SpiceRoads Blog

Cycling through a Former War Zone

Posted on: August 22nd, 2016 by Sally Hoare
Posted in: Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s 25 year-long civil war officially ended in May, 2009. However, it took years to rid the country of over 1.6 million landmines and rebuild the war-torn infrastructure. Now that Northern Sri Lanka, formerly occupied by the Tamil Tiger insurgency, is considered safe to visit, it’s a great time to take advantage of the many newly rebuilt roads with Sri Lanka’s Tip to Tip by Road Bike.

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The flat expanses of Northern Sri Lana make for a great start to the tour- especially with the mountains looming ahead in the center of the country. The region is also dotted with wetlands, a perfect breeding ground for water birds. Bird sighting from the road was incredibly easy, and a highlight was counting 11 rare kingfishers in just one ride!

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At the northern tip of Sri Lanka is the Jaffna Penninsula and its eponymous city. Elephant Pass controls access to the peninsula, and is a somber stop and a glimpse into the war that waged across the small island not long ago. Three major battles played out at this strategic pass during the civil war, with many casualties on both sides.

While Elephant Pass is till a military base, a memorial has now been constructed to honor the selfless actions of Corporal Gamini Kularatne. The Sri Lankan solider died with honor, saving his camp and sacrificing himself by exploding grenades on a Tamil Tiger bulldozer laden with explosives.

Jaffna itself is still recovering from the extensive damage from the war. The population is slowly returning home after a mass exodus to escape the fighting and signs of the war are still evident. Seven years later bombed out buildings, bullet holes, and piles of rubble can still be seen.

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However, there are positive signs of rebuilding. Local life and the economy is slowly returning to what it once was, and cycling through the fish market we saw fishermen and sellers actively plying their trade.

Rebuilding efforts have resulted in an excellent new road from Jaffna via a causeway to the Kayts, a series of low-lying islands connected by bridges and ferries. Rebuilding also extends to schools, churches, and the Hindu temples protected by their deities are a colourful splash in the often somber landscape.

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Cycling provided a great opportunity to witness Sri Lanka’s thriving wildlife. We spied plenty of cormorants, fish eagles, kites and pelicans, all from the road.  Sri Lanka’s beaches as well, off-limits during the war, and taking a break at one we had the opportunity to relax and enjoy the northern tip of Sri Lanka. Back in the spread out city of Jaffna we rewarded ourselves for our riding with a visit to one of the many new ice-cream parlours.

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Leaving Jaffna we cycled to another peninsula and beach – Manar. This lonesome route was surrounded by military bases and reserves and so experiences minimal human presence except for the occasional cow herder. Animals were in abundance from dusky langurs in the bushes, to a myriad of birds in the water and air, and of course the cows we had to divert around. Once on the peninsula there was a new animal, feral donkeys. These are the ancestors of donkeys brought to Sri Lanka by the Arabs to carry spices.

The potential for Manar to one day become a beach resort is there, but for now the beaches are raw and natural. A welcome respite. Cycling back on the mainland we returned to the interior of the country and were soon back to more popular places to visit such as Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy. After spending days with no other tourists it took some adjustment but it also made the experience of visiting the north more prized.

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By Patricia Weismantel – Product Manager for SpiceRoads who joined the June 2016 tour of Sri Lanka’s Tip to Tip by Road Bike

Discover The World’s Most Unique Wildlife in Madagascar

Posted on: August 15th, 2016 by Sally Hoare

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Find out why Madagascar is a trending biking destination, 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, a small island country in the Indian Ocean, 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

Guidelines for Optimal Cycling Nutrition

Posted on: August 8th, 2016 by Sally Hoare
Posted in: Travel Tips

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If you’re planning to go on a cycling tour, it is important to keep your body properly fuelled and hydrated. However, there is so much information available it can be confusing trying to sort through it all. We have provided some top tips to help you have the best results.

Calories Count
There are a couple of ways to determine your caloric needs. A GPS device that can estimate the number of calories burned based on the terrain can give a more accurate indication of whether additional or fewer calories are required during the ride, as well as immediately before or afterward.

Another way to estimate caloric needs is to multiply planned miles by 40 to 50 calories. For example, for a 30 mile ride, multiply 30 by 40 or 50, which equals 1,200-1,500 calories. If you’re a slower or lighter rider aim for the lower number, and higher if you’re a faster or heavier rider.

Don’t Skip Carbs
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy. When it comes to cycling, your carbohydrate requirement depends on the number of miles ridden per week, and your lifestyle. Sports scientists recommend 5-9g of carbohydrate per kilogram of weigh daily.

Typically, this is a fist-sized portion of a low-glycaemic carbohydrate with each meal or snack. However, keep in mind that the type of carbs eaten will have an impact on your energy levels, as well as your health. It is best to choose foods like fruits, vegetables and wholegrain slow-release carbohydrates.

