Home Sweet Home …

25 countries, > 23,000km and 17 months & 21 days …
WE ARE finally BACK! *claps,claps*

Still trying to (slowly) accept, adapt and adjust to the surroundings. The ride down Malaysia was liked a warm up ride to reality. Things once familiar became foreign – food, local news, cars, mobile phones, people, L I F E … Getting a RING on the handphone seemed strange and exciting, eating chendol (a kind of indian dessert) from a roadside stall was shiok and refreshing, the heatwave and the sudden showers cleanse us to reality … We are finally coming to the end of our trip.

322 families and friends along the way from Finland to Malaysia, a sincere note of appreciation to you – YOU made it possible for us to come home, to the hands of our families and friends, safe and sound.

Last weekend, it was finally home sweet home. Many heartfelt thanks to the fans & friends who turned up in Perling and Pelangi. Not forgetting those who are following us online, your presence has been a continuing encouragement to us on the road.

A count of the countries we have ridden past … Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgzstan, China (Xinjiang), Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, (China), Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and … Malaysia.

In a week’s time, will be the most important festival for the Chinese worldwide – the Chinese New Year. This New Year is especially heartwarming for us, to be able to celebrate with our love ones at HOME. Taking this occasion, wishing everyone …

Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year!

新年快乐,万事如意,身体健康

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Answers to Road Quiz #3

Selamat Datang! It’s great to be back to Malaysia and its tropical weather *wink* Since we touched our’s country soil 6 days ago, I’ve drank more teh tarik than I ought to! Now we’re in KL, soon to be back home *thumbs up*

Ready or not, here’s the answers to quiz #3 as promised … hmm … unfortunately, not many people gave a try :(

Longest & shortest dist travelled
Ans1- It’s still a few days before the a2e journey officially comes to an end. However, I believe we won’t be making any new benchmarks :)
Shortest distance recorded was in China, along the Pak-China highway (#314). We were leaving from the site of KunLun Quarry only to ride to their next site 3.11km away! Initial plan was only for a tea-break visit, but turned out we stay for the night and in the end stayed for 2 nights!
Longest distance travelled happened just few weeks ago. We started from Sakeao, Thailand at 8am. With a good tail-wind and smooth roads, we eventually decided to go all the way to a friend’s place in Nonthaburi (just north of central Bangkok). It was 204.62km and we reached her place at around 9pm. Exhausted no doubt!

Things seen on the road
Ans2 – Apart from the usual rubbish, I saw a couple of diapers and banana skins. haha ..Good thing I stayed clear from those. You’ll also be amazed what sort of creatures tried crossing the roads these days. There were lots of caterpillars, millipedes, centipedes, butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, crikets, some snakes & lizards, a crab (no kidding!), a buffalo, few chickens, and the top scorers go to, cats and dogs. As you might have guessed, many of them did not make it to the other side. Such terrible death, squashed time after time. Sometimes, I can’t even tell what it used to be…sigh… and that buffalo, don’t know how it died, but the totally bloated beast took up almost half of the road, and the stink. Dearest road users, do have a little more patience … and have mercy.

Things seen in the toilet
Ans3 – Maybe we should have taken pictures of all the toilets visited! What a collection it’ll make! And the toilet being the one place we cannot avoid to go, particularly when it’s urgent and there a hairy spider as big as half you palm! And often, it’s not just one of those crippy crawlers, there was a toad as well!
ps. toilet paper is one of a rare item to have! Usually, there are torn pages of old textbooks, namely mathematics :)

Four weddings and funeral
Ans4 – Looking back in our records, encounters like these truly made the journey unique and memorable. The dancing, eating, singing and drinking, their constumes, expressions, feelings and the ceremony …

Weddings:
1. Farmhouse wedding party at Sangaste, Estonia
2. Turkish Karadeniz (Black Sea) wedding at Vakfikebir
3. Azerbaijan wedding at Laxi village
4. Outdoor village at Uzynsuw, Turkmenistan
5. Wedding at Mary with TurkmenGaz staffs
6. Ram Mandir Hindu wedding at Sonepat, India

Funerals:
1. Turkish funeral at Ordu
2. Thai Buddhist funeral at Bannaderm village
3. Thai funeral at Wat Rayratsutat, Julaporn (on the following day!)

