With only a tent, a sleeping bag, a penknife, 30,000 RMB in your backpack, and the desire to see as much of China as possible, how far do you think you could get? This is the task Deng Hao decided to undertake when he set out on his immense 26,000 km motorcycling trip across China.
For four months and 21 days, Deng Hao motorcycled through 19 Chinese provinces on his respectably robust Locin Voge motorcycle. From the bustling city life of Beijing to the rural wastelands of Inner Mongolia and the breath-taking natural beauty of the Yangshuo river, Deng Hao has seen it all and has returned from his adventure with a story to tell.
Legally prohibited in most large Chinese cities, motorcycling has been the subject of controversy in recent years in China, with Qingdao officially banning motorcycles in 2017. The motorcycle ban stemmed from concerns over ever-increasing pollution, and the desire to project a cleaner, more civilised image of China.
However, this did not stop Deng Hao from conquering China by motorcycle. After buying a new Loucin Voge motorcycle, Deng Hao had his heart set on visiting the Potala Palace in Tibet. But, after realising he had enough money to travel further than just Tibet, he decided to extend his trip and see as much of China as he could. “I love the freedom that comes with motorcycles,” says Deng Hao, as he explains that he and his manager, from The Garden Restaurant where he works, have a shared passion for them. This shared passion resulted in Deng Hao’s manager sponsoring the trip and offering Deng Hao financial support. So with only his backpack and motorcycle, complete with a set of 70th Anniversary of The People’s Republic of China plates, Deng Hao set off on his journey. It is hard not to be impressed with his minimalism on the road, proving how surprisingly little is needed for such a monumental trip.
Deng Hao set off from Qingdao, travelled through Beijing and Lanzhou, and then rode to Tibet. “I loved Tibet’s amazing natural beauty,” he says, “particularly along the Sichuan border, which is virtually unexplored by humans”. The refreshing but eerie quietness was quite unlike the bustling city life of Qingdao, Deng Hao’s hometown.
However, the journey was not all plain sailing. “When I was travelling through Inner Mongolia, the weather suddenly turned, and there was a lot of rain - I was freezing.” He tells me a similar story of when he was riding through high Tibetan altitudes, and there was a storm following him. “I never gave up hope,” he says. “Even during the most difficult times, I wanted to finish the trip I set out to. There is no ‘giving up’ in my dictionary.” Deng Hao proves that a great deal of strength and determination is needed for a trip of this magnitude.
The trade-off for the immeasurable freedom and independence that comes with travelling by motorcycle is loneliness on the road. “When I felt lonely on the journey, I turned to music and made companions whenever I could. When riding from Yangzhou to Guangdong, I met a monk motorcyclist who was riding back home to Guangdong. I rode back with him, and he even offered me 200 RMB for my onward journey!”
When asked to reflect on his experiences, Deng Hao says that his adventures have helped him to have a more peaceful mindset. “I have mostly seen a change in my mentality post-trip, as it taught me to broaden my mindset and be more at peace with my emotions”.
Already planning his next adventure, Deng Hao intends to travel to Xinyang, a province he did not manage to visit on his last trip. But he has an even larger plan in the works: “I want to beat the current Guinness world record for the youngest person to travel the world by motorcycle, which is 24 years old”. Deng Hao, who is currently 21, wants to complete it by the time he is 23.
Deng Hao’s more long-term goal is to move out of Qingdao and go to Beijing to sell motorcycles, where the motorcycle culture is rapidly expanding.
So...what are you waiting for?