I was curious. I love startup stories and the inspiration behind it. I know Art of Bicycle Trips has been in existence since 2011 organising many cycling tours in Asia. So, it was but natural to probe Pankaj a bit and satiate my curious soul on how Art of Bicycle Trips actually began. What followed was a Q&A with Pankaj Mangal and rediscovering old images. Here is the excerpt.

 

Q. What was your aha moment that led to the beginning of ABT? And what followed next?

Around 10 years back, I went on a bicycle ride with a couple of friends from Bangalore to Kaveri Fishing Camp. I was more into motor biking but one of my friends who came from Sweden insisted we do a cycling trip. We zeroed down on Kaveri Fishing Camp and along the way we sat down under the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. I felt cycling was the only way to see the world. It slows you down and allows you to see the world at the right pace. You could stop and appreciate the surroundings, converse with the locals and take a detour. More than that it also brings alive your five senses. So, while sitting under the statue I realised there is something in this and that was my aha moment.

After the trip I came back to Bangalore and was still thinking about it. I researched cycling and how it could be combined with travelling. As a part of my research, I came across the concept “cycling holidays” which is well-known in European market. I went on researching for a while and finally when I felt ready, I decided to launch a cycling holiday in India.

Bicycle Trips in Asia

Q. What were the biggest challenges you faced on the ground? 

It was not easy to make people believe it was possible in India. Cycling was thought of as a utility in India and not something out of choice. Why ride a cycle when you can drive a car? Secondly people thought the whole of India is as chaotic as the cities and hence it is not safe to go on a cycling tour. However, we all know it’s quite safe to ride around the countryside. It is actually safer to ride a cycle than a motorbike in cities. So perhaps the biggest challenges have been those around mindsets.

Q. Was it easy to leave your well-defined career and become an entrepreneur?

I was not the sort of a guy who would confine from a nine to five pm job. Travelling was always my hobby. And I got into cycling . So it was easy to visualise this is the life I wanted to live for myself. Once I knew how clear my mind was to put myself into this unknown journey, it was quite a straightforward decision to leave the job and start this.

Cycling Tours in Asia

Q. Has the growth been organic? Though you operate in many countries you did n’t scale up through funding?

I completed my business studies and was paying my education loan, so I did n’t have any disposable income in my bank. Post my aha moment and research, I knew this was what I wanted to do. One fine day I just went and bought seven bikes through my credit card. After that things moved pretty well with cycling tours, and we grew the company organically. Apart from me buying the initial set of bikes, everything came through the business itself.

Initial number of years we were confined to India. We had by now built a strong customer base and through them we could now launch in other countries. The first country was Sri Lanka and then it followed with South East Asia. Our current cycling tours in Asia can be viewed here.

Q One of the biggest strengths of ABT I have seen is its community. It is rare to see such a strong base of folks who like organisation. Please tell us a bit more about it?

A strong community can only be built with time. I am a firm believer in that. It also teaches you a lot of things. You might have  competition coming your way, and they may do a lot of things. But fundamentally If you always have a good product it always sells by itself. Once that happens you will always get loyal customers no matter how big the competition is. They will always stay with you.

Cycling Tours in Asia

Q. Do you still remember your first customer? What was it like?

Yes, Indeed I do remember. The first customer we got was from a bike festival we organised in Bangalore. They were two friends. One of them was from Canada and the other person ’s name was Fenny. They took the Victorian Bangalore Safari. It was a three hour tour built around the heritage of the city.

What are the ingredients of a great cycling tour?

Excellent bikes, rolling terrain, during cycling breaks – tea or coffee with cake, No hurry to reach a destination. Cycling tours in Asia is also about meeting people along the way and get into casual conversations during tea breaks and learn more about their life.

Art of Bicycle Trips conducts Cycling tours in Asia. 

