Travels with Hyeongnim 2: to Dali with the Little Crickets

I kind of wrote my heart out on that last post – in particular, the Korean took a lot out of me. Despite 3 weeks speaking Korean and feeling nearly fluent, my writing skills leave a lot to be desired. Hope you won’t mind another photo-based post here.

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Hyeongnim is infinitely cooler than me. Less junk, DIY setup, wears his wife’s tights around. His bike and gear weigh about 3/4 of what mine do…but I’m still faster!

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Some of the worst roads yet.


In my high-school glory days, I could manage 25 pullups. Now 10 is a stretch.

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Met these two fellows on our third morning. We suggested they go on without us since we had yet to eat breakfast and were likely to be much slower than them anyway, but they refused. Then waited for us to eat breakfast. Then paid the bill. At lunch, too.

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I had previously passed through China’s Cornbasket (NE) and Ricebasket (SE). Now I’m in the Breadbasket! As I rode along the wheat fields, watching the wind blow the stalks into AMBER WAVES, I found myself belting out “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” I think there’s some meaning in there about how we humans are all brothers and sisters of the same tribe.

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I climbed up to the top of a mountain and waited for Zara to catch up. After an hour of sitting on the side of the road, eating tangerines, and watching absolutely nothing happen in the valley below, I started to get nervous. Had he gotten lost somehow? Not possible, there’s only one road. Had he had a bike problem? Nah, he used to work as a mechanic, he would have fixed it. Was he actually in front of me? Impossible, I had passed him earlier when he stopped to take a picture. WRONG! I found out two days later that he had passed me in town during the 2 minutes I stopped at the side of the road to buy tangerines. Not knowing te’ll be OK. his, I returned to town, asking people frantically if they had seen him. Nope. Nuna told me to take care of him, but I already lost him on Day 3! Oh well, he made it here from Spain, he’ll be OK.

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Next morning: hello Little Crickets! (Their name, not mine) The three on the left had met the two on the right just a day or two before, and they had stayed in the same town as me the previos night. We met in the morning and decided to join up. Why not? The ride from Kunmning – Lhasa appears to be quite popular with young Chinese dudes. Kind of like a road trip in the US?

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Hanging out with these young Chinese dudes helped me to acquire some nice new vocab words, such as:

Pigutu = assbarf = diarrhea

lu = jerking off

la = spicy = hot, in reference to a girl

meizi = pretty child = beauty, in reference to a girl

chi dou fu = eat tofu = small inappropriate graze/groping, in reference to a girl

pa pa pa = …what a young fellow hopes to do if he can find a meizi

gao fu shrai = portmanteau of the words for tall, rich, and handrome = a dude who is tall, rich, and handsome.

diao si = loser

bei fu mei = portmanteau of the words for white, rich, and pretty.

Niu bi = cow pussy = super cool dude. (Actually, I already knew this one.)

What great teachers. Don’t ask what I taught them.

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Finally, we’ve almost arrived. Where to???

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Dali! I’ve been hearing about this place for months now. A girl from Hong Kong I met in Saigon mentioned it. The Eurohippies I met in Hanoi mentioned it. My friend Chris (who’s going to become my new cycle buddy in September!) also mentioned it. Apparently it’s the coolest backpaker destination in Yunnan. Maybe in China.

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Oh…and the Chinese tourists like it too.


I feel kind of guilty for not giving you a tour of Dali. It really was beautiful. Pedestrian streets, old houses, nice white/pale blue/gray color schemes. Cute almost-hippie Chinese girls walking around in baggy pants and indigineous-patterned shalws. But still, it was 99% tourist shops. Minorities selling clothes, trinkets, accessories, pelts, jewels, anything and everything. What attraction does this place hold for someone with little to no interest in possessions, decorations, souvenirs, conspicuous consumption, things that are unnecessary, etc? If only I could turn off my ideology for a minute, maybe I’d be able appreciate the place aesthetically. Instead, I felt, in the words of DFW, “like an insect on a dead thing.”

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People dancing in front of the South Gate: +1 point. Neon lights on the South Gate to the Ancient City of Dali: -1 point.

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One of the new Crickets we picked up on the road: Ahu the B-boy.

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Signing the Little Crickets’ Flag. If I recall, it said something like “Youth is a terrible thing to waste.”

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Hey, I’ve got a flag too!!! Actually, the LCs were pretty receptive to my “Huanbao” (environmental protection) message. At one restaurant, the waitress placed one of these in front of each of us:

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Without saying anything to the LCs, I got up, took my stuff to the kitchen, apologized and asked the boss if I could just use a bowl and glass out of the cabinet rather than the ones they had given me. As always, the boss said no problem. I came back to our table with my trash-free dishes, and to my surprise, without any effort on my part, all of the LCs asked the waitress if they could do the same! And at the next meal, they did it for me! I think they even got a kick of being able to tell the boss: “Our foreign friend here is an environmentalist and he doesn’t want the trash.” I’ll take it! Seven people thinking a little more about not harming the environment in totally pointless ways, with zero extra effort on my part. Indeed, zen is the path.

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The LCs wanted to stay in Dali and party for a few days, whereas Zara (oh yeah, he and I found each other in Dali after 2 days apart) and I were ready to head off after just one days rest. The above was a goodbye message from one of the LCs. To translate the translation: “if my friends look at your website and see pictures of me traveling with you, I’ll feel like a Cow Pussy by association.” What a sweetheart!

Hey, if you diao si are reading: yi lu shun feng! Happy travels!

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4 Responses to Travels with Hyeongnim 2: to Dali with the Little Crickets

  1. Jeff says:

    Great post. Love the language swapping.

  2. shiningka says:

    Hi mike:I’m the boy ride to Dali with you .
    we had got lasa and in home now.But now,I miss those days on the bike so much,we all envy your long trip.
    Good luck to you!

    • Michael Roy says:

      Heyyyy which one are you? In any case, I’m glad to hear you all made it home safely. Nimen zhende lihai! Niubi! Kickass! Keep cycling, even in the city and even in the winter.

      Hope to see you again on the road someday. Until then, pigutu xiaoxin…

  3. shiningka says:

    When you leave Dali in the morning,I help you carry bags downstairs,and take a photo on you.
    On the other hand,the others’english much more bad than mine^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    You understand my poor English,right?
    At last,I hope you go to Tibet when you have a chance,the landscape and those people worship to Lhasa can shock every eye!

    PS: diaosi not means loser
    diaosi people those family do not own power/great career´╝îin reference to human that grow up in mediocre family