The Asia leg of our round the world bicycle tour began in Hong Kong. The choice of destination was prompted by costs (lots of cheap flights from Vancouver) and climate (we arrived in late October– winter was already settling in further north).
Cycling from the airport over a mountain and into central Hong Kong after a 15 hour flight ranks as one of my worst travel memories ever. Not recommended.
From Hong Kong we caught a ferry to mainland China just west of the mega-city of Shenzhen. We then proceeded up the heavily populated and industrialized east coast of China to the city of Xiamen. Cycling on China’s eastern seaboard is unpleasant at best, downright miserable most of the time. We passed city after city interspersed with factories and a lot of polluted countryside. Traffic was treacherous at times and I am surprised we made it through without any mishaps.
From Xiamen, we took a ferry to Taiwan. This was a pleasant, easy and relatively economical way to travel to the Republic of China. We began our cycling circumnavigation of Taiwan in the west coast city of Taichung. While navigating our way though Taipei required nerves of steel, the east coast of Taiwan offered many stretches of serene seaside cycling. The highlight of cycling Taiwan was riding through Taroko Gorge.
After three pleasant weeks bicycle touring in Taiwan, we returned to Taichung and caught the ferry back to Xiamen on Mainland China.
We began heading west through Yong Ding County and on to Shaoguan before reaching Yangshou, a famous spot in China known for the beautiful Karst peaks in the surrounding countryside. Here we found the unchanged China we’d been searching for.
After almost a week of relaxation in Yangshou, we began pedaling again, now bound for Vietnam. We crossed the border in Mong Cai in the northeast corner of Vietnam. We cycled south to Halong City and caught a local ferry to Cat Ba Island. After crossing the island by bike, we relaxed for a few days in Cat Ba City, calm and quiet since it was the off-season.
We then returned to the mainland via a series of local ferries which eventually brought us to Haiphong. From there, we cycled busy highway 5 to Hanoi.
After a few days wandering around the capital, we began cycling northeast through the highlands of Vietnam, reaching Dien Bien Phu and the Laos border in about a week’s time.
Northern Laos offered some of the most beautiful rides in Southeast Asia. Roads were steep and rough at times, but well-worth the effort. Around 200 kilometers from the border we reached one of the north’s main cities, Udomxai. Wanting to see a less-visited side of Laos, we opted to turn off on Highway 1C towards Phou Loei National Park and then hop onto Highway 6 to Phonsavan.
Next we rode south to Thakek and followed the Mekong to Savannahket. Cycling southern Laos was much different from the north: far fewer hills, many more settlements, a lot more heat and, regrettably, not near as much adventure.
Due to delays resulting from mechanical difficulties, our visas were set to expire so we had to jump across the border to the Thai town of Mukdahan.
After sorting out our mechanical problem, we headed straight south, alternating between the busy main highway and far more pleasant secondary roads.
We crossed in to Cambodia at the remote border post of Along Veng. A brand-new road brought us to Siem Reap and the beautiful temples of Angkor Wat. After plenty of exploring, we hit the main highway for a pancake flat ride to Phnom Penh. Next up was the colonial town of Kampot on the southern coast where we discovered a quieter side of Cambodia. Then we followed the undulating coastal road skirting the Cardamom Mountains through the spectacular Botum Sakor National Park to Koh Kong and the border with Thailand.
From the border, it was a straight shot to Bangkok. Thankfully, escaping Bangkok was far easier than finding our way in. From the capital we followed the main highway south for around 100 kilometers before taking a short cut through the salt flats leading to Cha Am, a coastal beach resort.
Next, we followed Highway 4 to Chumphon and then began heading west through the mountains to Ranong. Here we stopped for a quick run into Burma for a new Thai visa. We then continued down Highway 4 south through some beautiful scenery and cycled near the town of Takua Pa and took a shortcut through Phang-Nga Province.
We continued following the relatively flat coast to Krabi through the provinces of Trang and Phattalung. Eventually we reached the troubled Southern Provinces of Thailand: Songkhla, Pattani and Narathiwat.
We crossed into Malaysia at Tak Bai and biked along the East Coast of Malaysia passing through quiet countryside and laidback beach towns. Finally we reached Singapore.
From there we took a ferry to Batam, Indonesia crossed the island and took another ferry Bintan, Indonesia, crossed that island and took the government Pelni slow boat (3 days) to Pontianak, West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo
From Pontianak, we headed north, crossing the equator as we cycled across incredibly hilly terrain to Kuching, Malaysia in the province of Sarawak.
Next we headed through tiny Brunei before returning to Malaysia and its Sabah province. Then it was back to Indonesia where we began island hopping through Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and West Timor.
After a short jaunt through East Timor, we caught a plane to Darwin, Australia’s northernmost city.