Category Archives: Asia

Skedaddle Twaddle about our trips in Asia

Staff Pick: Biking in Burma

Forget the spiritual home of cycling (sorry, France!) and say hello to the spiritual land of Burma, a destination where temples greet you at every turn. Having packed our head honcho, Andrew Straw, off to explore by bike last year, here are a few of his unexpected discoveries en route

1. The legend behind the impressive Pindaya caves
With 8,000 Buddha statues stashed within its limestone walls, jumping off your saddle at Pindaya is a must! Locals claim this is named after a monster spider attempted to trap seven princesses within. A prince then shot dead the spider claiming “pingu-ya” (the spider is dead) and so the cave was aptly named.

2. Diamond mangos are the tastiest
A native fruit of South East Asia, this juicy treat has become a big part of culture in Burma. With over 100 varieties, you’ve many to try but my favourite has to be the diamond mangos, known locally as Sein Ta Lone, it’s a great refreshment post-ride.

3. I’ve heard of Blue Nun the dreadful 80’s white wine, but never pink nuns
300,000 Buddhist monks call Burma home and 20,000 of these are females dressed all in pink, rather than the classic orange robes that you may be more familiar with. These friendly souls are usually very happy to chat to travellers passing through!

by Andrew Straw
(Co-Founder & Cycling Adventure Product Manager)

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Looking for an adventure elsewhere? 
For more cycling in South East Asia we recommend checking out our holiday in Laos, a journey which sees you cycling through bamboo forests and breathtaking karst scenery.

Customer Story: Cycling in India, Views From The Rear

A lot of us have been there, hesitating to book a cycling holiday because of the fear of not being fit enough, and the humiliation of being at the back of the pack! So, what happens when this fear comes true and you find yourself lagging behind?

Skedaddler Sheilagh Matheson sent us a great read describing her experience cycling in Kerala (India) where she found herself in the very position described above, here’s how she got on and overcame her cycling worries…

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‘The holiday was irresistible – a fortnight in Kerala cycling through tropical rain forests and valleys draped in tea and coffee plantations, following canals, relaxing on a houseboat and feasting on Keralan curries. Floating on a cloud of enthusiasm, I dreamed of the vibrant  colours and the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the biggest spice producer in the world, far from the drabness of England in February.

When we booked the Skedaddle Classic Kerala holiday last September, I conveniently forgot that in the past couple of years I’ve become a fair weather cyclist, while Chris is fit as a fiddle. I had 4 months to train. But cycling in Northumberland in winter is hardcore, which I’m not. Dust settled on my bike and suddenly it was January. I panicked and perched on a static bike in a gym, pedalling only as long as the telly programme on the screen in front of me.

By the time we arrived in Kerala, five days before the rest of the group, I was facing facts and clutching at straws. I wasn’t fit but at least I had time to  acclimatise. With a bit of luck, everyone else would a) be jet lagged and b) get heat-stroke and c) suffer from dehydration so I wouldn’t be the only one to find the cycling hard.

No such luck. On the day they arrived, I lurked in the hotel shadows sizing up the Skedaddlers. Sinewy legs strode across the foyer and toned bodies unpacked their own saddles and pedals. These were serious cyclists.

“So…do you do a lot of cycling?” I asked one of the women, feigning nonchalance. “Casual or obsessive?”

”I’m definitely a fanatic,” Lorrie replied cheerfully. Born in the saddle, with cycling parents, her husband had been a professional cyclist and she had cycled all her life. I smiled weakly as my heart sank.

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The next day, we started the ride early at a Hindu temple near Cochin Airport where a priest blessed us by putting a red dot on our foreheads, tying yellow thread round our wrists and handing us a flower. I was only too happy to take all the help I could get.

As roads narrowed and traffic disappeared, we pedalled through countryside passing rubber trees, their barks slashed in diagonal white scars as sap dripped into small cups tied to the trunks. Mango and papaya trees grew randomly between hefty jack fruits and coconut palms, vivid greens against cobalt, cloudless skies.

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Vipin and Roger were the guides who spent all day with us on the bikes, one leading, the other bringing up the rear, so we got to know them quite quickly.  Pradeep drove the support vehicle and Shoby was behind the wheel of the minibus, but we had little chance to talk with them – at least, not as long as we were cycling.

Every hour or so, we stopped and Pradeep and Shoby set up a picnic table loaded with fresh pineapple or watermelon, biscuits, fruit juice, water and bite sized portions of peanut brittle. Each break was a welcome opportunity to rest in shade, stoke up on calories and have a laugh.

So far so good. My confidence was growing until Vipin held his briefing for the next day using two H words – hard and hills.

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The 60 kms route from Thattekad to Mudhuvankudi was as tough for me as it was spectacular. We followed the river valley and headed uphill. I felt way out of my league as the climb became steeper, and fitter cyclists pulled ahead while I lagged behind at the back.

