ORGANIZED BIKE TOURS OF ASIA:
Organized trips range from serious mountain biking expeditions for the serious cyclist, to softer trips which give you an option to ride in the van, or stop to look around, or simply take it easy and catch up with the group at your own pace. Check with individual tour operators to confirm dates, availability, level of difficulty and prices for individual tours. And don't forget travel insurance, and a sense of humor!
ASIAN PACIFIC ADVENTURES (Los Angeles, California, U.S.)
Telephone: (213) 935-3156
Fax: (213) 935-2691
Biking Tours: China, Himalayas, Vietnam
1) China Tour: The 14 day "Best of China by Bike" includes 8 days of cycling to such sites as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in Beijing. Continues with a cruise down the Li River in Guilin with a two night stay in Yangshuo to cycle the limestone-littered landscape. If you still haven't had enough after two weeks, you can sign up for the eight-day extension to the "Best of China" trip which continues from Guilin through the Karst Mountains and on to Yunnan Province. Visit some of the region's 24 ethnic minority groups, cycle around country villages outside Dali, meet Tibetan monks at the Jade Peak Temple, see the Sani people of the Stone Forest, and learn about local Naxi culture. "The Best of China" trip departs April through November and costs approximately $3,293 per person (with a $580 single supplement) and $4,247 per person ($850 single supplement) for the 22-day southwest tour. Women-only versions of these tours run in June and November. All tours are for adults only; pace is moderate.
Cost: "The Best of China" trip costs $3,293 per person (with a $580 single supplement) and $4,247 per person ($850 single supplement) for the full 22-day southwest China tour.
When: April through November
2) Himalayas Tour: A 17-day mountain bike trip in the valleys and ridges of the Garhwal Himalayas in India, stopping in the hill station of Mussoorie and Tungnath, the highest Hindu temple. Departures from Delhi. Intermediate level.
Cost: $2,509 per person ($375 single supplement) includes meals, lodging but not flights.
When: April, June, September
3) Vietnam Tour: A 17-day mountain bike trip which begins in Ho Chi Minh City and ends in Danang (with an optional extension to Hanoi and Halong Bay). Sites include the Cu Chi Tunnels, the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh, China Beach and Marble Mountain.
Cost: $2,950 per person ($395 single supplement)
When: February , April, May, July, October, December
BACKROADS (Berkeley, California, U.S.)
Also: For a first-hand account of a Backroads Bali bike trip, read Richard Alleman's story in Travel & Leisure at /ASIANOW/travel/TL/feb/febbali.html
Telephone: (510) 527-1555
Fax: (510) 527-1444
Biking Tours: China, Indonesia (Bali), Thailand
1) China Trip: A 12-day mountain bike tour in China from Guangzhou (through Zhaoqing, Deqing Fengkai and Wuzhou) to Guilin.
Cost: $3,593 (including meals and accommodation) plus a bike rental fee of $180.
When: 1998 China tours are Oct. 25-Nov. 5 and Nov. 10-21.
2) Bali Trip: The 10-day Bali tour travels from Ubud to Candi Dasa and departs from Denpasar. Includes whitewater rafting down the Ayung River, gamelon music and legong temple dancing performances--plus a videotape of your own cycling performance and monkeys blocking the roads!
Cost: $2,298 (includes lodging and most meals) based on double occupancy; plus a single room surcharge of $600 and a bike rental fee of $180.
When: 1998 Bali dates are Sept. 20-29, October 14-23, November 7-16.
3) Thailand Trip: The 8-day Thailand tour travels from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, and includes elephant trekking and longboat trips along the Mekong. Participants have a choice of three levels of difficulty, from moderately easy (avg. 19 miles daily), moderate (avg. 31 miles daily) or challenging (41 miles daily).
Cost: $1,898 (includes lodging and most meals) with a single room surcharge of
$200 and a bike rental fee of $160.
When: 1998 Thailand dates are Dec. 7-14, Dec. 19-26, Dec. 28-Jan. 4.
BIKE & TRAVEL (Thailand)
Biking Tours: throughout Thailand
Telephone: (662) 992-5926, 990-0990, 990-2074
Fax: (662) 992-5927, 990-0374
Details: Local tour company which rents bikes and organize tours for visitors.
Prices and details available directly from the company. Member of the Thai Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association.
Telephone: (977-1) 240633 or 472012
Bike Tours: Nepal, Kathmandu Valley
Details: Experienced Kathmandu-based tour operator Lokesh Sharma runs organized tours for visitors who want to mountain bike while in Nepal, with do-it-yourself options and customized tour packages (sunrise or sunset tours, or sidetrips to a pottery village or medieval village) available.
