SpiceRoads Blog

Riders of the month – 4 Cyclists from Norway!

Posted on: March 21st, 2017 by Sujittra

March 2017 features not one, but four riders! Introducing four cyclists from Norway: Margot Lothe Pedersen,  Mia Johanne Marie Lervik, Sverre Lervik, and Hildur Aase.

  • Tell us about your earliest experiences as a cyclist…

Hildur: My first experience as a cyclist was in France in 1996 when we were 4 friends cycling together.

Sverre: My first experience was in Ireland in 2013 when Hildur and I had a week cycling trip using the tour operator’s map.

Margot: My first experience abroad was Cycling Coastal Thailand with SpiceRoads last year.

Mia: As a “long trip rider” my first experience was in Cambodia, in March 2015, with SpiceRoads, together with my brother, Sverre and his girlfriend, Hildur.

  • Tell us what you most enjoy about cycle touring and why you like to see the world by bicycle?

Hildur: I like cycling in a warm climate with guides that are sympathetic and know their culture and profession.

Sverre: I like to experience the world slowly.

Mia: There are several reasons for me to like to see the world by cycling:
1) It takes me to interesting areas where I’d never dared to visit on my own, or even together with the other guys.

2) It makes it possible to meet local people and learn about their lifestyle and conditions.

3) I like to do some training, and cycling long distance is a great opportunity to do it combined with a lot of other experiences.

4) I learn a lot about the history and culture in the lands we visit.

5) I love to cycle in Asia because people are so friendly. As we cycle, we get a chance to enjoy the beautiful views and breath in fresh air.

6) The routes are nice and the supported van is very functional and useful, especially when we have to take highway to avoid traffic.

7) In winter time in Norway it is cold, sometimes snowing or heavy raining, therefore it is great to visit Asia and cycle, light-dressed in the nice weather and temperature.

8) On the first 2 tours we were cycling together with people from different parts of the world, and we appreciated that very much. Some of them have become good friends and we are still keeping in touch. The last trip was arranged for our group separately, which had some advantages too, for example we were free to choose alternative routes, restaurants, and pauses without big discussions.

9) The food has been extraordinary. On the Cambodian tour, it was sometimes a little too simple, due to the lack of restaurants, especially in the northern part. But overall it was ok. On our last tour, our guide Yo was extremely clever to compose rich, savoury and various meals, always telling us what was in the different courses and how spicy it was.

Margot:I think Mia – in a good way -has expressed what we all feel!! (Thanks to her!!)

  • How many cycle tours have you been on with SpiceRoads and which has been your favourite?

Hildur: 3. Cambodia for their dramatic political history and all the children that welcomed us all the time.

Sverre:3. Same as Hildur

Margot:I have been on 2 tours with Spice Roads – Coastal Thailand and River of Kings Ride. They are both my favourites !!

Mia: I have been on 3 tours with SpiceRoads: Cambodia (from the Thailand border via Siem Reap to Phnom Penh), Coastal Thailand ( Bangkok to Khao Lak) and Kings of Rivers (Chiang Mai to Bangkok). It is very difficult to say which one has been my favorite. On every tour I was thinking the same thing “This is the best tour ever”. The last trip though “Chiang Mai to Bangkok”, I have to say, had the most beautiful scenery, great routes and very nice and clean.

  • Where would you like to cycle next?

Hildur: Croatia

Sverre: Croatia (with Hildur)

Margot: I should like to come to Asia or Thailand once more!!

Mia: Difficult to say, but someplace in Asia I hope. Our group has an average age of 72.5 years, so we are not able to choose the heaviest tours. The tour grade of 3 suits us best, and that means there are some tours we don’t have capacity for. Burma, Laos, Vietnam could be interesting, Sri Lanka too, if the tours are not too tough. Maybe SpiceRoads are willing to look at that problem?

  • In your opinion what is the benefit of travelling by bicycle?

Hildur: Bicycling makes me happy and I have to exercise before I go.

Sverre: Exercising is fun and it is good to be away from a dark rainy winter.

Margot:Travelling by bicycle is amazing!!

Mia:In my opinion I have already answered this question. I just love it!

  • Anything you would like to share with us?

Hildur: I had an accident this time and your guide and driver did an excellent job taking me to hospitals as we went along.

Sverre: local production of different produce is fun.

Margot: SpiceRoads as a company doing is a good job for their clients!  Thank you!

Mia: My experience with SpiceRoads is very good. Both booking and paying system works perfect, and we also are very pleased with the contact with the company from beginning to end.

 

Thanks Mia, Margot, Sverre, and Hildur for sharing your experience with us! The four of you are testament to how much fun traveling by bike can be when you’re in good company!

 

You can’t bike through the mall

Posted on: March 8th, 2017 by Sujittra
Posted in: Southeast Asia

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Join us at the global commemoration of ANZAC Day in Thailand at the Hellfire Pass Memorial in Kanchanaburi. Learn how the harrowing events during World War II created bonds that have endured through the decades.

Every 25th of April, malady purchase Australia and New Zealand observe ANZAC Day. Although it started as a marking of the first military action by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in World War I, this day has become a day of remembrance honouring all who have served in their armed forces.

 

The origins of ANZAC Day

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ANZAC forces joined the Allies for the campaign at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. This would be the first major international military involvement of Australia and New Zealand since they became federated nations, dominions of the United Kingdom but semi-autonomous states. Although this was by no means a successful campaign, the two countries honoured the sacrifices of their soldiers with services and memorials.

Through the generations, as Australia and New Zealand forces were involved in other military and peacekeeping actions, ANZAC Day expanded observance to recognise not just those who fell in WWI, but all who served. And as the ANZACs fought alongside, assisted, and protected other nations, ANZAC Day is commemorated in ceremonies around the world, including in Thailand.

 

Why Thailand joined in the commemorations

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ANZAC Day took on a greater significance in Thailand because of World War II. Tens of thousands of POWs and conscripted civilian labourers toiled and were tortured during the building of the Thai-Burma Railway by the Japanese Army. In Kanchanaburi, Hellfire Pass (apparently named as such because it looked like Hell to the POWs forced to work through the nights) saw thousands of Allied POWs tormented to death building this section of the railway. Many are buried at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery along the River Kwai. The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, maintained by the Australian and Thai governments, continues to honour their memories and educate visitors on this dark chapter in history. Both locations are now part of ANZAC Day ceremonies in Thailand.

 

The ANZAC Ride to Remembrance in Kanchanaburi

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SpiceRoads invites you to join the commemorations with our annual ANZAC Ride to Remembrance trip. The beginning of our trip will give you glimpses of how the past and present have become intertwined here. Impressive caverns and waterfalls lead to farmland and fishing villages. Khmer ruins give way to teak plantations. Overlooking the Death Railway, Kra Sae Cave, once a POW campsite, is now a Buddhist shrine.

Then, on the 25th, we join visitors from all around the world, including veterans and diplomats from all the Allied nations involved, in attending the 5 am Dawn Service at the Hellfire Pass Memorial and then the Memorial Wreath Laying Service at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery to pay our respect to those who served and sacrificed.

If you are interested in joining or want to learn more, please visit http://www.spiceroads.com/tours/anzac.

For more information about the Thai-Burma Railway and Hellfire Pass:

Going to the mall does have its place in our lives, tadalafil but don’t let the lure of the food court and luxury goods make you forget the joys of exploring the myriad markets that have been and still are an integral part of life, especially in South East Asia.

Each SpiceRoads trip is designed to bring you up close to the local cultures and landscapes of every location visited. There are reasons why malls aren’t included on the itineraries!

Local life in action

While some markets may feel like tourist traps, we visit markets that are still hubs of local activity. Before the advent of supermarkets and shopping malls, the local market was where people went to find whatever they needed or to buy that special something to commemorate a holiday or occasion. This is still the case in many places today.

Zegyo market in Mandalay is an amazing network, heaving with life and trade. Although there is a nod to the coming of malls with several modern buildings of wholesale shops, there is still so much going on in the streets outside. A major centre for the people of Mandalay, you can find everything from fresh ingredients to cooked meals, from fabric to ready to wear clothes, from gems to jewellery.

Come see for yourself and join us on an exploration of Zegyo market and much more on Mandalay’s Monasteries by Bike 

Inexpensive shopping

Photo by: AsiaWebDirect

No trip is complete without buying a little something for yourself (or maybe as gifts for friends and family back home). A t-shirt from the mall could be a little too generic and probably costly when compared to the bargains you can find at the market.

Less “floating” and more “by the water”, Bang Nam Pheung market is tucked away in an area of Samut Prakarn known as Bangkok’s “green lung” for the abundant, lush plant life flourishing in the community. The market is a popular stop for city denizens needing a breath of fresh air, and for bargain hunting for local fruits, foods, housewares, and clothing.

Discover a quieter aspect of Bangkok on a trip to the Bangkok Jungle 

Traditional handicrafts

Some shopping malls may reflect local cultures, but, let’s face it, the usual suspects like the Gap, H&M, and Body Shop, are what you’re likely to encounter. Most traditional artisans probably can’t afford the rents. But they do converge at the local market.

The Night Handicraft Market on Sisavangvong Road in Luang Prabang is an incredible destination if you’re looking for indigenous arts and crafts. Here local artists and craftspeople from all over the region congregate to hawk their wares. You can find delicate silver trinkets, homespun textiles, handmade wood utensils and carvings and so much more. The shopping fun begins around sunset, so you’ll be saved from the sun’s heat while exploring these treasures.

Cool down and pick up some local Lao handicrafts on the Luang Prabang Night Ride 

Local delicacies

McDonald’s, KFC, and Starbucks may be a familiar sight with offerings you know well, but is that why you’re on holiday? Eat like a local and visit one of the many markets where you can find exotic fruits at their peak of freshness or where you can try a dish that you’ll never see on a Dean & Deluca menu!

Wandering around Klong Lad Pli and Damnoen Saduak floating markets will not only give you a visual feast, showing you how life in Bangkok once relied on merchants travelling by boat to sell their products to communities along canals and waterways, but you can also literally feast on mouth-watering foods like nowhere else. Don’t just look for mango and sticky rice — have some Kuay Teow Reua (Boat Noodles) fresh off a boat or try a grilled coconut patty (kanom paeng jee).

Visit two floating markets and other quaint sites on the Floating Market ride 

Incredible people watching


In some places, people go to the mall to be seen as much as to shop. This may lead to an artificial ambiance, although that might just be the lighting and the air-conditioning. But a visit to a local market can provide not only singular shopping and eating opportunities, but you can observe people in their natural habitat, so to speak, while most likely being observed yourself as well by bemused locals!

The road to Sankampaeng market offers remarkable insights into the lives of artisans in Northern Thailand. The market itself is a bustling centre for locals buying fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, you can visit various craft centres and watch craftspeople at work, creating the wonderful handicrafts giving you a better understanding of what went into each piece and hopefully an engaging story to share when you get home.

Find out how those works of art and souvenirs are made during a trip to the Lanna Countryside 

Different times and places

Malls are reliable. We know what shops are there; we know when they open and close. But sometimes, you may get a late-night shopping urge that can only be met at one of the many markets that don’t start going until sunset and stay open very late. No need to wait for that extended hour sale like you would for your favourite mall.

In the centre of Chiang Mai, the Night Bazaar on Chang Klan Road is a fascinating panoply of local arts and crafts, often sold by the local hilltribe villagers that made them. All of this occurs under starlight (and streetlight and market stall light), so you don’t have to hurry through dinner to get your shopping done. This place is open until midnight!

Enjoy an evening of market fun with the Chiang Mai Night Ride 

Every market has so much more to offer

Please don’t get me wrong, just because I mentioned one market under one description doesn’t mean that that market doesn’t offer the joys I discussed in another section (call it writer’s prerogative). Each and every one of these markets exude an intriguing local charm, with its own local delicacies, wares, and riches that all deserve a visit. And the best part, all these featured trips are either one or half a day, so you can fit any of these into your holiday schedule (or if you live nearby, for a quick getaway).

 

Rider of the month – Megan Hassett

Posted on: February 21st, 2017 by Sujittra

Table manners can be an issue in social situations if you’re new to a country or a culture. Most Thais are forgiving (and entertained) if visitors are at least trying to be polite, viagra buy but here are some pointers so when you “eat like a local”, it means more than that you can handle spicy foods!

Step away from the chopsticks


A major misconception, especially in the West, is that all Asians use chopsticks. We don’t. In Thailand, chopsticks are normally used for noodle dishes or in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean restaurants. Typically, a spoon and fork are the main utensils. The spoon goes in your dominant hand, and the fork is used to push food onto the spoon to create the perfect mouthful. No need to chase rice around your plate with a fork or chopsticks. Also, don’t expect to see a knife among the table setting since Thai dishes are normally prepared with bite-sized cuts of ingredients.

Know how to share properly
One of the joys of a Thai meal is that you get to share a variety of dishes with your companions, family style. While having a greater selection for your meal is terrific, Thais are very hygienic, so seeing you dig into the main bowl of “gaeng kiew wan” with the spoon that was just in your mouth may put them off their meal, or from eating with you again. So, refrain from using your own spoon or fork to scoop food from the centre dishes onto your plate. Serving spoons usually come with shared entrées, but if there isn’t one, ask for a “chon klang” (center spoon).

There’s no need to pile up your plate
You want to make sure you have room to try everything, so only take a spoonful or two (remember, the serving spoon) from each entrée. You may want to keep your rice separated on your dish – plain rice is a good add to the mix in your spoon if you think it may be too spicy or to eat on its own if your last mouthful was a little too fiery for your taste. Also, keep in mind that there’s really no concept of “courses” in Thai meals. Dishes are often served as they’re ready, unless you request for something to come out first.

Pass the salt?


Salt and pepper are not condiments you’ll find at a typical Thai table. Some dishes have their own sauces you can add (with their own little serving spoon). The main condiment is “naam pla prik” (or some say “prik naam pla”). Either way, that’s fish sauce with chilis. With this, you can add saltiness or spiciness. Normally, just add a little to the section you’re working on. No need to sprinkle it all over your dish. You may find that you don’t need more than a few bites with it. And beware, fish sauce can be quite pungent, so try not to get any on you.

Keep the noise down
Another misconception is that eating noisily is how you show that you’re enjoying your meal. Not in Thailand. All those typical scoldings from childhood stand – chew with your mouth closed, cover your mouth if you must burp, don’t talk with your mouth full. This goes for utensil use. Try not to clang your spoon against your plate too much.

When in Rome…. (Or Bangkok)
Thais are known as easy going for a reason. We love to share our food and culture and are happy when others take an interest, so as I said at the beginning, as long as you are good natured and are trying your best, you’ll be given a lot of leeway for any missteps. Don’t worry – feel free to ask, or take a moment and watch what others are doing. But, no matter what, enjoy!
 

 

Table manners can be an issue in social situations if you’re new to a country or a culture. Most Thais are forgiving (and entertained) if visitors are at least trying to be polite, gynecologist but here are some pointers so when you “eat like a local”, it means more than that you can handle spicy foods!

Step away from the chopsticks


A major misconception, especially in the West, is that all Asians use chopsticks. We don’t. In Thailand, chopsticks are normally used for noodle dishes or in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean restaurants. Typically, a spoon and fork are the main utensils. The spoon goes in your dominant hand, and the fork is used to push food onto the spoon to create the perfect mouthful. No need to chase rice around your plate with a fork or chopsticks. Also, don’t expect to see a knife among the table setting since Thai dishes are normally prepared with bite-sized cuts of ingredients.

Know how to share properly
One of the joys of a Thai meal is that you get to share a variety of dishes with your companions, family style. While having a greater selection for your meal is terrific, Thais are very hygienic, so seeing you dig into the main bowl of “gaeng kiew wan” with the spoon that was just in your mouth may put them off their meal, or from eating with you again. So, refrain from using your own spoon or fork to scoop food from the centre dishes onto your plate. Serving spoons usually come with shared entrées, but if there isn’t one, ask for a “chon klang” (center spoon).

There’s no need to pile up your plate
You want to make sure you have room to try everything, so only take a spoonful or two (remember, the serving spoon) from each entrée. You may want to keep your rice separated on your dish – plain rice is a good add to the mix in your spoon if you think it may be too spicy or to eat on its own if your last mouthful was a little too fiery for your taste. Also, keep in mind that there’s really no concept of “courses” in Thai meals. Dishes are often served as they’re ready, unless you request for something to come out first.

Pass the salt?


Salt and pepper are not condiments you’ll find at a typical Thai table. Some dishes have their own sauces you can add (with their own little serving spoon). The main condiment is “naam pla prik” (or some say “prik naam pla”). Either way, that’s fish sauce with chilis. With this, you can add saltiness or spiciness. Normally, just add a little to the section you’re working on. No need to sprinkle it all over your dish. You may find that you don’t need more than a few bites with it. And beware, fish sauce can be quite pungent, so try not to get any on you.

Keep the noise down
Another misconception is that eating noisily is how you show that you’re enjoying your meal. Not in Thailand. All those typical scoldings from childhood stand – chew with your mouth closed, cover your mouth if you must burp, don’t talk with your mouth full. This goes for utensil use. Try not to clang your spoon against your plate too much.

When in Rome…. (Or Bangkok)
Thais are known as easy going for a reason. We love to share our food and culture and are happy when others take an interest, so as I said at the beginning, as long as you are good natured and are trying your best, you’ll be given a lot of leeway for any missteps. Don’t worry – feel free to ask, or take a moment and watch what others are doing. But, no matter what, enjoy!
 

 

Table manners can be an issue in social situations if you’re new to a country or a culture. Most Thais are forgiving (and entertained) if visitors are at least trying to be polite, price but here are some pointers so when you “eat like a local”, adiposity it means more than that you can handle spicy foods!

Step away from the chopsticks


A major misconception, especially in the West, is that all Asians use chopsticks. We don’t. In Thailand, chopsticks are normally used for noodle dishes or in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean restaurants. Typically, a spoon and fork are the main utensils. The spoon goes in your dominant hand, and the fork is used to push food onto the spoon to create the perfect mouthful. No need to chase rice around your plate with a fork or chopsticks. Also, don’t expect to see a knife among the table setting since Thai dishes are normally prepared with bite-sized cuts of ingredients.

Know how to share properly
One of the joys of a Thai meal is that you get to share a variety of dishes with your companions, family style. While having a greater selection for your meal is terrific, Thais are very hygienic, so seeing you dig into the main bowl of “gaeng kiew wan” with the spoon that was just in your mouth may put them off their meal, or from eating with you again. So, refrain from using your own spoon or fork to scoop food from the centre dishes onto your plate. Serving spoons usually come with shared entrées, but if there isn’t one, ask for a “chon klang” (center spoon).

There’s no need to pile up your plate
You want to make sure you have room to try everything, so only take a spoonful or two (remember, the serving spoon) from each entrée. You may want to keep your rice separated on your dish – plain rice is a good add to the mix in your spoon if you think it may be too spicy or to eat on its own if your last mouthful was a little too fiery for your taste. Also, keep in mind that there’s really no concept of “courses” in Thai meals. Dishes are often served as they’re ready, unless you request for something to come out first.

Pass the salt?


Salt and pepper are not condiments you’ll find at a typical Thai table. Some dishes have their own sauces you can add (with their own little serving spoon). The main condiment is “naam pla prik” (or some say “prik naam pla”). Either way, that’s fish sauce with chilis. With this, you can add saltiness or spiciness. Normally, just add a little to the section you’re working on. No need to sprinkle it all over your dish. You may find that you don’t need more than a few bites with it. And beware, fish sauce can be quite pungent, so try not to get any on you.

Keep the noise down
Another misconception is that eating noisily is how you show that you’re enjoying your meal. Not in Thailand. All those typical scoldings from childhood stand – chew with your mouth closed, cover your mouth if you must burp, don’t talk with your mouth full. This goes for utensil use. Try not to clang your spoon against your plate too much.

When in Rome…. (Or Bangkok)
Thais are known as easy going for a reason. We love to share our food and culture and are happy when others take an interest, so as I said at the beginning, as long as you are good natured and are trying your best, you’ll be given a lot of leeway for any missteps. Don’t worry – feel free to ask, or take a moment and watch what others are doing. But, no matter what, enjoy!

Table manners can be an issue in social situations if you’re new to a country or a culture. Most Thais are forgiving (and entertained) if visitors are at least trying to be polite, patient but here are some pointers so when you “eat like a local”, ambulance it means more than that you can handle spicy foods!

Step away from the chopsticks


A major misconception, especially in the West, is that all Asians use chopsticks. We don’t. In Thailand, chopsticks are normally used for noodle dishes or in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean restaurants. Typically, a spoon and fork are the main utensils. The spoon goes in your dominant hand, and the fork is used to push food onto the spoon to create the perfect mouthful. No need to chase rice around your plate with a fork or chopsticks. Also, don’t expect to see a knife among the table setting since Thai dishes are normally prepared with bite-sized cuts of ingredients.

Know how to share properly
One of the joys of a Thai meal is that you get to share a variety of dishes with your companions, family style. While having a greater selection for your meal is terrific, Thais are very hygienic, so seeing you dig into the main bowl of “gaeng kiew wan” with the spoon that was just in your mouth may put them off their meal, or from eating with you again. So, refrain from using your own spoon or fork to scoop food from the centre dishes onto your plate. Serving spoons usually come with shared entrées, but if there isn’t one, ask for a “chon klang” (center spoon).

There’s no need to pile up your plate
You want to make sure you have room to try everything, so only take a spoonful or two (remember, the serving spoon) from each entrée. You may want to keep your rice separated on your dish – plain rice is a good add to the mix in your spoon if you think it may be too spicy or to eat on its own if your last mouthful was a little too fiery for your taste. Also, keep in mind that there’s really no concept of “courses” in Thai meals. Dishes are often served as they’re ready, unless you request for something to come out first.

Pass the salt?


Salt and pepper are not condiments you’ll find at a typical Thai table. Some dishes have their own sauces you can add (with their own little serving spoon). The main condiment is “naam pla prik” (or some say “prik naam pla”). Either way, that’s fish sauce with chilis. With this, you can add saltiness or spiciness. Normally, just add a little to the section you’re working on. No need to sprinkle it all over your dish. You may find that you don’t need more than a few bites with it. And beware, fish sauce can be quite pungent, so try not to get any on you.

Keep the noise down
Another misconception is that eating noisily is how you show that you’re enjoying your meal. Not in Thailand. All those typical scoldings from childhood stand – chew with your mouth closed, cover your mouth if you must burp, don’t talk with your mouth full. This goes for utensil use. Try not to clang your spoon against your plate too much.

When in Rome…. (Or Bangkok)
Thais are known as easy going for a reason. We love to share our food and culture and are happy when others take an interest, so as I said at the beginning, as long as you are good natured and are trying your best, you’ll be given a lot of leeway for any missteps. Don’t worry – feel free to ask, or take a moment and watch what others are doing. But, no matter what, enjoy!
Introducing 4 riders from Norway: Margot Lothe Pedersen, nurse  Mia Johanne Marie Lervik, heart  Sverre Lervik (Mia’s brother), and Hildur Aase (Sverre’s girlfriend)

  • Tell us about your earliest experiences as a cyclist…

Hildur: My first experience as a cyclist was in France in 1996 when we were 4 friends cycling together.

Sverre: My first experience was in Ireland in 2013 when Hildur and I had a week cycling using the tour operator’s map.

Margot: My first experience abroad was Cycling Coastal Thailand last year.

Mia: As a “long trip rider” my first experience was in Cambodia, in March 2015, with SpiceRoads, together with my brother, Sverre and his girlfriend, Hildur.

  • Tell us what you most enjoy about cycle touring and why you like to see the world by bicycle?

Hildur: I like cycling in a warm climate with guides that are sympathetic and know their culture and profession.

Sverre: I like to experience the world slowly.

Mia: There are several reasons for me to like to see the world by cycling:
1) It takes me to interesting areas where I`d never dared to visit on my own, or even together with the other guys.

2) It makes it possible to meet local people and learn about their lifestyle and conditions.

3) I like to do some training, and cycling long distance is a great opportunity to do it combined with a lot of other experiences.

4) I learn a lot about the history and culture in the lands we visit because when we are riding along and in the pauses we come close to the clever and well-educated guides.

5) I love to cycle in Asia because people are so friendly. As we cycle, we get a chance to enjoy the beautiful views and breath in fresh air.

6) The routes are nice and the supported van is very functional and useful, especially when we have to take highway to avoid traffic.

7) In winter time in Norway it is cold, sometimes snowing or heavy raining, therefore it is great to visit Asia and cycle, light-dressed in the nice weather and temperature.

8) On the first 2 tours we were cycling together with people from different parts of the world, and we appreciated that very much. Some of them have become good friends and we are still keeping in touch. The last trip was arranged for our group separately, which had some advantages too, for example we were free to choose alternative routes, restaurants, and pauses without big discussions.

9) The food has been extraordinary. On the Cambodian tour, it was sometimes a little too simple, due to the lack of restaurants, especially in the northern part. But overall it was ok. On our last tour, our guide Yo was extremely clever to compose rich, savoury and various meals, always telling us what was in the different courses and how spicy it was.

Margot:I think Mia – in a good way -has expressed what we all feel!! (Thanks to her!!)

  • How many cycle tours have you been on with SpiceRoads and which has been your favourite?

Hildur: 3. Cambodia for their dramatic political history and all the children that welcomed us all the time.

Sverre:3. Same as Hilhur

Margot:I have been on 2 tours with Spice Roads – Coastal Thailand and River of Kings Ride. They are both my favourites !!

Mia: I have been on 3 tours with SpiceRoads: Cambodia (from the Thailand border via Siem Reap to Phnom Penh), Coastal Thailand ( Bangkok to Khao Lak) and Kings of Rivers (Chiang Mai to Bangkok). It is very difficult to say which one has been my favorite. On every tour I was thinking the same thing “This is the best tour ever”. The last trip though “Chiang Mai to Bangkok”, I have to say, had the most beautiful scenery, great routes and very nice and clean.

  • Where would you like to cycle next?

Hildur: Croatia

Sverre: Croatia (with Hildur)

Margot:I should like to come to Asia or Thailand once more!!

Mia: Difficult to say, but someplace in Asia I hope. Our group has an average age of 72.5 years, so we are not able to choose the heaviest tours. The tour grade of 3 suits us best, and that means there are some tours we don`t have capacity for. Burma, Laos, Vietnam could be interesting, Sri Lanka too, if the tours are not too tough. Maybe SpiceRoads are willing to look at that problem?

  • In your opinion what is the benefit of travelling by bicycle?

Hildur: Bicycling makes me happy and I have to exercise before I go.

Sverre: Exercising is fun and it is good to be away from a dark rainy winter.

Margot:Travelling by bicycle is amazing!!

Mia:In my opinion I have already answered this question. I just love it!

  • Anything you would like to share with us?

Hildur: I had an accident this time and your guide and driver did an excellent job taking me to hospitals when as we went along.

Sverre: local production of different produce is fun.

Margot: SpiceRoads is a company – doing a good job for their clients!  THANK YOU !

Mia: My experience with SpiceRoads is very good. Both booking- and paying system works perfect, and we also are very pleased with the contact with the company from beginning to end.

Tell us about your earliest experiences as a cyclist…

For as long as I can remember I have always cycled. Pictures of me riding date back to me still in nappies! But I’d say my first vivid memories are of when I was a teenager. I grew up on a cattle farm in rural NSW/Australia that while not exactly remote, prostate were far enough away from anything to need either a car OR a bicycle!

I’ve always been naturally active and inquisitive about exploring and the world in general. In being active I gravitated towards the bicycle. I think, malady reflecting back, meningitis it would have given me as a child a sense of freedom to go further than what I could have on foot. I enjoyed the independence of being able to visit friends on neighboring properties at an age when I couldn’t drive. I even started cycling to high school, 27 km, a few times.

Tell us what you most enjoy about cycle touring and why you like to see the world by bicycle?

Oh my goodness seriously! Is there any better way to see the world other than on a bike? I didn’t think so either.

When exploring another country on a bicycle I feel like I’m featuring in a live stream documentary that is happening before my very eyes. While walking offers a similar sensation the bicycle takes one further and allows a deeper up close and personal experience with a new culture. I honestly feel like I have been naturally injected with adrenaline while exploring the new lay of the land by bike. Whether it’s saying hello in a new language (albeit a butchered attempt) to all my thousands of new local friends, marveling at new vistas, and sweating up an appetite to eat the local cuisine in double the quantity than those on a bus would need or deserve!

Cycling connects the individual with nature combined with a human element. It also better connects the traveler with another culture and helps cement the bonds of the cycling group. Often the greater the challenge, the richer the reward in many ways.

Often, the best of us cyclists become bored with our daily routes at home and crave new roads to explore.

How many cycle tours have you been on with SpiceRoads and which has been your favorite?

Two. I enjoyed Sri Lanka the most. It was the perfect mix of cycling, cultural experiences along the way, incredible lush beauty, boutique hotels, beyond surplus sumptuous local cuisine and on site massages!

Where would you like to cycle next?

I’d be quite keen for Italy. Think pizza and pasta carbloading washed down with quality wine and coffee. The ideal cycling diet. That and the scenery. “WOW FACTOR” scenery is a must as well and Italy, especially the alps, would deliver with the pizza!

In your opinion, what is the benefit of travelling by bicycle?

  • Stress reduction
  • Natural endorphin
  • Time for thinking and creativity – my best lesson plans (I’m currently teaching) are planned when I’m on the bike
  • Health and healthy appetite
  • Associating with authentic people. I rarely find that cycle travelers are prima donna type individuals!

 

A Circus that is ‘Same Same But Different’

Posted on: February 7th, 2017 by Sujittra
Posted in: Cambodia

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Tell us about your earliest experiences as a cyclist…

I have ridden a bicycle since I was a child however I discovered the pleasure of road cycling in 2011. I bought my first road bike and joined my first SpiceRoads Bangkok to Phuket Tour 3 months later. Though I realized I had much to learn about cycling, sick I met experienced cyclists on that tour and learned a great deal about Thailand in those 10 days. In short, Oncology
I was hooked on cycling after my first SpiceRoads Tour.

Tell us what you most enjoy about cycle touring and why you like to see the world by bicycle?

Cycle touring brings people from all around the world together with at least one thing in common, the love of road cycling. I have met many fine cyclists and have made some of my best friendships on SpiceRoads tours. It is also common to find very strong riders older than myself and that has given me hope for aging gracefully also. Lastly, the guides and drivers are key to feeling integrated into the Thai community as we move from town to town across Thailand.

How many cycle tours have you been on with SpiceRoads and which has been your favourite?

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I have cycled 8 tours with SpiceRoads. One trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and 7 tours of Bangkok to Phuket (Yes, 7 times so that must be my favourite). I enjoy the small beach towns on the Gulf of Thailand and spectacular scenery of the Andaman Sea coast. The dinners offer a wide variety of dishes and the Thai massage is perfect complement to a day of exercise on the bike. Even though the tour travels the same route, I see and learn new things that I missed on previous tours. Every group of SpiceRoads cyclists is unique.

Where would you like to cycle next?

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I would like to explore the Northern Thailand hills of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and the Isaan/Lao area with SpiceRoads in the future. The local Thai cycling culture is extremely vibrant and Thai drivers are respectful of the cyclist. I feel safe and welcome with my bicycle in Thailand and it truly is the land of smiles.

– In your opinion, what is the benefit of travelling by bicycle?

The health benefits from cycling would have to top the list. Personally I have lost weight, lowered my blood pressure, increased muscle mass and found an outlet to the mental stress of modern life. I have recently retired and visit Thailand a couple of months a year. I always bring my road bike as my main means of transportation and a tour with SpiceRoads brings together old and new friends.

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Find out why Madagascar is a trending biking destination, migraine  where the call of the wild beckons you for a thrilling adventure in the lap of nature!

