TOP 5 BIKE TRIPS BY LESA CLARKSON
When I travel to Asia, I always incorporate bike rides into my touring. Riding through back alleys or country roads allows me to be a part of my environment rather than just a bystander from the window of a car. While touring on a bike, I always discover hidden treasures and extra smiles from those I pass. All of my senses are engaged and I feel fully immersed in my surroundings. I can take in the details that may otherwise be overlooked!
Kyoto is one of the best cities in Asia for touring on the seat of a bike. I love riding along its side streets, from noodle shops to teahouses. Its old quarters reveal thriving cottage industries producing all manner of traditional goods. A maiko (apprentice geisha) may even be spotted. The city has many wonderful bike routes, joining several of its 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Seeing the Siem Reap countryside and Angkor monuments by bicycle is always a fun and unique exploration. One of my favorite rides is a late afternoon/sunset ride, passing the King’s residence and going through the Royal Gardens and along Siem Reap River, viewing the local homes and small riverside markets. After crossing the river, the path winds along red clay roads and small dirt trails, through a series of local villages, crossing small farms and passing children playing. Life appears as if it has not changed for generations. As the temples close to visitors, a ride along roads and trails in the archeological park reveals the magical light reflecting off the temples at twilight, that many visitors don’t get to experience.
Exploring some of Cambodia’s Mekong Islands outside of Phnom Penh is another one of my favorite rides. Only 5 km from the heart of Cambodia’s capital city, is an island oasis where one can ride at a gentle pace and discover true rural Cambodia. These islands, created by the flows of the Mekong River, are isolated by the lack of bridges, but ferry connections provide access for villagers who use the fertile soil to grow fruit and vegetables and, in between farming cycles, they weave beautiful silk and cotton textiles. The absence of most four wheeled traffic makes for a peaceful ride where the hustle of the city is left behind. The riding is flat and is perfect for active families.
Tasting the local food and delicacies of an area is as much a part of the culture as the city’s sites. One of my favorite food tours is a unique exploration of Hoi An by bicycle, where one rides from family home to family home. Beginning at Tan An Central Market, with its huge array of street foods, we see where the locals purchase the essential ingredients for their daily meals. We then ride bicycles to the first family home while they’re making the famous White Rose dumpling. We’ll see how this famous dish, which is being sold in every restaurant and food stall in Hoi An, is made. We’ll then continue riding to another family home where they make Mi Quang noodles and learn the process of making this well-known noodle dish, originating from the central region. Our last stop is at a local family home in the peaceful and beautiful countryside where we will enjoy a cool drink before helping to prepare lunch and then partaking in our creations.
There is no place more scenic than the landscape around Yangshuo, with its nearly vertical karst formations soaring from verdant rice paddies and the Yangzi River meandering through misty hills. Riding through this landscape is surreal and serene. Needless to say, it is one of my favorite rides in China.