Finding Shangri La

Finding Shangri La

Arjun Jois cycled his way through Thailand, Laos, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia

He did it in 6 months, largely using the wing-and-prayer technique where instinct triumphs over route maps. He did it on $6,000 — that includes airline tickets, visas, bicycles, food, stay and an extra pair of shoes. Arjun isn't your standard-issue adventurer. But he shares pearls of wisdom: “You can’t quit when you are tired or injured. You have to go on until you reach your destination. At the end of the day, the road would—if it could—kill you. You certainly won’t hear applause: that’s the difference between sport and adventure.”
Arjun was almost killed in China — not by the road, but by the lack of it. After a weary day of cycling, he discovered a vast stretch of swampy land. He had to trudge across it pushing his bicycle and his baggage, sometimes carrying all of it on his shoulder, with not a soul around to offer directions: “I had tears in my eyes that day, but when I found a road, the signboard said: Shangri La 159 km!”

Arjun learnt to walk into restaurant kitchens in Laos and point at ingredients to cook his own meals. In Singapore, a helpful German asked how long he planned to be on the road and Arjun replied, “As long as the money permits.” The German gave him 10 dollars. In Vietnam, his bicycle was stolen and he had to get back to Singapore to buy a new Gary Fisher. “In Vietnam, one more person is cycling because of me,” he quips.
Cycling as a way of long-distance travel takes an open mind, determination and resourcefulness. Think about those words. Aren’t they the very words we use to define the human spirit?

Arjun recently came into a small inheritance. He says he wants to do New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Cooks Island on a bicycle. It isn’t about doing endless kilometres but about discovering fresh acreage and creating a knowledge duet between emotions and the environment; burning people, cultures and geographies into the mind; and discovering the self instead of far away lands.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily