Our journey through South East Asia complete we pulled up with our convoy at the Boten China border and met our guide from Navo Tours, Leo at the very end of May 2017.
We chose to use Navo Tours as they handle all the documentation and communication in regards to bringing our car into China. They also provide a guide for the journey who can translate, assist with finding accommodation and answer any questions about China ranging from food to finding car parts and everything in between.
We entered the Boten Border and Leo helped us each step of the way. We drove the car around to the inspection bay and after checking the VIN number we were in China!
We stopped in the next town of Mengla and Leo took us to the licensing centre to get our temporary driving license. We then drove to the vehicle testing centre where our brakes and lights were tested, it took the testers about three times before they certified our vehicle. Leo was great, running around between the different buildings, completing all the paperwork and eventually handing out our temporary Chinese license plates.
Driving through the south of China took us around winding mountain roads, past huge valleys, small villages, terraced farming and rice fields.
Along the way we found our accommodation for the night while we were driving. Accommodation in China was relatively inexpensive, roughly 200 – 300 CNY ($40 – $50) a night for all four of us for a couple of twin rooms, a 4 bed room or 4 beds in a dorm.
We traveled from the border town of Mohan to Jinghong and then to Lincang.
Stocking up on food the next morning we arrived when the supermarket opened and got a standing ovation and cheer from the staff upon entering. It felt like I was the first one to buy the new iPhone.
We arrived in Dali and got the opportunity to camp in a tea plantation. The owner Zhou Stone was very kind to us and set up lights when we were putting up our tents at night and provided us with tea, coffee, electricity, water, a kitchen and showers. Camping in China is still a relatively new concept so we were both equally excited to have the opportunity to sleep outdoors. He even gifted us an RV magazine.
In Dali we visited the old town and experienced the old cobbled streets, gate towers and architecture of centuries prior. We all checked out the tourist shops, ice cream parlors and flower pastry shops of which there are many dotted around the area. Alastair and I enjoyed tasting flower cake (petals in a pastry), it tastes very similar to turkish delight.
In Lijiang we went outside the old town at night to find the bar and nightclub area. We found a bar that looked quiet but as soon as we entered and ordered our drinks they started the club music, the dancers and singers came out and the party balloons were being inflated.
Paris and Leo
We contrasted the next day by visiting Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Buddhist monastery, Guishan Si and the world’s largest prayer wheel, Zhuangjin Tong in Shangri-La.
We also experienced our first taste of yak in the form of hotpot and jerky. Tonina also got into the spirit of dressing up.
During the drive up the mountain we reached the highest point of our time in China (4700m) and we had the opportunity to have a snowball fight.
We drove onwards to Xiangcheng and then to Litang where we had a lunch of Butter Tea, Yak Noodle Soup, Potato Momas and Yak Dumplings at the Tibetan Food Restaurant. Except for the butter tea this food was delicious.
We also had our first mechanical incident with the car. With so many kilometres of dirt track and pot holes the previous day, our car was shaken a lot, so much that it had loosened some of our wheel studs enough for the rest to sheer off, meaning our rear tire fell off on a mountain road. Thankfully no one was hurt. We worked together and with the rest of the convoy to direct traffic, replace the studs and put the wheel back on.
Along the way we have found the Chinese people to very friendly, always curious to look at our vehicle and our set up. We met a few men from Shanghai during lunch one day and had an interesting conversation with a combination of pointing, WeChat and translation apps.
Arriving in Mo’xi we put on our boots and went up to Hailuogou Glacier Park. We walked out to the ice forest (roughly 8km return) and took some photos with the glacier.
We also went up the cable car to see the frozen waterfall and glacier from the top but unfortunately the cloud cover did not lift and thankfully the Chinese Park Authority had already thought of this situation and provided a backdrop so you could take photos what ever the weather.
We decided to finish our journey with a dip in the hot springs. They ranged from nice and warm to “how cooked do you like your body” in temperature. We made such a noise in the very hot pools that a couple of locals came by to show us how it’s done, diving in up to their necks…and then promptly crying out in pain as the heat becomes apparent.
We left Mo’xi and made way towards our first major Chinese City, Chengdu…