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Bicycle Tour in Yunnan, China’s lost Horizon and Paradise

Before Choosing China for Your Next Cycle

What’s China look like? What do you think of China before the bike tour there? Some first visit Australians once told me that China is like a big castle with the highest wall in the world, people knows that 1.4 billion people are living there and it has the biggest manufactory dominates the world but nothing else. In the eyes some Americans who never visited here before, China is probably flat with large scale of farming land, that’s all. Invisible or not, they said there are tall walls surrounding the country, the more closer westerners try to see what’s inside, the higher the wall will be built. What is China look like in the eyes of Canadians? After one month with our team, Brendan and Anne may have their answers already.

Clients from Canada cycled in Yunnan of China

Dali Bike Tour, China Bike Tour in Yunnan - by Guilin Cycling Tours

As a couple who booked a tour for 2018 but injured before finally coming to China, they had to postpone their plans and waited another year till the autumn of 2019. We were honored to be chosen as they said they found us from 20 bike tour companies and chose to book two tours with us finally, after simplifying their guide book of China from 300 pages into 20.

Warm and nutritious breakfast offered by guesthouse owner before our cycle starts.

Cycle in the countryside of Yunnan, Bike Yunnan of China

Their two cycle tours started from our base Guilin - Guangxi Province and ended at Dali – Yunnan province. Including their short own visiting in Beijing and Shanghai, they travelled 5 areas of China, a great interest and respect to the country for their first time visit. And their tour time was also special too as it went through new China’s 70 years birthday when they hiked in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Seeing hundreds of thousands tourists celebrating while not affected too much by them during the traveling, thanks to their guide who helped to arrange and avoid the crowds of Zhangjiajie part – Forrest.

Waiting for the train to Zhangjiajie with Forrest Wu

Bike Experiences of Yunnan

Robert Liu, as their tour designer, accompanied them for most parts of their trip in Guilin areas and Yunnan province, following the classic bike route in Yunnan of China, from the lost Horizon people mentioned (Shangrila city = Diqing) all the way down to the south to Dali. Cycle in Yunnan is one of the most popular cycling routes in China. Different to the coast areas in the east, the western part of China is more charming and challenging for riders. Yunnan is a perfect province for cyclists because its well-preserved culture and architectures of Tibetan Buddhism, Naxi, Dongba ,Bai, etc. and countless natural attractions widely known by westerners : Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yulong and Haba Snow Mountain, Napa Lake of Shangrila and Erhai Lake of Dali.

Who Will Possibly Like the Yunnan Biking 

Robert and clients finished their cycle to Baishuitai and then walked there.

Finish the hike of Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge and close to Jinshanjiang River.

A perfect place for cyclists doesn’t mean a suitable place for everyone, the riders will need to be very experienced to finish the bike uphill parts every day and adapt to the attitude from 2000-3200 meters (less difficult than cycling in west Sichuan or Tibet but similar long and steep climbs). One of the most legendaries things to Robert for this trip was not the upper high way hiking of neither the Tiger Leaping Gorge nor the hospitality from the local people of small village. It was the clients themselves! Brendan has to take pills during the tour for his Parkinson found this June, and he was still the fastest man who is over 60s and rode with Robert this year. The memory of his struggling to final victory conquering the 24kms steep long climb to Shaxi had became a good lesson to our guides and a perfect illustration of the spirit of life -- anticipating, trying your best, and never gives up. Because of his Parkinson and the side effects of the pills, he fell 3 times in 20 days with Robert but every time after it, he stood up and smiled, trying his best to proof he is ok; every time when the guide or driver tried to help with his super big suitcases, he felt guilty and insisted to carry it by himself. Everything he did reminded me the selfless Canadian doctor – Norman Bethune who helped China and died during the hardest time for Chinese.

Bike to Shaxi of Yunnan, Mountain Bike Cycle on Trails - by Guilin Cycling Tours

If you are one of the following types, a bicycle tour in Yunnan will be your first priority when choosing where to start your trip in China:

1.Experienced riders who can maintain a speed of 7-12 kms/h on uphill cycles (paved, around 5% degree on average) and finish 1 to 3 climbs per day and each climb will last from 10kms to 25kms. (P.S, usually our supporting van will drive the riders to the top of the hardest mountain if the ride is long but without too much scenery, based on clients’ wishes and weather conditions).

2.Riders who loves mixed cultural experiences and outdoor funs but wish to take a small risks doing things like hiking the upper high way / middle part of Tiger Leaping Gorge, across Jinshajiang River with a ferry boat, ride deep into villages and areas even your guide is not 100% familiar with (sometimes it means a cycling on off roads or single tracks) instead of only biking on the roads connecting A and B.

3.Not having heart and breath problems and can enjoy the ride under altitude of 3100M. (Normally the first 1-2 days will be an easy cycling at Shangrila for clients to adapt the altitude).

4.E-bikes can be provided (or just using them for the hardest parts of the biking) by paying extra fee if you are interested in most of the tour but worrying about the uphill distances and difficulties. And we won’t arrange too much big climbs for the whole itinerary, the tailor made itinerary from us always enable the people who have paid to better enjoy the tour there.

5.People wishing to see as much cultural lives as they can in 2 weeks and enjoy more real cycling through the less-visited countryside and famous places on your bike.

6. Cyclists who is not familiar with the biking through mountainous areas and picky for hotels and food is not recommended for a ride in Yunnan as the northern part of Yunnan province is less commercialized.

Bike to Shaxi of Yunnan, Mountain Bike Cycle on Trails - by Guilin Cycling Tours

There was no reason not doing your best to show the real China to those clients! We spent almost one month together cycling and walking in the countryside and ancient canals, the Li River bank and limestone valleys, the rice terraces villages, the national forest parks, from the downtown streets and alleys of the city to rural farmers’ houses, from the brooks on the foot to the temples on the mountain tops, from museums to natural resort. We overcame the difficulties from pushing our bikes, losing the way in the path of thorns, from the chilly rain and headwind during the long downhill. From the cristal-llike lakes to mountain top rainbows, we shared our stories about career, travelling and our lives, encouraging each other and recorded down our memories with over 2000 photos and 100 videos. There is no doubt that they had become one of Robert’s best foreign friends rather than the people we made money from. This trip was such a successful one for both of us. The only regret from Robert was we were too busy during the past 3 months with groups and groups which made people very tired, and I have pasted my injured head CT image to my window at home, reminding me rest more even when we are busy and never fell asleep again on my bike, otherwise I will need to buy another new helmet and maybe not as lucky as this time!

Robert was over tired and felt asleep on his bike and was sent to local hospitals.

Best Season to Start a Bicycle Tour from Shangrila

April, Early May, October and Early November, Late November to December (only for Lijiang and Dali areas)

Fully supported and tailor-made itinerary for a cycle in China in Yunnan Tour as they did - Shangrila to Dali 

Blog written by Robert Liu, Nov, 2019.