Vietnam ‘s landscape is sublime: The Red River Delta is in the north, the Mekong Delta is placed in the south, and there are brilliant green rice paddies in between the two. Long, sandy beaches grace the coastline, while inland there are these soaring mountains and lust forests. It is a country of traditional charm and rare beauty. There are whole lot of options to explore during a cycling tour in Vietnam. The people are friendly, hardworking and love their food. And in the last couple of decades Vietnam has opened up to the outside world making it an ideal destination for a bike holiday. Our definitive guide on cycling in Vietnam will offer you a snapshot on how to plan your cycling holidays and what to  expect in Vietnam.

For simplicity we have divided this cycling guide  into four sections

Cycling Tour in Vietnam 

SECTION I( KNOWING VIETNAM)

 

The Essential Bucket List( not to be missed)

Grabbing a bicycle and taking the ride of your life through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

Taking a boat and floating along the Mekong.

Selecting an outfit from the latest fashion catalogues and having it tailor made in the delightful city of Hoi An.

Visit the 36 streets of the old quarter in Hanoi.

What you may find

Conical hats: Traffic: Silk Shops; Rice paddies: Buffalos: Landscapes:  Lot of two wheelers.

 Through the notes 

Some references that will help understand Vietnam better

  1. a)    Read- Writings by Vietnamese writer Bao Ninh.
  2. b)    Listen- to US based Khanh Ly, a contemporary pop music icon
  3. c)     Eat – the staple pho( noodle soup) or Ga Tan( stewed chicken with medicinal herbs,dates and grilled baguettes)
  4. d)   Watch – The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene ‘s 1954 novel and starring Michael Caine.
  5. e)   Drink- the cheap and widely available bia hoi( draught beer) , Ca phe( coffee) served with condensed milk.

No. of UNESCO World Heritage Sites sites in Vietnam: 8

Currency: Vietnamese Dong(VND)

1 USD is approx 23,000 VND

Both VND and USD can be used within the country. It is best to keep an option of both.

Time Zone: Time zone in Vietnam is GMT+7

ReligionVietnam is officially an atheist state. As per polls a majority of the population don’t believe in a God.  The others however practise Buddhism or are Christians.

Language: Vietnamese is the official language. A few helpful key words and phrases that may be helpful during your trip to Vietnam

English Vietnamese Pronunciation
hello xin chào sin chow
goodbye Tạm biệt tam bee it
how are you ? bạn khỏe không ban co kew khome
I want to go to tôi muốn đi đến toy mua dean
where is ở đâu ..uah dau?
left trái tchai
right đúng dung
go straight đi thẳng di tan
thank you cảm ơn bạn gahm un
excuse me xin lỗi seen loy

Cycling Tour in Vietnam

 

SECTION II (PLANNING YOUR BIKE TRIP)

 

Best Time to Visit 

From a cycling point of view, we can divide the country into four main sub-regions: Northern Mountains, North, Central & South Vietnam with distinct weather conditions. The Central and South Vietnam features Tropical climate.

Northern Mountains – Sapa, Ha Giang: best months for cycling in Northwest mountains are between Late August & Early December, and from Late February to May. It can get a bit cold in December & January with light showers.

North Vietnam – Hanoi & Halong Bay: has a distinct winter and summer season. The cool but mostly dry winter runs from November to April. May to October is a bit hot and humid and the region experiences its highest rainfall with July to September being the wettest. Oct to May is a good season to go here with coldest months being Dec-Jan.

Central Vietnam –  Hue to Nha Trang: features Tropical monsoon climate and is at its wettest from September to December. Traditionally this period sees monsoon rains and occasional typhoons which can cause flooding in the area. Whilst this is rarely of such a level as to seriously affect an itinerary, we do advise people travelling during this period that there may be last minute changes to itineraries to accommodate for the weather conditions. Good season runs from January to September for warm water beaches, with an average temperature of around 30°C.

South Vietnam –  Saigon & Mekong Delta: features Tropical climate and is an almost year-round cycling destination. April and May are touted as the hottest months. During the remaining time of year, the temperature hovers around 30°C and the days are sunny & a bit humid. Though it may be a bit warm, South Vietnam is still a good destination for biking as the countryside is amazingly green with many water bodies. From May to early November, it rains moderately for a short period and then settles down which makes the condition much cooler and perfect for biking. November to February is the best time of year for biking – warm days with light breeze and clear skies.

