All posts by Matthew and Niamh

Matthew Good and Niamh Conway are international school teachers who met while working at the British School of Lome, in Togo, West Africa. They later moved to Uzbekistan, where they spent four years at Tashkent International School, each summer exploring another slice of the world by bike. Now the pair is on a bicycle world tour for two years. Niamh is an elementary school teacher originally from Limerick, Ireland who got her start in an Irish National School. Matthew is an Economics & Business Teacher from Watford, England who began his career at a comprehensive school near London. The Pedalgogy website features a blog and a photo gallery, while providing advice and maps for those interested in planning bike tours. As the touring teachers travel the world, they have been creating an online learning resource called Tedweb. By running workshops in schools, they now have a growing collection of stories from children around the world, allowing them to develop an awareness as global citizens. They have also been fundraising for the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association U.K.

Cyclothon

This post was first published on www.pedalgogy.net in May 2017. 
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The 3rd annual Tashkent International Cyclothon will take place on 14th April 2018. We will also we challenging ourselves to ride as many kms as possible on that day with our fully loaded bikes here in Indonesia. We will add our sponsorship to the total raised by TIS. All funds raised will go to PWSA.
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Riders ready, pedals ready….go!

$6000 raised for PWSA in 1 day

On Sunday April 2nd 2017, the Tashkent International School Campus became a bicycle track for the 2nd TIS Cyclothon.

Students, staff and parents pedaled around the circuit to raise money for Prader-Willi Syndrome Association UK.

The event was well attended with over 100 people from the TIS community taking part in some way.

Collectively 2200 kilometers were covered between 8am and 6pm. That’s about the same distance as Tashkent to Dubai!

Each rider was sponsored by their friends and families per kilometer that they covered. Some managed to raise enough support to receive $10 per kilometer, and went on to hit 50kms. In fact two students managed to reach 85kms each for the day!!

It was wonderful to see determined young people pushing themselves physically, whilst they were also aware that with every lap they were having a positive impact on other children who have Prader-Willi Syndrome.

At the same time, inside the school gym, the first school Service Expo took place with students promoting their service projects from the academic year. Students were also selling merchandise to raise funds for their causes, and organizing games for visitors to take part in.

The weather was pretty bad for a bike ride, but one cannot be miserable on a bike so it was still a great day.

Thank you  to the TIS community for taking part and making this event such a success. The Prader-Willi Syndrome Association will be using the money for  family support network events this summer as well as investing in research.

For videos of our bicycle ride around the world, subscribe to our You Tube channel.

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Tales from the Road: Sumatra – An Intense Introduction to Indonesia

Biking Stuff: Cycling Thailand – A Beginner’s Perspective

I only started cycling about 3 years ago and still consider myself a beginner, despite having cycled over 10,000 km so far. Thailand is a great place for bicycle touring for many reasons but it I found myself commenting often during our month there on how perfect it would be as a person’s first bike tour.

Convenience

The first thing to strike me when we crossed the border from Cambodia at Koh Kong was how much more developed Thailand is compared to the other countries we have toured so far. The second thing I noticed – a 7 Eleven shop. I was beside myself with excitement. The snacks, the drinks, the air conditioning, the overwhelming choice of cheap products. Obviously this shouldn’t be the main draw of a trip through Thailand but after months of dusty, mini-market shacks with fish-flavoured cardboard snacks, this felt like such a luxury. It was instantly relaxing knowing that there would be a reliable shop every few kilometres so we never needed to plan our days around where we would be able to stop for a rest and get a drink. We just stopped whenever we felt like it. It also meant that we didn’t have the extra weight of carrying enough water for a whole day. We could get some more whenever we needed. A pit-stop for a Cafe Amazon frappe and 7 Eleven sandwich became part of our daily cycling routine. Supermarkets like Tesco and Big C meant we could get fresh food like fruit, dairy and bakery items cheaply instead of the packaged cookies and cakes we had been living on before. Other conveniences are nice public toilets at petrol stations and Wi-Fi almost everywhere.