Salama! (Hello in Malagasy) and welcome to the lands of Madagascar, erectile  a small island country in the Indian Ocean, information pills off the coast of Southeast Africa. A collection of islands, Madagascar is one of the largest biodiversity hotspots in the world where you can find more than 90% species of animals that you can find nowhere on the Earth. The wildlife, the culture, the arts, the people – everything about Madagascar gives you a once in a lifetime experience. In the past few years, Madagascar has evolved as a trending biking destination with the nature and wildlife blending in with a thrilling adventure. The best time to visit Madagascar is anywhere between May, June and October when the country experiences relatively cooler season and with little or no rains.

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One of the unique things about the country is the vast diversity in the cultural aspect because each group or ethnicity follow and adhere to their own set of beliefs and cultures. One can find a variety of cultures and art in Madagascar and you would witness a few common elements that bind them all together like a common language and shared beliefs about God and Karma. Dances, plastic arts and oratory are features exclusive to the lands of Madagascar. You can collect a wide array of artifacts made out of wood, papers and even flowers that are beautifully made with intricate designs.

Malagasy people are one of the friendliest people and they are ever ready to interact with little ways to make your experience enriching with their customs and traditions. The Malagasy food is another exclusive feature of Madagascar with a vast variety of cuisines ranging from Southeast Asian cuisine to Chinese and Indian cuisine because of the wide descendants of these places settling in the lap of Madagascar.

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An extract on Madagascar is incomplete without mentioning its rich wildlife with species unique to itself and that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Roughly, 200,000 species of wildlife are known to exist in Madagascar. Having been isolated for about 88 million years the islands are home to a wide variety of the popular Lemurs and hundreds and thousands of species birds and plants. It is a true heavenly place for nature and animal lovers.

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A biking experience in Madagascar is one in a million and a very exclusive experience that comes once in a lifetime. The wildlife, the people and the various other components of the islands promise to provide a thrilling adventure.

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More related articles:

Experience Madagascar on Two Feet and Two Wheels

Exploring the magnificent Madagascar

Catch sight of a rare Lemur in the wild

Top 5 reasons to see Madagascar by bicycle
Each year thousands of tourists to Thailand tell their friends and family about their experiences with the culture, surgeon   delicious food, information pills  and beautiful scenery. They bring back photos of stunning Buddhist temples, sovaldi and shots of themselves with exotic animals like tigers and elephants.

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Unfortunately, few stop to consider how it was made possible for them to pose with, pet, or ride these normally wild animals.dsc06450_23449246040_o_resized

Asian elephants are an endangered species. Experts say that Thailand now has less than 2,000 wild elephants in the whole of the country, and the population is rapidly declining because of illegal capture and trade for use in the tourism industry.

A wild elephant must be tamed before it can be ridden, but the taming process is very brutal and cruel. Phajaan or “the crush”, is performed on young baby elephants until its spirit is completely broken.

Additionally, elephants are not designed to carry weight on their backs, so riding them causes pain and discomfort, and spinal damage in the long term. They are also worked to exhaustion, and many die every year as a result.

Many places claim to handle their elephants “responsibly”. However, keep in mind how they obtained the elephant and what happened to turn it into a a docile adult. Likewise, captive tigers are abused and heavily drugged to keep them calm and docile enough for tourists to pose with them, and cubs are taken away very young for illegal trafficking.

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Another popular tourist attraction has been Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno temple, better known as the “Tiger Temple”. On 30th May, 2016, over 500 officers, wildlife officials, vets, and police raided the temple. The 137 drugged tigers were taken into protective custody and the temple was closed.

tigertempletiger_temple_6032441172Among finding violations of regulations on animal attractions throughout the Temple, the authorities confiscated preserved carcasses of tiger cubs, evidence of animal trafficking.

The case of the Tiger Temple proved that trafficking in endangered species and animal attractions were inextricably linked.

 

The United Nations Environment Programme released a statement saying these things represented “only a tiny proportion of the enormous extent of an illegal trade in wildlife that is pushing species to the brink of distinction.”

For animal-loving tourists, these examples are heartbreaking, and there seems to be no scenario in which they can enjoy animal attractions that are safe for the animals themselves.

There are animal-friendly options, however. For example, elephant sanctuaries that genuinely protect and care for rescued elephants, where tourists can safely interact with the elephants in a respectful manner.

By choosing businesses that support elephant-friendly tourism, and avoiding parks and shows that do not, you can help protect animals from a life of suffering and abuse.

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SpiceRoads Cycle Tours is such a business. We have officially signed the elephant-friendly tourism pledge with World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA) Thailand, on May 4, 2016. Our pledge ensures our commitment to offer elephant experiences from only those operations with a high standard of elephant welfare and conservation, with responsible viewing of elephants in wild or semi-wild habitats, as well as pro-actively communicating this commitment to protect elephants to their customers, and encourage elephant-friendly tourism.
A Travellers Guide To

Vietnam is a beautiful country with stunning scenery, order beautiful backdrops and a long list of must-see places. Right at the top of this list should be Mai Chau, a rural area in the north-west of the country, and around 160 km from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.

This mountainous region of Vietnam is scenic, idyllic and fairly quiet, so if you’re looking for a thriving nightlife, then it’s not the place to visit. However, if you are on a cycling tour, then the villages, tracks and mountains with their large descents make it an ideal place to visit.

A Brief History of Mai Chau

Many of the Mai Chau people have Thai ancestry as a large number of Thai people migrated to the area several hundred years ago. They are divided into the “White Thai” and the “Black Thai” groups and between them they make up the largest ethnic population of Mai Chau.

The area was also used as a headquarters for the French in 1953 when they colonised Vietnam, and it was chosen because of its importance on the way to Laos and Cambodia as well as its high ground which gave the French an advantage over the Vietnamese army.

In May 1954 though, following the defeat of the French, the North Vietnamese government provided assistance to the region as Ethnic majority Vietnamese families moved to Mai Chau to improve farming skills, education, and technology.

Things to do in Mai Chau

Check out the Stilt Houses
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Nestled among the mountains and the glorious green landscape of Mai Chau are some beautiful places of interest. Most residents live in stilt houses which are built, as the name suggests, on stilts. This is to protect them from water damage and to shelter animals from the elements, and these houses alone are fascinating to see for tourists. In fact, many of the stilt houses offer accommodation to travellers so if you don’t have a place to stay then definitely consider staying in one of these for at least one night. You will be able to experience life in Mai Chau as a local but with modern facilities as well.

Visit Pu Luong Nature Reserve
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Photo by Vietnamdiscovery.com

Just a short trip away from Mai Chau is The Pu Luong Nature Reserve which is well worth a visit. This is a newly protected area that serves as home to endangered species such as langurs, leopards, civets and bears but it’s especially good for bird watching. There are also caves and local Tai and Hmong communities to visit.

Explore the Caves
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Mo Luong Cave

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Chieu Cave

There are quite a number of caves, or grottoes, in the area which is fascinating to explore. These include Mo Luong Cave, Chieu Cave, Pieng Kem Grotto, Lang Cave and Khau Phuc Cave.

Mo Luong cave, in particular, is a highlight of Mai Chau. There are two entrances to the cave with the main one being in Mai Chau town and the other one along the water current in Chieng Chau. The cave is very vast and inside the ceiling dome averages 10 metres in height with a high point of 30m so unlike many caves it doesn’t feel too claustrophobic.

Take a look at Lac Village
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Photo by welcomevietnamtours.com

A favourite community tourist spot, Lac Village is a scenic and peaceful area of Mai Chau. Once considered something of a hidden treasure of Vietnam, the village has become increasingly popular with tourists in recent years as it has been explored more frequently. However, it still retains its charm and tranquillity.

Many of the stilt houses here offer affordable accommodation and modern amenities to tourists, and these homestays offer a very welcoming and traditional experience.

Visit the market
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The market is a bustling place where most of the locals regularly go to pick up their food for the day. All of the local specialities can be bought there including some of the more common items that tourists are used to such as fruit, vegetables and rice as well as unusual foods such as skinned frogs. Even if you don’t want to try them, they are certainly an eye-opening product to see compared to markets in the western world.

Experience the charming local village, beautiful nature, and authentic North Vietnam tribal region of Mai Chau for yourself! We recommend our Mai Chau Trails and Remote Vietnam and Laos by Bike.

 

Cycling Tours (1)

Cycling tours are an adventure by themselves, stomatology and they offer a wonderful opportunity to explore new places and view breathtaking scenery. However you may find yourself wanting to experience a different mode of transport, phthisiatrician even just for a couple of hours. If you do fancy taking a break from the bike, then there are plenty of other activities that you can combine with your cycling tour. Most of the activities below are fast, wild and exciting adventures which will ramp your cycling tour up a notch and give you some extra thrills on your adventure. There are many more activities that you can take part in but here are just a few examples of some of the great activities that you can include with your cycling tour:

Helicopter Tour

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If viewing your spectacular surroundings on two wheels isn’t exciting enough, then why not take a helicopter tour and view them from the air. Helicopter tours give you the chance to view places from a completely different perspective and see things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see on the ground.

One of the most beautiful helicopter tours is in the mountains and valleys which inhabit Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Taking your bike on board the chopper, you will reach peaks up to 3,5000m and then after disembarking you will make your descent- on your bike- of 1,300m through the grasslands which cover the vast landscape.

Helicopter tours give you a great chance to easily reach heights that would otherwise be very difficult to get to and to soak up the surroundings from a better vantage point. They also offer the chance to take a well-earned break from the bike for a short while as you cruise through the sky. This experience, Mountain Biking Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, offers a once-in-a-lifetime heli-biking combo that’s not to be missed.

Zipline

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Just like the helicopter tour, the zipline is a great opportunity to get off the bike for a while and take to the air, albeit in very different circumstances.

A zip line gives an incredible adrenaline rush and allows for a very different perspective of the area you’re in. If you’re heading to Chiang Mai, then the Chiang Mai Bike and Zipline Adventure tour is highly recommended and fun way to experience this popular activity!

There is nothing quite so exhilarating as zipping over a river surrounded by the lush and green mountains and valleys of Mae Taeng. As adventures go, this one’s very exciting and certainly one for the adrenaline junkies.

Rafting
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Make a big splash on your cycling tour by throwing in a rafting experience. If cycling through the vast green trails of Thailand and taking to the skies isn’t exciting enough then how about adding a water experience that is exhilarating, exciting and a little bit frightening?

The rafting experience on Chiang Mai Bike and Raft Adventure is a superb way to see the Mae Taeng mountains and valleys while having a great adventure down the grade three and four rapids. If you think this will be a relaxing break from your bike though then think again, because it’s a real action packed and physical adventure which isn’t for the faint-hearted. Another option is just around the neighborhood in Dalat, Vietnam with Biking and Rafting Dalat.

Rafting is not only a fun and exciting adventure, but it also builds teamwork, leadership skills and confidence. It’s also a very sociable activity to take part in if you are looking to meet new people and forge friendships.

Horse Riding
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As if cycling, flying and rafting weren’t adventurous enough then how about adding horse riding to the mix? For thrill seekers who are looking for a bit of variety try heading to Mongolia where horses outnumber people in their native beautiful, natural and unspoilt habitat.

