Bike Touring Destination Suggestions...I need help :)
Replies: 19 - Last Post: Jun 11, 2012 5:10 PM Last Post By: artichoke
Jun 2, 2012 5:35 PM
Bike Touring Destination Suggestions...I need help :)Hey guys,
After discovering my new passion of bike touring barely a few years back, I find myself being very indecisive about my next destination. Part of the problem is that I have "big dreams" of "adventure" (like bike touring around China), but feel a bit scared of going alone in an overly "wild" destination ("wild" being defined relative to adventure-less Canada, lol.)
My "level" of "biking touring adventure" went from going to France, bike touring around Paris for a month (very easy!) to going across Netherlands with a fully loaded bike (tent, burner etc.) Travelling alone was a nice challenge but still nothing to call home about for any seasoned bike touring enthusiast...
My "problem" is that I'd like to "step it up" but can't seem to find the "appropriate challenge." Destinations seem either "too easy and boring" or else "too adventurous and scary". Could anyone give me a kick in the ...?
I really thought I'd be going to China the last week of august, but after researching this trip, my conclusion is that it would be quite difficult to bike in a country without any GPS (in english I mean), near to no english-speaking people outside of big cities, no celphone (who could I call, since they all speak chinese!), and total inability to either read written information or road signs, understand spoken words or even pronounce anything at all. Finding directions, taking a train, finding an hotel; everything looks like it would be a daily headache (and NO, I won't join a TOURIST group!!)
So all that being said, what would those of you with experience recommend as a "good bike touring destination" where I'd have a good chance of feeling the "winds of adventure", yet not have to sweat over daily stuff like finding my way from A to B, eating and sleeping?
Here are a few criteria:
- Acceptably safe destination.
- Speaks "some" english, or at least has GPS maps available! I have no time for getting lost, lol
- Preferably warm (I've seen enough cold countries in recent years. Wanna bike in shorts! ;)
- Feels DIFFERENT than Canada (I like to feel I'm actually somewhere ELSE :)
- Accessible to someone doing max 50km - 120km per day.
- Can be visited in 24 days or less because my vacations are limited :(
- I'm not a bike purist: I can take a train to cover one particularly long stretch.
- Low to medium budget (I'm much more interested in enjoying the sights and taking pictures than having somptuous hotels and dinners...)
I'm not sure if anyone will answer that long question, but in anycase it clarified my ideas just to write it down. Thanks for any hints! :)
Jun 3, 2012 10:19 AM
1I'm in the planning stages of a solo bike tour through Central America as long as your prepared for rain and don't mind taking a bus or train as you mentioned it might be what your looking for. You should look into Central America, from what I've heard its a great adventure. Look into the seasonal weather and dont get scared off by any horror stories.
Jun 3, 2012 11:07 AM
What makes you think there is no GPS in China?
I'd suggest you start in Thailand and maybe go on to Laos.
Or actually I think you should start reading some of the countless reports from cycling in various parts of the world that are freely available on the net. For instance at Crazyguyonabike
Jun 3, 2012 12:25 PM
3difficult to bike in a country without any GPS
What do you think we did when there was no GPS??????
Where do you get the idea that there is no GPS in China?? You have access to the internet go to https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID=30217
Jun 3, 2012 12:46 PM
Jun 3, 2012 2:07 PM
5Maybe India if you like a challenge and everything is in English.
We bought 2 chinese maps last year and cross referenced them. Before GPS they used to use something called a compass. We used that and found so many interesting places.
Nothing like getting lost.
If you do China do take a tent. We did use it often.
We liked China so much its back on the cards next year as is India.
