Welcome to Tallinn!
Welcome on the Edelweiss World Tour section to Bangkok!
The medieval city centre with its warm hospitality and hidden alleys is perfect place to relax and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere.
Here we also make the final preparations to our vehicles and to ourselves.
We set out for the far east, first to the Russian border and finally to Bangkok.
71 days and 17.000km lie ahead.
Crossing the former „Iron Curtain”, a lot more relaxed than it once was.
It only takes us until lunch on the first day of our ride and we are already in Russia.
First stop: St. Petersburg! A glittering metropolis with a strong focus towards the West.
Some of the most Impressive sites are the Basilica, Catherine’s Palace and the Eremitage.
Two days’ worth of riding take us into Moscow and give us a sense of the vast scale of the world´s largest country.
A quick stop along the route visit Peter Tchaikovsky and enjoy a chat with him on his garden bench behind his house in Klin.
Every mile covered on our way to Moscow increases our anticipation.
Amongst the many sights in Moscow the Red Square and the Kremlin are two that should be not be missed. And of course, as bikers do, we want to get there by motorbike.
However, this is as far as we can go. At least without risking unwanted attention from the local police force.
Kazan, one of the richest cities in Russia owes its wealth to the huge oil and gas fields found in the surrounding province of Tatarstan.
Two more days on the bike and it’s time to cross the Eurasian border in the southern Ural and make our way towards Jekaterinburg.
Almost at the Kazakh border.
Our first glimpse of the steppes ahead. Flat, vast and full of colour they are a stark contrast to the dense green Russian forests of the last two weeks.
Meat is the main food source around here, most commonly served as a Shashlik.
Cleaning the dust of the Kazakh steppes off our bikes marks the first step in our arrival in the new capital of Kazakhstan: Astana!
Astana is offering fascinating ultra-modern architecture such as the presidential palace and its surroundings ...
... or the Hazret-Sultan-Mosque, which should definitely be seen from the inside.
We carry on right into the heart of Kazakhstan, riding along almost endless straight roads. Along the way we run into camels, a common sight in Central Asia.
We visit the Gulag Museum in Dolinka ...
... and inevitably we run into one of the many mass graves – it is impossible to traverse this region without being confronted by its troubled past.
Should you be unable to last until you reach the hotel then these might be your only option. They are functional, if nothing else…
Riding along Lake Balkhash allows to sample some of the local, very tasty, dried fish. Vast Lake Balkhash – over 18.000 km² - is quite unique. The western part is fresh water, whereas the eastern part it salt water.
Just south of the lake lies Almaty. The former capital of the country is nestled amongst the picturesque foothills of the Tien-Shan-Mountains and is a perfect place for some well-earned R-and-R.
A fantastic dirt track brings us to our last stop in Kazakhstan and a geological highlight of our tour ...
The Charyn Canyon!
Often called the small brother of the Grand Canyon, it bears a striking resemblance.
Adventurous track take us into the border regions with Kyrgyzstan.
Although one of the smaller countries along our tour the vibrant nature and friendly locals make Kyrgyzstan a highlight of our trip.
We ride around the southern edge of Issyk-Kul (Warm Lake) and take full advantage of the many beautiful tracks and picture stops along the world´s second largest mountain lake.
On a high plateau at the foot of the Tien-Shan Mountains.
At stunning rock formations such as the “Seven Bulls"
Or at a fantastic lunch in a traditional yurt.
Drivers in Kirgisztan are firm belivers in “You are never too young to start”.
We say goodbye to the large lake and tackle one of the best stretches of the tour. We ascend to over 3.000m and visit the highest commercially used lake in the world: Song-Kul!
On the way up!
Overnight stay in a yurt camp at the lake shore.
The long way down …
… takes us into the border region with China. Long miles through uninhabited, military zones up towards Torugart Pass.
We cross the pass and the border to China at 3.700m above sea level. An exciting moment!
On the road to Kashgar in Xinjiang Province. Sounds Chinese ...
…but it’s mainly turkeyish, with the main part of the population belonging to the Uighur tribes. Everything around us seems more Arabic than Chinese in Chinas’ largest province: The faces, …
… the architecture, ...
…as well as the cuisine.
It’s all very multicultural, as can be seen on these signs!
The next few days take us through the Hexi Corridor, on a brand-new road along the edge of the Taklamakan – the second largest sand desert on Earth.
It doesn’t matter where we are, we are always the highlight of the
month (if not the year)!
We reach Chinas lowest point. The Turpan basin lies 155m below sea level.
Just around the corner lies the hottest place in China, the aptly named Fire Mountains with up to 70°C!
Small cook shops are an ideal stop for hungry riders in need of a good lunch …
… as well as welcome shelters in case of a sandstorm.
A sortie into the spurs of the Taklamakan takes us to Dunhuang.
We relax and take in the fantastic view of the nearby dunes from our breakfast terrace and revel in the first “really Chinese” landscapes of our journey.
A day off from riding allows us to take care of some much needed maintenance and …
... visit some of the fascinating Chinese cultural sites. The Buddhist cave temples in the Mogao Grottos are over 1.000 years old and incredibly impressive.
The next highlight is just around the corner: Jiayuguan with the westernmost end of the Great Wall and the defensive fortifications at the end of the Hexi Corridor.
The next few days are full of challenges. We start our climb into the Qilian Mountains.
We climb ever higher, ...