The Mongolian Steppe Adventure consists of cycling, trekking and horse riding and it is a fantastic way of exploring the diverse and vast landscape that Mongolia has to offer.

Cruise
If all of the activities above sound is a bit too exhausting, then cruising is the perfect antithesis to all of the above adventures on Ha Long Bay Cycle and Cruise tour. Explore the beautiful rivers and waterways which cover large parts of Asia at a leisurely pace. There’s no need to pedal, paddle or saddle up on these trips as you sail serenely through the stunning nature and beautiful backdrops which surround you.

Apart from those fun activities mentioned above, there are also hiking, trekking and paddling. Check out the list of tours below:

Bike and Hike Wild Madagascar

Caucasus Mountain Bike and Hike Adventure

Mystical Bhutan

Chiang Mai Pedal and Paddle Adventure
IndianSpices

India is the seventh largest country in the world and as a result, about it its climate varies greatly in different parts of the country. This changing climate means that a wide range of spices is produced all over the country, surgery many of which are native to India and some which have been imported from countries with similar climates.

Indian spices are used in some different forms. They can be used whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sautéed, fried and as a topping. When cooking, they are mainly used in dishes to enhance flavour and give the dish an extra ‘kick’. They are also used in medicine, magic and cultural traditions.

Even before the Roman and Greek civilisations came into being, spices were being traded with neighbouring lands and many armies have fought with each other over centuries for access to the trade routes. Indian spices have been exported around the world for centuries, and they are as popular today as they have ever been.

There are too many spices to mention them all, however below is a guide to many of the most common Indian spices:

Cinnamon
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Cinnamon derives from the bark of an evergreen tree. It is native to India in the eastern part of the country, and as well as its common use in food it is also used regularly for medicinal purposes.
In cooking, it is used in some curries with Biryani being the most common and it is also used as a flavouring in sweet products such as muffins due to its distinctive aroma and non-spicy properties.

Ginger
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Ginger can be found all over India, and its pungent taste distinguishes it from many other spices. In addition to its more common use in various foods, it is also used for medicinal purposes such as ginger tea. In cooking it is mostly used in its grounded form to give an extra ‘bite’ to curries.

Black Pepper
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Black pepper is arguably the most common Indian spice used in cooking. Grown mostly in Southern India, it is most commonly used as a condiment throughout the world and is regularly used to give additional flavour to some savoury dishes and snacks. Pepper is derived from the berries of the pepper tree, and whereas white pepper is just the seed, black pepper is the dried berry.

Cumin

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Native to India, cumin can be found in a variety of curries and is mainly used as a flavouring agent and a condiment in certain dishes. Cumin seeds are usually used at the beginning of a dish when preparing a meal, because as the seeds heat up, the flavour and the aroma is given off.

Saffron

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Saffron is mostly used as a colouring agent as well as a seasoning one. Often used as a colouring agent in sweets, the use of saffron also varies around the world. In India, where it originates, it is always added at the end of the preparation of a dish, however, in Europe, it is usually added at the beginning or midway through preparation, such as in a paella.

Tumeric

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A member of the ginger family, Tumeric is used to add flavour and colour to dishes. Bright orange in appearance, it gives the dishes that it’s used in a distinctive appearance. Like many other Indian spices, it is also used for medicinal purposes, and it has been proven to help with arthritis, stomach pain, heartburn and loss of appetite.

Coriander

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Coriander can be used both ground and whole and its seeds are commonly used as a condiment in dishes. Deriving from the dried fruit cilantro, coriander leaves are often used as a garnish to finished dishes, and they have been proven to help aid digestion.

Fennel

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Fennel seeds are small, oval and greenish brown in appearance. The plant they come from is part of the parsley family, and they have a somewhat sweet flavour to them. When preparing a meal they are used sparingly as this gives the meal a warmth and sweetness which would be spoiled if too much was used.
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Many know Persian art and architecture. Many appreciate the intricacies in ancient Persian carpet-making. But many may not be acquainted with true Persian foods. Unfortunately, seek Persian cuisine is sometimes lumped together with Arabic, try but although they share similar geographic origins and some ingredients, there are distinct differences.

Of course, there are familiar sights at a Persian meal: rice, flat breads, kebabs, yogurt, grilled fish, meat stews. But there are unique uses of other ingredients. You might not be surprised to taste saffron and cardamom, but then you’ll find fruits like pomegranate and tamarind as well as walnuts and pistachios coursing through every course, complementing succulent meats, fishes, or pulses. Persian recipes deftly mix sweet and savoury ingredients to create dishes that burst with flavour.

Some dishes considered essential (it seems unfair to call them ‘basic’) are:

Jewelled rice: When the occasion for dinner needs more than just rice, this dish combines rice with dried fruits and nuts, creating a colourful treat for the eyes as well. Typically, pistachios and almonds slivers mix with barberries (like cranberries), glazed orange peel, and pomegranate and are spiced with saffron.

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Ghormeh Sabzi is a stew, but so much more. Its considered by many as a favoured Persian dish, combining an incredible mix of herbs that is sautéed to make the base of the stew. Dried limes are added for a singular tartness. As with many other Persian dishes, this can be made with meat or can be a perfect vegetarian option.

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Photo by turmericsaffron

Sabzi Khordan can be found at most meals. It is amazing in its simplicity but complex in the flavours to be discovered. A plate of fresh herbs and roots (parsley, cilantro, radishes, scallions, dill, basil, mint, chives) often accompanied with pickled vegetables, cheese, and nuts. Select your ingredients and eat with flatbread.

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Photo by food52.com

Borani Esfenaj is another way to get your spinach. Walnuts and fried onions are chopped and combined with spinach in yoghurt for taste sensation like no other. An amazingly healthy vegetarian dish, it is served can be served with ‘sangak’, a whole wheat leavened flatbread.

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Photo by Familyrecipecentral

Joojeh Kabob is a typical, if such is possible, kebab dish, grilled skewers of vegetables with chicken that has been marinated in saffron and lime.

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Fesenjan is another dish normally for a special occasion, but with these ingredients, who can be blamed? This is a sweet and savoury stew of walnut, pomegranate, and most often, chicken or duck. Naming its main ingredients doesn’t do it justice.

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Kohresh Bademjan: This stew is one of many traditional Persian dishes that feature eggplants, or aubergines. This particular stew combines the flavour of eggplants with the tartness of limes or sour grapes. This can be made with meat or can go vegetarian.

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Photo by turmericsaffron

Persian desserts and sweets includes Faludeh, a dessert of thin noodles served cold with rosewater and lime juice; Tar Halva, a confection made of rice flour, cardamom and butter; and Shir Berenj, Persian rice pudding.

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Faludeh – Photo by Abouttimemagazine

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Tar Halva – Photo by persianmama

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Shir Berenj – Photo by afghankitchenrecipes

This barely scrapes the surface of the delights that can be found in Persian food. There’s the delights of the crispy crunch of Tahdig rice, the refreshment of the fruit or flower flavoured Sharbat drinks, the myriad variations to create a thick, luscious Aash soups. And so much more.

With the increased interest in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines because of reports on the health benefits of their traditional ingredients, and with the opening of Iran and the region to those who are unfamiliar with it, the joys of outrageously delicious Persian dishes will hopefully spread even further!

To find out more, you can start with (I don’t endorse any of these recipes, but I did use these sources to learn more):

http://www.cultureofiran.com/persian_cuisine.html

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2014/10/29/persian-food-primer-10-essential-iranian-dishes/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/persian-recipes-food-iranian_n_3504083.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/iranian-food-why-a-vibrant-cuisine-is-ripe-for-rediscovery-fesenjan-tahdig-ottolenghi-a6974246.html

http://persianmama.com/recipes-4/
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At one time the centre of one of the largest empires of the world, what is ed Persia has borne some of the world’s greatest treasures. Various intricate arts, buy more about  lyrical literary styles, erectile  and architectural techniques can find their beginnings in the area in and around Iran that is attributed to Persia.

Persia can be considered as beginning with the Achaemenid Empire, known as the realm of Cyrus I, Darius I, and Xerxes. These leaders achieved almost mythological standing, expanding their empires, implementing public works and constructions, and patronising arts of all origins. The empire was known for incorporating elements from those they conquered, endeavouring to create the best of all worlds.

Another major influence was Zoroastrianism, the main religion until the widespread adoption of Islam after the Arab conquest of Persia in the 7th century AD. But its origins go back to around the 10th century BCE, so its influence can’t be over-emphasised. Its main tenets are Humata (good thoughts), Hukhta (good words), Huvarshta (good deeds). The rites and traditions surrounding these seemingly simple ideas are represented in temples and artwork that survives to this day. Notably, the purifying and protective endowments of earth, air, water, and fire can be found throughout.

With the Arab conquest, Islamic influences found its way into Persian arts and culture. And Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Mesopotamian traits also had their hands in – showing that trade as much as war can impact artisans.

Architecture

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The epitome of Achaemenid architecture is Persepolis, the capital of the First Persian Empire. This UNESCO World Heritage site exemplifies how Persian artists, artisans, and architects worked together to combine the best in urban planning, construction, and art. Building on naturally terraced land, additional terraces were created to erect regal structures featuring elegant friezes, slender columns, and majestic sculptures.

The columns are a unique design – the engineers at the time could construct lighter roofs to make a lighter load for more slender columns. These were often topped with ingeniously designed animal sculptures, also known as capitals.

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As a counterpoint to the many temples and palaces, Persian mausoleums and tombs also received great attention and detail. Are simple sepulchres, other necropolises, but all adorned with sculptures and some with intricate metalwork.

Arts

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Within and around these sites can be found even more artistry. Monuments carved out of mountainsides, mosaics depicting scenes from history and mythology, sculptures in bronze and other metals, all adorned homes and palaces, and now can mainly be found in museums and private collections.

Persian metalsmiths didn’t only master bronze work, but also excelled at many techniques for working silver and gold to create decorative jewellery pieces as well as functional drinking vessels and dishes, sometimes inlayed with gems and decorated with abstract designs or scenes of feasting.

Carpets

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The one thing that most people know of is the quality and beauty of Persian carpets. But they aren’t just a single type — Persian carpets covers a wide range of styles and materials. This tradition is thought to have dated back a few thousand years. Each village, city, region developed their own techniques and methods.

Some use cotton, wool, silk, or unique mixes. Some feature geometric designs, birds and flowers, hunting scenes. Some use brilliant, bright colours, others more subdued hues. There are myriad weaves and knots as well. All work together produce beautiful functional works of art. And unlike some arts that are relegated to antiquity, these lovely pieces are being created to this day.

persian_rug_1It’s a testament to the quality and handiwork required that two traditions of Persian carpet weaving is listed as on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritages.

