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PaintedRoads 2016 - A Year In Review

31 December 16

Janurary - Thailand

The year began, as it looks highly likely to end, in our residence of choice, the wonderful cycling playground of North Thailand.

February - Thailand North

February was a great month as we remained in Thailand, firstly taking a group of friends, both old and new, to have a look around the finest scenery that the Lao and Burma border region  has to offer. What do I think of Northern Thailand? I chose to make it my home - enough said I think.

Thailand South

It was then a quick dash south to meet a new group with whom I was to spend a splendid fortnight cycling south along the lanes and byways that track the secluded beaches of Thailand”s south east cost. We veered west as we reached Surat Thani and left the mass tourists to the delights of party island of Kho Samui and Koh Pangan, as we continued along the path less traveled, moving via bike and boat to our tour’s end on Phuket.

March - Vietnam

Echo and I celebrated my 50th birthday in the beautiful little town of Hoi An prior to running the inaugural Ho Chi Minh Trail tour through the tranquil mountains of Central Vietnam. It was a small group, all PaintedRoads regulars, and despite this tour not attracting a great deal of attention (a bewildering situation), the tour was declared “perhaps the best tour ever” by one very experienced worldly cyclist. 

Crossing the famed 17th Parallel

Echo's first ever 130 kilometre day, she followed this up with two more such days in a row

A lovely lady met along the way

April - Taiwan

In April my chum Stephan and I loaded our bikes and set out to explore Taiwan. To say that what we discovered pleased us would be a woeful understatement, for it delighted us greatly - the little visited destination of Taiwan really deserves to be a world Mecca for cyclists. If is a stunning place to ride - beautiful, friendly, orderly, and organised, and to top it all off the cycling infrastructure is absolutely splendid. I look forward to next April and our very first tour group there.

May - China Yunnan

It was back to China for May, and what is, at present, my most favourite tour. 

I cut my adventure cycling teeth in Yunnan many years since, and whether it is for this reason, or simply because of the natural beauty, the great roads, the fine company, and the fantastic food I do not know, but I simply love this tour. This is rather fortunate as it turns out to be our most popular tour, and the competition is not mild.

"Um" Cathy and Echo wonder where the group went

Hong Kong

Following the Yunnan tour Echo and I headed across the border to Hong Kong to tie the knot

June - Vietnam's Mekong Delta

This year’s Mekong Delta Tour in Vietnam’s far south was most delightful. Phong and I enjoyed the company of six PaintedRoads new comers, along with friends from years gone by and PaintedRoads most loyal guest, Arthur.

PaintedRoads new commers Deb & Jan, see you in Yunnan ladies

"What, on bicycles, yer must be bonkers?"

Arthur and the lottory lady

and on to - Ho Chi Minh Trail Exploration

Following the tour Phong declared that we should look to continue the exploration of our Ho Chi Minh Trail tour. Our present route take us half the length of the country, and the intention is to extend our path all the way from Hanoi to Saigon. I said I would be delighted to be have his company for another two weeks, he said “tough luck fish face, I’m going home”*, before handing me a route scrawled on an old road map, a scribbled list of Vietnamese dishes he though I might find ‘interesting’, and wishing me ‘heart felt good luck and godspeed’. It was a fab couple of weeks of adventure, discovery, and happy memory making, albeit alone (*Phong can be harsh of tongue).

July & August - UK Summer Hols.

July saw Echo and I board a plane Blighty bound as we headed to my ancestral home. Whilst there the new PaintedRoads website was conducted by the great Mike of Mikes Imagination. Not only does fellow adventure cyclist Mike create a jolly fine website, we also created PaintedRoads as an image and an entity, all things for which I am eternally grateful - cheers Mike!

Inevitably being back in the UK with Echo meant that my dear mother could not resist celebrating her new daughter-in-law joining the family, and so it was that we enjoyed a modest celebration of our nuptuals on the lawn on a fine summer afternoon. 

September - China

September say us back in China with time to do something I have been eager to pursue for some years, a new China tour. Guangxi and Guizhou are two fascinating provinces that sport not only dazzling nature but also lovely ancient architecture, as well as fascinating tribal minority groups. And so it was that Echo and I set out out with friends and partners Cathy & Lee to explore a tour that has been on my mind for an age. And the beauty of it was that whilst Lee and I cycled the route Cathy and Echo drove ahead searching out restaurants and lodging, as well as ensuring that we always arrived at day’s end with a cold beer waiting for us.

Lee rides into our rest day town

Now that's the way to reserch a tour. Lee and I arrived each evening to find our wives with a hotel room and cold beer waiting - thank you ladies.

October - Tri-nations: Vietnam, Thailand & Lao

Come October it was time to run a tour that has been on my mind every since I first became a tour leader. Three southeast Asian nations, two and a half languages, one religion, and total bewilderment about political systems and their meanings; Vietnam, Lao, and Thailand are as unlikely neighbours as they are likely (if that makes sense), and so this makes for a fascinating tour. 

It was to be a convivial group of just four old friends, until Roman from Germany bumped into us purely by chance as we assemble our bikes in Sapa the day before cycling commenced. He said he would care to join us, and so we had a bike send up overnight from Hanoi and our group of four became an even more convivial five, and a bally good group and a jolly fine ride it was. As a bonus perhaps, the tour group highlight of the year for me was cycling newcommer Caroline’s epic conquering of a 20% gradient climb, even stopping halfway and restarting on the climb, that sure made the tour for me.

Vietnam's Black River

November - Thailand

The Tri-nations tour ended conveniently in Chiang Rai, and Chiang Rai is where Echo and I desire to reside. And so with the tour over we retired to our humble abode to relax for a while, and of course explore the seemingly endless trails and tracks of the region.

Relaxing...

and exploring

December - Vietnam Northeast

The Northeast Vietnam tour holds a very special place in my heart, and with an especially fine group as company this was a fitting tour with which to finish the year. December proved to be a perfect month to run the tour with ideal cycling weather, not too hot, and never too cold. We did have a day of rain, but it rains on the that day of the tour whatever time of year we run it - it is, after all, The Rain Day.

 

The year for us draws to an end in Thailand with both Cristmas and New Year's Eve in Chiang Rai. It has been a fine year, a year of great journeys with many friends both old and new, and now we look forward very much to the year ahead, and many more to come.

Not the usual Christmas dinner

Wishing everyone a wonder and adventure filled 2017.

Very best wishes

David & Echo