... take in stunning vistas ...
... and cross three 4.000m passes in single day!
A typical lunch on the road. You never know what you ordered until you’ve tried it.
Wherever possible we try to avoid traffic – not always possible in a country of 1.4 billion!
And China is always full of surprises! Sometimes you have to fill up your bike with a watering can.
Sometimes it’s blue sheep.
To this day we still do not know why Chinese dye their sheep. Our best guess is wool for blue jeans?
And sometimes it’s a “simple” landslide, that turns a days’ ride into a survival training course.
We avoid the megacites of Xining and Lanzhou and revel in the fantastic roads and landscapes of Chinas’ rural backcountry.
On the road to the old imperial city of Xi’an.
Our route is lined with countless temple sites. Beautifully decorated …
… or hewn into giant cliff sides, such as in Majishan.
Xi’an has far more attractions than we could see in during our two days here. We decide to visit the Bell Tower,…
... dive into the hustle and bustle of the Muslim Quarter, full of culinary delights ...
…and visit the famous Terracotta Army just outside of town.
A sight that must not be missed!
Heading out of town we make a 90° turn heading Southwest. The countryside turns a verdant green, thanks to the higher average rainfall in the area.
Regular rainfall is not only good for rice farming …
…but can also dramatically change the road surface overnight.
The puddles grow bigger …
… and it now becomes glaringly obvious why riding a Harley would be a questionable choice on this tour.
Chengdu is the largest metropolis on our route. The modern and well-equipped motorcycle workshops make this a worthwhile stop!
The Panda Breeding Station here is always worth a visit. This is the closest we will probably ever get to these impressively cute animals.
There are also plenty of opportunities to take in a traditional show ...
…or visit some of the many other sights such as Anshu Bridge.
As we head further south the landscape turns ever more tropical. We are surrounded by mango and banana plantations.
A visit to a Buddhist monastery offers us glimpse into the life of a Buddhist monk.
Lijiang, beautifully located amongst the foothills of the Shangri-La mountains, is a fantastic spot for some R&R.
The view from our hotel takes in the snow-capped peaks of the nearby mountains. We’ve become so used to high altitudes that we hardly notice that we are at an altitude of over 2.600m. The border to Tibet is only 200km as the crow flies.
On our rest day we visit the famous Leaping-Tiger-Gorge, or marvel at the architecture and charm of the local old town.
Should you wish to stock up on protein, here is your chance!
A culinary contrast can be found in the picturesque old town of Dali on Lake Erhai. Hidden amongst the pagodas and shops we find an old acquaintance, even though it’s in Chinese camouflage!
Around here you need to earn your lunch. Have you ever tried to pull a tire off its rim?
Back on the road and seemingly endless twisties through the jungle take us towards the border with Laos.
We skirt Kunming and arrive in Jianshui. The giant park in the beautifully located Confucian Wen Miao-Temple is a great place for a relaxing stroll.
After four weeks in China we reach Mohan and the southernmost border crossing of this vast country. An impressive section of our tour is over, but the memories will last a lifetime!
We all still have some Chinese Yuán in our wallets, but not to worry. Changing them into Laotian Kip is simple and unbureaucratic.
The scenery continues to be impressively beautiful and the roads twisty but Laos, even after only a few kilometres, feels very different to China: Calm and almost tranquil.
An impressive specimen of the local porcine population! Pay attention - our roads are integral part of their natural habitat ...
Beautiful landscapes along the shore of the Nam Ou river towards Luang Prabang.
The best and most relaxing way to visit Luang Prabangs many sights is by bicycle. Alternatively, why not spend the day enjoying the comforts of our resort?
Visiting one of the many SOS Children's Villages around the world is an obligatory part of any World Tour section. Edelweiss is a long-time sponsor of this NGO and the children love to get up close and personal with our bikes!
The scenery in central Laos is even more spectacular and is very worthwhile distraction on our ride.
The ride between Luang Prabang and Vientiane can only be described as mystical. A word we all used at least once on this ride.
Our route offers great opportunities for side trips on small dirt tracks ...
... as well as plenty of new experiences: Ever did a fancy swimming with elephants?
The impressive Mekong River at Laos´ capital Vientiane.
A little bit further south east and it is time to say goodbye to this beautiful and welcoming country as we switch to other side of the road – Thailand drives on the left – and…
…cross the mighty Mekong on the first Thai-Laotian Friendship Bridge. The political significance of this bridge, opened in 1994, becomes apparent once you realise that this only is the second bridge ever to be built over the Mekong.
Thailand is full of surprises. The stunning hinterland really does not match our expectations as formed by travel brochures and TV ads ...
... and exudes a tranquillity far removed from mainstream tourism.
Just a few miles from Bangkok we visit Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Siam Kingdom.
The most important metropolis in all of South East Asia all the way up to the 18th century, Ayutthaya offers a plethora of sights.
It’s also a great place for a lunchtime snack. The huge variety of exotic fruit are are always delicious. Especially the very tasty Jackfruit.
An almost sombre mood envelopes the group as we tackle the last few miles towards Bangkok and the final destination of a fantastic journey.
We reach the outskirts of this gigantic megacity…
… and arrive in style at the last hotel of the tour!
Two and a half months are behind us. Full of new experiences and long lasting memories, we are happy and wistful at the same time as having arrived at the final destination of an extraordinary and impressive motorcycle tour.