Gardens

Imam (Shah) Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

The nine Persian gardens are listed as UNESCO natural world heritage sites, recognising the tradition and its influence on landscaping since Cyrus the Great. They are designed to integrate natural surroundings with manmade structures. They are thought to be representative of Eden or of the Zoroastrian principles of air, fire, water, and earth, often being separated into four sections. Often featuring innovative engineering and water management, these gardens have passed the test of time, offering themselves oases to visitors, past and present.

The beauties and wonders of Persia’s heritage is being rediscovered as the region pulls out from its recent tumultuous history. What once could only be discovered in history books or museums is now available to those who wish to experience this culture first-hand. Plan a visit soon and see the wonders that come when so many worlds meet and combine!

To find out more:

http://www.persiansarenotarabs.com/persian-culture/

http://www.iranchamber.com/index/art_culture.php

http://www.cultureofiran.com/art_articles_and_links.html

http://www.avesta.org/avesta.html

http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/traditional-skills-of-carpet-weaving-in-fars-00382

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/114

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1372
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From the arrival flight into Bhutan past the peak of Mount Everest, treatment to the adrenaline filled landing at Paro nestled in a deep valley, the journey to the kingdom of the Thunder Dragon was an adventure in itself.  As I disembarked the small plane with our group, my first impression was the incredible landscape.  Soaring mountains in every direction and noticeably the dense fauna, which grew right to the top of all but the highest peaks; a climate feature of the latitude counteracting the altitude.  The architecture caught my eye next, as all buildings from the large airport to the smallest hut followed the same design principles.  Not least was the welcoming people, as we were met with the traditional welcome gift of a white silk scarf by our guide team, themselves wearing smart but practical traditional clothing called a ‘Go.’

dsc_4752Bhutan, a country of only 700,000 people, seemed at first glance like a tiny self contained world, with rugged terrain and unusual distinctive culture, but for all this cultural and natural content, one was also reminded of the tiny country of Switzerland, itself a landlocked mountainous nation. Even the architecture had some practical similarities.  Our accommodations for the first night were an old Dzong (Fortress), and as we settled down that evening to a hearty meal of curried paneer and red rice, conservation at the table made it clear that the altitude, at 2400 m, was affecting some of the group.

Our Bhutanese adventure began with a hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched on a cliffside at 3100 m.  Its holy walls had held off invaders for hundreds of years, with only the occasional fire to mar its long history.  Stood on the monastery balcony, with the reverberating sounds of throat-signing monks all around, butter lamps burning close by and the view of the mountains below, I could already sense the spiritual element of this trip would be a strong feature.

bhutan-18

This SpiceRoads tour was to be one of our Epic rides, an expedition crossing the Bhutanese Himalayas from West to East, before passing into India.  Following a deal with the Indian government to widen roads across the country, many of the winding mountain ways were under repair, only serving to increase the difficulty of this tour, which would see the group climbing over 20,000metres and crossing 11 high passes in two short weeks.

Having set up our Trek mountain bikes the day before, the riding itself began gently. A rolling countryside road gradually gaining incline until we began climbing to our first pass at Dochula.  At the very top, 108 chortens have been erected as a reminder of the 108 Bhutanese who died during a bloody border conflict with an Indian minority group.  From the pass we could see the Bhutanese Himalayas laid out in front of us, sweeping northwards and gaining altitude until snow covered the highest peaks.  The climb was rewarded with a long descent into Punaka, where we stayed for the night in a mystical cloud filled valley of rice paddies.  The air late at night was so clean and clear that every light in the valley shone as if it was in the same room.

bhutan-26

Our journey continued East over the next two days with a challenging 46 km climb to one of the highest passes of the journey, laden with colourful prayer flags at 3400 m.  From Wangdu we traveled onward via Trongsa to the center of the country and beautiful Bhumthang, and Jakar a tiny town with a rich history.  In Bhumthang whilst visiting Dzongs and eating Bhutanese Yak pizza, we stayed at the famous Swiss Guest House, as guests of Fritz Maurer, a Swiss national who had answered an advert for a cheese maker from university and never returned.  Now the founder of the guesthouse, cheese factory and brewery and well into his 70’s.  Having introduced the milk cow to the Bhutanese bloodlines; he rubs shoulders with royalty, whilst never having lost the common touch.  Fritz regaled us with his tales over breakfast, of having been the first person to own a bicycle in Bhutan, and giving up his bed for a visiting US senator who got stuck in the valley when the snows set in.

Rested and recouped, our group took to two wheels again to ride over the pass to the next valley, where a relatively luxurious camp had been arranged.  From now we had entered the East of Bhutan, and accommodation would be scarce, or of such poor quality that camping would often be the best option.  As we rode from the Tang Valley, to Ura to Sengor, camping all the way, we crossed passes and camped at over 3100 m, adjusting to the gaining altitude whilst sitting round the bonfire at night.  The final pass would be the highest in Bhutan.  Thumshingla pass at 3798 m tested even the strongest climbers in the group.

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The ride from Sengor to Mongar has been described as the greatest one day ride in the world.  A 60 km downhill with barely a single vehicle, which travels from silent Alpine forest and cool dry climate, past waterfalls, and birds, until different species of gibbons appear hooting in the thick humid air, and dense jungle with its cacophony of insects.  With a short climb to our lunch spot laid out in the warm sub tropical sun.  From here we still had several passes to climb, but the feeling was definitely changing to a general winding down, and despite the tough journey, that feeling was met with some sadness by most.

No-one however, had expected the incredible views that we were afforded in these last few days. From the mountain top hotel at Trashigang to our campsite in the Monastery at Wamrong, serenaded by the monks deep melancholic instruments we were treated to a heavenly sunset which seemed to change every minute but always to a new an more incredible scene.  Around us it seemed that the mountains changed from jungle to alpine depending on the direction they were facing or the micro climates in their valleys.  The terrain became more and more varied as we approached the border and Samdrup Jonkar.

Our crossing to India was as hectic and different as could be.  We passed form the quiet empty streets of Bhutan, to dense population, traffic and animals wandering in the hustle and bustle.  It was a taste of India, for a two hour ride which framed the peace and serenity of our spiritual trial that was Bhutan.

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At one time the centre of one of the largest empires of the world, ailment Persia has borne some of the world’s greatest treasures. Various intricate arts, skincare  lyrical literary styles, physician  and architectural techniques can find their beginnings in the area in and around Iran that is attributed to Persia.

Persia can be considered as beginning with the Achaemenid Empire, known as the realm of Cyrus I, Darius I, and Xerxes. These leaders achieved almost mythological standing, expanding their empires, implementing public works and constructions, and patronising arts of all origins. The empire was known for incorporating elements from those they conquered, endeavouring to create the best of all worlds.

Another major influence was Zoroastrianism, the main religion until the widespread adoption of Islam after the Arab conquest of Persia in the 7th century AD. But its origins go back to around the 10th century BCE, so its influence can’t be over-emphasised. Its main tenets are Humata (good thoughts), Hukhta (good words), Huvarshta (good deeds). The rites and traditions surrounding these seemingly simple ideas are represented in temples and artwork that survives to this day. Notably, the purifying and protective endowments of earth, air, water, and fire can be found throughout.

With the Arab conquest, Islamic influences found its way into Persian arts and culture. And Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Mesopotamian traits also had their hands in – showing that trade as much as war can impact artisans.

Architecture

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The epitome of Achaemenid architecture is Persepolis, the capital of the First Persian Empire. This UNESCO World Heritage site exemplifies how Persian artists, artisans, and architects worked together to combine the best in urban planning, construction, and art. Building on naturally terraced land, additional terraces were created to erect regal structures featuring elegant friezes, slender columns, and majestic sculptures.

The columns are a unique design – the engineers at the time could construct lighter roofs to make a lighter load for more slender columns. These were often topped with ingeniously designed animal sculptures, also known as capitals.

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As a counterpoint to the many temples and palaces, Persian mausoleums and tombs also received great attention and detail. Are simple sepulchres, other necropolises, but all adorned with sculptures and some with intricate metalwork.

Arts

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Within and around these sites can be found even more artistry. Monuments carved out of mountainsides, mosaics depicting scenes from history and mythology, sculptures in bronze and other metals, all adorned homes and palaces, and now can mainly be found in museums and private collections.

Persian metalsmiths didn’t only master bronze work, but also excelled at many techniques for working silver and gold to create decorative jewellery pieces as well as functional drinking vessels and dishes, sometimes inlayed with gems and decorated with abstract designs or scenes of feasting.

Carpets

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The one thing that most people know of is the quality and beauty of Persian carpets. But they aren’t just a single type — Persian carpets covers a wide range of styles and materials. This tradition is thought to have dated back a few thousand years. Each village, city, region developed their own techniques and methods.

Some use cotton, wool, silk, or unique mixes. Some feature geometric designs, birds and flowers, hunting scenes. Some use brilliant, bright colours, others more subdued hues. There are myriad weaves and knots as well. All work together produce beautiful functional works of art. And unlike some arts that are relegated to antiquity, these lovely pieces are being created to this day.

persian_rug_1It’s a testament to the quality and handiwork required that two traditions of Persian carpet weaving is listed as on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritages.

Gardens

Imam (Shah) Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

The nine Persian gardens are listed as UNESCO natural world heritage sites, recognising the tradition and its influence on landscaping since Cyrus the Great. They are designed to integrate natural surroundings with manmade structures. They are thought to be representative of Eden or of the Zoroastrian principles of air, fire, water, and earth, often being separated into four sections. Often featuring innovative engineering and water management, these gardens have passed the test of time, offering themselves oases to visitors, past and present.

The beauties and wonders of Persia’s heritage is being rediscovered as the region pulls out from its recent tumultuous history. What once could only be discovered in history books or museums is now available to those who wish to experience this culture first-hand. Plan a visit soon and see the wonders that come when so many worlds meet and combine!

To find out more:

http://www.persiansarenotarabs.com/persian-culture/

http://www.iranchamber.com/index/art_culture.php

http://www.cultureofiran.com/art_articles_and_links.html

http://www.avesta.org/avesta.html

http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/traditional-skills-of-carpet-weaving-in-fars-00382

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/114

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1372
persian-cuisine-01

Many know Persian art and architecture. Many appreciate the intricacies in ancient Persian carpet-making. But many may not be acquainted with true Persian foods. Unfortunately, men’s health Persian cuisine is sometimes lumped together with Arabic, life but although they share similar geographic origins and some ingredients, there are distinct differences.

Of course, there are familiar sights at a Persian meal: rice, flat breads, kebabs, yogurt, grilled fish, meat stews. But there are unique uses of other ingredients. You might not be surprised to taste saffron and cardamom, but then you’ll find fruits like pomegranate and tamarind as well as walnuts and pistachios coursing through every course, complementing succulent meats, fishes, or pulses. Persian recipes deftly mix sweet and savoury ingredients to create dishes that burst with flavour.

