January - 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.
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 coast. 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 travelled, 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. It 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
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 newcomers, along with friends from years gone by and PaintedRoads most loyal guest, Arthur.
PaintedRoads newcomers Deb & Jan, see you in Yunnan ladies
"What, on bicycles, yer must be bonkers?"
Arthur and the lottery 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 takes 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 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 thought I might find ‘interesting’, and wishing me ‘heartfelt 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 designed and created by the great Mike of Mikes Imagination. Not only does fellow adventure cyclist Mike create a jolly fine website, but 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 nuptials on the lawn on a fine summer afternoon.
September - China
September saw 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 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 research 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 ever 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 newcomer 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.
December - Vietnam Northeast
The Northeast Vietnam tour holds a very special place in my heart, and with an especially fine group for 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 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 Christmas 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