I was revising for my Chinese driver’s license in September 2016. Also, at this time, I was casting around to see if I could rent a motorcycle somewhere in China. My spotlight was on Yunnan province, which is down in the South East and famed for its beauty. Deservedly so, because in the North it has the foothills leading to the Tibetan Plateau. In the south, it is subtropical as it meets Laos. Yunnan is also home to many ethnic minorities in China, such as the local Naxi, a sizeable portion of Tibetans and others, such as the Dai people.
Is there anywhere to rent a motorcycle in China?
I really only found two places that rent motorcycles in Yunnan province. One was a Chinese operation who had mini off-road tours from Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province. I liked their outfit because they seemed to have 250cc dirt bikes and manageable tours.
Whenever I contacted them, however, they would send me a simple email back. It just stated the price of the tour and that they’d be happy to take my money on the dates I wanted. Hmmm.
The other company was tibetmoto.de. Their site mentioned that they have short and long tours as well as rentals available. The owner of the company, Hendrik actually rang me to discuss my plans and needs. I thought that represented real customer care and attention.
Only six months later I found a closer rental place. It was fifty meters from my workplace in Shanghai. But that’s another thing. Odd.
To Dali, Yunnan…
I flew down to Kunming and took a bus to Dali. This used to be an old hippie hang out some years ago. In fact, when I was in Yunnan, ten years ago a guy told me that dope grows wild outside the city walls and that local farmers feed it to their pigs. Now it’s a fully developed stop on the Chinese tourist route. Complete with those shops selling ocarinas and drums with young female students sitting playing the same song, the guys making taffy by stretching it. Also, a middling swarm of Chinese tourists.
Arriving in Dali.
Actually, though, a few things struck me about Dali. It’s in a beautiful location with mountains on one side. These rise up to the West of town and Dali is situated on the shores of a huge lake.
Also, I met a Peruvian guy who said he’d been going there for years. He was selling handmade jewelry from stones he’d collected on his travels from India, SriLanka and other far-flung places. He said that in Dali, there are many travelers who have small businesses like this. I’ve found this to be true. A friend of mine who interviews nomadic and freelance Chinese workers frequently comes to Dali to talk to people.
After looking through his wares on the small trestle table he had set up on the street, I said goodbye and he said as we left his stall, with a wry smile “When you are tired of the big smoke, Dali will be here waiting for you”.
Another feature of Dali which is awesome for someone with a new motorcycle obsession is the number of bikes… everywhere. Shanghai is a desert where motorcycles are concerned so this was great to see. In Dali, there are many custom made bikes parked around the small streets outside the little restaurants and artsy coffee shops.