Udomsak Phruttisunakorn (Natt) has been a guide with SpiceRoads for the last 5 years so we figured he would have some useful tips about bike tours and Thailand. We caught up with him to get his thoughts.
How long have you been a cycle guide and what made you decide to be one?
I have been a cycle guide for 5 years now. When I was at university I took up cycling and was cycling everyday. A friend of mine was a guide with SpiceRoads and suggested it may be something I would be interested in. I did not even know such options existed but soon discovered it is a great was to combine my love of cycling with my desire to practice my English.
Where are you from and tell us a little bit about that area?
I am from Chumphon originally. Yes I am a beach boy! Well I grew up 4 km from the beach. The province of Chumphon has about 100km of beach. It also has a lot of fruit farms and coffee and rubber plantations. It is great for cycling through as you can very between beach roads, mountains and plantations. You can cycle through Chumphon if you go on our Bangkok to Phuket road bike tour or our new Cycling Coastal Thailand bike tour.
What do you like most about your job?
No tour is the same. Even if you do the same route, the group, the weather, the unexpected are all different. I really enjoy problem solving and dealing with clients, all of whom have different needs.
What is your favourite short tour in Thailand and why?
My favourite is the Floating Markets bike tour. Despite being a day trip from Bangkok it feels like you are in nature. You get to ride through green countryside and speak to farmers, but also includes the culture and the story of the floating markets.
What is your favourite long tour in Thailand and why?
Northern Thailand by Bike. Cycling in the north can be much tougher. However, you get to experience great cultures and different ethnic groups. There are so many stories to tell!
What is your favourite Thai food?
My favorite dish is of course one from my home Town and is the Yellow Curry Soup (Kaeng Som)! It is made with yellow curry, tamarind, any meat and vegetables. Like most Thai dishes I know what it is made from and love to eat it, but unfortunately can not cook it myself!
If there is one place in Thailand that you recommend people visit where would it be?
Koh Yao Noi. I really like the people there and they are so friendly. It is quiet and peaceful and unlike a lot of places in the region it is less touristy so has a lot of Thai culture.
What is the strangest thing you have ever happened on a tour?
On one tour we were talking about GPS’s and one of the clients jokingly said he would give me one. Well I thought he was joking but a few weeks later one arrived for me from the US. This was strange as completely unexpected and amazing generosity.
If you could do a cycling tour in any other country in the world what would it be?
I would love to go cycling in Japan. I hear it is a beautiful and fascinating country. My family have been and highly recommended it.
Any tips for someone coming on their first cycle tour in Thailand?
Open you mind and bring your smile. A smile is the ticket to Thailand!
Finally, if you could have any bicycle what would it be?
I would love a Seven Cycles mountain bike. Exactly model to be confirmed but it does need to be red!
SpiceRoads has over 80 itineraries on its website so choosing the right tour can be a bit of a challenge. Here are some of our suggestions on what to consider when choosing your tour.
There are several factors to take into account when choosing your bike tour with SpiceRoads. Some of them may seem obvious but make sure you have at least considered the following:
- Where to go: One of the easiest ways to start is by selecting a destination that you really want to go to or at least narrowing it down to a few. One thing to remember is that even if we do not have a tour there that suits the rest of your needs, we can always see if we can do a custom tour for you.
- When to go: This may go hand in hand with the destination as seasonal differences make different destinations more attractive at different times of year. While some destinations (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma) are ok to visit throughout the year, there are some times when the weather will be more suitable for cycling than others. A lot of the destinations in IndoChina are best in November – April. On the other hand destinations like China, Mongolia, Nepal, Northern India, Japan are all best from April to October. Our tours are scheduled according to suitable times for cycling and our staff can advise you on the weather.
- What type of riding: When it comes to our longer tours there are really 3 styles of riding. Firstly there is our classic touring that uses mountain bikes (and in some case hybrid) but is predominantly on paved roads although there may be some dirt track. Then there are road biking tours which are longer distances and faster speeds. Finally we have mountain bike tours where the difficulty of terrain may vary significantly from tour to tour and even from day to day. Ask our team about the terrain on the tour to make sure it matches your expectation.
- Level of difficulty: Make sure the tour you choose matches your riding level. If there isn’t enough riding you might be frustrated if you are used to doing longer daily distances, but if it’s too much cycling each day than you are used to then you might push yourself too hard. This is a holiday and you should be in your comfort zone for the best experience. If you are choosing one of the more difficult tours then we do advise you to get some training in beforehand so you can enjoy the trip
- How long for: For most people you are limited by time and you may also want to add some extra days before or after the tour. Some people simply do not want to spend there whole holiday on a group cycle tour. In several destinations we have similar tours of varying lengths although in a lot of destinations we are limited to only one or two tours. However, as with all the factors we can always customise a tour for you to suit your needs. While some people do ask to join the tour a few days late or leave a few days early this does have some impact on the group dynamics so wherever possible we avoid it.
- Who to travel with: Ask yourself whether you want to join a group where you can meet and cycle with other guests or do you want your own private trip where you can customise it as much as you want. Generally, we find that a lot of people want to join a group, and especially those who are traveling by themselves. However, often when people are booking with a group of friends family they decided to make it a private trip and if there are enough people they find it may work out cheaper.
- Level of accommodation: Keep in mind that the more remote you are going the more limited the level of accommodation. In general, where it is possible we try to use 3 or 4 star accommodation, but we also mix it up to get a good balance throughout the tour. This does mean you could stay in a homestay one night, a tented camp the next and a 4 star beach resort on another day! Ask us about the level of accommodation.
- Level of cultural activities: Every guest is different and each person has a different perception of the level of culture they want. Our tours do vary considerably in what you may see, but as you are always with a local guide there will always be some level of cultural interactions with them and they should adapt it (within reason) to the needs of the group. Obviously on some tours you will see temple after temple while on other tours you will be mainly riding through amazing landscapes! Chose the tour with your level of interest in mind.
So, above are some key factors to take into account when choosing a tour. However, probably the best tip of them all is to tell one of our lovely tour consultants your requirements and ask there advise!
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