Great Roads

The road surfaces in Thailand are fantastic. No skidding through gravel and avoiding potholes here. The main roads are busy but there is usually a decent hard shoulder (or occasionally a dedicated bike lane!). There is often an option to take rural roads instead of the highway as long as you don’t mind a few extra kms and a bit of navigating. These roads are just as well surfaced and are surprisingly quiet…some were almost traffic-free. On the rural roads we could relax and look around more, often seeing colourful (and loud) birds and monkeys. One drawback of the back roads is that there is a much higher chance of being chased by dogs.

Quiet Beaches 

I had been dreaming of Thai beaches since setting off on our around the world trip 9 months ago. At the same time, I was a bit worried that everywhere would be packed with other tourists and that it would be a bit spoiled. It’s true that some beaches are complete tourist traps but we purposely avoided these places and were surprised at how many perfect stretches of empty beach we came across. The road from Hua Hin south to Chumphon along the coast is dotted with small resorts catering to locals and quiet beaches. It feels a world away from the Thailand of full moon parties and tourist scams. Often, the road runs right next to the beach so you can cool off in the sea when you need a break from pedalling.

No Mountains 

If you are just starting out with bike touring and don’t want to tackle high mountain passes just yet, then Thailand is perfect. The route we took: Trat – Chumphon – Ranong – Satun was almost completely flat. We found it very relaxing and it meant that we could complete long distances quickly without spending too long in the blazing sun. It would be great for building up bike fitness at the beginning of a longer tour.

Easy Accommodation

Accommodation in Thailand is plentiful and cheap so the extra weight of bringing a tent is not essential. Dorm beds in hostels are a few dollars while ensuite rooms in guesthouses and hotels can be found for 10-20 dollars. Tip: Agoda has more options than Booking.com in Thailand and prices are usually a couple of dollars lower.

Tips:

  • There are plenty of ATMs in Thailand so you don’t need to worry about changing lots of cash at the border. However, beware the huge charges at some ATMs. Most that we came across charged between 200 and 300 baht per withdrawal. The purple AEON ATMs found near Tesco stores had a lower charge of 150 baht.

  • Packs of stray dogs roam Thailand and often chase cyclists. We have found that talking loudly when approaching dogs helps with not startling them. I have convinced myself that complimenting dogs dissuades them from chasing me. I’ll say “Hello puppy! You are so cute! Good doggy! Good doggy doggy!” even if it is the most ancient and mangy thing I’ve ever seen. If the flattery doesn’t work and they charge, we dismount with the bikes between us and the dogs and try to look confident. They usually stop when they see we are just humans and let us be on our way.

  • Don’t underestimate sandflies

  • If your visa is running out, a few days in Myanmar (pics above) is a good option as a visa run. The crossing from Ranong to Kawthaung is an experience and relatively hassle-free. Click here for more info.

  • If you don’t want the stress of cycling through Bangkok, take the ferry from Pattaya to Hua Hin, avoiding the capital. We had heard that you can’t take bikes in the ferry but had no problems when we tried. We went to the office at Pattaya port the day before the sailing and bought tickets that specified we were taking bikes. Ferry staff loaded and unloaded the bikes for us without needing to take off the bags. It was all really smooth.

Click here for an interactive map of our route in Thailand.

More videos of our bicycle tour around the world can be found on our You Tube channel.

Biking Stuff: Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a paradise for bike tourers. Although most people haven’t heard of this Central Asian country, we met more fellow cyclists here than anywhere else we have been. Challenging climbs and rough terrain are rewarded with pristine views along with warm hospitality.

There are a thousand reasons to cycle in this country but here are my top 5:

1. Camping

Kyrgyzstan is a camper’s dream. So much of this country is uncultivated, rolling, green hills perfect for pitching a tent as dusk falls on another day of riding. Kyrgyz people in the countryside live in yurts and are therefore not at all surprised by the sight of tourists camping compared to the reaction of locals in some other countries. It is a really special feeling knowing that you are completely self-sufficient with your vehicle, kitchen and house underneath you. Since leaving Kyrgyzstan, we have camped less and less because of the availability of cheap accommodation and the lack of open space. We miss our routine of setting up camp, cooking and watching the stars at night.