Jun 3, 2012 2:33 PM
6@bjornbur: Indeed it looks interesting. I don't care so much about rain, no, but indeed I would need to focus on "don't get scared off by any horror stories" as you mention :)
@Albin_2: I came to a wrong conclusion I guess. I searched for a China map maybe a year back and could not find one. In fact I even registered on a site to get notified when the map they were working on would be available. Then I searched Garmin's site for it too and found nothing, BUT I guess that's only because the map you mention is not compatible with my eTrex Legend Hcx (which I love!) I'm not interested so much in a map for a car GPS... Anyway, someone else answered another thread and sent me a link to free, compatible China maps so it looks like I will need to think about China again :)
Indeed I read Thailand is an easy place to start, although it harder (longer, costlier) to go there from Canada than to China. So I think I might focus on China, now that I have found a GPS map :) Crazyguyonabike is nice, but a bit messy too. It's easy to end up reading things forever and ever on that website and still be without a clue on where to go or how to proceed. Maybe it's my lack of travel experience and insecurity, too ;)
@Cyclewallah: "what do you think we did when there was no GPS?" That's a good question that indeed points to the fact that I'm not a "born adventure traveller" maybe? :) I'm just a dreamer, a would-be adventure traveller, but it seems I'll have to work for it! What else can I do? Travelling in a tourist bus makes me want to jump off a bridge... Believe it or not, just crossing Netherlands with my fully loaded bike was a "challenge" for me, lol. At least it was BEFORE I did it, now after the fact I see it was nothing to sweat about. So now I'm sweating about the "next level", which is going to a more exotic place still, such as China where mandarin renders simple tasks like asking for directions or reading a sign or menu "impossible." Maybe AFTER I've done it I'll think it's easy after all, but it looks like a brick wall to me right now. Not sure if you can relate to any of that, lol. Hey, I just starting travelling too old I guess :)
@pbekkerh: Thanks a lot for that suggestion. Those are names I've seen a few times in the million books I've been reading of guys travelling the world by bike. If it's on your list of "simple" destinations, I will research some more.
Thanks to all for your comments!
Jun 3, 2012 2:46 PM
7One good thing about cycle travel is the adventure, stepping out of the familiar, outside the comfort zone, see the world as it is. Just decide where you would like to go - and go there. Step outside of yourself, you may enjoy it. You won't rise to the challenge if you never meet the challenge. And most do survive. Even realise how easy it is. But of course, often you are where you have no choice but to. And it just becomes an easy every day occurrence. Easier everyday. Remember that millions of locals survive - so also can you. Just need look around and do as they do.
The sweat over daily stuff. Sign language is universal. You learn it very easily when you get hungry, need somewhere to sleep. Phrase books help a lot. Basic survival language, before you go, is easy to learn. (hello, please, where is, hotel, yes, no, don't understand,) They will pick you're a foreigner and usually be helpful, often pleased you wanted to visit them and their country. Let them. Don't isolate yourself.
China is easy now. Can hardly get into trouble. It was my 1st ever cycle tour. Decades ago when they were still confiscating bikes on arrival. The only people with maps were spies. The locals were too scared of the police to talk to foreigners. Was tailed and interrogated daily. (even tho they were very friendly, even helpful) Was fun and easy. I survived. So can you. (Many even speak english, there are even english signs, now) Go. Or you may for the rest of your life regret you didn't. You want. Do it. (And no, in those days the only people with GPS were military. Struggled to just find paper maps. And never got lost. Basically followed the roads. They knew where to go.
Vietnam has always been recommended as a beginner trip. Enough adventure but quite easy. Thailand less adventure and easier.
The world is easy to travel now days. Anyone can. And you don't need a GPS. I only recently bothered and bought a get me home one. (Getting lost in cities is the fun, have always found way back to hotel, but relented and bought a GPS. A backtrack one, no maps needed)
Those thinking it is too hard, you need all this fancy stuff. Always think back to a book, 'Pedals and Petticoats' (Mary Elsy - Author) written by a couple of girls who toured most Europe the year after the war. In countries that they were still the enemy. War rations meant they could get nothing. On single speed resurrections. A school atlas for map. And they survived. Even had fun.
But perhaps teenage girls were tuff and resourceful back then.
"what do you think we did when there was no GPS?"
We got a cheap map. A cheap compass. And off we went. If you can't relate the two, it will takes minutes to learn. North is always north. People have been doing it for centuries.
And the batteries don't go flat. A cyclometer is handy.
Netherlands with my fully loaded bike was a "challenge" for me, lol. At least it was BEFORE I did it,
Thinking about it often is the only scarey part. And after you have done it you wondered why you were. But of course, like all in life you learn by doing, and after you can it's easy. But 1st you need do it, learn. Each trip gets easier.