Costs: $20-$80 depending on the package, or $10/day for the mountain bike only.
Bookings can be made directly on the website, by e-mail, or by telephone.
BUTTERFIELD & ROBINSON (Toronto, Canada)
Telephone: (416) 864-1354
Fax: (416) 864-0541
Biking Tours: China, India, Vietnam
1) China Trip: The 15-day China trip goes from Hangzhou to Beijing, takes in sites such as the terracotta warriors of Xian, and ends in Lijiang, near Tibet. The trip is primarily cycling, but includes travel by plane, boat, bus and on foot. Accommodation is in first-class hotels, and you cycle daily for about 30 miles over flat surfaces.
Cost: The 15-day China trip costs $6,950 per person ($950 single supplement). Includes all meals and lodging.
When: April, May, September, October
2) India Trip: The 11-day India trip departs Jodhpur and finishes in New Delhi, taking in Rajasthan (with an option to add on two nights in Varanasi and a night in Agra to see the Taj Mahal). B&R also now offers a Biking and Walking tour of Rajasthan in November, which includes other forms of transportation (ox cart, elephant, rickshaw, and boat!).
Cost: $5,525 per person ($575 single supplement). Includes all meals and lodging.
When: January, February, November, December
3) Vietnam Trip: The 10-day Vietnam trip goes from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, stopping in Dalat, Nha Trang, Danang, Hoi An and Halong Bay along the way.
Cost: $5,750 per person ($625 single supplement). All inclusive.
When: February, March, October
CYCLISTS TO ASIA (Hong Kong)
Telephone: (852) 2454-9191
Fax: (852) 2463-5520
Biking Tour: China
Details: Explore the lakes and forests of northern Sichuan province and the terraced rice fields of southern China. Features top quality mountain bikes, expat tour managers and mechanics, and vehicle-supported tours.
Cost: $517-$1,680 per person (HK$4,000-$13,000)
When: Dates in October and November 1998
DISCOVER VIETNAM (Oakland, California, U.S.)
Telephone: (510) 839-4019
Fax: (510) 268-0119
Biking Tour: Vietnam
Details: Hans Krausche will be leading his second annual 17-day bike trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in the new year. Participants have the option of riding the full day (an average 104 km daily) or the short option (average 70 km daily, with a lift in the van to enjoy the view).
When: Jan. 29-Feb. 17, 1999. Contact Krausche for prices and availability.
FORCE 10 EXPEDITIONS (Arizona, U.S.)
Telephone: (520) 333-4840
Fax: (520) 333-4840
Biking Tour: Himalayas
Details: Mountain bikers can take part in the Mt. Everest Challenge Marathon being held November 8th in Sandakphu National Park, near Darjeeling, India. All participants stay at Mirik Lake Resort and in huts and lodges. Departs Darjeeling. Novices need not apply!
Cost: $700 for the marathon package only (mountain biking or running); $1,200 for those wanting to take part in the 100-mile Stage Race from Nov. 4-11 (runners only).
When: Nov. 6-9, 1998 or Nov. 4-11.
HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN BIKES (Kathmandu)
Telephone: (977-1) 417036
Fax: (977-1) 416870
Biking Tours: Nepal, Ladakh, Tibet, Sikkim
Details: In business since 1988, HMB organizes extensive treks throughout the region, in addition to hosting the annual Himalayan Mountain Bike Championship each March/April.
1) 14-day Kathmandu Valley Rim Expedition (Nov. 9-22) For experienced mountain bikers, with opportunity for off-road solo cycling. $1,095 per person.
2) 14-day Western Nepal Saphar (Nov. 23-Dec. 8) More leisurely, this tour begins with a stay in the lakeside resort in Pokhara and ends with an elephant safari in the Royal Bardia Wildlife Reserve to see endangered species. $1,495 per person.
* Other bike trips include year-round "bare bones" tours from $40/day and deluxe tours from $75/day, and a trans-Himalayan expedition through Leh, Ladakh and Manali (July/August).
Costs: All prices quoted include meals, lodging, internal flights, U.S. mountain bike, vehicle support and expert local guide.
HIMALAYAN TRAVEL/WORLD ADVENTURES (Connecticut, U.S.)
Telephone: (203) 359-3711
Fax: (203) 359-3669
Biking Tours: China, Vietnam. 17 years of experience in Asian bike tours.
