Guest Post by Liam Soskin
Cycling great distances across foreign lands is an unparalleled way to submerge oneself in natural wonder and local culture, as well fulfill a hunger for adventure and test physical endurance and inner strength. As the globe’s largest continent, Asia offers opportunities to bike among the clouds, across untamed wildernesses, by strikingly breathtaking beaches and through vast metropolitans and friendly villages. While there are an abundance of journeys just waiting to be travelled, below we highlight treks that will truly invigorate your senses, imagination and calf muscles.
Karakoram Highway | China & Pakistan
via iamuday | Flickr
Experienced cyclists can cross through the towering and epic Karakoram Mountains from China to Pakistan on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), the highest road of its kind in the world. Running 1,200 kilometers, this paved road will lead travelers through spectacular views at the Khunjerab Pass, misty lakes and unique historic sites and friendly communities of the Hunza Valley. Imposing, jagged and snowcapped mountains will encircle cyclists in a rough yet pure beauty unlike any other in the world. Be aware that there are sections of the road that are in disrepair and unpaved, and that there are stretches in the Chinese portion on which lodging is very scarce, so cyclists should be prepared to camp.
Bangkok Countryside | Thailand
via Mikel Lizarralde | Flickr
This southern Asian country is quickly becoming a hot travel destination among young adventurers, honeymooners and cyclists. The wide shoulders of major roads easily accommodate bikers, as do most motorists (though watch out for drivers who improperly round the bends). Thailand offers plenty of opportunities to cycle by vibrant greenery, immaculate beaches, lively markets and sacred Buddhist sites. As Bangkok is the most popular and accessible point of entry into the country, it is a fantastic place to start your cycling adventure. Head north towards the city of Chiang Moi to behold majestic peaks, including the Doi Inthanon National Park, the site of Thailand’s highest mountain. Along your journey will be thrilling jungles, exquisite waterfalls and archeological sites, like the ancient city of Sukhothai at which you can bike among olden Buddhist statues and grand, stone Siamese architecture. Contrastingly, cycling south of Bangkok will open up a world of lush coasts, clear waters and the unique culture of Thai fishing communities. Among the sites that cannot be missed is Khao Sok National Park, a land that is rich with rain forests, bright flora and wildly diverse animals. Trains are easily reachable throughout the country if you desire to hop on for a day to give your legs a break.
Highway 1 | Vietnam
via Andrea Schaffer | Flickr
This is ideal choice for cyclists who want to enjoy a ride through a land that is continuously shifting from one vibrant scene to another. The famous National Highway 1 crosses the small country from north-to-south from the capital Hanoi to the most populated city, Ho Chi Minh. Between these two cities lays an enchanting Vietnamese countryside with immaculate beaches, beautiful mountains of limestone and pine, mysteriously dense jungles and lovely rice fields. The views will be both varied and breathtaking, especially from the pinnacle of the Hai Van Pass. Additionally, there are plenty of opportunities along the way to experience the rich culture of magnificent temples and pagodas, as well as villages that are happy to provide lodging. While there is the occasional challenging overpass, the majority of the ride is leisurely (though not without traffic). If you are looking to complete only part of the highway, it is recommended that you journey on the southern section in favor of the north, as the lower part offer more scenic diversity. Be prepared for heavy amounts of vehicles near Ho Chi Minh City.
Jeju | South Korea
via Garycycles4 | Flickr
This island-province, known as “The Island of the Gods,” is an island paradise of sunshine, vivid colors and natural marvel. Along with clean waters, pristine beaches and lush plant life, cyclists will encounter spectacular cliffs and rock formations that originate from the island’s volcanic activities. Largely unknown among Western travelers, it has become a popular honeymoon destination among South Koreans and Japanese who are searching for an untamed paradise. Most of the roads are wide and provide bike lanes that will loop cyclists about magnificent coasts, dense forests and plenty of opportunities for fun detours. Visitors can explore unique cultural oddities like the Green Tea Museum and the the Jeju Loveland, a sculpture garden filled with sexually explicit visuals. Natural beauty is everywhere, from South Korea’s highest mountain Hallasan to walking tours through lava tubes deep underground. Possessing a relaxed speed and carefree feeling, the island provides cyclists with 182 kilometers of smooth roads for their enjoyment.
Langkawi | Malaysia
via Khalzuri | Flickr
Langkawi is a chain of islands off of the Malaysian mainland, the largest being Pulau Langkawi. The heavenly countryside is enriched with attractive rubber plantations, playful waterfalls, unspoiled shores, intriguing jungle and engaging populations. Cycling is a great way to explore the leisurely, picturesque paradise, interact with the welcoming local population (and their water buffalo), and get from one attraction to the next. The region’s parks provide nature pure and beautiful, as well as unique vantage points that make for excellent side trips, like the Langkawi Sky Bridge and Cave of the Legends. The island is also home to Asia’s largest cycling race, Le Tour de Langkawi. As holds true for many other Southern Asian destinations, the warm temperatures can be challenging for some and water should be liberally consumed while biking.