 

TERRAIN AND CONDITIONING TIPS

To ride safely along the narrow and sometimes trafficked roads, it is important to ride single file and to develop good balance on your bike. Balance can only be developed by riding on the road. We recognize that not everyone lives in an area conducive to outdoor riding, but please keep in mind that while running, riding a stationary bike, spinning and other aerobic exercise will help improve your strength, endurance and cardiovascular health, these activities will not help with balance.

 

What to pack for cycling tour

Some not to be missed essentials which can be carried

 

Clothing: Cycling Shoes, Rain Jacket, Dry bag, Sunglasses,

Personal: Toiletries, Chargers, Emergency Cash, Medication,

Gear: You are welcome to bring your own gear, such as pedals, seat, helmet, toe clips and cyclometer, to use with a bicycle. However, please inform us in advance if you choose to bring any of your own things.

Note: Although we provide helmets, we encourage you to bring your cycling water bottles, bike gloves, and helmets as they are more of personal items. Also, your own saddle is good to bring along as we change bikes while moving from one country to another.

Miscellaneous: Small towel, Waterproof cover, Plastic Bags, Hydration Kit, Journal, Notebook, Camera

Cycling Tour in Vietnam

SECTION III (FAQs pertaining to bike tours in Vietnam)

Our most common asked queries regarding cycling tours in Vietnam.

Will traffic be an issue for cycling in Vietnam?

It is a right hand drive in Vietnam. Whoever has the largest vehicle usually dictates the road. Congestion is common around major attractions and shopping malls in cities, particularly Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. 

It’s not really going to rain, is it?

As much as we don’t like to think about it, rain is possible no matter where you travel. Your best bet for staying comfortable during a shower is to wear quality rain gear that is both waterproof and breathable. A jacket and pants made of Gore-Tex will keep you dry even in the fiercest downpour.

What kind of bikes and equipment are provided for me on my trip?

A well-maintained hybrid/mountain bike and helmet is included. You can feel free to bring your own saddle, cleats/pedals and helmet. Our guides will be happy to fit them on your bike for you.

How much on an average will I be cycling during a day?

The average distance is directly proportional to the terrain that we will be riding. In most trips, on average, we bike about 50-60km a day. Please have a look at your trip details to know the average biking distance specific to the trip that you’re doing.

What about medical emergencies?

Our support vehicle always follows you throughout the tour and comes handy for transfer to any nearby hospital during an accident. Our emergency protocol is to provide you basic first aid and then transfer as soon as possible to nearby hospital for further action. Our guide will also notify our central team and we connect with your insurance provider as well.

Do I need a Visa to travel to Vietnam?

According to updated Vietnam Immigration Law (effective from 01 Jan 2015) to use the visa exemption right, the time distance between two continuous entries must be at least 30 days so as to enjoy visa free for both two entries. If the time distance is less than 30 days, they must apply for a visa for the second entry.

  1. Citizens of the United Kingdom, France, German, Spain, Italy and Belarus are allowed to stay in Vietnam within 15 days without visa. It is effective from 01 Jul 2015.
  2. Citizens of Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia and Finland are allowed to stay within 15 days without visa.
  3. Citizens of Brunei and Myanmar are allowed to stay in Vietnam within 14 days without visa.
  4. Citizens of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos are allowed to stay in Vietnam within 30 days without visa.
  5. Citizens of the Philippines are allowed to stay in Vietnam within 21 days without visa.

It is recommended to always check the latest regulations before your travel at Vietnam’s Government Website.

Is your query not mentioned here. Drop us a note at contact@artofbicycletrips.com and we shall help you in planning your cycling tour in Vietnam.

Cycling Tour in Vietnam

Do I need any insurance?

It is a mandatory requirement to purchase adequate travel insurance in order to participate in our tours, and to protect yourself from unforeseen events.