Jun 3, 2012 3:21 PM
8@onrrbike: India I thought about but everybody just scares me like this place is SO filled with people it's impossible to manage and also about total lack of higiene that is sure to make me catch some fatal illness, lol. I know, I should stop listening to people's fears and perceptions. I start to realize that by now. People's fears have nothing to do with "reality" it seems? Gosh, I even have a cyclist "friend" from work who lives in India. I think you have a great idea too :) India...
@dotravel: Man... I am standing still with my jaw opened, reading your extremely significant message for the second time and trying to let your words permeate my brain. I find it unbelievable that anyone would take the time to think about and write such a thoughful post. I will re-read it until I can act on those kind words. If I do go to China, I will owe you a beer for sure :)
Jun 3, 2012 5:56 PM
9Yeah, well, a thing we get a lot of in the touring world is off putting, that it is hard. Which is hardly encouraging. Ok, some trips are harder than others. But basically you're only going for a bike ride ride. So,, the scenery changes often, and you do more consecutive days of it. Common commonsense and things work out. As you found out on your last trip. You probably learned more than you realised. And you're wondering why you worried.
The in India and getting sick. A few million are still alive there, as you noted, (There will still be room for you to squeeze in) and when you see dead people lying around everywhere that is when you should worry. Until then common sense should be enough.
The big concern of food. Most people like to eat. Follow them and there is a fair chance you will be able to eat too. If it looks good, point to it and usually they give it you.
The China thing. It was no biggy. (And that was my 1st cycle tour even) Was just be careful and keep brain engaged. (As I'm sure I will need do when I go to Canada) But it was a long time ago. The red guards were still being silly. The point being. It was a fantastic fun trip, no problems, even then. Now lots of people go there and survive. It's easy now. You can go too, if you want. China seems like many countries. When foreigners die it is a bad look for the tourist trade and embassies ask awkward questions so generally they like to keep you alive.
A GPS would be nice, but don't fret over it.
We need remember, that though it helps to learn how to walk, one can not cross a bridge until you get to it.
And here in NZ we know that only dogs worry (sheep) and we shoot them.
Decide where you want to go and do it. If it be China, why not??? Many Millions have. Why not you???
As it says on the OYB forum header:- get on your bike and see the world.
Jun 3, 2012 8:57 PM
Jun 4, 2012 3:41 AM
11As for talking to people who do not understand your language I have found very good use for a book with pictures of many things and situations one might need to convey.
Book without words
The book is German and is titled Ohne Wörter-buch. Since it has practically no words it does not matter if you understand German or not The booklet is handy size, about 64 pages, and covers a wide range of topics that the intrepid traveller has use for.
On the cover it says that the book has 550 pictures and are meant for "Weltenbummler". I am not exactly sure what Weltenbummler means, but it sounds nice and I do feel like one.
Here in Sweden this book is available for about $11. I saw some outrageous prices elsewhere on the net.
Jun 7, 2012 3:41 AM
Jun 7, 2012 4:38 AM
13I cycled in China without a GPS - one map in English and one in Chinese. Why all this insistence on using a GPS - one duff connection or a dead battrery and you will be lost and at the mercy of the bandits and maurading cut-throats.
The Chinese written language is easier to 'understand' (or recognise) for small things like town names, etc than most Asian scripts which are just a load of squiggles to me.
You sound a bit paranoid about travelling away from your comfort zone, so I would go along with starting in Thailand (lots of English speaking bail out options) and then moving on to Lao or Vietnam or Cambodia as you get more confident.
Check out the weather - it can be very hot and wet in August.
Jun 7, 2012 5:55 AM
On my latest cycle trip, Kathmandu - Bombay, I threw away my flashy All India Road Map once I had realized how much better it was to use Google Maps in my smartphone with GPS.
The paper map was simply too much, too big and too heavy. And of course it did not zoom. When it dawned on me that I had not used it in more than a week I deliberately left it behind in a hotel.
A spare battery is of course good to have. And I can "precache map area" beforehand to avoid being affected by duff connections.
A couple of years ago I met a dude in Bangkok who had cycled in China for two months using Google Earth on his handlebar mounted Ipad. He was very happy with how useful it had been.
Ko ChangBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$52.16 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$57.94 per night
Chiang MaiBook now
(5 star Hotel)
From US$119.63 per night