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Home / Trip Diary / Heilongjiang / Days 7-9 – Smooth Sailing to Harbin
The square surrounding the St. Sophia Church

Days 7-9 – Smooth Sailing to Harbin

July 25th-27th; 371km/276km/0km; Tonghua-Changchun-Harbin

Pretty easy and relatively uneventful couple of days into Harbin where we had a rest day planned to see some sights and clean our clothes (also picking up a maildrop with all of our camping gear!)

Streetfood in Changchun

Streetfood in Changchun

The roads from Tonghua to Changchun were really quite nice and we were able to make some great time. Even though they weren’t expressways, we were still able to average about 100-120km/h particularly since they had lane dividers most of the way which meant that I didn’t have to worry about random vehicles (cars, scooters, trucks, buses, oh my!) serving into my lane. The only tough part of the day was getting into Changchun where none of the hotels we found on our maps app were where they were supposed to be and the roads being dusty and chaotic didn’t help either.

Are You Sure Motorcycles Aren’t Allowed Here?

Truck stop on the expressway

Truck stop on the expressway

Because the roads were so nice the day before, I barely noticed when we accidentally got onto the expressway. What happened was that when we entered our destination into Baidu Maps, I forgot to choose the option to avoid expressways. When you’re on provincial roads, there are usually tollbooths dotted around in various places but they have a space on the right where they let motorcycles go through (since that is typically for local farmers, etc.). So when I got to the entrance to the expressway and the right barrier looked broken and blocked off, I thought it was just the motorcycle entrance.

It wasn’t until about 15 minutes in when I was thinking that this road was REALLY nice that I started seeing signs indicating we were on (or near?) the expressway that I started to realize what happened. Later Amy told me too that she thought she heard someone yelling after us after I had gone around the barrier. Oh well!

The only problem with getting on the expressway is that getting off the attendants will give you trouble. Mostly they just don’t know what to do with you and tell you you’re just not allowed to be on. At one toll as we crossed into Heilongjiang (our 5th province!) they even asked for my driver’s license and registration!

Easy- Just play the dumb foreigner!

Our solution for these situations was simple though- pretend not to speak a word of Chinese. This pretty much worked flawlessly. Though both stations we passed through had a superior called over and it took a few minutes of sign language and shrugging, we eventually just got shrugged through both times with us going on our merry way and the guards being none the wiser.

Holiday in Harbin

We had a lot to catch up on while we were in Harbin, including posts, laundry, organizing our new stuff from the maildrop, as well as a checkup for the bike at the local CFMOTO dealer. We dropped the bike off after arriving in Harbin, which was good because our hotel didn’t have parking anyway, and then started organizing all the “chores” we had.

We were able to leave ourselves an afternoon on Day 9 to go out and look at the various types architecture around the city. Harbin has had a lot of Russian influence through it’s history due to it being an economic hub in the North East of China and its close proximity to Russia towards the north. This meant that there is quite a bit of European style architecture in the city. There was also a period of large Jewish migration to the city, also from Russia, and so some of their influence is also apparent (though unfortunately much has also either been poorly preserved or knocked down).

It was nice to take an afternoon off though and just be normal tourists. We got some nice pictures of the old town pedestrian street and the St. Sophia church.

Change of Plans

Originally we were planning on starting to head West from Harbin, but the Chinese motorcycle traveler we met in Dandong had suggested we head North first towards the Russian border, about 1,000km away. So we looked over the map a bit during our time off and decided we’d give the detour a shot! So tomorrow, we turn North West towards the border town of Manzhouli and see what happens.

About Buck

Buck, originally from New York, first came to China in 2006 traveling with some friends and immediately fell in love with the country, returning frequently including a semester studying at Tsinghua University in 2009. He finally moved to Beijing after graduating from the University of Toronto in 2010. He has a passion for adventure and travel, completing numerous long distance motorcycling and hiking trips around the U.S., Canada, and China including a circumnavigation of the U.S. (13,840km) and a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (3,500km). When he's not wandering (and sometimes when he is), Buck works as a web developer and marketing consultant in Beijing.


  1. Glad you like Harbin not to nice in the winter at -35c how is the CF doing ?? you liked the expressway great roads for big bikes as is said before i do it all the time love watching the faces from the people in the tollbooths when i fly passed but if you do get on by mistake when you come of dont stop and try to explain if,why,hows just go to the far left lane and you will find the gap at the end of the barrier very wide. so just slow down a big smile and pass bye lol. Next time you pop into CF for a check up because your bike dont have a center stand and only a side stand get them to weld a lager base on the side stand as you will find it will help when you park on some soft grounds … great post now the ride gets more interesting cant wait for you to go to the base camp of Mt everest will you be going up the G318 ?? and cutting of on the dirt road to the chinese base camp and what are you going to do about the high altitude. What has CF said about the bike at these altitudes .I think you should be ok as the bike is Fuel injected and has sensors that can compensate for the change automatically, and the ECU gives the injectors the proper fuel mix automatically. Thats one of the best benefits of fuel injection over carbs, but at 5300 meters up . Has CF tested the bike at these altitudes before ??

    well good luck


    • Yeah, so far the bike is holding up quite well particularly considering some of the terrible roads we’ve been going through so far these past two days. We’ll see about the high altitudes but CF seems pretty confident 🙂

  2. Yes, don’t pay much attention to the expressway tollbooth attendants. Get on and off using the very RIGHT hand lane, or any that seem have shorter barrier arm. Whatever method works. I hate that form of discrimination, and as for hotels, if they’re not bike friendly, have a safe place for me to park one of my rides (have 5) or allow me to park in the foyer (provided doing so doesn’t hinder other guests) then the hotel doesn’t get my business, even if that might inconvenience me too – so be it.

    I’d think that any EFI vehicle will likely handle those altitudes mentioned without too much difficulty. There’s a forum member on with a XT1200Z (one of my other bikes) that lives at a fairly high altitude some place in the United States. He reports no issues with the XT1200Z performance.

    The lack of a centre stand on a touring bike, sad R&D right there. I have a race stand which is great when I want to work on my 650TR at home in my garage, but come on CFMoto, a touring bike needs a centre stand. It shows that little was considered in this regard by the R&D team, when they drew concept plans migrating from the 650NK naked bike to the 650TR. They’ve just used the same motor, chassis and running gear and built new plastics and dash around that. The muffler collector/catalytic converter needs a complete redesign to allow for any consideration of a centre stand.

    Bikerdoc (

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