Since Art of Bicycle Trips adheres strictly to our cancellation policy, we recommend to note below:

  • Art of Bicycle Trips highly recommends purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself from unforeseen events. There are inherent risks involved in cycling and mountain biking and we will not be liable for your medical expenses or evacuation in case of an accident. We recommend using World Nomads for travel insurance and claim. Travel insurance is non-refundable but is strongly advised to protect you in the unfortunate event that you have to cancel or leave your trip.
  • Please note that we do not sell insurance and does not assist in any buying and claim process. World Nomads is only a recommendation and Art of Bicycle Trips can not be held responsible for any dispute with them. All dispute shall be dealt directly with your travel insurance provider and under no circumstances Art of Bicycle Trips is liable for that.
  • We recommend that you purchase adequate travel insurance which also covers trip cancellation. Cancellation insurance will pay out if your trip is cancelled or cut short due to any of the reasons specified in your policy. It’s one of the key elements of your travel insurance, and can be a lifesaver if the worst happens and you have to cancel your trip.

Can you store my luggage for me?

Please limit your luggage to one soft-sided medium-sized suitcase and one carry-on bag. Mark your luggage with your name, address and phone number. 

A Van follows the group of riders throughout the trip and carries all belongings. If at any point riding seems a little hard, the van takes you for as long or as little as you wish it to. It also provides you refreshments along the way and sometimes a chilled beer.

Please Note Art of Bicycle Trips recommends that you not bring valuable personal electronics including, but not limited to, IPAD, laptop computers and expensive cameras. While we will transport them from place to place during the trip as a convenience, we do not assume responsibility for any damage, loss or loss of function to the devices. This policy also applies to other items such as expensive jewelry, fur coats and fragile and delicate accessories, whether purchased on the trip or otherwise.

Is tipping compulsory in Vietnam?

Tipping is not necessary, but  is always appreciated.

What types of pre and post tour services are provided for cycling tour in Vietnam?

Your ABT Travel Coordinator will be happy to help you with recommendations on all pre and post travel arrangements, such as hotels, flight and rail tickets. We can extend the tour arrival/departure hotel as pre or post tour hotel. If the same is not available, we can recommend you few hotels which you can directly book online using hotel platforms such as booking.com We book mainly internal flights which are part of your tour. We can recommend you arrival/departure flights. Once you have reserved your bike trip, call or email us to discuss all your pre- and post-tour plans.

Cycling tour in Vietnam

SECTION IV

Tours guidelines post CORONA

Please find the health and safety guidelines as prescribed by ATTA for adventure tourism.

Other updates

VFS Global in partnership with the Embassy of Vietnam in India, has launched the first-ever online portal for eVisa on arrival for travellers to the southeast Asian country. Travellers can apply for an eVisa before departure to Vietnam. There’s a more expensive option of special priority services for approval on the same day or the next day.

Offers from Art of Bicycle Trips

We realised everyone is waiting for things to clear up in order to lead a normal life. And travel as well. Hence, though travelling at the moment is not feasible, planning and booking one’s travel plan is fine. To make travel plans easier we have launched booking offers for as low as $1. You can now book without any advance deposit and remain flexible.

You can find all our cycling tours in Vietnam here

Cycling Tour in Vietnam

It’s been more than a decade since we started Art of Bicycle Trips. From our first bike trip to now covering many countries across Asia, it has been a grateful journey. Nostalgically, India got its first cycle in the 19thcentury. According to historian David Arnold around 35,000 bicycles were imported by India in 1910. Though meant for Europeans, the cycle which initially was a transport vehicle for the few, found its way through many Indian cities. And was quickly embraced.  The first cycling club came up in Calcutta. With the help of industrialization and a few entrepreneurial Indians, cycling in India became popular. The popular Black Cycle became ubiquitous with hardworking Indian. It offered more freedom.