2. Waterfalls, Streams and Lakes

Waterfalls, streams and lakes in Kyrgyzstan are not just beautiful, they are useful too. When you spend 4 days cycling between villages, the waterfalls become showers and sources of drinking water (when purified and filtered- although it’s probably some of the cleanest water in the world). The streams are a kitchen sink for washing pots and pans. As a person who absolutely despises housework, I can say that chores are much less of a chore when done in a cascading waterfall!

3. Horses

If you are into horses, then go to Kyrgyzstan immediately. Families of wild horses idle on the sides of mountain switchbacks while herds gallop past your tent in the evening. One morning, we even saw a group splashing and bathing in a stream next to the most remote border crossing I have ever been to. Kyrgyz people love their horses and treat them well. A highlight is the national horse games festival held in the summer at Song Kul lake. You haven’t lived until you have been a spectator to teams on horseback scoring points by throwing a headless goat carcass into a tyre.

4. Unrivalled Alpine Beauty

The place is just stunning. People say it’s “the Switzerland of Asia”. I’ve never been to Switzerland, but if it has even a fraction of the beauty of Kyrgyzstan, then it must be pretty nice. Also, Kyrgyzstan is approximately a million times cheaper (my economist boyfriend might argue with my math there but you get my point). Don’t need to say much more about this… the pics can do the talking.

5. Local Treats

Food should probably be in the top 5 and lots of people love Kyrgyz cuisine. But personally, having lived in neighbouring Uzbekistan for 3 years, it was just more of the same for me. And I’m not really a fan of kumis (fermented mare’s milk). So instead, let me tell you that like most of the former Soviet union, Kyrgyzstan offers bottles of great/questionable vodka for less than the change in your pocket. There are also some decent cognacs to be sampled as a reward at the end of a gruelling climb.  Ден соолугубуз үчүн (cheers in Kyrgyz – shortened and taught to us as buzuchun).

Click here for an interactive map of our route in Kyrgyzstan.

Videos of our bicycle tour in Kyrgyzstan can be found on our You Tube channel.

Follow our journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

An Economist’s Take: Budgeting and Adventure Part 2

Budgeting for a bike tour. Reflecting on the last 6 months and thinking ahead. This post was first published on www.pedalgogy.net in January 2018.

If you are thinking of having a break of any form to go and wander, I suggest that you:

1.) Work out how long you want to go for, and divide your savings by that. In some parts of the world, a bicycle tourer who mixes camping with paid-for accommodation, and cooking with restaurants can live comfortably on $30 per day. But this is my own calculation taking an average of the many countries toured so far. This rose to $60 per day in Norway and as little as $10 in Kyrgyzstan. If you do the math and it doesn’t seem realistic, trim your plans. Don’t let your budget dictate where you go. Go to the places you’ve dreamed off, even if you have to go for fewer days.

2.) Try to put some money aside for Investment/Retirement plans. This is a luxury, although parents would tell you it is a necessity. The fact is that 80% of the World’s Population has no retirement income (World Bank 2010).

However, there is no disputing the fact that having a standing monthly payment into a plan provides a warm feeling. The knowledge that you are following your dreams, whilst at the same time being a little bit considerate of your future security.

3.) When budgeting consider the cost of:

Travel insurance. Silly not to really. (Global Voyager)

Location Beacon and other safety measures (SPOT Tracker)

Inoculations (Many required including boosters)

Flights, visa-runs etc (Skyscanner.net, FCO.gov)

Medicine/first aid/supplements/sun cream. Not to be taken lightly.

Clothing. They wear out quickly on tour.

4.) Always seek a bargain. When your money equates to days on tour, don’t accept the full price. Look for happy hours, make the most of special offers. Travelling as a couple is cheaper than solo.

As I sit here in Ho Chi Minh, I can’t stop thinking about the happy position we are in with our world tour. They say Christmas is a time to reflect, well this year it certainly is. Come January 7th, we will have had over a month off of our bikes to see our families, and for once, to be invisible to strangers rather than standing out as oddities. Each day I get flashbacks of some weird and wonderful place we passed and how they are all joining up to form one wholly positive experience so far.