Some dishes considered essential (it seems unfair to call them ‘basic’) are:

Jewelled rice: When the occasion for dinner needs more than just rice, this dish combines rice with dried fruits and nuts, creating a colourful treat for the eyes as well. Typically, pistachios and almonds slivers mix with barberries (like cranberries), glazed orange peel, and pomegranate and are spiced with saffron.

jewelled-rice

Ghormeh Sabzi is a stew, but so much more. Its considered by many as a favoured Persian dish, combining an incredible mix of herbs that is sautéed to make the base of the stew. Dried limes are added for a singular tartness. As with many other Persian dishes, this can be made with meat or can be a perfect vegetarian option.

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Photo by turmericsaffron

Sabzi Khordan can be found at most meals. It is amazing in its simplicity but complex in the flavours to be discovered. A plate of fresh herbs and roots (parsley, cilantro, radishes, scallions, dill, basil, mint, chives) often accompanied with pickled vegetables, cheese, and nuts. Select your ingredients and eat with flatbread.

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Photo by food52.com

Borani Esfenaj is another way to get your spinach. Walnuts and fried onions are chopped and combined with spinach in yoghurt for taste sensation like no other. An amazingly healthy vegetarian dish, it is served can be served with ‘sangak’, a whole wheat leavened flatbread.

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Photo by Familyrecipecentral

Joojeh Kabob is a typical, if such is possible, kebab dish, grilled skewers of vegetables with chicken that has been marinated in saffron and lime.

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Fesenjan is another dish normally for a special occasion, but with these ingredients, who can be blamed? This is a sweet and savoury stew of walnut, pomegranate, and most often, chicken or duck. Naming its main ingredients doesn’t do it justice.

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Kohresh Bademjan: This stew is one of many traditional Persian dishes that feature eggplants, or aubergines. This particular stew combines the flavour of eggplants with the tartness of limes or sour grapes. This can be made with meat or can go vegetarian.

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Photo by turmericsaffron

Persian desserts and sweets includes Faludeh, a dessert of thin noodles served cold with rosewater and lime juice; Tar Halva, a confection made of rice flour, cardamom and butter; and Shir Berenj, Persian rice pudding.

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Faludeh – Photo by Abouttimemagazine

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Tar Halva – Photo by persianmama

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Shir Berenj – Photo by afghankitchenrecipes

This barely scrapes the surface of the delights that can be found in Persian food. There’s the delights of the crispy crunch of Tahdig rice, the refreshment of the fruit or flower flavoured Sharbat drinks, the myriad variations to create a thick, luscious Aash soups. And so much more.

With the increased interest in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines because of reports on the health benefits of their traditional ingredients, and with the opening of Iran and the region to those who are unfamiliar with it, the joys of outrageously delicious Persian dishes will hopefully spread even further!

To find out more, you can start with (I don’t endorse any of these recipes, but I did use these sources to learn more):

http://www.cultureofiran.com/persian_cuisine.html

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2014/10/29/persian-food-primer-10-essential-iranian-dishes/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/persian-recipes-food-iranian_n_3504083.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/iranian-food-why-a-vibrant-cuisine-is-ripe-for-rediscovery-fesenjan-tahdig-ottolenghi-a6974246.html

http://persianmama.com/recipes-4/
 

Cycling Tours (1)

Cycling tours are an adventure by themselves, check and they offer a wonderful opportunity to explore new places and view breathtaking scenery. However you may find yourself wanting to experience a different mode of transport, even just for a couple of hours. If you do fancy taking a break from the bike, then there are plenty of other activities that you can combine with your cycling tour. Most of the activities below are fast, wild and exciting adventures which will ramp your cycling tour up a notch and give you some extra thrills on your adventure. There are many more activities that you can take part in but here are just a few examples of some of the great activities that you can include with your cycling tour:

Helicopter Tour

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If viewing your spectacular surroundings on two wheels isn’t exciting enough, then why not take a helicopter tour and view them from the air. Helicopter tours give you the chance to view places from a completely different perspective and see things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see on the ground.

One of the most beautiful helicopter tours is in the mountains and valleys which inhabit Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Taking your bike on board the chopper, you will reach peaks up to 3,5000m and then after disembarking you will make your descent- on your bike- of 1,300m through the grasslands which cover the vast landscape.

Helicopter tours give you a great chance to easily reach heights that would otherwise be very difficult to get to and to soak up the surroundings from a better vantage point. They also offer the chance to take a well-earned break from the bike for a short while as you cruise through the sky. This experience, Mountain Biking Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, offers a once-in-a-lifetime heli-biking combo that’s not to be missed.

Zipline

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Just like the helicopter tour, the zipline is a great opportunity to get off the bike for a while and take to the air, albeit in very different circumstances.

A zip line gives an incredible adrenaline rush and allows for a very different perspective of the area you’re in. If you’re heading to Chiang Mai, then the Chiang Mai Bike and Zipline Adventure tour is highly recommended and fun way to experience this popular activity!

There is nothing quite so exhilarating as zipping over a river surrounded by the lush and green mountains and valleys of Mae Taeng. As adventures go, this one’s very exciting and certainly one for the adrenaline junkies.

Rafting
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Make a big splash on your cycling tour by throwing in a rafting experience. If cycling through the vast green trails of Thailand and taking to the skies isn’t exciting enough then how about adding a water experience that is exhilarating, exciting and a little bit frightening?

The rafting experience on Chiang Mai Bike and Raft Adventure is a superb way to see the Mae Taeng mountains and valleys while having a great adventure down the grade three and four rapids. If you think this will be a relaxing break from your bike though then think again, because it’s a real action packed and physical adventure which isn’t for the faint-hearted. Another option is just around the neighborhood in Dalat, Vietnam with Biking and Rafting Dalat.

Rafting is not only a fun and exciting adventure, but it also builds teamwork, leadership skills and confidence. It’s also a very sociable activity to take part in if you are looking to meet new people and forge friendships.

Horse Riding
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As if cycling, flying and rafting weren’t adventurous enough then how about adding horse riding to the mix? For thrill seekers who are looking for a bit of variety try heading to Mongolia where horses outnumber people in their native beautiful, natural and unspoilt habitat.

The Mongolian Steppe Adventure consists of cycling, trekking and horse riding and it is a fantastic way of exploring the diverse and vast landscape that Mongolia has to offer.

Cruise
If all of the activities above sound is a bit too exhausting, then cruising is the perfect antithesis to all of the above adventures on Ha Long Bay Cycle and Cruise tour. Explore the beautiful rivers and waterways which cover large parts of Asia at a leisurely pace. There’s no need to pedal, paddle or saddle up on these trips as you sail serenely through the stunning nature and beautiful backdrops which surround you.

Apart from those fun activities mentioned above, there are also hiking, trekking and paddling. Check out the list of tours below:

Bike and Hike Wild Madagascar

Caucasus Mountain Bike and Hike Adventure

Mystical Bhutan

Chiang Mai Pedal and Paddle Adventure
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A popular expression in Asia is “Same Same But Different, health ” and this perfectly describes Phare, weight loss the Cambodian Circus show in Siem Reap. It is held in a big top, remedy but there are no animals performing, marking it different from your traditional circus. It is similar to Cirque de Soleil in the acrobatics performed, but the difference is all the performers are young people from the streets, orphanages and struggling families of Cambodia.

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The shows rotate often and the one I saw, “Same Same But Different,” explores the different habits and ways between Cambodians and western tourists. In the different situations portrayed, there are funny encounters and opposing perspectives, but in every situation they find understanding and connect at a human level. The performers are incredibly talented and one very impressive moment is when two of the artists play tourists stuck in a monsoon, dance out of the mud and are lifted into the air by rigging and they fly in a beautiful sequence of aerial acrobatics.

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All of the shows use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern. The performers are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA), an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia.

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PPSA was founded in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men returning home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. At the camp they took drawing classes and found art to be a powerful tool for healing. When they returned home they began offering free drawing classes to street children. Soon they opened a school, eventually offering formal education and professional arts training in the areas of visual arts (illustration, painting, graphic design, and animation), theater, music, dance, and circus. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the vocational arts training programs. All programs are offered for free.

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In 2013, with the aim of financial self-sufficiency, PPSA created Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE) to create meaningful employment opportunities for Cambodian artist, create financially sustainable social businesses that provide a reliable income streams for Phare Ponleu Selpak and to revitalise the arts sector in Cambodia.

Phare, the Cambodian Circus opened in February 2013 and there now nightly professional shows under a 330-person big top, 365 days a year with 75% of profiting PPSA. The shows do sell out so be sure to book in advance.

Riders on our Angkor Family Explorer tour experience the big top and we also offer the option of participating in a workshop with the circus before the show. For any of our riders in Siem Reap we are happy to arrange tickets and transport to and from the show

ANZAC Ride to Remembrance

Posted on: January 30th, 2017 by Sujittra
Posted in: Thailand

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From the arrival flight into Bhutan past the peak of Mount Everest, this pfizer to the adrenaline filled landing at Paro nestled in a deep valley, shop more about the journey to the kingdom of the Thunder Dragon was an adventure in itself.  As I disembarked the small plane with our group, global burden of disease my first impression was the incredible landscape.  Soaring mountains in every direction and noticeably the dense fauna, which grew right to the top of all but the highest peaks; a climate feature of the latitude counteracting the altitude.  The architecture caught my eye next, as all buildings from the large airport to the smallest hut followed the same design principles.  Not least was the welcoming people, as we were met with the traditional welcome gift of a white silk scarf by our guide team, themselves wearing smart but practical traditional clothing called a ‘Go.’

dsc_4752Bhutan, a country of only 700,000 people, seemed at first glance like a tiny self contained world, with rugged terrain and unusual distinctive culture, but for all this cultural and natural content, one was also reminded of the tiny country of Switzerland, itself a landlocked mountainous nation. Even the architecture had some practical similarities.  Our accommodations for the first night were an old Dzong (Fortress), and as we settled down that evening to a hearty meal of curried paneer and red rice, conservation at the table made it clear that the altitude, at 2400 m, was affecting some of the group.

Our Bhutanese adventure began with a hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched on a cliffside at 3100 m.  Its holy walls had held off invaders for hundreds of years, with only the occasional fire to mar its long history.  Stood on the monastery balcony, with the reverberating sounds of throat-signing monks all around, butter lamps burning close by and the view of the mountains below, I could already sense the spiritual element of this trip would be a strong feature.

bhutan-18

This SpiceRoads tour was to be one of our Epic rides, an expedition crossing the Bhutanese Himalayas from West to East, before passing into India.  Following a deal with the Indian government to widen roads across the country, many of the winding mountain ways were under repair, only serving to increase the difficulty of this tour, which would see the group climbing over 20,000metres and crossing 11 high passes in two short weeks.

