Archiv für Mai 2011

An orphanage in Vinh

The night under a mosquito net at the Thanh Hoa bus station was one of the shortest and strangest of this year. At 4am, we awoke and prepared our bikes for transport on top of the first of 3 bus rides.

Finally at 7am, tyle’s accordeon performance was interrupted by the honking of an old 12-meter city bus crammed with boxes of fruits and sporting only a handful of seats in the front — „Vinh?!“ the driver shouted.

Yes, we‘re escaping Vietnam by bus via Vinh, where a friend with a childrens‘ charity in Hanoi organised for us a visit to a bording school for orphans and handicapped kids. We cycled into the yellow-painted campus and the entire school welcomed us without hesitation. Even the deaf kids seemed to enjoy clapping to our musical performance.

After the show, all 200 kids gathered in a large room and we played games with passing an imaginary ball. Then some kids showed us that they, too, can stand on their hands, and they quickly created a hand-walking contest with us. We walked longer, but they walked faster! Many kids tried acrobatic pyramids, seemingly for the first time, although some kids showed us how they can do back flips from a position standing on the back of another kid.

In the evening, we returned to juggle with the kids and showed them maps of our bicyle journey this past year from Germany through Europe and Asia. With body language, which we often use in regions where we don‘t speak the language, communicating with kids who use sign language was no problem. In fact, we found it easier to speak with deaf kids than with hearing Vietnamese, who often just shout and don‘t look at our expressions when we are talking.

Watch a „dan moi“ mouth harp performance with one of the deaf kids:

We must express grave disappointment, however, with the housing situation. Being sent to a guest house saddened us once again, not only because the police have been harrassing us at our campsites each night for the past week and not allowing us to simply stay in a person’s house, but also because the school paid for the guest house.
Wouldn‘t this money be better used if given to the kids in some form?
The school has no juggling balls, and from what we could discern, no musical instruments. Surely, overcoming a few hurdles to allow us to stay at a person’s house, or at the school, would set a better example for the kids and be more fun for us. The kids even insisted on us sleeping in their dormitories on our mats, and they also showed us where we could put our tent in the grass.

We would like to know why the government insists on forcing us traveling musicians to stay in and pay for hotels just like ordinary tourists. Frankly, it is an insult. We have some savings for emergency transportation and countries‘ entry visas, but otherwise we live with no health insurance, and we earn from street performances only enough money for food. Appearantly, all foriegn, non-profit organisations working in Vietnam suffer constant observation and restrictions placed by the government.

We left Vietnam one week earlier than we had planned, for precisely these reasons. The nightly search for a campsite away from the eyes of the police has become too much of a sleepless burden to bear. We are happy that we were at least able to stay three times, in the northern mountain region, with people who did not notify the police. We hope Laos is more accepting of our philanthropist, non-consumerist lifestyle.

Jumping out of our bus, we suddenly discovered that we could have loaded our 3 bikes and all stuff on another bike instead of a crazy non-stop honking bus. Damned!! We felt a bit humiliated to see this one-gear bicycle carring a bunch of crap and 2 persons in the front.


we took the slow bus over the mountains and woke up in Vientiane, Laos . . .

Lao mobile: +856 (0)20-97808014

A whole lotta mountains

March 20 – Wuhan, China

Just before singing „we‘ll meet again…“ with our friends at the TSE
Youth Autonomous Center, who helped us do so many projects in Wuhan,
we shook up the sleepy neighborhood with a concert on three levels,
still with Yama and CJ.

Two tallbikes and a longjohn cargo bike had been built (as usual with
university trash).

Yama stayed in Wuhan to await his family fleeing the nuclear fallout in Japan.
Seigea (CJ) came with us to Kunming but soon returned to Inner
Mongolia, where he had been teaching for 2 years.

Then we stuffed our stuff in a train to Kunming, and Ballaque lost her
passport in transit — she went the other direction: to Chengdu. So
long, see you in Vietnam!

Read about Ballaque’s
Big Adventure

April 1 — Kunming to Hekou in Yunnan, China

Through couchsurfing, we found Crystal, who volunteered to commandere
a tallbike for two weeks — braving the hills of Yunnan and
hitch-hiking on a dumptruck in order to fulfill the master plan of
someday reuniting with Ballaque.

After dismembering and locking Ballaque’s bike at the railway station
in Jianshui, we threw the key in the sanitation system and drew her a

Then Bruno and tyle met Elefant in Mengzi on a Sahara motorbike and
returned to Kunming by bus to buy a cello. They finally got the cello
in the same shop from which they ordered a hardcase to be sent to
Mengzi two weeks before. Are you following us . . . ?

At least there was a nice ride in between time. Bruno and tyle were on
their own with more than their normal weight . . .

But after sweating for days on precarious dirt roads, we had a lot of
fun on the 30+ kilometer downhills and being invited by Chinese
babushkas on several cliff-side road-stops.

Our campsites were sometimes a bit . . . rock‘n'roll:

April 20 — Lao Cai to Muong Khen, Viet Nam

At the border, we enjoyed meeting Thomas, a teacher from France, who
had cycled through Nepal to Vietnam. His speed was double that of
ours, even uphill, so we lost each other on the 20 kilometers of 10%
grades up to the 1,500-meter high village Sa Pa . . . we hitch-hiked
but never caught up with him again.

Sa Pa is an unbearably touristic town, so it suited us to camp in a
shepherd’s hut on the side of a football field, which had been turned
over to the goats and oxen. Finally, we headed up and over another
pass with more 10% inclines.

The people on the city streets of Vietnam are amazingly over-excited
about our bikes, touching them and us, trying to climb up on the
tallbikes when we‘re not looking. This monkey style is of a different
tribe than that of the moNkey bAnd, which is having difficulty
adjusting to the humidity, altitude and 5am-7pm direct sun.

The people in the villages, however, are very welcoming. We cook over
wood fireplaces and share food and music together.

The contrast is striking between the old wooden houses built on stilts
and the modern, often pink (a symbol of humility) concret highrises.

Because of the all of the difficulties with our bikes (read The
), we hitch-hiked a lot through the mountains, and took
buses, in doing so, even spotted a tallbike ontop of a bus in Son La
and hopped on board with Ballaque! The 50-ton overloaded truck was the

Our Viet Nam visas end May 21, which puts us in Laos until June 22.
See you in Vientiane!

Until then, stay away from the Monsanto corn…