We have had only a few days of rain, our bikes behaved themselves as we treated them well, and ignoring a few back pain issues and a virus, we have done well throughout this physical challenge. I hope that we will have renewed excitement when we start again, pushing our bikes out of District 8 and on to the Cambodian coast.

From there we should have 6 months of sun, sea and sea, with the occasional downpour I am sure, towards Nusa Tenggara (Indonesia).

I’ve checked myself a few times over the last few months saying “Oh this reminds me of ….so…and..such.. a country.” I’ve begun to realise that as I join up the lines around the world, they all blend into each other. It’s a landmass, not a political territory, so it’s no wonder that we are reminded of other places with similar terrain and similar people. I am hoping that I appreciate the next section for what it is, the kindness of the people we meet, where we are, and the journey itself.

Follow our journey around the world on www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

Videos of our adventures can be found on our You Tube Channel.

Beautiful Places and Moments: Myanmar

Mergui Archipelago, Southern Myanmar

When cycling the world, visa duration is a serious consideration. Upon entering Thailand we were issued a 28 day stamp, as no actual visa is required for many nationalities. While this certainly saved us some money, it didn’t ease the slight tension that goes with pedalling with a time restriction. Nevertheless we thought it would be enough and were just grateful for the ease of entry. We were planning to cycle from Trat (border with southern Cambodia) to Satun (border with northern Malaysia). This is around 1500km. So the daily distance calculation was fine, but it did not leave much time for side trips and relaxing.

We began to find our rhythm in this friendly and relatively developed country (compared to most others on our tour thus far) after only a few days and quickly discovered that bike touring here is wonderful. We really didn’t want to rush, so after running a workshop in a school and hopping across the gulf to Hua Hin, we started looking at our options for extending our stay. In short; it is possible to extend the days on the visa-free regime by applying at any of the dozen or so immigration offices around the country. We were willing to do this and pay the fee in order to avoid overstay penalties, but then the idea came to mind of dipping into Myanmar. We are glad it did.

The new Myanmar E-visa ($50-  3 day processing) enables many tourists to enter at airports and some land/sea ports including Ranong-Kawthuang in the extreme south. There is very little information about this on the internet as anything other than a ‘Visa-Run’ for tourists/sexpats in Thailand wanting to go out-and-in for another 30 day stamp.

We had to dig around to find out whether there were any trips we could do to see some of Myanmar for a few days. There most certainly are. Using Kawthuang as a base a few tour companies offer 1 or 2 day boat trips to islands in the Mergui Archipelago. We visited 4 islands in the south including the entertainingly named Cock’s Comb, and staying in a wooden bungalow next to the beach on Horseshoe Island. It was basic but blissful. We were delighted to be pretty much on our own snorkelling and kayaking, playing frisbee and kicking- back.

Many islands in south east asia are now overdeveloped for tourism and their beauty and isolation somewhat compromised because of it. These little islands in Myanmar though are still uninhibited, untamed and au-naturale. Well worth the trip even if pricey at $180 dollars all in, but it’s difficult to put a price-tag on that experience.

The logistics involved with getting to the jumping off point, the town of Kawthuang, were not clear when we arrived at the Thai frontier. To be fair, everyone was helpful and finding a boat (yes this is a by sea entry point) to take us across on the 30 minute ride to Myanmar was easy. After some bargaining with eager drivers, it cost us about $7 to get ourselves and bikes across. When arriving in Kawthuang  remember to report to immigration at the dock. We forgot to do this for 5 hours and only remembered when sipping beers after we had ridden right out of town to Pulo Tonton island, a good place to go as an out-and-back day ride if you want to experience the diverse culture of this part of the country. Thankfully the immigration process when we arrived back in to Kawthuang town was simple and involves no more payment.

I have mixed feelings about the town.  It sure is different to Thailand; Intermittent power, Indian/Malay food and spices, ludicrously cheap drinks ($2 for a litre of Rum). Overall I think the change of environment and atmosphere broke up our Thai ride perfectly. However, we sure were glad to get back to 7-eleven and Cafe Amazon land, with a fresh 30 day stamp in our passports.