And in one special occasion, we appeared as surprise guests at a birthday party of a pair of twins (boy & girl) at Farad, Turkmenistan! What a happening place :)

Alright friends, hope you’ve fun knowing about the stuffs we’ve experienced. I guess this is the final quiz there’ll be … last note, “Be ready and keen to meet the unknown!”

…. that’s all folk ….

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On the Road Quiz # 3

Hey! Sawadee Kap! Oh and Sawadee Pimai! Happy New Year!! We have reached … Hat Yai! Yah, our last point in Thailand! And guess what, along the long southward stretch, this quiz has been formulated :) Are you ready?!

On the Road Quiz # 3
1) Guess the Longest and Shortest distance covered in a day.

2) What sort of things we saw on the road? Example, plastic bags of rubbish, tree branches & rocks. Well, be logical but creative!

3) What sort of things we saw in the toilet! *wink*

4) Have you seen the Four Weddings and a Funeral? heehee … Make a guess how may weddings and funerals we been to?

Well, that’s all people. This time I promise to release my answers by the time we get to Kuala Lumpur! In a weeks time I hope!! So quick quick try it!! See you all soon!!!

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Road Quiz # 2 …. Answers!

Yo people! Yah yah yah … it’s been a rather long wait. People say it’s not nice to keep debts over the new year, so here it is! I would say, the last On the Road Quiz *wink* Hope you had fun with us for the passed days. Happy NEW Year 2006!!

On the Road Quiz #2: Answers

1. “… attract the most number of touches (more like harressments!)?…”
haha … naughty minds huh … the item I had in mind is the saddle. Can’t bare to see what’s left of it now?! To so many people, its curves and smoothness simply attract the touches, pats and presses.

2. “…what question do you feel we’ll try to avoid…”
“Which country do you like most!” & they really like to ask this … but how can we say?! After all, each truly has its own beauty, its uniqueness and fond memories.

3. “…which country do most of the travellers…”
To date, the highest hits have to go to … Japan! We’ve met 3 daring guys on bicycles (in separate occasions), 1 cheerful girl backpacking with a foldable cycle, and couple more joining the travellers’ path, quite commonly girls. Next probably would be French, Netherlanders, Germans and Austrians.

4. “…what phrase/s will be the most welcome…”
“Yes, you can stay in my house.” or “Can I invite you to stay in my house?” :) … really, no matter where you are, there’s no place like home. It’ll always has more stars than any hotels!

5. “…How much budget has been drained so far?…”
A simple breakdown of major expenditures (till Dec 2005):
Transportation
Land – Train from Helsinki to Roveniami, van into China, bus out of China, bus from Kolkata to Shiliguri, bus from Karkavitta to Kathmandu, sleeper coach from ShangHai to FuJian & GuangZhou to GuangXi, train from Hanoi to HoChiMinh
Sea – Ferry across Baltic Sea & Caspian Sea (and numerous across rivers),
Air – Kathmandu to Shanghai.

Visa issued
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China (x4 where 2 were unused), Pakistan, India, Nepal & Bangladesh.

We saved generally on daily food and substantially on lodging. Of course, no spending on big souvenirs other than postcards & stamps.
A close estimate should be between US$2500 for each of us. Not bad hor? Better to be out travelling than staying at home yah!?

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Amazing Thailand … amazing 21,000km!

Merry Christmas!~
Approaching Bangkok, we reached a landmark 21,000km travelled on our journey! Man and steed reported safe and sound – the man (SK) actually gained some weight due to good food in China, the steed (Ah Lan) had rolled on one of the best roads so far, in China (thumbs up to the Chinese road builders!). But … the long distance and terrain have taken its toll on Ah Lan …