Having set up our Trek mountain bikes the day before, the riding itself began gently. A rolling countryside road gradually gaining incline until we began climbing to our first pass at Dochula.  At the very top, 108 chortens have been erected as a reminder of the 108 Bhutanese who died during a bloody border conflict with an Indian minority group.  From the pass we could see the Bhutanese Himalayas laid out in front of us, sweeping northwards and gaining altitude until snow covered the highest peaks.  The climb was rewarded with a long descent into Punaka, where we stayed for the night in a mystical cloud filled valley of rice paddies.  The air late at night was so clean and clear that every light in the valley shone as if it was in the same room.

Our journey continued East over the next two days with a challenging 46km climb to one of the highest passes of the journey, laden with colourful prayer flags at 3400 m.  From Wangdu we traveled onward via Trongsa to the center of the country and beautiful Bhumthang, and Jakar a tiny town with a rich history.  In Bhumthang whilst visiting Dzongs and eating Bhutanese Yak pizza, we stayed at the famous Swiss Guest House, as guests of Fritz Maurer, a Swiss national who had answered an advert for a cheese maker from university and never returned.  Now the founder of the guesthouse, cheese factory and brewery and well into his 70’s.  Having introduced the milk cow to the Bhutanese bloodlines; he rubs shoulders with royalty, whilst never having lost the common touch.  Fritz regaled us with his tales over breakfast, of having been the first person to own a bicycle in Bhutan, and giving up his bed for a visiting US senator who got stuck in the valley when the snows set in.

Rested and recouped, our group took to two wheels again to ride over the pass to the next valley, where a relatively luxurious camp had been arranged.  From now we had entered the East of Bhutan, and accommodation would be scarce, or of such poor quality that camping would often be the best option.  As we rode from the Tang Valley, to Ura to Sengor, camping all the way, we crossed passes and camped at over 3100 m, adjusting to the gaining altitude whilst sitting round the bonfire at night.  The final pass would be the highest in Bhutan.  Thumshingla pass at 3798 m tested even the strongest climbers in the group.

The ride from Sengor to Mongar has been described as the greatest one day ride in the world.  A 60 km downhill with barely a single vehicle, which travels from silent Alpine forest and cool dry climate, past waterfalls, and birds, until different species of gibbons appear hooting in the thick humid air, and dense jungle with its cacophony of insects.  With a short climb to our lunch spot laid out in the warm sub tropical sun.  From here we still had several passes to climb, but the feeling was definitely changing to a general winding down, and despite the tough journey, that feeling was met with some sadness by most.

No-one however, had expected the incredible views that we were afforded in these last few days. From the mountain top hotel at Trashigang to our campsite in the Monastery at Wamrong, serenaded by the monks deep melancholic instruments we were treated to a heavenly sunset which seemed to change every minute but always to a new an more incredible scene.  Around us it seemed that the mountains changed from jungle to alpine depending on the direction they were facing or the micro climates in their valleys.  The terrain became more and more varied as we approached the border and Samdrup Jonkar.

Our crossing to India was as hectic and different as could be.  We passed form the quiet empty streets of Bhutan, to dense population, traffic and animals wandering in the hustle and bustle.  It was a taste of India, for a two hour ride which framed the peace and serenity of our spiritual trial that was Bhutan.

bhutan-8a

bhutan-10d

dsc_4730

dsc_4624

bhutan-33

bhutan-27

bhutan-26

bhutan-25
banner-bhutan-01

From the arrival flight into Bhutan past the peak of Mount Everest, prostate to the adrenaline filled landing at Paro nestled in a deep valley, malady the journey to the kingdom of the Thunder Dragon was an adventure in itself.  As I disembarked the small plane with our group, prothesis my first impression was the incredible landscape.  Soaring mountains in every direction and noticeably the dense fauna, which grew right to the top of all but the highest peaks; a climate feature of the latitude counteracting the altitude.  The architecture caught my eye next, as all buildings from the large airport to the smallest hut followed the same design principles.  Not least was the welcoming people, as we were met with the traditional welcome gift of a white silk scarf by our guide team, themselves wearing smart but practical traditional clothing called a ‘Go.’

dsc_4752Bhutan, a country of only 700,000 people, seemed at first glance like a tiny self contained world, with rugged terrain and unusual distinctive culture, but for all this cultural and natural content, one was also reminded of the tiny country of Switzerland, itself a landlocked mountainous nation. Even the architecture had some practical similarities.  Our accommodations for the first night were an old Dzong (Fortress), and as we settled down that evening to a hearty meal of curried paneer and red rice, conservation at the table made it clear that the altitude, at 2400 m, was affecting some of the group.

Our Bhutanese adventure began with a hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched on a cliffside at 3100 m.  Its holy walls had held off invaders for hundreds of years, with only the occasional fire to mar its long history.  Stood on the monastery balcony, with the reverberating sounds of throat-signing monks all around, butter lamps burning close by and the view of the mountains below, I could already sense the spiritual element of this trip would be a strong feature.

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This SpiceRoads tour was to be one of our Epic rides, an expedition crossing the Bhutanese Himalayas from West to East, before passing into India.  Following a deal with the Indian government to widen roads across the country, many of the winding mountain ways were under repair, only serving to increase the difficulty of this tour, which would see the group climbing over 20,000metres and crossing 11 high passes in two short weeks.

Having set up our Trek mountain bikes the day before, the riding itself began gently. A rolling countryside road gradually gaining incline until we began climbing to our first pass at Dochula.  At the very top, 108 chortens have been erected as a reminder of the 108 Bhutanese who died during a bloody border conflict with an Indian minority group.  From the pass we could see the Bhutanese Himalayas laid out in front of us, sweeping northwards and gaining altitude until snow covered the highest peaks.  The climb was rewarded with a long descent into Punaka, where we stayed for the night in a mystical cloud filled valley of rice paddies.  The air late at night was so clean and clear that every light in the valley shone as if it was in the same room.

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Our journey continued East over the next two days with a challenging 46 km climb to one of the highest passes of the journey, laden with colourful prayer flags at 3400 m.  From Wangdu we traveled onward via Trongsa to the center of the country and beautiful Bhumthang, and Jakar a tiny town with a rich history.  In Bhumthang whilst visiting Dzongs and eating Bhutanese Yak pizza, we stayed at the famous Swiss Guest House, as guests of Fritz Maurer, a Swiss national who had answered an advert for a cheese maker from university and never returned.  Now the founder of the guesthouse, cheese factory and brewery and well into his 70’s.  Having introduced the milk cow to the Bhutanese bloodlines; he rubs shoulders with royalty, whilst never having lost the common touch.  Fritz regaled us with his tales over breakfast, of having been the first person to own a bicycle in Bhutan, and giving up his bed for a visiting US senator who got stuck in the valley when the snows set in.

Rested and recouped, our group took to two wheels again to ride over the pass to the next valley, where a relatively luxurious camp had been arranged.  From now we had entered the East of Bhutan, and accommodation would be scarce, or of such poor quality that camping would often be the best option.  As we rode from the Tang Valley, to Ura to Sengor, camping all the way, we crossed passes and camped at over 3100 m, adjusting to the gaining altitude whilst sitting round the bonfire at night.  The final pass would be the highest in Bhutan.  Thumshingla pass at 3798 m tested even the strongest climbers in the group.

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The ride from Sengor to Mongar has been described as the greatest one day ride in the world.  A 60 km downhill with barely a single vehicle, which travels from silent Alpine forest and cool dry climate, past waterfalls, and birds, until different species of gibbons appear hooting in the thick humid air, and dense jungle with its cacophony of insects.  With a short climb to our lunch spot laid out in the warm sub tropical sun.  From here we still had several passes to climb, but the feeling was definitely changing to a general winding down, and despite the tough journey, that feeling was met with some sadness by most.

No-one however, had expected the incredible views that we were afforded in these last few days. From the mountain top hotel at Trashigang to our campsite in the Monastery at Wamrong, serenaded by the monks deep melancholic instruments we were treated to a heavenly sunset which seemed to change every minute but always to a new an more incredible scene.  Around us it seemed that the mountains changed from jungle to alpine depending on the direction they were facing or the micro climates in their valleys.  The terrain became more and more varied as we approached the border and Samdrup Jonkar.

Our crossing to India was as hectic and different as could be.  We passed form the quiet empty streets of Bhutan, to dense population, traffic and animals wandering in the hustle and bustle.  It was a taste of India, for a two hour ride which framed the peace and serenity of our spiritual trial that was Bhutan.

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Join us at the global commemoration of ANZAC Day in Thailand at the Hellfire Pass Memorial in Kanchanaburi. Learn how the harrowing events during World War II created bonds that have endured through the decades.

Every 25th of April, side effects Australia and New Zealand observe ANZAC Day. Although it started as a marking of the first military action by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in World War I, and this day has become a day of remembrance honouring all who have served in their armed forces.

 

The origins of ANZAC Day

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ANZAC forces joined the Allies for the campaign at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. This would be the first major international military involvement of Australia and New Zealand since they became federated nations, plague dominions of the United Kingdom but semi-autonomous states. Although this was by no means a successful campaign, the two countries honoured the sacrifices of their soldiers with services and memorials.

Through the generations, as Australia and New Zealand forces were involved in other military and peacekeeping actions, ANZAC Day expanded observance to recognise not just those who fell in WWI, but all who served. And as the ANZACs fought alongside, assisted, and protected other nations, ANZAC Day is commemorated in ceremonies around the world, including in Thailand.

 

Why Thailand joined in the commemorations

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ANZAC Day took on a greater significance in Thailand because of World War II. Tens of thousands of POWs and conscripted civilian labourers toiled and were tortured during the building of the Thai-Burma Railway by the Japanese Army. In Kanchanaburi, Hellfire Pass (apparently named as such because it looked like Hell to the POWs forced to work through the nights) saw thousands of Allied POWs tormented to death building this section of the railway. Many are buried at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery along the River Kwai. The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, maintained by the Australian and Thai governments, continues to honour their memories and educate visitors on this dark chapter in history. Both locations are now part of ANZAC Day ceremonies in Thailand.

 

The ANZAC Ride to Remembrance in Kanchanaburi

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SpiceRoads invites you to join the commemorations with our annual ANZAC Ride to Remembrance trip. The beginning of our trip will give you glimpses of how the past and present have become intertwined here. Impressive caverns and waterfalls lead to farmland and fishing villages. Khmer ruins give way to teak plantations. Overlooking the Death Railway, Kra Sae Cave, once a POW campsite, is now a Buddhist shrine.

Then, on the 25th, we join visitors from all around the world, including veterans and diplomats from all the Allied nations involved, in attending the 5 am Dawn Service at the Hellfire Pass Memorial and then the Memorial Wreath Laying Service at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery to pay our respect to those who served and sacrificed.

If you are interested in joining or want to learn more, please visit http://www.spiceroads.com/tours/anzac.

For more information about the Thai-Burma Railway and Hellfire Pass: