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Painted Roads Blog
July 6, 2016 by David Walker

Reviews of our recent Vietnam Mekong Delta Tour

Group of cyclists in Vietnam's Mekong Delta region

The merry group

Tony’s thoughts on the whole affair:

This is an authentic trip around the Mekong Delta. The sort of trip that is pretty hard to find these days. The route was along narrow tracks beside rivers and canals through the real Mekong. The kids we encountered were very excited as we passed by & the locals in general laughed & waved. I think they thought we were crazy! I suspect that they have not seen mad cyclists since the group rode through a year ago!

There are something like 8 million tourists that go to Viet Nam each year. The whole time we were on the ride we did not see another tourist/foreigner. That is something!

David is a great host who really looks after you and his support staff ensure the beers are on ice when the ride is finished after a long hot day in the saddle. Fantastic!

Special mention to the support staff of Phong, Lee and Hew? who were very friendly, efficient and provided excellent service after a day riding.

All in all a great ride & highly recommended.

Cycling the Mekong Delta Vietnam

It’s that man again – General Arthur flirting with the ladies

Jan say’s:

You and Phong make a great team, the banter between you both makes for easy going tour guides who I felt I could approach with any problems I might have had. Thanks for the trip and Deb and I both enjoyed it.

Cycling Vietnam's Mekong Delta

A little flood to negotiate

Deb’s opinion:

I was told the tour was well organised and there had been no problems on previously trips, and these expectation were met.  Thank-you David and Phong for looking after us and everything else.  It made our days easy only having to concentrate on cycling and dodging motor cycles.

Cyclists tour the Mekong Delta use a small ferry

One of many small ferry crossings

Bob thought:

The best way to see a country is by bicycle and Painted Roads’ tour of the Mekong Delta demonstrates this point in spades. We saw, smelled, tasted and experienced things in this amazing country that you could not otherwise experience except on a guided cycling trip, conducted by organisers who know the intricacies of the land. This trip takes you to places you would otherwise be totally unaware of. It is all about experiencing the Viet Nam that is off the beaten tourist track and what a hugely rewarding experience that turns out to be.

Cycling Vietnam's Mekong Delta

Phong gives a history lesson

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cyclists in Vietnams mekong regions

Tea break time – or rather more precisely, coconut time

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July 3, 2016 by David Walker

Cycling Taiwan – new tour coming in April.

cycling Taiwan

Stephan and I contemplating the next move as we head down the east coast

A lot has happened since the last post on this humble blog. From Central Vietnam in March I traveled first to Hong Kong, then to China, and on to Macau where I teamed up with cycling chum Stephan. Following a boyish reunion evening of beers and merry banter in the former Portuguese colony, Lichtensteiner Stephan and I flew to Taipei where a splendid month of exploring Taiwan by bicycle spread out before us like an exquisite banquet.

Beatle nut palms are a distinguishing feature of the Taiwan flora

Beatle nut palms are a distinguishing feature of the Taiwan flora

We left Taipei in less that ideal conditions, with rain tumbling down upon us. However, with such wonderful cycleways leading from the city centre to the shores of the north coast, our spirit and enthusiasm for what lay ahead was far less dampened that was our skin.

Taiwan's stunning south east coast

Taiwan’s stunning south east coast

Exploring a new route with the hope of creating a tour is something that always brings around some apprehension, and fear of finding something less than ideal soon brings out the pessimist in me. In many ways this works well, at least from the perspective of PaintedRoads guests, for I am far more likely to reject a good route than go ahead with a poor one. And when one inspects a route there are always negatives that crop up – after all one can hardly expect to arrive in a new land and find a perfect route laid out polished and eager to please. There is always need to poke around and look deeper, backtrack and reevaluate. But what Taiwan has  the ability to do is throw up a heart sinking downer in the shape of a busy road or a dead end, and then, just as the tears start to flow, it says “ah come on, cheer up, only joking” and points a chap in the direction of a beautiful car free cyclists alternative. And so Stephan and I meandered our way delightfully around the north coast and down the east, ridding beautiful lightly trafficked byways and car free paths, always delighted with the days outcome, and always rising early eager to seek out some more.

A typical Taiwan bike path

A typical Taiwan bike path

The result of your survey is an 11 day tour with a difficulty lever making it accessible to anyone who can happily ride 100kms in a day – in short, most anyone who joins a PaintedRoads tour.