The frame and fork are in good shape and condition, thank goodness they don’t change size liked their owner! (otherwise, it would be disaster!). But the front rack joint to the frame snapped in North India. Luckily, it was immediately replaced and refitted by an extremely helpful Indian muslim at that spot, at that time.
The right front rack which broke in the Karakoram Highway got welded in Pakistan (after >500km), also courtesy of an extremely helpful local. The welded rack is still supporting the pannier now. Really unbelievable locals … language wasn’t a barrier, their actions broke the ice and melted our hearts.
Just before the 21,000km mark, while in Cambodia, the left front rack snapped and the rear rack cracked. Well, let’s see how it goes down the road, south to Malaysia. Hopefully they would continue to hold the panniers.
Both of us are running on Indian tires now. We were lucky to receive 6 pieces of 37×622 tires from Ralson, courtesy of the largest tire and tube manufacturer in India, at no extra ruppees! From Ludhiana until now, Ah Lan has covered >6000km on these tires *claps* But, the roads, and the loads, they are starting to wear out the tires, signs of balding are appearing on them. Unsure of whether due to the tires or the rims, they don’t seem to have a good fit on the rims, resulting in bouncy rides. Nonetheless, kiddos to Ralson!
Ah Lan has the most major overhaul in Shanghai when her hollowtech II integrated crank sets were replaced with new ball bearings. So far, the shifting and braking mechanisms have been living up to their name. Except for a dent on the brake lever body that caused some friction with the lever and the body during braking.
Well, this would be the last update. Home is not far but the road can be uncertain …

A little tale from the road …
Just before crossing the mountains into the Kathmandu valley, we spent our night with a brick factory manager. Our bikes were stored in the brick factory for the night. The manager had a resident little white mouse, very cute, roaming freely around.
Next morning, SK discovered that his dynamo cables and the flight deck cables connecting to the wheel magnet were broken! And the culprit? the cute little white mouse *frown* And the reason? SK mistakenly hung his rubbish bag on the saddle *grin* … well, luckily they were only cables … phew …


The left rack that snapped in Cambodia, just 3 days from Bangkok.


Temporary fixture to the snapped left rack


The rear rack leg that broke. Currently, the bolt in placed is still holding on to the rack.


The replaced and refitted rack joint to the frame. This is a totally new piece of metal cut and bent as per the previous joint.


A tape over the broken cables of the Flight Deck. Luckily the speedometer can still work.


The welded part of the right front rack from Pakistan. Though rusty now, it is still supporting the pannier.


Ah Lan with security, in Bangkok.

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Merry X’mas & Happy New Year 2006!!

Dear friends of a2e,
It has been almost 17 months & around 20 500km recorded, having wasted 12 sets of brake pads, changed 10 pieces of inner tubes and ran on 6 pairs of tires since the journey began.

After crossing the Arctic Circle at Santa Village in Finland that day in the ending of summer, we have ridden to the Baltic countries, down through parts of Eastern Europe in rainy autumn, eventually turning towards Asia along the Black Sea coast. Next, travelling alongside the Caucasus Mountains, across the vast Caspian Sea and then into Central Asia, famed for the Great Silk Route in winter and spring. Navigating southwards onto the Karakoram Highway, leading into the Indian Sub-continents in the hot summer months, only to be deny of entry at the gate of South-East Asia and disrupted our “no aided-transport by will” notation. With no extra time to play, we backtracked to the country widely known for Mount Everest by coach in mid autumn, and then onwards into the land of 1.5 billions, flying over the Himalayas. Starting the journey again by cycle from our forefather’s hometown, we rode through the highly developed cities of the coastal provinces which are still revising its skyline at alarming pace. In order to keep our dateline checked, a2e continued the home-bound route by coach & train into Indo-China. Now wearing our padded tights once more, we will be riding into familiar grounds finally.

In the coming days, we shall be welcoming the Christmas holiday and ushering the new year of 2006. We, the a2e riders, eagerly grab this occasion to thank & wish from the bottom of our hearts, the 450 odds families & people we have came to know and befriend, the countless passersby who we chatted with, the amazing handful of cycling travellers we have so fated to crossed path and for all moments, our dearest supporters & family members back home and abroad, “Merry X’mas and Happy New Year 2006! May our fond memories last longer and looking forward to the day we meet again! Best of health and wealth :) Stay well!

Keep the flame going strong, tough and joyfully & may it brighten your days and those around you. We LOVE you! :)
a2e … let’s hear the beating of our hearts echo the rhythm of the globe. Riding ON!

