Back in 2009, before he was building beautiful bicycle frames in London under the name Donhou Bicycles, Tom Donhou spent the better part of a year on a ride across Asia. Departing from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Tom pedaled across steppes and through the Gobi Desert just to reach China. From there, he rode through Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and finally on to Singapore. Here’s what he had to say about his trip:
I'd quit my job back in London and hopped in an old truck with some friends, overlanding it all the way to Mongolia. We travelled foot down, a group of overexcited friends, tear assing out of Europe into Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and finally back toward that big, wide open frontier: Mongolia. I had had my bike tucked away in the back of the truck during this part of the trip, but I started to sober up as we drew closer to Mongolia, knowing the pace would soon change.
Riding out into the Gobi on my first night was terrifying. I went from being cooped up in a stinky van with friends to being totally and completely on my own with a long, unknown road to Singapore in front of me. It took at least two weeks of riding to get my head around the immensity of the trip.
Leaving behind drunken Russians, terrifying wild bulls, and sand storms, I pushed past a pack of dusty dogs for the last time as I approached the Chinese border. The usual border apprehension was in full effect, but man, as soon as I rolled out the other side, wow! Electric scooters, neon, noise, Chinese characters, street food. I didn't know a damn thing, but the place was buzzing!
There was so much to experience, from random acts of kindness, to trying to order my first meal, to figuring out a method to read the road signs, to witnessing in awe the power and destruction left in the wake of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. My eyes were opened to a rapidly industrialising country. It’s so big, so populated, and changing so quickly. It was evident in the climate, the landscape, and the people.
I found something unexpected over the top of every hill and around every corner. People often ask me which was my favorite country when they hear about my nine months on the bike. My response? Always the same: China.