A small quiet rural lane

A small quiet rural lane

The first tour is now scheduled to run next year from April 23 until May. Full details will be on the PaintedRoads’ website as soon as I can get the bloody thing working.

Rail trail bike path Taiwan

Where there is a problem, there is a solution. We harboured concerns about one seemingly unavoidable busy stretch of coastal road. When we arrived we found this, a section of bicycle path through an old disused railway tunnel – there is always an answer in Taiwan.

Crossing the rice fields

Crossing the rice fields

Down on the rocky beach

Down on the rocky beach

Riding the costal path

Riding the costal path

 

 

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April 8, 2016 by David Walker

Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Trail – A splendid inaugural tour and the thoughts of those who came along.

 

Well, that was a wonderful way to send March. Phong and I explored the Ho Chi Minh Trail tour some years ago, and for reasons that left us permanently bamboozled it received little interest. Was it the connotations associated with The Ho Chi Minh Trail? Did people think of UXO, wild ex-warriors still roaming the jungle picking off tourists? Snakes and spiders? Has Hollywood left too many negative images in peoples minds? Or could it be the big numbers? 101kms per day average and hills? Could be. Phong and I always remained committed to this being a wonderful tour and a year ago Phong went so far as to sat “if no one comes on the HCM Trail tour, then we should ride it again for fun, just the two of us”, I concurred. And so it was with a blend of confidence and an inevitable dash of nervousness that Phong and I set out on the inaugural running of the tour with a small group of some of PaintedRoads finest regulars.

The weather had variety but was mostly kind, with overcast sky offering shade on all save a couple of days (which were, to be blunt, bloody hot). We had a spot of rain,  just enough to cool us and not enough to dampen our spirits. We had fine food, and it was commented on more than once that the quality of food seems to get better each time we visit Vietnam, and for the remoteness of some of the route our accommodations was often times far better than one may have expected. And the route? Beautiful. Hills, rural, jungle and forest, oft light of traffic and always with jovial locals. The kilometres may be a tad longer than on some tours, but still, covering 130kms on some days saw as relaxing with a cold beer at the hotel before four thirty each day. The hills are there for sure, but not as tough as on other hilly Asian rides – in the words of Dianne “I thought it would be more hilly, so was a bit worried about 100 + kms and big climbs, but should have realised you wouldn’t do that to us”. And on that note I will leave you with a few snapshots from the tour and some comments sent to me post tour by those who came along.

Cheerio for now

D

cyclists on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

“Having David as tour leader and the actual person who cycled the whole itinerary beforehand, makes the biggest difference to other touring companies”

cyclists taking a break on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

“I found the Central Vietnam Tour to be hugely enjoyable. It was a delightful journey following the Ho Chi Minh Trail as it winds its way through some incredibly varied scenery. For the most part the cycling is on very quiet back-roads which undulate gently with the occasional short climb – overall an altogether easier challenge than the more mountainous North Vietnam routes”

cyclists on Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh Trail

For the most part the cycling is on very quiet back-roads which undulate gently with the occasional short climb – overall an altogether easier challenge than the more mountainous North Vietnam routes. Even the longer 100k plus stages were managed with relative ease, by all of the group, with everyone finishing with a smile on their faces.

Cycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail

“A great trip with lots of variety in scenery, from bustling busy Hanoi to rice paddies and farmland, followed by mountain scenery and lush thick jungle, to finishing with a relaxing day in the quaint old town of Hoi An”.

Cyclists on the 17th Parallel

“Hearing about aspects of Vietnamese history and stories of the war from the Vietnamese guide Phong was fascinating and added interest and meaning whilst riding along the Ho Chi Minh trail.”

"Came with an open mind, but it was better than I had anticipated – more scenic, friendlier people, good food, and less demanding physically".

“Came with an open mind, but it was better than I had anticipated – more scenic, friendlier people, good food, and less demanding physically”.