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FLYING into Shanghai

12.11.2005
We have to give up on the idea of entering Tibet by overland. The Nepalese bus service by Satya could not get the Tibet permit from the Tibetan Tourism Bureau in Lhasa for us to travel. Furthermore, we already have a China (for mainland entry only) visa, applied during our first trip to Nepal in August’05. If we do go overland to Tibet, that 30-days double entry visa would be overwritten by the new one, which will only be 15 days valid. And we run the possibility of not getting an extension visa to mainland China from Lhasa. Tough …
Hit by no choice, we have to seek what we try to avoid since the beginning of our trip – travel by AIR!
Our destination would be Shanghai where we might be able to service our bicycles and a Singapore friend is also waiting there *grin*. However, flying into Shanghai is not as easy as it seems …

07.11.2005
We managed to secure the tickets 2 days before our departure. On the day itself, we rode from Chabahil, just minutes to the Kathmandu Tribuwan airport. We had to strip off all panniers, removed our pedals and wrapped some vital parts of our bicycles for the bicycles check-in. Dunlin was already inside, queueing at the Jet Airways counter. By the time we passed the security check and rushed to the check-in counter, it was left with only 45mins to departure time. Dunlin was still in queue at that time, 2nd in line. However by the time it was our turn, the counter staffs instructed us to move to another counter beside and wait (??). It appeared that they have given up our seats to other passengers due to our late arrival. #$%@!
After counter-checking again, they found 2 more seats available. It was less than 30mins to departure. We decided that Sean & Dunlin should proceed on this flight. It was also during that last minute confirmation that they found out we have 8 panniers, 2 tubes of tires and 2 bicycles, total 12 luggages with 85kg!! *jaw drop* whoa!! Fortunate for us, they decided to waive the overweight luggage charges for the Kathmandu-New Delhi sector but we might have to pay for New Delhi-Shanghai sector with Air India. *phew*
The Airport customer service staff would have to find another airline to fly for SK. SK was not alone, there were also other passengers competing for seats and the staffs were enquiring from other counters – Air India, Cosmic Air, Air Sahara. They requested for available seats, even from crew seats but the respective Flight Commandents refused.
2hrs later, on the last flight out of Kathmandu to New Delhi for that day, the staff found available a seat for SK. *clap* The last flight by Royal Nepal Airline was supposed to fly at 1630h. By the time SK checked in, the last passenger in fact, it was 1730h. 1800h, the RNA aircraft finally departed for New Delhi. People always complained of delays from RNA but this time, we are glad that it was delayed. *grin*
3 of us were reunited in New Delhi Airport by 2000h, finally. Our next flight out of New Delhi, bound for Shanghai by Air India would be the following day at 0845h. A check with the transfer desk and we were advised to check in only after 0500h the next day. And so we slept, spending the night in the transit lounge, on chairs.

08.11.2005
0600h. The transfer desk was empty. We tried asking around from the airline staffs there. They said we have plenty of time, need not worry.
0715h. The same guy from the previous night finally appeared and was serving other passengers on wheel-chair. He did not serve us as it was change of shift time. What bad timing.
0745h. Another guy appeared. This time we finally got their attention. He saw Dunlin’s Singapore passport w/o a China visa and was in doubt about the visa exemption rule for Singaporeans. He found another problem with us – we have 12 luggages and they have already been checked out the night before. More worryingly, they were overweighted! He quickly arranged for the luggages to be brought up from the Arrival hall for the new luggage tags and our inspection. Unfortunately, the machine ran out of stickers for the tags. So he hurriedly ran off to check about the visa exemption case of Dunlin and get new rolls of stickers (from somewhere out there).
0830h. BOARDING!! *flashing* The staff finally returned. There was no time to charge us for the overweight luggages so they changed the total weight of our 12 luggages to 60kg. *grin* Fine with us but we were running out of time!! Run, run … RUN!!!
0845h. Finally in the aircraft. “Come on, you are late already!” the air steward furiously signalled. We were the last passengers, again. But come to think about it, it was not our fault at all! Just our luck …
2030h China time. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have landed on Shanghai Pudong Airport. Local time 2030h and ground temperature 21′C …”
We walked past a billboard along the way to the Luggage claim section. It read, “Welcome to Shanghai …”.
2130h. We waited until the last baggage exited from the conveyor belt but atlas! our 12 luggages were not there!!!!! *faint*
A check with the ground crew confirmed that our luggages did not board the plane. Even the ground crew (China Eastern Airline, rep of Air India in Shanghai) were jaw-dropped when they heard ALL 12 luggages did not arrive. But according to them, such mishap happened frequently with Air India, but not liked our case – 12 ITEMS at one time!