We chose Life Seeing Tours for the islands. They were fine. I think there must be some tacit collusion on pricing between operators. Many service the wealthier tourists staying at the Victoria Cliff Resort and pick up from there and Kawthuang’s main pier.

Follow our journey around the world on www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

More videos on our You Tube Channel.

Education Project: Back to School – Briefly

Follow our bicycle journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

One of our aims while cycling around the world is to visit schools along the way and to engage students in workshops in order to develop our educational project: www.tedweb.org.

 

We had the pleasure of visiting Tara Pattana International School in Pattaya, Thailand, a couple of weeks ago to do just that. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. We have been out of the classroom for 9 months and running a workshop is very different to teaching your own class in familiar surroundings.

We needn’t have worried though. We cycled through the school gates and made our way to the office where there was a big welcome sign for us! The school had also arranged their own teddies on bicycles at the front of the stage so we felt right at home. It turned out that the school was holding a Bike Day the following weekend (similar to the Cylothon we organised at a previous school) so the timing of our visit was great.

We set up our tent and props, familiarised ourselves with the tech and prepared to share our journey with the whole elementary school in a presentation. Matthew teaches secondary while I work in elementary so it was a new challenge for us to present as a team. Matthew took on the role of on-stage presenter while I wandered amongst the children, encouraging interaction and questions.  We showed photos and videos, played guessing games, had the students try some of our gear and answered questions. In our excitement, we ended up rambling on for quite a long time (probably a bit too long) but the students were kind to us and listened attentively. We were surprised and delighted to receive very useful gifts of caps and water bottles.

After the presentation, two classes stayed behind for the workshop. They shared stories that ranged from historical accounts of battles to local folktales, favorite foods, family moments, unicorn adventures and more. We enjoyed chatting with the students so much that we slightly lost track of time and had to rush to photograph the students and their stories for uploading to our growing online library before they went off for lunch.

Just before home time, the students gathered once more to be awarded the badges they had earned during the workshop. We had group photos, said our goodbyes, packed up our bikes…. and then it started lashing rain. The children kept us entertained while we waited for a break in the weather with LOTS of questions and some good advice too. One girl told us about a particular doll that she thought we would really like and where to buy it. Another boy asked how old I was when I learned to cycle (7 but then had to learn again at 24 after more than a decade without a bike).

The rain eased off and we made a break for it – until we were stopped by the very friendly member of the school community for a coffee and chat at the school cafe. We hadn’t been to a school with a cafe before but it seemed like a great idea. Parents could socialise while waiting to pick up their children and teachers could come find them there if they needed a quick chat.

After one last photo to remember our visit we cycled back to our hotel and prepared to head south the next day.

 

I realised that evening that you can take a teacher out of the IB but you can’t take the IB out of a teacher. How do I know this? Because the first thing I did back at the hotel was to open up a memo on my phone and write down what went well and what could be improved for next time. Without realising it, I had written…. A REFLECTION!

Click here to read the stories we gathered at Tara Pattana International School along with many others.

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.

Biking Stuff: Three Most Memorable Experiences in Cambodia

Follow our bicycle journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

Cambodia is a relatively small country with surprising variety – from the unpopulated, rural northeast to the more touristy beaches of the south coast. Our bicycle touring journey took us from Stung Treng at the northern border with Laos, south-east to Ho-Chi Minh in Vietnam and then west to Cambodia again (Ha Tien border) before cycling the coast all the way to Thailand through the border at Koh Kong. Click here for interactive maps of our Cambodia and Vietnam routes.