Build and Rebuild with Protein
Often when people think of sports and protein, the association is with building muscle. However, protein is the building block of a healthy body. Protein supports all muscle health, your immune system, as well as healing and recovery. It is a mistake to assume protein is less important to a cyclist. Muscle damage occurs when training, and on a long ride. Without proper protein support, recovery will be below optimal levels.

Good fats, not bad fats
Like carbs, it is important to remember the body requires certain fats for optimal health. Foods that provide good fats, (Omega 3, 6 and 9) include nuts, seeds, fish and oils from flaxseed, borage and starflower. About 20g per day of good fats are known to reduce inflammation, which is great for asthma sufferers, allergies, and joint and muscle inflammation. It also reduces bad cholesterol.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Proper fluid levels create better energy levels in all aspects of life. To work out your personal fluid requirements during a ride, weigh yourself before and after your ride. For each kilo lost, additional litre of water is required. This will make a big difference in your performance and recovery.

Eat to Recover
Meals and drinks rich in carbohydrates will speed up energy refuelling if eaten within the first 20 minutes post-ride. 1g of carbohydrate per kilogram of weigh is optimal. Adding 10g of protein to this will reduce chances of injury, promote muscle recovery and reduce soreness, and speed up energy refuelling.

 

More related articles:

When is a curry not a curry?

5 foods you’ll find along the way in Japan

5 foods you’ll find along the way in Bulgaria

10 Awesome Bike Rides in Asia

Posted on: August 1st, 2016 by Sally Hoare

Tired of riding in the same old places? Looking to explore somewhere new? Look no further. We have pulled together a list of TOP CYCLE TOURS in Asia which need to be ridden now!

1. Angkor Experience

Cycling beneath towering fig trees amongst a thousand years of Khmer history is an absolute delight and cycling is the perfect way to explore. The added benefit of being on a bicycle is that you will see much more than the incredible legacy of the Khmer empire: you will cycle past little hamlets, delve into fascinating markets and visit the floating village of Kampong Phluck. A true glimpse into rural Cambodian life. More info

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Costs: US$635

Days: 5 days / 4 nights

Dates: Departs every Monday

2. Bicycling Bangkok to Phuket

On this road biking adventure, you will cycle on smooth undulating roads through stunning scenery, past quaint little villages teeming with smiley locals, rest in world-class resorts and eat mouthwatering seafood. You will arrive at the resort island of Phuket ready to relax knowing you have just ridden 800kms. What an achievement! More info.

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Costs: US$2,050

Days: 10 days / 9 nights

Dates: 2016: Jan 3, Jan 24, Feb 14, Feb 28, March 13 (more dates available)

3. Saigon to Bangkok by Bicycle

On this epic multi-country adventure, you will explore three countries in two weeks. Starting in Vietnam’s buzzing Saigon, you will ride on country back roads in the Mekong Delta, enter Cambodia by boat and visit interesting sites along the way, including the largest monument of the world, Angkor Wat. The tour finally ends in Thailand, otherwise known as the ‘Land of the Smiles,’ and world-renowned for its fabulous ‘spicy’ food. More info.

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Costs: US$2,675

Days: 14 days / 13 nights

Dates: 2016: Jan 3, Jan 10, Jan 17, Jan 31, Feb 14, Feb 28 (more dates available)

4. Remote Vietnam and Laos by Bike

Ride from frenetic Hanoi into the calm countryside and discover the untouched natural beauty of this region: from the towering karst mountains, through pleasantly cooling forest to fertile rice fields. The tour culminates in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its colonial and vernacular architecture, glittering Buddhist temples and ascetic saffron-robed monks. More info.

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Costs: US$2,995

Days: 14 days / 13 nights

Dates: 2016: Jan 10, Feb 14, Mar 6, Sep 11, Oct 2, Dec 18 (more dates available)

5. Biking to Pandas and Buddhas

This China tour starts with an immediate highlight – a visit to the Panda Breeding Research Centre – a refuge for these rare animals. It is then ‘on your bike’ to discover 2,000 years of Chinese history. The tour includes a visit to the UNESCO Heritage Mount Emei (one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China) and a wonder around the beautiful town of Pingle. The scenery on the tour is impressive and its long history and traditional folklore fascinating. More info.

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Costs: US$2,050

Days: 7 days / 6 nights

Dates: 2016: Mar 20, Mar 27, May 1, Aug 28, Sep 18, Oct 2, Oct 23

6. Island Hopping the Philippines

Discover the diversity of the islands as you boat and bike around the Philippines. Bohol, the first island we visit, is home to the photogenic big-eyed tarsiers, has plenty of terraced rice fields and languid rivers. Camiguin is blessed with hot, cold and soda springs and jet black beaches. Siquijor has white sandy beaches, azul sea and, up in the highland are mystic healers reputed to have incredible powers! More info

