There's a place in Turkey where I descended into the bowels of the earth, terrified I'd never resurface, then flew to the highest reaches of the heavens, afraid I'd plummet to my doom. I laughed and made jokes, yet I was also silent, pondering the sacred. I felt corporeal and ethereal, often at the same time. Where was I? Cappadocia, of course...
In Vietnam, our Trip Leaders combine deep local expertise with a firm grasp of North American expectations around quality of service. By the same token, we pair experienced Backroads leaders with local guides who know how to cater to your needs while cracking open the culture or natural history in ways that are meaningful, memorable and often magical. On this trip, enjoy exclusive access to an ancient Hanoi temple rarely visited by foreign travelers. And leave the tourists behind, pedaling past bucolic settlements and vibrant green rice paddies on wonderfully quiet roads.
In Vietnam, coffee culture is as deep and rich as just about anything else. On old brick sidewalks and in old colonial shops adorned with art deco tiles, old men sit on small stools in the morning and afternoon. They sip little cups of iced-coffee rocket fuel, or as they would say, cafe sua da (or ca phe sua da), while playing checkers and cards.
For nearly 25 years we've created biking routes that take you deeper into Thailand, winding through forests, farmland and small hamlets that are well off the beaten tourist path. A great day of riding in gorgeous surroundings becomes all the more special when you're greeted by farmers, shopkeepers and monks who know Backroads well and invite you to stop in for a visit. We're confident you won't find that kind of welcome with any other company.
When Backroads first started exploring Myanmar, properly trained local guides simply didn't exist - at least not people who could support active travelers. So we developed our own guides, and they're now seen as the crème de la crème. Similarly, when we couldn't find a vehicle to transport our bikes properly, we had one built from scratch. We've found creative ways to maintain our high standards so you can focus on experiencing Myanmar to the fullest.
Travel offers a deeper understanding of the world and I try as often as I can to make the leap from tourist to Insider. And that requires a commitment to always wanting to know and see more. To always asking questions and pausing long enough to listen to the answers, whether they come or not. It's just as much about the people attempting to provide the answer as it is about what exactly they have to say. And the folks that might answer honestly tend not to be the ones on the main avenue selling trinkets or day tours.
The hike to Tiger's Nest--a challenge for some, a pilgrimage for others--is an essential part of any visit to Bhutan. Nestled into a cliff 3,000 feet above the floor of the Paro Valley, and resting at an elevation of over 10,000 feet above sea level, Tiger's Nest (or Paro Taktsang) is one of over 40 monasteries in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.
Much like the US, Thailand has dramatically changed the way it grows food with the introduction of modern agricultural practices. And in northern Thailand, there's a huge movement to go back to small, organic and sustainable farming. There's a local farmer leading the Thai food revolution--Jon Jandai.
Nestled deep within lush tropical foothills sits a cluster of over a dozen tiny villages that comprise the tranquil town of Ubud--the artistic and cultural center of Bali. The jungle-covered hills and terraced rice paddies surrounding this laid-back locale are dotted with ancient temples and palaces that still play a central role in the country's complex culture.
For me, the last few years have been nomadic to say the least, as I have lingered in no particular place longer than a month or two at a time. And the few phrases that I know in various Asian languages scarcely afford the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. So, while traveling I choose to experience a culture in a different manner. I choose to experience a place through its cuisine. And that's exactly what I did in Vietnam.