Asian cities, I just love them. From Tehran to Tokyo and from Beijing to Bangkok. In their own way, they are all lively, fascinating and full of surprises. Virtually every street corner and every quarter has its own story to tell and its own shops. Also, I love tasting its unique and delicious food on street markets.
My top-5 bicycle rides in Asia
Hotspots in Asian cities are often widespread and the temperatures can rise to uncomfortable levels. Therefore, taking a stroll is not my preferred option to discover the highlights of a new destination. However, I found that half-day bicycle tour is a great way to explore a city, taking you to places which would otherwise hard to be reached. A pleasant breeze will cool you down, at least for a bit.
You can see my top-5 bicycle rides in Asia below. As they all were great, I just listed them alphabetically.
Thailand’s capital is well-known for its many bicycle tours. There is great diversity, catering for each preference and budget. For a few bucks, you can rent a ram-shackled, Chinese bike or – for a bit more – join a “tourist parade” through the busy centre of town, both of which were not very appealing to me. Fortunately, I found a small bike-tour operator, providing a great tour in an unexpected and amazingly laid-back part of Bangkok. On bicycles made from bamboo(!), we explored in a small group a lush green oasis on the other side of the river. To me, this was a very special tour and wonderful experience, really off-the-beaten-track.
When Beijing still was Peking, I carelessly cycled between thousands of Chinese commuters. A few years later, things had changed a bit. Mopeds and cars had taken over. Cycling had become survival of the fittest. However, fortunately, now it seems cyclists have been given way again. Smooth bicycle lanes and awesome routes through the ancient town enhance your cycling experience. Moreover, with a practical app, it is easy to rent a bike and explore the city. Be aware that whilst pedalling past the impressive mirror-covered high-rise buildings, there might be a beautiful historical hutong behind, with narrow alleys and traditional courtyards behind. Although it was convenient to rent a bike by using the app, I clearly missed a well-informed guide to show me where to find the hidden treasures tell nice anecdotes behind them.
Japan and cycling go hand in hand. My best Japanese bicycle experience was an amazing bike tour in Kyoto. I was there early April, during the world-famous cherry blossom period. We cycled from temple to temple in a surreal pink-coloured world. Distance didn’t matter, but the time spent on the bike did. We indulged the tranquillity, breath-taking nature and ancient culture. With so many temples and places of interest, the bicycle is the perfect means of transportation in the city of the geishas.
Taipei is another typical but also very distinct Asia, city. It is a pleasant chaos, a unique combination of old traditions and modern times. Also, it has many secrets to be unveiled. You have magnificent views from the Taipei 101 tower or from Elephant Hill. Because I wanted to learn more about the culture and have insider information, I decided to book a guided bike tour. The guide told me that to know the people, you have to taste the food. He knew exactly where to get the best snacks and street food. It seemed that every street and every neighbourhood had its own specialty food. The combination of sightseeing, cycling and tasting was a fantastic experience. Therefore, if you go to Taiwan and want to do something specials, go cycling!
On my recent visit to Yangon, I was not sure what to do. However, I found out that Bamboo Bicycle Tours also organizes tours in Yangon. Based on my great experience in Bangkok and my bicycle & food tour in Taipei, I decided to book a Bike ‘n Bite Tour with them. What a great choice it was! First, we explored Yangon’s relaxed countryside and really enjoyed the glimpse of Burmese life from our bamboo bikes. Along the way, our tour guide showed us to great sights and ordered some tasty bites. When we returned to Yangon, took us to hand-picked restaurants where we continued tasting the best of Burmese cuisine. Better than this it doesn’t get in Yangon.
So far my top-5 bicycle rides in Asia. As an experienced traveller, I usually know my way around and like to be in control of my own itinerary. Always making sure to leave sufficient room for a change of plans or last-minute decisions. Nevertheless, to me, a bicycle tour really adds value to my local experience. Tour guides are insiders, showing you hidden alleys, tiny restaurants, great views and off-the-beaten-track experiences. They all have fascinating stories to tell and took me to the most amazing places, I would never be able to find myself. Cycling, guides, cities and Asia, I just love it!