LOUISE MOLYNEUX recounts her family cycling holiday to Central Thailand and explains why the combination of adventure and culture means that everyone gets something out of a holiday with SpiceRoads.
A cycling holiday in Central Thailand is the perfect combination of adventure and culture. A chance to slow your pace, live and breathe the sights and smells of this beautiful country,
both ancient and modern.
Starting and finishing in Bangkok, in just 4 days with cycle tour company SpiceRoads we visited a traditional floating market, the infamous Death Railway and Bridge over the River Kwai and the temples of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. In between these major tourist attractions we were immersed in real life as we cycled a total of 120km through farmland, orchards, rice fields, teak plantations and small villages. At every opportunity the Thai people welcomed us, enveloping us in the spirit of Thailand, “the land of smiles”.
This trip is a perfect choice for novice cyclists and families because the 30km of cycling each day takes place on hard-packed trails and quiet, tarmac roads. It was easily manageable for us, 2 adults of average fitness and 2 children under 4 years of age, who rode in child seats on the back of our bikes. Led by an English-speaking guide, it is fully vehicle supported so any member of the group can opt to ride in the van at any point and not miss the sights. This means you are never far from the unending supply of cold drinks, fresh fruit and snacks either!
The tour begins with exploration of the Mae Klong Delta, south of Bangkok, where we took a sedate cruise among the colourful vendors of the floating market. At times we were onlookers, at other times we joined in the good-natured bargaining for fruit and vegetables, freshly cooked food and souvenirs. Then we escaped the hustle and bustle and headed out into the canals to witness village life. Within moments we were motoring through the plantations and suddenly our world was quiet, save for the put-put of the boat’s engine. We passed wooden houses on stilts, men taking a bath and ladies waist-deep in the murky, brown water washing their clothes, set against the vibrant green of the trees behind.
In the afternoon we switched the long tail boat for bikes and pedaled along quiet roads through lush countryside, abounding with coconuts and other fruit. The beauty of travelling by bike is that you can stop and stare whenever and wherever you want; you become part of the environment, not just a mere spectator. It is an up close and personal experience that you just do not get in a tour bus. As you cycle past cultural barriers break down: people smile at you, wave and invite you over for a chat in which hand signals and laughter are your common language.Day 2 started in Kanchanaburi, where a visit to the war museum, cemetery and the Bridge over the River Kwai were a stark reminder of the suffering inflicted on Allied Prisoners of War during the building of the Burma-Thailand railway. The outstanding natural beauty of the area, witnessed from a train ride along a section of the Death Railway, creates a serene atmosphere, one in which I could not help but stop and contemplate the horror of war. The cycling continued in the afternoon, through forests and along rivers set against the magnificent Thanon Thongchai Mountain Range, which runs along the border between Thailand and Myanmar.
From Kanchanaburi we transferred by van to Ayutthaya, the former capital city of Siam and one of Asia’s most prosperous cities in the 17th century. Sited at the confluence of three rivers, Ayutthaya is today a modern city peppered with impressive remains of temples and palaces. Covering a total area of just 2.9 km2, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is perfect for exploring by bicycle as the distances between temples are small. The juxtaposition of 21st century buildings and ancient temple ruins, neon plastic signs and large stone Buddhas is intriguing.
Spice Roads wants you to “see the world by bicycle”. And that is what we did. This trip was so much more than a cycling holiday or a sight seeing holiday. The combination and regular shifting between the two meant that both adults and children were engaged and interested throughout.
Based in Bangkok but operating across Asia, and beyond, Spice Roads run a large variety of both group and private guided cycling tours at different levels of difficulty. Bike hire, including child seats and tow-alongs, is provided and trips are fully supported. It is a holiday unlike any other and one you will want to repeat!
Find out more about the Central Thailand Explorer.