The mother of two children clinging to her long, woven skirt encourages her two-year-old son to wave to you by grabbing his wrist and saying “sabaidee,” which means “hello” in Lao. When you pass by on your bike, waving back, the woman’s daughter calls out, “Bye-bye!,” a phrase she probably learned at an early age to use to address passing bike tourists. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, try biking in Laos. Laotians in remote villages don’t see many Westerners rolling through their homeland.
If you’ve spent any time traveling internationally you’ve undoubtedly encountered some form of curry on menus and local tables in just about any region of the world, and especially in South Asia. So what exactly is curry, and why does it seem to be everywhere? With a little bit of knowledge about this delicious culinary tradition, your traveling adventures (and your palate!) will be enriched as you learn to appreciate all that curry has to offer. I’m here to help you out!
India is everything you’ve heard plus a million more sensations. The contrasts knock you to your knees, humble you and build you back up within a matter of moments. It takes “exotic” to the next level and stamps the reality that we’re from vastly different cultures but we’re similar in so many ways.
With National Bike to Work Day on May 19th, it’s not really about the route, it’s about the notion: Who needs a car anyway? Whether you do it every day or once a year, pedaling to work is worth celebrating. If your commute isn’t scenic, then allow your mind to drift to one of our Top 10 friendliest bike regions in the world.
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, 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.
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.
Cycling in the ridiculously hot region of South East Asia for months on end with no support, camp assistant Brant Haflich and I figured we’d be spending a good amount of time in search of clean drinking water. We had just finished cycling across our own country and we wanted to continue our bicycle adventures while learning something along the way. We wanted a purpose for our pedal strokes and we had questions about global water issues.
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.
If you’re planning a Backroads Thailand trip we’ll be picking you up in the old Lanna Kingdom capital, Chiang Mai. We highly recommend you spend at least 24 hours in this beloved mountain city. But be careful—you may never want to leave.