispering to me words of encouragement.
“LOOK OUT FOR THAT CAR!!”
“YOU JUST RAN PAST THAT RED LIGHT!”
“WE ARE GOING TO DIE!!”
By “whispering”, of course I meant “screaming at the top of her lungs”.
Eventually, WE settled down and managed to spend a rather enjoyable morning tracing the Mekong River.
That should have been the end of our adventures for the day, but we couldn’t leave well enough as it is.We thought we could stretch our luck just a little bit by visiting an elephant sanctuary that was supposedly easily accessible via the national highway.
We got on the highway. At this point, I was comfortable enough to go a little faster.
I went full throttle.
The engine roared alive.
I hit a top speed of 50km/h (approximately 693 gallons).
Regardless, we felt alive and free. It didn’t matter that numerous tour coaches overtook us on the roads. We even waved hello back at some of the friendly cars that honked as they passed us (Ok… Jo waved back. I was too busy gripping on to my handle bar for dear life).
Then we hit a toll booth…
A toll booth manned by badass-looking police officers.
Badass-looking police officers who told us in no uncertain terms that SCOOTERS (NOT motorbikes) like ours are not allowed on the highway. Especially SCOOTERS with riders that do not have any helmets on…
We were just thankful they did not ask to look at our licenses.(I was already wondering if $5 would be too much to buy our way outta trouble)
Since we didn’t want to get thrown in a Chinese lockup, we high tailed it back down the highway.
At this point in time, I actually felt kinda badass myself.
We were rebels!
We were speeding (sortof) illegally down a highway with the wind in our hair.
You know the awfully cliched term that “fact is sometimes more hilarious than fiction”? This was NOT one of those times.
Just as we were riding the fastest we could away from a night’s stay in a dingy Chinese prison… our front tyre punctured.
Yup… We were stuck in the middle of the highway, trying to look inconspicuous with our bright yellow
At that point, we decided that letting the rental company/police know that we were illegally on the highway without a license might not be the best of ideas. So the best solution we could come up with was to Push the Bloody Bike home, and avert our gazes when the traffic police drove by.
Again, situation not helped by bright yellow
Somehow, we managed to get the scooter to a service stop after only one hour of pushing.
At that point I was willing to say “Xishuangbanna this!” and curl up in a little ball back at the hostel.