Here is a summary of our three most memorable experiences in Cambodia:

1.  Rural Adventure

If you enjoy getting off the beaten track, then I highly recommend trying the Mekong Discovery Trail. We took this route on a whim as an alternative to the busy highway and can honestly say that in the 7000km we have cycled so far, this trail has been our biggest adventure. It’s also a great chance to visit some rural villages which don’t see as many tourists and to interact with friendly Cambodian people. The trail starts in Stung Treng on a wide, unsealed but easy to ride path through small villages with cute children shouting hello. Next, you’ll need to use your negotiation skills to arrange boat crossings to first, a smaller and more populated island (Koh Preah) and then to a much bigger and wilder island in the Mekong (Koh Rougniv). On this island, you will push through deep sand, do battle with overgrown forests and have the occasional encounter with water buffalo, Click herefor a detailed description of this trail along with helpful tips and photos. We did this trail by bike but it could possibly be done by an intrepid hiker who is prepared to be self-sufficient and carry all camping gear and food. Now that I think about it, with the amount of walking we ended up doing when we couldn’t ride the bikes through the sand, it’s probably just as fast done on foot. Well, not really… but that’s how it felt.

2. Paradise Beaches

When people heard that we were heading towards the coast of Cambodia, they kept telling us we to “get yourselves to Otres. It’s a great place to chill out.” Well, we did get ourselves to Otres. When we made the turn off from the main road and cycled down towards the beach, we were feeling a bit dubious about it – lots of new construction sites, heavy trucks on the road and a lot of rubbish. To be honest, we were really unimpressed. We were even less impressed when we got to the village and saw the Costa-Del-Sol-style premier league bars and pizza places. But once we crossed the road and pushed our bikes onto the beach, we got what everyone was raving about. A long, quiet stretch of white sandy beach with crystal clear shallow water. We didn’t waste a minute, quickly finding a nearby tree to rest our bikes against. I clumsily got into my bikini while Matthew just ran straight in with his bike shorts. Brilliant reward after 6 months of cycling towards the sea. We stayed in Vacation Bungalows at the end of a cul-de-sac in the village, a short walk to the beach where there are loads of cool bars and restaurants to chill out in. Our favourite was Mom’s Kitchen on the Beach for pure relaxation of Papa Pippo for a great pizza (even though I just complained about all the pizza places a few sentences before).

Now, this beach was stunning, but it pales in comparison to what we were about to see when we went for a mini holiday on Koh Rong.  We decided not to take our bikes to the island because it is hilly with only one bad road and most of the beaches and resorts are accessed by boat. We left a pile of laundry to be done at our hotel, ready to pick up on our return and the owners kindly allowed us to lock our bikes and extra baggage there too. Our ferry and pick-up to get to the ferry was arranged from the bungalow too. It always feels strange to have somebody else organising your transport when you are so used to just getting on the bike and going when you are ready. Ferry was fine but  it turned out that they’ve stopped using the pier at Sok San so we had to get a pick up truck to drive us all the way across the island to our resort. It was a bit bumpy and dusty but fine in the end. When we walked down through the resort and onto the beach, I knew I had made it to paradise. Almost nobody else in sight on the long beach and the bluest, warmest, clearest water I have ever seen. I alternated between giddy excitement and blissful relaxation for 48 hours, rarely leaving the beach. We stayed in Coconut Blvd which has rooms for about 40 dollars including breakfast. It was clean, with a fan and a decent bathroom. Good food in the restaurant and nice smoothies and drinks at the beach bar. Free use of kayaks and snorkels. It was hard to leave here but after 4 rest days we were actually starting to miss the bikes and were looking forward to a new adventure on the road to Thailand.

3. Eco-tourism Community

The Chi Phat eco-tourism village is a 17km detour from the main Sihanoukville (or Phnom Penh) to Koh Kong road. This is one of the few eco-communities we’ve seen that honestly seem to be making an effort to protect the ecosystems and environment around them. We only spent one night there but in that short time we swam in a waterfall, lounged in its lower pools, watched chipmunks in the trees while having a shower (we were showering, not the chipmunks) and ate delicious food. We cycled the 17km from the main road on a sandy but fun road suitable for bikes and cars. You can also access the village by hiring a motorbike taxi or boat from Andoung Teuk village. There are homestays everywhere in this village and the names are fantastic: Laced Woodpecker Homestay, Marbled Cat Guesthouse, Crab-eating Macaque Guesthouse, Purple Sunbird Homestay to name but a few. We stayed in Sunbear Bungalows with mosquito net, fan and a bathroom for about 15 dollars. We had to check in at the tourist centre to be registered first. Electricity is limited in this village. It comes on in the morning for a few hours and again in the evening for a few hours. But by chance, we arrived on Saturday and found out that they had electricity all day. There is wifi at the tourist centre and at Cardamom Cottages. The restaurant at Cardamom Cottages does an excellent breakfast of fried eggs, pancakes with chocolate sauce (Hersheys!), fruit and coffee for $2,50 per person.