An Old BSA ad, from the book, Cycles of Empowerment? The Bicycle and Everyday Technology in Colonial India and Vietnam by David Arnold and Erich DeWald

An Old BSA ad, from the book, Cycles of Empowerment? The Bicycle and Everyday Technology in Colonial India and Vietnam by David Arnold and Erich DeWald

Inspirations followed and the cycle could be seen as a source of inspiration in Bollywood. Indian actor Dev Anand cycled to perfection in an air of romance. Indian classic movie Paying Guestis a testimony to the same. Picnics in the reel and life happened around the cycle. In Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, a movie hinged around cycling, the entire town and audience watching the movie were kept on the edge till the very last frame. A coming of age movie the annual cycling race was the crescendo of three-hour epic

Cycling in India

A screen grab of Dev Anand ‘s Paying Guest

However, the cycle did not stop at Bollywood. Cycling in India was introduced as a sport by mid 1930s. In Indian politics, it became a symbol of progressiveness and simplicity. Political party such as Samajwadi Party used the cycle as its party symbol. The government encouraged Indians to make use of the cycle. Most recently in 2015, cycles were distributed by state governments to girls in rural areas to improve their participation in schools.

Commemorative stamps on Asiad Games and Women Empowerment showing cycling in India.

Commemorative stamps on Asiad Games and Women Empowerment in India.

Back to the times of Hybrid bikes, E-Bikes and health, cycling has become even more important. WHO is constantly reminding us to stay active and healthy during a pandemic. Cycling is one of the ways out. Our own STRAVA Cycling Club logs daily activity of solo cycling rides.  Cycling trips in Asia offered by us past decade has only made us surer the popularity of the cycle has only risen.

More power to the pedal.

Cycling Trips in Asia

Cycling in Asia“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.”

~~Samuel Johnson

 

Bike tour in Rajasthan, the desert state of India, is an experience one must try. The state holds a unique identity. The royal and chivalrous history of Rajasthan can be felt even to the present time in its splendid forts, and impressive monuments. We have been organising bike tours in Rajasthan since time. The slow pace of cycling has allowed us to explore the various facets of the state. Here are some of the experiences we recommend while you are biking in Rajasthan.

 

#1 Wanderlust the Thar Desert

Thar Desert in Western Rajasthan also known as the Great Indian Desert has vast  stretches of rolling sand and a unique ecosystem. Jaisalmer the major town is a prime trading center of the region.  Most of the desert’s inhabitants stay in surrounding villages which are sparsely spread across the region. The name Thar is derived from thulthe general term for the region’s sand dunes.

Travel tip: The desert town of Jaisalmer stands tall in eastern frontier of Thar Desert. The town is centeredaround the ever imposing Jaisalmer Fort. The fort is one of the few living forts in the world. We recommend taking the road from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer to enjoy excellent landscape en route the town.

Thar Desert

Camel Ride in Thar Desert. Image by Sam Gellman

 

#2 Celebrate the richness of Colours

Every colour has a special significance in Rajasthan. The festival of colours, Holi, is celebrated with much gusto.

Pedal on your bike down the road, and your eyes may catch sight of a group of ladies circled under a tree draped in colourful saris of crimson, fuchsia,  and tangerine. A sari with the combination of red and yellow denotes that a woman has borne a son. The men too are not far behind when it comes to showing off the vibrant colours sporting their fluorescent turbans, making the day look brighter than ever. The Rajput warrior class wear saffron turbans to denote chivalry. The Brahmin scholastic men wear candy pink, and the nomads black.

Cycle past the exuberant the marketplaces of Jodhpur and Jaipur, and you will find they every possible colour on stands of vendors.

Holi in Rajasthan                  Kids playing Holi in Jodhpur. Image by Siddharth Jain

 

#3 Study the magnificent monuments

Speaking of colours, legend also has it that in the year 1876, Maharaja Ram Singh decided to paint the city of Jaipur in only one color, pretty pink, to welcome the then Prince of Wales. This is when the main streets of the “City of Victory”received its delicate hue of salmon. As you pass through the streets of Jaipur on your bicycle tour, this colour is most evident in the beauty of the Hawa Mahal, also called the Palace of WindsParking the bikes is not difficult. Do explore these magnificent monuments, their frescoed walls and the striking Belgian glass windows.

Travel Tip: Many monuments including Hawa Mahal close by 4:30 p.m. for public viewing. Do plan your day schedule accordingly as per your visit.

