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.

Ayubowan! said the Sri Lankan lady, clasping both her hands together and bowing slightly towards me.

‘Ayubowan’ is a common Sri Lankan greeting, wishing for the long life of the person whom you greet. Later I found myself saying Ayubowan! to all the Sri Lankan people I met during my Sri Lanka bike tour.

Although, I have not covered the entire span of Sri Lanka by bike, the memories from this enchanting country are vivid and priceless. Let me show you a bit of it so you know exactly what cycling through Sri Lanka entails. 

Buddha, Drummers & 500 Concubines

Buddha statues scattered around India, South Asia and Southeast Asia are a sight to behold. 

The mesmerizing eyes of Buddha bring such tranquility that I feel at peace when looking into those eyes.

There are innumerable Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and the influence of Buddhism is apparent in this part of the Subcontinent and the Buddha is revered to this day. 

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Leading the way through the giant lion paws carved out of granite at the ‘Rock Fortress’ of Sigiriya, I wondered about the mammoth task of building a palace on a large piece of Rock. The marvelous frescoes painted on the rock, depicting the concubines of King Kashyapa are remarkable.  

“King Kasyapa and his 500 concubines” sounds like an extravagantly embellished myth but its true confirmed our knowledgeable local guide.

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Sri Lankan dance forms, that were traditionally only performed for the kings, are now played at a few different locations in Kandy which is known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka.

Out of all the performers, the drummers captured my full attention; they were energetic beyond words and unstoppable!

The high decibel drumming was hard on my ears initially, but slowly you get acquainted to the rhythm and fall into a rapturous trance.

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Warm Welcomes & Homecooked Meals

Lots of greetings were exchanged as we biked through this little island nation. Everywhere we went, friendly Sri Lankans came out to chat and look at our bikes and know more about where we going.

One of the highlights from my Sri Lanka bike tour was when our support vehicle driver, Lasanth, invited all of us to his home for lunch.

I was simply humbled by the hospitality of Lasanth’s family and the curry his wife made for all of us was absolutely delicious.

Beaches Oh So Pristine! 

As the warm waves continued to break on an endless stretch of golden sand beaches, staying on the bike and cycling became quite impossible.

The oceans beckoned again and again in Sri Lanka and who could resist a swim in a heavenly place like this? 

A Wild, Wild Paradise!

Sri Lanka wildlife road signs

Caution! Monitor Lizards Crossing (Photo credit: http://roystonellis.com)

With monitor lizards slowly crossing roads, peacocks flying around and roving elephants grazing on the greens, wildlife is plentiful in Sri Lanka. 

And, there are numerous interesting signboards along the roads asking road users to watch out for wildlife that might be making their way across the road. Haha! Jokes apart, Sri Lanka is home to some of the best National parks in the world and they are definitely worth a visit, even if you are not a wildlife safari enthusiast in particular.

The Art of Good Food

Imagine a banana leaf platter with an assortment of aromatic, spicy food eaten with steaming hot rice & crispy papadum!

If you have not tried a meal like this yet, let me tell you it is not easy to resist. I pondered if this could be one of the many places on earth where I may end up deciding “ Ah it’s time for me to live just to eat!

You just have to try the variety of piping hot curries available in these parts, not to mention the delicious vegetarian and meat accompaniments. And, we dare you to try and eat it all with your hands – without using cutlery.

We grant that eating food without cutlery is not for everyone but those who do try their hands at this particular art ;) – Find that its worth the effort. Finger-licking good, you see what we mean? Yes, I know, I know, it does seem like I’m addicted.

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“Ayubowan Sri Lanka! May you live long so that many more cyclists can explore, indulge and appreciate just how serene and beautiful you are.”

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Credits:
  1. https://riceandcurry.files.wordpress.com/2012/06
  2. http://roystonellis.com/blog

Author: Dibin

Editor: Ashwini

Southeast Asia, located South of China and East of India, also known as Indochina, comprises of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and  West Malaysia. Laos is one of our top picks for a cycling holidays in this part of the world. The reasons to visit Laos are many and avid cyclist, Pankaj Mangal, the founder of Art of Bicycle Trips, will highlight his Laos cycle tour experience here in this post.

Terrain:  Laos is home to mountains covered with lush tropical forests. The rolling terrain combined with gradual climbs from low-lying riverside valleys are just perfect – a cyclist’s delight.

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Rivers: If you are tired of Thailand’s crowds, head to North Laos. Here you will get to ride along the three beautiful rivers viz. Mekong, Nam Ou and Nam Pak. When you want to take a break, switch from your bike’s saddle to a seat on a slow boat. This is an excellent way to see and experience life along the rivers of Laos. The rivers are the lifelines here and you can soak up the beautiful vistas of this intriguing country, at a leisurely pace and meet its people too, only on the slow boats.

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People: Laos is less developed and less visited compared to other countries in the region and that makes it more appealing. Some of the people here, for instance, the hill tribes have yet to experience modern living and that what is reflected in their way of life and in their way of dealing with travelers. This friendly, down-to-earth culture embodies the hospitality that you will experience. Make sure you spend time with villagers in rural areas because the feeling that you are almost one of them is priceless!

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History and Culture: Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated alongside the Mekong and Khan rivers. Here, the Buddhist monasteries, royal palaces and ancient temples and shops lend a unique charm and make Luang Prabang one of the quieter and more soulful places of Southeast Asia. You can spend days here, walking or riding around, content and happy by yourself or with friends and family. If you are interested in knowing more about Buddhism, then this is the perfect place to do so. The temples and monasteries will welcome you and you can spend time watching monks, hearing their chants and contemplating life and all its beauty.

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Go on, experience Laos on a bike like a local – As they like to say in Laos – ‘Lao Syle’ i.e., Go for it! Start planning your Laos bike tour now.