In Summary

The beaches definitely stood out the most for me after having lived in a double landlocked country for 3 years and then cycling another 6 months without seeing the sea. I had built up huge expectations in my head over the years and these beaches absolutely lived up to every one. Also, if you are slightly antisocial like me and you like a beach with hardly anyone else on it – Koh Rong’s Long Beach is perfect.

I’d also recommend the route we took in Cambodia for bike touring beginners or anyone who doesn’t enjoy going up mountains (like myself). It was almost completely flat in the east coming down from Laos and just a hilly 100km or so before Koh Kong. It was very manageable and perfect for getting our bike fitness back after a month off for Christmas.

I don’t think we appreciated it enough while we were there but, looking back now, I really enjoyed my short time in Cambodia (2 weeks) and would definitely go back again.

Hope this gives you some ideas for planning your own Cambodian adventure. Click here for interactive maps of our Cambodia and Vietnam routes.

Comment below and tell us which experience intrigues you the most. Rural Adventure, Paradise Beaches or Eco-tourism Community?

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.

Selected Ramblings: Change in the World

Follow our bicycle journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

Click here for our Vietnam and Cambodia route maps.

The world has changed a lot since the year 2000. Touring the world in this day and age has been remarkably smooth in terms of freedom of movement, crossing borders with electronic visas and booking excursions and flights with just a few clicks (see previous post).

The more I compare my experiences from 18 years ago to now, the more I realise that everything is different. Access to cash is one thing that makes this lifestyle a whole lot easier. No more travellers cheques and wire transfers needed if you have a debit or credit card these days. Communicating with home and personal entertainment and photography has been made a whole lot easier and lighter –  no longer requiring half a backpack for music.

The weather is different. Now I am no expert on climate change but what I do know is that many places can no longer rely on distinct seasons and suffer from extremes. Crops fail, regions burn, wells dry up as rising tides begin to envelope communities. The land has changed too. Nation sized palm oil and soya plantations have caused the loss of habitat and species. Where is all this heading? I think that it is a demand-led problem for which there is a demand-led solution.

As we cycled across Vietnam and Cambodia I was constantly shocked by the images of branding. Especially of disposable goods and their packaging. Desires fulfilled by consumption and waste. Repeat. Where and when did the belief that consumption makes life better and makes us happier take hold in rural Mekong communities? Parts of which are now full of packaging and burning piles of inferior products, replaced by new and ‘better’ ones? Perhaps this behaviour builds ones status, but how and why?

I am sure that the profit incentives of producers in the free market drives awareness of products, and through advertising a desire. However, even in socialist states, symptoms of personal desires expressed through purchases are proudly displayed. Is hedonism human nature? Is it just a mammalian thing to show off?

Partly because of this consumerism, the world looks different. According to the World Trade Organisation, trade of all goods as services increased by around 40% in the first decade of this millennium (WTO, 2012).  The recession put a short hold on that but forecasts still put this decades growth at a similar figure. This means that since I first started travelling on my bike, the world’s output has nearly doubled. I can see it too. Increased trade, improved infrastructure and new technology have been the drivers of Globalisation. I think that these few generations worth of time will be coined as the ‘Age of Trade’ or the time when the worlds markets became a single entity. We live in interesting times which will never be forgotten.

It seems that our insatiable appetite for the consumption of manufactured goods and services is leading us to a tipping point. It is estimated that even now, the  goods we demand, the methods used to supply them and the way in which we choose to demand them, without consideration of the impact they have, means we are consuming more than our planet can currently produce. Some sources calculate that we will need to double output to meet demand by 2050 (UN, 2015). Others claim that this is an exaggeration, suggesting that with our slowing population growth and new processes this disequilibrium could be corrected by 2050 (BioScience). Other sources use eye-catching comparisons such as – “If everybody currently lived like an American then we would need 4.1 Earths. A French person 2.5 (De Chant, 2012).