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March 8, 2016 by David Walker

And another thought on Thailand

Jane has sent in some very kind words following our recent South Thailand tour. Many thanks Jane, the pleasure was all mine and I very much look forward to another trip together.

jane and her wonderful Mercian bicycle

Jane England: I was a little apprehensive about my cycling capabilities and my old bike before booking the South Thailand tour. Over several emails, David made certain I was happy and reassured me that I could travel in the support vehicle for a rest at any time. I thoroughly enjoyed the odd 20km travelling slowly in air-con comfort with time to absorb the scenery. I felt privileged and certainly not defeated!
David is a brilliant organiser. Always thoughtful and constantly on duty to help, David and the team made each of us feel special. He was clear with instructions and information and quietly aware of our safety at all times. Nat and the support drivers could not have been more helpful, generous and kind. Nat was invaluable for local information and answered my constant questions with a broad smile.
David’s knowledge of the country from a cyclists point of view is extraordinary. He must have researched every road, path and track to give variety to each day and ensure we visited memorable sites. We explored caves, temples, beaches, met monkeys and Buddha’s and were uplifted by stunning views.
We stayed in a wide range of accommodation and ate a fantastic and delectable diversity of local food. The cycling breaks, at perfect intervals, were mouth watering with heaps of local fruits, sticky rice parcels etc, and essential cold drinks (yes, it was very hot).
It was a fascinating insight into simple Thai life away from towns and tourists. I loved the natural environment and its gentle, smiling inhabitants. As a group, we had great fun with lots of banter and holiday spirit.
David is an expert leader; wonderfully good natured, humorous, an excellent communicator and ideal cycling companion. He is the perfect cycle guide. Go on a Painted Roads tour, you will be charmed.

Cycling South Thailand Tour on an orange Mercian (c1980)

Cyclists in a Buddha cave Thailand

Visiting a buddhist cave

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March 6, 2016 by David Walker

Some Thought On Thailand From Those Who Came Along

February was month full of Thailand tours. Great weather, great company, and some of Asia’s finest cycling ensured that for me, and I suspect for the two groups of adventure cyclist who joined PaintedRoads for some winter bicycle frolics, was a fine beginning to 2016.

cyclist passing a wat in Thailand

Leaving a lunch break in Southern Thailand

gravel cycling Thailand

Riding rural unsealed roads in Northern Thailand – far from the madding crowds.

The time has come though to move onto Vietnam where our inaugural tour of the central region’s Trung Son Mountains is about to begin. So as a fairwell to Thailand a few pics, and some comments about the tours from some folks kind enough to let me what they thought of our journey together – many many thanks to you all.

a cyclist in northern thailand

Wally from Canada: I really enjoyed the Northern Thailand tour. David is a natural tour leader both for his personnel skills and secondly is always thinking many steps ahead to make the journey seamless and enjoyable for all the participants. His enthusiasm and passion for the love of doing this business radiates to everyone around him so it would be very hard not to enjoy yourself on such a trip.

cycling southern Thailand

Caroline from Southampton: I very much enjoyed my first cycling holiday with Painted Roads and I am sure there will be others. David was a fantastic tour leader and looked after everyone splendidly. The scenery was amazing and there was a good balance of relaxing time and cycling.

cyclists on gravel road in south Thailand

David Bruce from Brisbane: This was my second tour with Painted Roads and I was certainly not disappointed. Having come to expect a real focus on delighting the customer, Walks and his crew went out of their way to ensure our every desire was catered for. From the pre-tour communications to the on-tour briefings and support by David and the local guide Nat, nothing was left to chance, and we could just immerse ourselves in the local culture and scenery while riding. While this tour is long and hot, there were plenty of stops for refreshments and the cold beer at the end of the day made the whole ride worth it.
I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone who enjoys good company, good food and accommodation and of course some great cycling. Well done David Walker. See you on another tour soon.

cyclist outside a dramatic Thai temple

Michael from England: Ten out of ten – fun, enjoyable, stunning and varied scenery, lovely people, great food and good value.
It requires a lot of detailed planning and preparation for a tour to run like clockwork. The logistics with transportation, accommodation, food stops, navigation and timing were faultless. We were a diverse group of cyclists of mixed ability. Health issues and bike problems were sympathetically handled with flexibility and support. Brilliant organisation. Thanks and well done David and team.

Relaxing by the sea after a long days bicycle touring in Thailand

Mary – Oxfordshire: We thoroughly enjoyed our second Southern Thailand tour . David and Natt our leaders managed our mixed group of age and ability to ensure that everyone had a good experience and could enjoy the holiday to the full.
The back up crew of Gor and Ton were invaluable in their support, without the food and drink van we would have expired in the heat!

 

 

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