11.11.2005
We finally received all our luggages – 2 bicycles, 8 panniers and 2 tubes of tires. They were bruised, mishandled and scratched but nonetheless, they arrived. *phew*

Haa … thinking back, really unbelievable string of events. Cycling is still much more convenient and rewarding … the torturous bus rides, the unpleasant flights, nothing can really beat the joy of riding on the road even though one might have to compete for space with other road warriors. But the sad thing is always the man-made restrictions on border crossings …
Can’t wait to feel the earth again, Ride On!!

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Kathmandu to Lhasa … our last option!

18hrs of bone shattering bus ride, 1-1/2hrs intense bike ride and another 20hrs of exhaustive bus ride, we finally re-turned to Kathmandu. Our last option to enter China would be via Nepal into Tibet, by bus (again). We rode into Kolkata from Dhaka, and embarked on the u-turn journey by long distance buses from there. As we rocked, bounced, thrusted and bumped by/with the buses, our stressed mind were always on our steeds above us, on the bus’ roof. Luckily, they survived the ordeal … phew …
Well, the good side of this detour? we caught abit of the Durga Puja (or Dashain in Nepali), a major hindu festival in India and in coming days, the Tihar (or Deepavali as we know) would be celebrated in Nepal.
The backtrack journey is history, now comes the uncertainty of travel from Tibet to mainland China, wasted visas, sunk costs and additional ones. Mixed feelings … uncertainties, festive moods. For the time being, let’s just welcome the Festival of Lights! *clap, clap* And for this, we bring to you more entries from our KKH ride … *wink*

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Dhaka … rainy, racing and ricksaw

Hey guys!
We’ve reached Dhaka, Bangladesh. Almost daily, we were drenched coming in to the city, riding in the all day long drizzle. It’s pretty cold at times … well, gloomy days seemed to stick around for a while … we’ve got negative news (some kind of brief news) for our application of land entry in Myanmar. *sigh* Stopped at the doorway into S.E.A. At the moment, we’re still trying to find solution and options which are rather limited … well, let’s hope for the best!! Else, what can we do? …

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On the Road Quiz # 2

Here comes the On the Road Quiz #2

1. Consider how out of the world we & our alien-crafts must have looked to the locals, which item of our crafts do you think attract the most number of touches (more like harressments!)?
a) The Helmet
b) The Handle Bar + Bar Ends
c) Headlight
d) Saddle
e) You have something else in mind?

2. We’re often asked all sorts of questions … as much as we can understand or figure out what they’re trying to put across. However, what question do you feel we’ll try to avoid to give a definite answer?

3. The journey has provided many eye-openers to us, not just from the local people but as well as foreigner travellers we’ve crossed path. With them, we shared tales of encounter, of hardship & of wonderous moment. Before parting to resume each’s journey, we often exchange contacts, in hope to keep in touch & future meetings. Guess which country do most of the travellers we’ve met come from.

4. We started this journey last year with a certain mindset, ideas & objectives. Gradually views, expectations & needs evolved, which outline remain; we’re still on 2 bicycles & homeward headings. In our daily exchanges with local people, what phrase/s will be the most welcome from them?
eg. Amazing! Travelling by bicycle!

5. Almost 365 days on the road, 4 seasons passed, 19 borders crossed, 9 visas collected, 4 transportation rides paid, numerous loaves of bread consumed and countless of net-cafe hours used. How much budget has been drained so far?
Yes, finally the more sensitive question. Dollars & cents are not everything in life, but can’t go without either. A couple of times people have popped the query of “What if all your budgets are exhausted?” … hmmm … frankly, I haven’t give it much thoughts. What’s your opinion?

This quiz may be the last while on the road. Get the hint?! In the meantime, more updates of the journal will be publish. Stay tune & Happy Surfing! :)

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