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Jantar Mantar (Sun Dial), Jaipur. Image by Siddharth Jain    

 

#4 Hear the vibe of the city

Of course, as you pedal around your bike tour and make stoppages, you get the opportunity to hear the language of the locals from close. Cycle past a group of men who are friendly enough to wave at you and say hello.Being able to listen to the local language up close makes it a personal experience worth remembering forever.

We recommend: Do the customary Indian nod. However, practise at home.

Travel Trivia: Rajasthan, the regal Indian state is known for its blue city of Jodhpur, pink city of Jaipur and golden city of Jaisalmer. Do you why?

#5 Explore the old world hospitality of Udaipur

Give time to Udaipur. Also called the Venice of the East, the city of Udaipur is as old as 1576. The beauty of cycling around this city is the view of its picturesque havelis, ghats, and old temples on the bank of Lake Pichola. Udaipur has an easy-going, laid-back vibe, so it’s ideal for winding down at the end of a tour. But avoid bumping into a cow.

Travel Tip: To explore the best of Udaipur, begin the day at the City Palace. If you are a fan of vintage cars, you can even ask your guide to take you to the museum of vintage cars in Udaipur.

Fresco of Rajasthan

#6 Don’t miss out on the festivals

And there are plenty of festivals. You have the luxury to choose from a music festival in Jodhpur, the camel festival in Pushkar, the Kite festival in Jaipur, Holi or many more.

 

Travel Tip: Rajasthan Tourism has a ready list of festivals planned for the year.

We recommend travelling to Rajasthan during the winter months as it is the best time to take a cycle tour. While the warm rays of the sun keep you going through the day, as night falls, you will experience the temperature dip.

 

Cycling in Asia

Conclusion

Making the decision to take a cycling holiday in Asia , and exploring a place has its own benefits. Contribute to the nature by leaving no carbon footprints behind and get some exercise when on a cycling vacation.Furthermore, make your way into nooks and corners, which are otherwise inaccessible by vehicle, much faster.

Every place in Rajasthan can steal your  heart and attract you to visit again. If you and your family are planning on taking a bike tour to Rajasthan, keep a track of the weather and make a bucket list. The best known time to visit Rajasthan between October and March.

Art of Bicycle Trips Update

 

Staying at home has been quite a challenge. Being in an industry which prides itself in the well-being of individuals, organising cycling tours in Asia and going outdoors to experience life, we understand physical distancing is quite different. Over the years we have seen the cycling community only grow and our cyclists forming a close-knit bond with each other. This bond has further helped us as a team and organization. We wanted to write in person to thank you –– you’ve helped us grow sustainable!

Cycling Holidays in India

Our recent survey on cycling suggests 60% of respondents plan to travel for leisure post COVID.  And another 60% won’t mind joining a small group departure. Destinations such as India, Vietnam, and Thailand are the most popular destinations followed by Japan and Cambodia.

 Offers on Cycling Tours

We have been working on a few customers focussed offers which allow for flexible bookings and easy deposits. Initiatives such as Loyalty Club, Friends & Family Offer and No Single Supplement Offer are already live.

View all of our cycling tours in Asia offers here.

Art of Bicycle Trips Offers 

Our strategy is following ‘affordable for a reason‘. We have already slashed prices by 5% to 10% of few of our most popular cycling tours without compromising the experiences. We’re able to do this by focusing on three most important price factors:

  1. Group Size: We expect an increase in average group size of our cycling tours in Asia.
  1. Frugality: By keeping our admin/back office and overhead costs in check.
  1. Sustainability: We aspire to put sustainability at the core of business decisions and strive to achieve sustainable profitability instead of chasing profit maximization.

 Launch of  STRAVA Club

We understand social distancing has been the norm past few months. Yet it is equally important to remain physically active and stay connected. So, we launched our Art of Bicycle Trips Miles Club on STRAVA. Coupled with an interactive community it comes with added advantages.

Being a Miles Club it means when you cycle, not only do you get health benefits you also collect miles which you can use to avail benefits on our bike tour price. 

