First published 8th September, 2009
My name's Anderson, and I'm about to bicycle across Southeast Asia with my wife and three friends. Over four months, we're going to roll across Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, with no schedule to interfere with the fun. No schedule that is except for my writing a story for Travelfish every Wednesday telling you all how the trip is going. Sounds exciting, exhilarating, and perhaps just a little bit crazy, right? Well, that's what I think, at least. But with a minimum of planning, a pretty tight budget (under US$5,000 per person), and the gumption to give it a go, we'll all be convening in Bangkok this week to begin our odyssey.
Fortunately, having already spent a year travelling in India and Nepal, as well as 16 months teaching ESL in Busan, South Korea -- both with my wife Liz -- I'm assuming (uh-oh) that I'm reasonably well prepared for the oft-maddening hardships that low-budget travel often leads to. Thankfully, your job's the easy part -- you've just got to read about it to find out what happens.
My upcoming series of articles intends to chronicle the adventure of cycling, the energy of Southeast Asia's numerous amazing places, and the opportunities provided by slow-paced travel. If you want day-to-day updates -- PG-rated for our families -- you'll have to read along on my blog. But if you want intriguing stories on modern travel, highlighting spectacular locations and unique people, with a dedication to keeping it real, then "Back To Bangkok -- An Asian Bicycle Adventure" is going to be perfectly suited for you.
OK, that sounds great and all, but who am I?
I'm a 28-year-old American with a classics and philosophy degree, and I'm an aspiring writer. Yikes, sounds nerdy, I know. Don't worry... I'm also a hippie who loves camping and the outdoors, a live music lover, a DJ when I'm actually living somewhere, and a global traveller. Yikes, sounds dirty, I know.
In addition to me, a dirty nerd apparently, here's a brief rundown of the remainder of "the crew:"
Liz, my wife of almost five years, is 27, American, and amazing at keeping our two-person family living life to its fullest. She completes me, and can somehow put up with me -- what more do you want in a life-partner?
Luke is 27, American, drummer for a band -- Hunab -- that's on indefinite hiatus, man-about-town in Iowa City, Iowa, and the key motivator for us having gone to India -- it was all he could talk about for months after he spent a semester studying in Mysore.
Christine is 25, American, a just-retired elementary school math teacher who warmed up for our trip by relaxing in El Salvador for the last month -- we'll see if her Spanish skills ever come in handy.
Blaise is 22, Canadian, a temporarily-retired ESL teacher (we worked together in Korea), and the youngest and most daring -- he'll keep us elderly folk on our toes!
We're planning on beginning bicycling around August 6; however, we'll be in Thailand for about two weeks before. While waiting for everyone to arrive, we hope to adjust to the weather, and then we'll travel a bit around the not-so-bike-friendly north, before heading due east towards Cambodia. We're estimating about a month per country, ending up back in Bangkok, though our only true deadline is flying home for Christmas.
If you're curious about what gear, besides cojones, is needed for a Southeast Asian bike trip, then the list to the right is just what you'll want to read.
Now, that leaves us with just one unanswered question: why?
Well, the main reason for travelling in the region is pretty simple. The original plan (hatched over three years ago) was to have travelled to Southeast Asia from India on our first global trip. However, between tight finances and the desire to spend more than a few short months in the subcontinent, further travel had to be postponed. My wife and I decided, despite our often love-hate relationship with India, that it was best for us to continue exploring the part of the world that we were in as completely as we could, rather than just travelling onwards simply for the sake of travel. After all, the hard part of developing world travel is just getting there in the first place, the day-to-day expenses aren't really a big deal by Western standards, and the day-to-day headaches are minute compared to the fantastic experiences you can enjoy. In a way then, we are just merely wrapping up what we originally started out to do, though bringing a few friends along is hopefully going to change the daily dynamic quite a bit.
But what about the bicycles? Well, all five of us, to varying degrees, are casual cycling enthusiasts. The joy of riding, for me, is simply something spectacular, and often effortlessly efficient. At "home" we ride for fun, transportation, as well as to go drunken two-wheel road-sailing after the bars close. None of us own fancy road bikes, and while we do mostly have Treks, they are low-level and we've had them for a while -- I actually still ride the same bike that my parents bought for me when I was in 8th grade!
We really like the idea of a slower pace of travel -- we rode buses and trains throughout all of India & Nepal -- because it allows us to see how life really is on the ground level, rather than just speeding past the countryside en route to yet another tourist destination and its accompanying ghetto. We always enjoyed meeting real people on our journeys, and they are what we remember more than all the monuments and temples. Some of my best travel moments happened in the most rural of places, when Liz and I got off the tourist trail as much as we possibly could. After all, we, and everyone I hope, travel to truly experience a country as much as a foreigner can, and tour guides, set itineraries, air conditioning and the like don't exactly enable that to happen.
In Busan, while biking along a nearby river to rehabilitate my torn PCL, we started to dream of a bike trip somewhere -- and being far from home we of course immediately began thinking of riding through a part of America. The top two contenders were the West Coast and the South East, both because we'd never really explored them as adults. Unfortunately, the grim economic reality of long-term American eating and camping, combined with the fact that no one we knew was really interested, left us uncertain about whether a long-term bike ride would be in our near future.
Our future travel plans, then, were all up in the air, until the pieces started to come together quickly, as my old college roommate told us he would be in Thailand sometime this summer after finishing his stint in the Peace Corps. Brian has ended up not riding with us, but that got us very motivated to make the trip work, and as we talked more and more with both Luke and Blaise, they quickly got on board for a long-term bike ride, but in Asia not America. We crunched numbers based on our India experiences and general Thailand advice, and gradually put together our current vague route, while also researching what equipment would be required to actually do a trip like this. Of course we looked at other people's travel biking blogs, most notably Travelling Two, and the more we just talked and thought about the trip, the more real it became.
Truly, you've just got to believe in it yourself, and the journey will manifest itself quite easily. It may not happen overnight, as we've been planning this to some extent for over a year, but it is impressive how everything manages to work out when you want it to!
Thus begins our journey into the unknown, and as I sit in the Beijing airport awaiting my flight to Bangkok, it is finally starting to feel completely real. I hope you enjoy reading my articles at least as much as I do writing them -- we both know the experiences themselves will be much more exciting!
An edited version of this story first appeared on Holiday Fu -- Like Kung Fu for holidays. We'll be running a new entry from Anderson and the team every Wednesday for the duration of their trip across Asia. We hope you find it an interesting view into what another's journey through Asia can be like. There's a delay of a few weeks between where they are and the story appearing on Travelfish, so if you want to know where they are right now, be sure to check out their blog. Comments, as always, are welcome.
Story by Anderson Muth
Related reading24 hours in Bangkok
Muay Thai night
Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
Read 9 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (10)
- All stories
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (6)
- Cambodia (21)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (15)
- All stories
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (6)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (70)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (31)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (19)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (14)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (16)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.