Some people bike to keep fit. Some do it for fun. Some ride to commute between home and the workplace, while a few others spin their way to holiday destinations.
Bicycle touring is growing in popularity. Many cyclists, me included, have a touring bike in their collection, although not all of them actually use the bike to do long-distance, multi-day road trips. Preferring technical singletracks, I admit I've never done bicycle touring before, either. But a colleague of mine at the Bangkok Post does. And he's now a superstar among like-minded cyclists.
Sarayuth Seanaputh, aka Vud, works at the Bangkok Post's printing facility in Bang Na. He has been doing bicycle touring for quite a few years but it was his latest trip in western China that made him famous.
The lively account of his epic ride from Kunming to Shangri-La, posted recently on the Thaimtb.com website was a big hit and fiery inspiration among members of the online cycling community.
It wasn't intended to be a solo journey, but with his friends backing off just before the departure date, the 40-year-old decided to continue with the plan on his own.
"I had planned for the trip for over a year," Vud recounted. "I've read books written by other travellers and cyclists who had ridden the route before. I also had the maps and a GPS device. The bike was ready, my 20-day leave was already approved and the Chinese visa obtained. So why not?"
Vud added that his only concern was the language; he couldn't speak a word of Chinese.
So he loaded his bike, a 20-inch wheel foldie equipped with front and rear racks and storage bags, onto a tour bus to the northeastern province of Nong Khai before crossing the border into Laos to take the Vientiane-Kunming bus.
One reason Vud has won a lot of admirers through his travel account is his ability to capture every detail of the journey, both in words and in photographs. The initial bus ride took up almost two pages of the webboard. The readers were hooked and couldn't help but read through the thread which continues for 16 more pages. The pages that followed were comments of praise from readers.
To make a long story short, Vud said he was lucky because in Kunming he accidentally ran into a pair of Chinese cyclists who were on a touring trip to Tibet, and Shangri-La was on the way. They were kind enough to let Vud join them. To his surprise, Vud found several other groups of local bikers along the way. And he later learned that the popularity of bicycle touring in China was inspired by a film called One Mile Above, which is about a Chinese cyclist who rides from Lijiang to Lhasa, Tibet, to fulfil the dream of his deceased brother.
So Vud was lucky. The journey that had a lonely start turned out to be a long party.
Along the way, he never lacked company, joining different groups of local bikers who also helped him find and share the cost of accommodation and even meals.
If you wish to see more pictures and detailed maps from Vud's road trip and read the actual account (written in Thai), visit bit.ly/11UqSFi.
There is also a link to the One Mile Above movie on YouTube on page 10.
Well, see you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.
Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.
About the author
- Writer: Pongpet Mekloy
Position: Travel Editor