To take part, join our STRAVA Club and record your rides to help us track your progress. That’s it.

Cycling Club on STRAVA

Art of Bicycle Trips

Though we are working from home, we keep doing regular cycling events. Organising them on STRAVA is a good way to keep a note of one’s performance. All of our events are on our STRAVA page.

Art of Bicycle Trips Cycling Event

 

Cycling Event

3rd June happens to be World Cycling Day. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate than cycle again. We are also running a cycling memories campaign.

The above image is from our team member Siddharth. He writes about the image:-

A very lanky me, perhaps taken in 1986-87. I had learnt how to ride and was posing as a confident young lad outside our house in New Delhi.

Share your pictures, notes, or videos of your old cycling memories. We would love to see them and talk about it.

To share, tag our Instagram handle and use the hashtag #artofbicycletrips

Last but not  least our blog on cycling is now updated. And our social media pages are active. As we continue with our 11th year having completed more than 2400 trips, we keep on biking.

Until further updates.

 

Stay Safe

Team Art of Bicycle Trips

Cycling the tea gardens of Munnar

Tea is a great starter for conversations. Tea gardens are cultivated in many countries. Well-manicured they hold pretty site and reminds one of armchair travels. Loopy curves with a smooth tarmac offer great scenic views during the rides. Add to it considerate weather required to grow tea. All these reasons add up to cycling amongst tea gardens a great choice.

Cycling the tea gardens of Munnar

Tea entwines in our culture. In most of our cycling trips, we are sure to stop for a cursory tea break. So, it was no surprise our cycling tours to tea gardens became quite popular when we started it sometime back. Be it our cycling tour to Srilanka or our cycling trip to Munnar, everyone loved a ride.

 

CYCLING THE VERDANT TEA GARDENS OF MUNNAR

Blue sky stretched languidly as far as one could see touching the greenery of rolling hills amidst the vast tea gardens around us. It was the first morning for us after reaching our destination, Munnar, which we had planned for a couple of months back as a part of our trip to Kerala

Jayesh was already busy in his tea stall and serving the locals who had known him as a hardworking man. Charming as Munnar, he was known in the region for his tea especially the cardamom and clove varieties.

Cycling the tea gardens of Munnar

TEA in Munnar

Munnar has been culturally distinct from other districts of Kerala. Though the state is popular for its backwaters, Munnar stands proud for its tea gardens and estate that carpet the region.  Perched atop the hills of Idukki district its weather favours the plantation of the tea. Historically tea and the landscape of Munnar is entwined since generations.  The British found it very hard to get people from Kerala to work in tea plantations. They finally brought in people from Tamil Nadu who were ready to do the hard work. This changed the landscape and culture of Munnar to this day. The women from these communities pluck the tea leaves in the estates here while the men work in tea factories that process the leaves. The town of Munnar is quite small and packed with people and shops.

Based on your palette you can try many varieties of teas. You can try the local

Munnar Chai- which has Milk and distinct Munnar leaves flavour

Green Tea- healthier variety

Flavoured Teas- like Cardamom, Elaichi, Clove or other spices

Black Tea- Is strong, has more caffeine and dark in colour

White Tea- which is less caffeinated

Masala Chai- Spiced tea where they add local masala flavour in the tea.

The women are paid upon the weight of the tea leaves plucked which they usually do by hand. Being a manual process on an average day each lady is able to pluck around 10 kilos of tea leaves which then goes for processing.

Cycling the tea gardens of Munnar

 

Cycling the tea gardens of Munnar

We loved our tea, so we stopped between of bike trip for copious amounts of tea. I preferred Chai (milk tea) over Sulaimani (a black tea).If you are cycling in Munnar do visit the Top Station. At an altitude of 2000 m it is one of the highest point in Kerala. On our way back, we deviated from the tarmac to visit a village we spotted on our way up. Assisted by our guide the conversations were short and interspersed mostly by smiles and signs.

A vivid picture set in our minds and a setting which we could only visualize amidst the landscape.