1) China Trip: The 18-day China cycling tour explores Guangdong province; cycle past rice paddies, bamboo forests and old villages en route from Guangzhou to Shaoguan, continue to Beijing. Highlights include visiting a kindergarten in Zhaoqing; cycling to Mount Dinghu, a nature reserve, and having lunch at the 300 year old Buddhist monastery; the Longshan cave in Guilin; street markets in Wuzhou; cycling through Yao (a minority group in China) territory; a full-day tour of Beijing and a full-day tour to the Great Wall and the Ming tombs. Your last morning in Beijing is your own to explore the city (visits to the Beijing Zoo or Beihai Park can be arranged upon request) and then fly home in the late afternoon.
Cost: Land cost is $2,895 per person (based on twin share) which covers everything except for flights.
When: 1998 dates: Sep. 14, Oct. 12, Dec. 21. 1999 dates: Feb. 22, Sep. 13, Oct. 11, Dec. 20
2) Vietnam Tours: The 18-day Vietnam trip includes 10 days of cycling. Overland from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat, and then cycle from Dalat to Hue; train from Hue to Hanoi; depart Hanoi. Plenty of opportunity to sightsee and explore each locale leisurely.
Cost: Land cost is $2,395 per person (based on twin share) which covers almost
everything except for airfare and a few meals.
When: 1998 dates: Oct. 3, Oct. 24, Dec. 12, Dec. 26. 1999 dates: Feb. 26, Mar. 6, Oct. 2, Oct. 23, Dec. 18; and Jan. 1, 2000.
KE ADVENTURE TRAVEL (Aspen, Colorado, U.S.)
Telephone: (970) 925-8368
Fax: (970) 925-6704
Biking Tours: Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan and Tibet
1) Silk Road Tour: A 14-day tour with 9 days of easy to moderate cycling at moderate altitudes (max. altitude is 15,520 ft). Departs Islamabad, descending the Karakoram Highway through the Hunza Valley to the ancient market town of Gilgit. Pass glaciers and farmland through some of the "best mountain biking on earth". Options for off-road biking for more experienced participants.
Cost: Land cost only is $2,395 per person (joining in Islamabad).
When: Next tour is Apr. 25-May 8, 1999.
2) Hidden Kingdoms Tour: A 16-day tour with 11 days of moderate to challenging cycling through eastern Nepal and the Kathmandu valley. From Kathmandu, fly to Taplejung to begin a 5-day exploration of eastern Nepal. Gradually descend to the Indian plains, return to Kathmandu to set off on a 6-day tour of the ridge-top trails which circle the valley. Most mornings are spent cycling above a sea of clouds.
Cost: Land cost only is $2,445 per person (joining in Kathmandu).
When: Oct. 26-Nov. 10; Dec. 21, 1998-Jan. 5, 1999; and Apr. 5-20, 1999.
3) Bhutan Tour: A 15-day tour of the nation's single track highway and off-road trails.
Cost: Land cost only is $3,795 per person (joining in Delhi).
When: Nov. 15-29, 1998
4) Lhasa to Kathmandu: A 27-day tour with 19 days of sustained cycling at extreme altitudes. For experienced mountain bikers only. Traverses the base of Mount Everest, 6 major passes and the Tibetan Plateau (the longest descent in the world, down 4,600 m to the valley of the Sun Kosi River in Nepal--a legendary route among mountain biking fans).
Cost: Land cost only is $3,995 per person (joining in Kathmandu).
When: Sep. 21-Oct. 17, 1998; Mar. 29-Apr. 24, 199
** KE Adventure runs other tours in Asia; check their website for dates and details.
LATITUDES EXPEDITIONS EAST (San Francisco, California, U.S.)
Telephone: (415) 398-0458
Fax: (415) 680-1522
Biking Tours: Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam
Details: Offers "Cycle Thailand", "Cycle Indonesia" and "Cycle Vietnam" packages. Contact the company for costs and dates.
MALUKU ADVENTURES (California, U.S.)
Telephone: (415) 731-2560
Fax: (415) 731-2579
Biking Tours: Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam
1) Cycle Vietnam: 1,200 miles of biking from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, touring Northern Vietnam around Sapa, the former DMZ around Danang, plus Hue, Nha Trang, and Dalat. Average of 80 miles of biking per day. Max. group size is 36 people.
Cost: $2,795 per person (landcost only)
2) Introduction to Vietnam: 600 miles of biking (plus train journey) from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. February tour will take in Tet, the new year celebrations.
Cost: $2,395 per person (landcost only)
3) Vietnam Central Highlands: 1,200 miles of biking; max. 12 people per group.
Cost: $3,095 per person (landcost only)
4) Ho Chi Minh Trail and Central Highlands: 500 miles of biking in central and southern Vietnam.
Cost: $2,750 per person (landcost only)
5) Vietnam to Vientiane: From Vietnam, follow the Mekong River into Laos and the ancient capital of Luang Prabang.
Cost: $2,495 per person (landcost only)
6) Laos and Northern Thailand: 65 miles of biking per day through the Golden Triangle area, plus a train to Bangkok.
Cost: $2,295 per person (landcost only)
7) Southern Thailand and Malaysia: Departs Bangkok by train to Koh Samui, then 8 days of biking to the tip of the Malay Peninsula and Singapore. 80 miles biking/day.
Cost: $2,295 per person (landcost only)
* Contact Maluku directly for dates and details of itineraries.
OPEN GAIT ADVENTURES (Washington, U.S.)
Telephone: (360) 297-3825
Biking Tour: Bhutan specialists, organizing biking and walking tours of the kingdom which only opened to tourists in 1974, and presently accepts only 4,000 foreigners a year.
Details: A 14-day tour of Bhutan's only road (the East-West Highway), a 370-mile trek at altitudes of over 10,000 feet, passing ancient villages and stunning scenery en route. Accommodation is in tents.
Cost: $3,200 per person (landcost only), or $210/night for 1 person, $200/night for 2 persons, $190/night for 3 person, $170/night for 4 persons. Round-trip airfare from Kathmandu to Bhutan is roughly $350 per person. All prices are subject to availability; contact Cris and Brian Steele to confirm dates and availability.
REI ADVENTURES (Seattle, Washington, U.S.)
Telephone: (253) 437-1100
Biking Tours: Nepal, China
Details: The U.S.-based adventure outfitter also runs tours in Asia, including a 16-day bike/trek/raft/safari "Gorkha region" tour in Nepal for $1,950; a 16-day trip through southern China bike trip which explores the Guilin area for $2,595 per person; and a 15-day cycling/hiking tour through northern China for $2,695. New for 1999 will be a cycling tour from Nanning, China, to Hanoi in Vietnam, via a remote border crossing. Halong Bay is a World Heritage Site, filled with hundreds of limestone formations.
Cost: Note that non-members pay an additional $100 surcharge on these prices (memberships only cost $15/year). All rates are for land costs only and don't include airfares.
When: 1998 Gorkha Region tour dates are Oct. 16-31 and Oct. 30-Nov. 4. Upcoming Southern China tours run Oct. 9-24; Dec. 18-Jan. 2; and Feb. 19-Mar. 6. Check the website (or send an e-mail to REI Sales & Operations Manager, Linda Pearson, at the address above) for information on other upcoming REI cycling tours in Asia.
TRAVEL WALJI'S INC. (Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.)
Telephone: (203) 356-0027
Fax: (203) 348-6489
Biking Tour: Pakistan
Details: Cycle the route of the British army led by Col. William Lockhart, the first to cross the Hindu Kush and Karakorams via the Shandur Pass Costs: varies--contact company for trips.
WORLDWIDE ADVENTURES (Toronto, Canada)
Telephone: (416) 221-3000
Fax: (416) 221-5730
Biking Tours: India and Nepal
Details: Offers a 33-day tour of India and Nepal which includes biking, camel rides, trekking and rafting. Ride a camel through the Rajasthan desert, bicycle from Jaipur to Agra, trek beneath the Annapurna Range of Nepal, raft the Trisuli river and finish with a wildlife safari in the Royal Chitwan National Park.
Costs: $3,394 per person (includes lodging and some meals).
When: January-April, October-December. Departure from Delhi.
WORLDWIDE ESCAPES (San Francisco, California, U.S.)
Telephone: (415) 351-1957
Fax: (415) 351-1958
Biking Tour: China
Details: A 3-day weekend to Guilin from Hong Kong.
Cost: From San Francisco, costs $949/person ($899/person for 2 or more). Includes airfare, lodging, meals, aitrport transportation, guide and all activities.
When: Departs Hong Kong on Friday evenings, returns to HK on Sunday evenings.
INDEPENDENT CYCLE TOURS OF ASIA:
If you'd rather do your own thing, bring your own mountain bike and repair equipment, as local bikes can be heavy or cumbersome--or rent a bike locally--check with your hotel or the local tourist board. Generally, riding is not advised in cities (like Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore)--should be fine once out in the countryside.
The Internet Cycling Hub (http://cycling.org) lists tour operators, local bike groups, dealers, bulletin boards for seeking or joining other independent cyclists. This website also links to personal accounts of cycling trips throughout Asia--one of the better ones recounts a group's experience cycling from Turkey to Mongolia--virtual cyclists can check out their website at www.gordian.com/users/nathan/Trek/trek.html. Other good websites to help you start organizing a bike trip in the region are Bicycle Web (http://bicycle.redlof.com.tw) and Jan Boonstra's Cycling Page (http://bora.dacom.co.kr/~boonstra/cindex.htm). You can also browse through Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree (www.lonelyplanet.com) where people post queries for cycling partners on trips and file reports from the road. Tourist boards can also put you in touch with local bike tour organizers, rental shops and cycling groups. Here's a few tips to get you started:
The Hong Kong Bike Club website (http://gworld.net/~cyclist/english_frame.html) provides links to other websites and gives information on bike routes and events throughout the territory.
Most of the locals cycle, but that doesn't mean it's easy--roads are bumpy, and theft of even small bike parts is not uncommon (the latest Lonely Planet guide even recommends bringing your bike to your hotel room with you!).
Many smaller hotels and guesthouses in places such as Java, Bali or Lombok will rent bicycles to guests, as well bigger hotels like the Four Seasons Sayan hotel in Bali, which will arrange bike tours for its guests (tel. 62-21-9377-8450).
The Japan Cycling Navigator website (www.t3.rim.or.jp/~sayori) can put you in touch with area bike groups and tours.
Mountain biking is hugely popular here, and the latest Lonely Planet guide to Nepal includes an excellent chapter on what bikers can expect here, along with recommended trails and some tips for the road. You can bring your own bike, or rent from a recognized local dealer like Himalayan Mountain Bikes in Kathmandu (information listed above).
It is now popular for travelers to bring their own bike and cycle from Singapore, around Malaysia and on to Thailand. Bikes can also be rented for a leisurely spin around Singapore's Sentosa Island. You can also get in touch with Singapore Bike Aid, a local group of bike enthusiasts who organize cycling events to raise money for local charities (www.bikeaid-singapore.com) The Riau Islands, a short flight from Singapore, is actively marketing itself as a cyclists' paradise (www.riau-islands.com).
Bangkok cyclists advise visitors to wear a face mask for cycling around the city, and suggest heading instead to Northern Thailand for more scenic (and smog-free) mountain biking and two-wheel touring. The Chiang Mai Sports Club arranges one-day mountain bike tours ideal for families--two routes are available, each taking in village and mountain scenery--tel. (66-53) 298326-30, or 266-7633. Bike tours of Chiang Rai (for 5 or more people) can be arranged by calling 66-53-244901. The Thailand Cycling Club organizes weekend tours and events suitable for all levels and ages. Contact Dr. Thongchai at tel. (662) 218-6669 or 252-7511. A list of other bike tour operators and local cycling groups is available from TEATA, the Thai Ecotourism & Adventure Travel Assocation--contact Mr. Suparirk Soorangura, TEATA president at tel. (662) 246-5659 or fax (662) 640-0022. The Tourism Authority of Thailand can also provide information and maps--telephone (662) 694-1222) or fax (662) 694-1325.
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are popular places to explore by bike (with most guesthouses renting bicycles to tourists) but increased traffic from cars and motorcycles may make this a less than safe or pleasant option. Outside the cities, the countryside (with its long, flat roads) is ideal for long-distance cycling. The north-south main transport route, Highway One, has now been repaired with potholes filled and embankments graded, but is frequented by huge trucks, so be warned! Would be cyclists are advised to bring their own mountain bikes and repair equipment. Most hotels and guesthouses rent bicycles by the day or hour for local sightseeing. Other tourists buy bicycles and either sell them or give them away to a local friend when departing.
September 14, 1998
OFF THE SHELF
Shanghai: Electric and Lurid City; Barbara Baker, ed.
Sept. 30 marks the final day for Japanese smokers to light up on domestic flights, as All Nippon Airways becomes Japan's last major carrier to implement a smoking ban on its internal routes
Long before the Spice Girls, the Indian goddess Durga embodied girl power by battling evil with grace
The Roman Catholic Church is reaching out to the masses with its own celestial cyberhome on the Internet
TRAVEL WATCH HOME
When you roam, do as the locals do. In countries like Vietnam and India where many people still get around on bicycle, visitors often find that cycling for all or part of their trip can offer the greatest opportunity to appreciate local life