“It’s not a competition. It’s a holiday,” I reminded myself,  puffing and panting with wobbly legs. I tried playing mind games, like imagining I was cycling downhill instead of uphill. But facing reality, I accepted there was no way I could complete the ride, cut my losses and called it a day. Roger lifted my bike into the support vehicle and I hopped in.

I felt foolish, but not for long. Riding shotgun with Pradeep, a weight rolled off my shoulders and I perked up. I stopped worrying about holding the group back and making the guides’ work more difficult, as the gap stretched between the front riders and me. Now, I could truly appreciate ramshackle villages shrouded in what looked like an overgrown botanic garden and breath-taking views of steep river valleys and gullies.

Best of all, I had my own personal tour guide. Pradeep is a native Keralan who proved to be the fount of all knowledge, answering endless questions with infinite patience. From the hydro-electric system of dams in the Periyar Valley, to his childrens’ education, religion and politics, no subject was too trivial, personal or contentious.

At the next break, I met up with the fit squad. “Are you alright?“ they asked, concerned that I might be feeling off colour. “I’m having a great time,” I replied and I meant it from the bottom of my heart.

I made use of the support vehicle on two other days and looked forward to conversations with Pradeep. As the tour progressed, I toughened up and completed the daily rides, usually at the rear. I could see the leaders effortlessly pedalling way ahead through spice plantations, or tea and coffee estates. I had no hope of catching them, but I still enjoyed a sense of achievement.

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I wondered why I had worried about being the slowest at the back. Roger and Vipin couldn’t have been more supportive and reassuring. They said their main concerns were our safety and making sure everyone was happy – as indeed we all were.

No one in our exceptionally congenial group seemed remotely bothered by my speed – or lack of it. We all went at our own pace, each absorbed in the joy of cycling in Kerala. In fact, a sense of camaraderie developed among us all.

Obviously, I would never advocate joining a cycling holiday for which you are unfit. But my advice to anyone who finds themselves at the back, for whatever reason, is to do as much as you can then accept your limitations. Don’t beat yourself up or make yourself ill by flogging your guts out when you are struggling.

You will enjoy yourself much more in the support vehicle and you definitely won’t be holding anyone else up. And if you share my luck with a wonderful driver, you’ll end up far more knowledgeable and appreciative of the country you are meant to be cycling through.’

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Huge congrats to Sheilagh who is our March Customer Competition winner – we’re sure you’ll agree it’s an inspiring read and well deserved!

India and Sri Lanka – two tea–rrific destinations for a cycling holiday!

Are you a tea lover? If, like us, you can’t imagine a better way to start a day in the saddle than with a finely brewed cuppa, then we suggest you read on…

Whilst most might think that us Brits are the chief tea drinkers of the world, you might not know that tea is also something engrained within Indian and Sri Lankan culture too. On our Classic Kerala and  Backroads and Beaches cycling holidays, we explore endless tea plantations and even a Tea Museum, then cycle through the very tea estates that provide the leaves for your morning brew.  With tea on the mind (and a brew firmly in hand) we take a closer look at this classic beverage loved by millions across the globe.

National Treasure…
Did you know that tea is a second most consumed drink in the world? Beaten only by water! It’s more loved than coffee, beer and even Coca-Cola. Today, India is the world’s second largest tea producer and is widely exporting its vast selection of teas to many countries around the world. Alongside this, over 70% of tea grown there is actually consumed by Indians themselves. Obviously, tea is a top beverage of choice for the locals!

Sri Lanka is not far behind India and is the world’s forth-largest producer of this much-loved drink. Interestingly, it’s the British who started the development of tea production in Sri Lanka, by bringing seeds from China back to the country in the 19th century. Today it’s one of the most prominent tea producing countries in the world.

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A Tribute to Tea…
As part of our cycling tour in India you will visit Munnar, a major plantation centre, rich with tea estates and is a must see stop in South India’s largest tea-growing region. Here you’ll be greeted by miles of lush plantations and will have an opportunity to take a fascinating look into the history of tea production in Munnar during the visit to a Tea Museum. Feed your curiosity about everything it has to offer and discover the many stages of processing– your chance to learn a thing or two about your beloved beverage.

On our adventure to Sri Lanka you will head to Nuwara Eliya, a district in the Central Province best known for its particularly fine quality tea. This region is quite different from anywhere else in the country due to high altitudes, hills and cool breezes – a lovely contrast to the tropical landscapes you’ll encounter during your last few cycling days with us in Sri Lanka.

Feeling Inspired?

Experience the beauty and serenity of the local tea plantations, which accompany an abundance of beautiful scenery and delicious local cuisine on our cycling holidays to India or Sri Lanka. To learn more about the trips, check out the current availability and departure dates click here.