Munnar is a town and a popular hill station situated in Western Ghats of Southern India. Placed at an average height of 5000 ft it is a popular hill station in India known for its tea gardens. We biked around 20 miles during our 

Kerala has a welcoming weather. Whether you prefer monsoons, coastal beaches, laidback countryside or backwaters Kerala cycling tours for cycling holidays could be a great choice

Cycling the tea gardens of Srilanka

 

Srilanka, “The pearl of the Indian Ocean” has a natural history with tea. One of the largest exporters of tea, both rainfall and cool temperature allow for abundant tea plantations across the country. Our classic bike tour in Srilanka takes us to Nuwara Eliya, one of the most important tea region in the country. The trip to Nuwara Eliya can combine with other destinations within the country. We run multitude cycling trips in Srilanka throughout the year. A popular tour is our Best of Srilanka cycling tour.

At Nuwara Eliya we checked in at the Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, remodelled from an old tea factory that used to be present in the days of the Raj. The place still retains its old world charm with wooden lofts, old brass fans and even an original engine that was the main source of power in those days.

Our most charming cup of tea at Nuwara Eliya

Cycling the tea gardens of Srilanka

Nuwara Eliya is known for its tea gardens and waterfalls. It is also known as “Little England” and the town may make you nostalgic reminding you of bygone era. The people are warm and will take go to great lengths in explaining what tea means to them. Locals surely take their tea seriously. With an average elevation of around 1800 meters, a cup of tea in cool crisp air makes for an excellent choice to refresh yourself. Worth trying is the Orange Pekoe Tea which is a speciality of the region.  On our ride, we encounter tea pickers, undulating hills, small villages and small shops on the corners of the roads.

 

Cycling in Srilanka

It’s been a while since we have shared a blog Post. So we decided to reinitiate the blog with a post that combines our passion of cycling, travel and expertise of doing cycling tours in Asia past many years. Whether it is cycling past villages across South East Asia, or trying the local cuisine in India or cycling new routes in Srilanka, we believe there’s a cycling trip for everyone.

So just soak in the diversity of Asia and cycle on !!

INDIA

Being truly diverse India has a lot of cycling options. You can opt for cycling Rajasthan,the desert state of India or head down south to cycle the slopes of Munnar and visit the backwaters of Kerala. Alternately you can crisscross the gorgeous landscape of Himalayan range and visit Leh or just do the Konkan coastline.

VIETNAM

Vietnam has an other world charm. And is quite popular with avid cyclers who love to discover the country at a relaxed place. Cycle along Halong Bay, Saigon or Mekong Delta, bike tours in Vietnam are easy as breeze. Just as the land the people are friendly and the country offers you authentic experiences to learn their culture.

LAOS

Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated alongside the Mekong and Khan rivers. You can spend days here, walking or riding around, content and happy by yourself or with friends and family. Less crowded, easy paced and relaxed, cycle in Laos the “ Lao Style”.

THAILAND

One can divide the country into North and South zones. Both the zones have plenty for everyone. Cycling from Ayuttaya to Chiang Mai is a good cycling route to see world heritage sites and the green country side. If you are a beach person then opt for cycling in Southern Thailand and cover it’s pristine beaches.

SRILANKA

Lead the way through the giant lion paws carved out of granite at the ‘Rock Fortress’ of Sigiriya, Marvel at the  frescoes painted on the rock, depicting the concubines of King Kashyapa.  Cycling in Srilanka to unearth these gems

CAMBODIA

Needless to say Angkor Wat Complex is even better in real and holds the key to imagination of Khmer Empire. Cycling the Angkor Wat is best way to understand this architectural marvel and reach the inner depths of these temples.

MYANMAR

The Classic Myanmar trip will cover the  upcountry hills and lakes of Shan country where archaeological wonders are aplenty, down to Mandalay along the Irrawaddy river delta where the plains of Bagan beckon. Bike on the opposite side Irrawaddy River. Take a loop covering Amarapura, Sagaing and Mingun. And cover the last leg by boat on Irrawaddy River back to Mandalay from Mingun.