One thing is for sure – Our current habits have to change. We find ourselves choking and exhausting our world. We must find new ways of production, but vitally, we as consumers must begin to think about the long-game. To demand that businesses then start listening to us by changing our purchasing behaviour. But I fear that without the support of uncorrupted government and military, the temptation of making a quick buck will overpower the needs of our planet.

Well there, I’ve said it, and this was supposed to be a bicycle touring post. I think my point is that there has been so much change in the last 20 years, that I think that in another 20 years, the world may be unrecognisable. I wonder whether travelling will be even easier, or less enjoyable? If the whole world will be more accessible or whether we are destroying adventure and paradise by the scars we are creating on our landscapes.

I say go and explore that last frontiers, feel the buzz of discovery and the spine-tingles by sheer delight at the sites that the world has waiting. Before it’s too late. Earlier I said that this age will be known for trade and Globalisation, I also think that it will be a time in history where the true spirit of travel and adventure was at it’s strongest. If you have any desire to marvel at the wonders of the world, go out and be part of this special time.

Click here for our Vietnam and Cambodia route maps.

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.

Biking Stuff: Rest Days in Saigon

Follow our bicycle journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

Our route only took us through a small section of Vietnam. We cycled from the Xa Mat border with Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh to catch a flight home for Christmas and then rode back into Cambodia at the Ha Tien border. We arrived in Ho Chi Minh a week too early for our flight so had plenty of rest days in this busy city. They say you should write what you know, so instead of a guide to bicycle touring in Vietnam- here’s a guide to rest days in Saigon.

Click here for an interactive map of this route.

Some ideas of ways to spend your days off the bike in this city:

Beer

Make good use of your time and check out the craft beer scene. We were surprised by just how many craft breweries and bars there were here. Pasteur St Brewery (try the award-winning Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout,) Heart of Darkness (try the Kurtz’s Insane IPA) and Bia Craft were our favourites. These choices are based on rigorous and repeated tasting. 🙂

Bike service

After plenty of beer drinking, a sensible thing to do is to give your bike some TLC. For thorough, professional and fast servicing head to Saigon Bike Shop where Van the Man will see to your bicycle’s every need. He also stocks good quality parts, water bottles etc if you need to stock up.

Food

Cyclists need plenty of fuel and these places certainly gave us that. Quan Ut Ut American Barbecue serves excellent meat with sides like corn bread, mac and cheese and buttered green beans. Not exactly healthy, but delicious. Heart of Darkness serves fancy pub food including burgers and tacos. They have great beer too -kill two birds with one stone! Q Mama Barbecue Buffet – get there early at 5pm. All-you-can-eat buffet with your own grill on the table. Includes cook-your-own crab and other seafood. All-you-can-drink beer, cider and soft drinks. Gets rowdy and competitive for food after about 7pm but you will have it almost all to yourself from 5-6pm. 199,000 dong per person (about 10 dollars).

Transport

Saigon is a big city so consider downloading the Uber app for cab rides. It’s cheaper than other taxis and walking is difficult in Ho Chi Minh. We stayed out in district 8 so we relied heavily on it. Prices vary at peak times but we generally paid about 5 dollars for a 40 minute ride.

Sights

We didn’t do a whole pile of sightseeing – they were “rest” days after all. A day trip to the Mekong Delta is worth a few hours but beware that it is very busy with other tourists. The Cu Chi Tunnels are set in a beautiful part of the countryside but have a dark history.

Some of the recommendations listed above are fairly pricey for a bike touring budget. We felt like rewarding ourselves for hitting 7000 km so we splashed out. There are plenty of cheaper options all over the city and the staples of iced sweet coffee and pho (noodle soup) are on every corner for a couple of dollars.

We definitely felt well rested, watered and fed by the time we got back on the bikes!

Bicycle touring Vietnam

Click here for an interactive map of this route.

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.