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Costs: US$3,500

Days: 13 days / 12 nights

Dates: 2016: Jan 3, Feb 28, Apr 10, Sept 11, Oct 2, Nov 20

7. Bali Mountain Biking Adventure

Fantastic beaches, volcanic mountains, lush jungle and some amazing trails. Bali is a dream when it comes to exploring. Starting from the famous Batur Crater, we will ride down dirt tracks, take in breath-taking views of the two highest mountains. Ride a variety of surfaces and witness a diverse landscape from rough volcanic outcrops, to paddies and gorgeous beaches. More info

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Costs: US$1,250

Days: 7 days / 6 nights

Dates: 2016: Apr 10, May 1, Jun 5, Jul 10, Jul 31, Sept 4, Oct 16

8. Mystical Bhutan

Bicycling in Bhutan is rewarded with stunning views, its pristine nature and long bike friendly descents. Those vistas do however come with a price of long, yet gentle, high-altitude climbs. You will also visit the magnificent Tiger’s Nest Monastery perched precariously high on a sheer cliff and get to understand why Bhutan has been named ‘The World’s Happiest Country’. More info.

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Costs: US$4,750

Days: 14 days / 13 nights

Dates: 2016: May 8, Jun 5, Aug 7, Sep 4, Oct 9

9. Sri Lanka Heritage by Bicycle

Sri Lanka, the ‘Teardrop of India,’ offers the visitor an array of ancient and natural delights that will bedazzle you. We visit five of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and the beautiful town of Kandy, home to the famed Temple of the Tooth. We climb the awe-inspiring rock fortress of Sigiriya and take a jeep safari through Minneriya National Park to see the elephants. More info.

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Costs: US$1,695

Days: 7 days / 6 nights

Dates: 2016: Jan 25, Feb 22, May 23, Sept 26, Oct 24, Nov 21, Dec 26

10. Taiwan Traverse by Road Bike

Spectacular winding roads that provide tough-but-rewarding climbs and exciting descents are the hallmarks of riding in Taiwan. The countryside is made up of more than 100 peaks in the Central Mountain Range and we cross this range twice. An added benefit of Taiwan is the plethora of hot springs, perfect to relax your muscles after a hard day riding. More info.

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Costs: US$3,400

Days: 11 days / 10 nights

Dates: 2016: Mar 20, Apr 3, Sept 18, Oct 16, Nov 13

 

More related articles:

Cycle through history: visit to a World Heritage site

Top 5 Family Cycle Holidays in Asia

Cycle Tours: More tours for you to choose from

Green Season Adventures

What to expect when visiting Asia

Where on earth to take your camera?

Day tripping along the Mekong River Valley

Congrats Chris Froome on 3rd Tour de France Win!

Posted on: July 28th, 2016 by Sally Hoare
Posted in: Uncategorized

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The 2016 Tour de France has finished, with a win for Britain Chris Froome and Team Sky. Being cyclists ourselves, the SpiceRoads team has enjoyed this year’s Tour right up to the exciting conclusion and extends a hearty congratulations to Froome on his third win!

With competitive cycling’s most well-known and prestigious event now come to a close, no doubt sights are set on the Rio Olympics.

Best Moments of the 2016 Tour de France

12Rainy weather contributed to several disastrous spills

13Chris Froome emerges bloody from a crash to finish Stage 19

14Strong contender Tom Doulin breaks his arm in a crash

1A now iconic moment in cycling history, Chris Froome runs up the legendary Mount Ventoux after a crash

16A first stage win and yellow jersey for Mark Cavendish

17The flame rouge banner collapsed on Adam Yates’ front wheel

Photographs by Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com

Join Team SpiceRoads on Tour

Experience the challenge, excitement, and camaraderie for yourself- join a tour with SpiceRoads! For road cyclists ready to test themselves, we have a selection of 4 and 5 chili graded (our most challenging) tours.

The 2017 Tour of Friendship – 5 Chilis

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This annual ride for charity takes place over 5 stages across over 1,000 kilometers in a to-be-determined destination in Thailand. Make new friends, experience a real road bike race, and raise money to support communities in need in rural Thailand.

Taiwan Traverse by Road Bike – 5 Chilis

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Taiwan is fast becoming a cycling destination for those seeking a challenge amid amazing scenery. Tackle climbs by day and enjoy hot springs by night on this 10 day tour.

Conquer the Lanna Kingdom by Roadbike – 5 Chilis

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Ride the infamous Mae Hong Son Loop and finish at the summit of Thailand’s tallest mountain, Doi Inthanon, on this 13 day tour through Thailand’s most challenging cycling terrain.

Sri Lanka Tip to Tip by Road Bike- 4 Chilis

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Experience all of Sri Lanka’s scenery by bike on this challenging and scenic ride across the island country.

Road Biking from Saigon to Angkor- 4 Chilis

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Ride over 1,300 kilometers in 13 days in this tour of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia.

Chiang Mai Classic Stage Ride- 4 Chilis

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Don’t have time for a long tour? Try this one day, 75 kilometer challenge amid the beautiful scenery of Northern Thailand.