Category Archives: Cycling

Cycle Touring Part 3: Thailand (1-4 Jan 2024)

Following from Part 1 and Part 2

The border crossing at Poipet/Aranyaprathet was slow and hot. First we had to exit Cambodia, that didn’t take too long. Then walk across to the Thai border. Our Group Leader, who was Thai, was through in 10 minutes. But the rest of us, with our foreign passports, queued in a hot room for over an hour. Eventually we were all through. But then we needed get money, and as it was International New Years Day (as opposed to Thai New Year which is in April) the banks were closed. We found an ATM, but at 4 minutes per withdrawal, and 10 people needing to get money, we were there for a while… Eventually around 2pm we had our first meal in Thailand – pad thai at a road side stall for 40 Baht (~A$1). And it was pretty delicious, at least according to most of the Australians.

The itinerary had us doing 40km for the day and we only got on the bikes mid-afternoon. Needless to say most of us were dubious we would do the distance before it got dark, especially when we had a swim break with no urgency at Karbark Dam.

One of the interesting ‘features’ of the Thailand leg of the tour was that we gained a photographer, Mr Black. And not just Mr Black, also two of his teenage/adult children. So three photographers. Our group leader had already warned us before arriving that we would be photographed a lot, and there was “nothing he could do about it”. I think we were all a bit bemused at this comment, until after day 1, when we were forwarded the album link, and 15 minute Youtube video. And then we saw just how detailed the photographers were, including documenting those of us who went for a swim at the dam in multiple images. This blog post contains many photos by Mr Black and family – however, they are a small selection of the hundreds (literally) that Tom & I featured in over the course of the 3 days in Thailand.

First cycle stop in Thailand, Karbark Dam

Having a swim, along with the locals enjoying “International” New Years Day

Apparently most of the time no one is at the Dam, but there were plenty of people there enjoying the water. It seems only 5 in our group were interested in swimming, whether because it was too much of a pain to get wet/dry, or they were worried about getting something nasty from the water, I’m not sure.

It was a really refreshing break, and the next 34km were some of the most enjoyable riding of the trip. As it was so late in the afternoon we got quite a lot of shade over the road, and the temperatures were more bearable. We were also delighted to find Thailand had curves and undulations in its roads – something we had very little of in Vietnam & Cambodia. Unfortunately for me I ended up towards the back by myself – and had a couple of dogs have a go at me (and some of the others), which left me a bit shaken. I was very glad to finally get to the next snack break.

Me looking serious on the bike

Arriving at a snacks break late on our first day in Thailand

We re-grouped late in the afternoon as it was becoming seriously dusky. A few of us were thinking we would ride as a pack into our hotel, since we didn’t have lights on the bikes. But no, the final 6km of the day, we just rode in the low light and hoped the quiet roads were enough to keep us safe (they were). It was a very long day – 7:30am departure from the hotel in Cambodia – with the bus/border crossing/lunch taking us through till 3pm, and then 2-3 great hours of riding in the late afternoon. Despite some of the challenges, it was an enjoyable cycling day. The place we were staying put on a great banquet style meal for us that evening, and I think we all went to bed quite content.

The next morning we had a short ride to the local market, where our group leader gave us a tour. Some us would have rather have started riding to take advantage of the cooler part of the day…

The photographers photographing another photographer during our market visit in Kabinburi

Market delights

At the markets we purchased some turtles and live fish. We rode a few km along the road, for another break, to release the turtles and fish into a dam, to get good karma or something.

Turtles from the market, which we then released in a lake

Part of the reason for my frustration at the slow start was this was to be our longest day of the whole tour. Advertised at 70km on the itinerary, but if we wanted to ride hotel to hotel then it was 100km. We hadn’t had any other opportunities to avoid the bus so most people were pretty keen to have a crack at the 100km. Anyway, after the market and turtle release, we got down to business.

Group riding, Team #6 very visible!

The roads in Thailand were good quality, but with enough bends and undulations to make them interesting. Late the day before Tom had managed to fix himself on the back of the strongest riders and draft his way to the end, unlike me who had battled into headwinds for much of the afternoon. We managed to both get up with the strongest riders this day – what a joy it was to have finally found my cycling legs after the previous few days. While there was no way I could lead out the group I could hold on in the draft. Less time on bike was an obvious consequence of being up the front – in some sections we were averaging 29km/h. By myself I was probably capable of 24km/h.

Tom, fashion icon

me & Tom on the road

Are we riding in Australia? (Eucalypts a common plantation crop) Tom & I holding on to the back of the strongest riders.

Thailand snack breaks were a smorgasbord of delights

We knocked off about 60km before lunch. The heat was upon us, so the afternoon was broken into 10km segments. This meant a drinks break every half an hour or so, and by chunking it out like this, it meant everyone in the group managed the 100km.

One of many dogs we encountered. Mostly they were no problem….

Arriving at a drinks/rest stop

That’s not to say there weren’t some Strava fails. The strongest rider in our group had forgotten to start his tracking until 10km in, so he spent part of the afternoon riding out ahead, and then coming back to us, to try and make up the “missing” 10km. Another lady got to the end with her Strava only tracking 98km (though others had 100km), so she proceeded to ride around the car park for a further 2km. Only to have her Strava die just as she finished (don’t worry, it recovered later!).

Hotel car park… venue for 2km of laps

The crew packing up the bikes after our penultimate day

Our final day of cycling was 50km, which seemed like a breeze as Tom & I once again hitched our wagons to the front riders. That morning may have been the most enjoyable – lots of curves and small hills and an excellent rest stop at a cafe with coffee frappes.

Tom the cyclist

Rachel the cyclist

Playing it up for the cameras

Start of the final leg of the trip

Enjoying the final section

Most of the group

We finished up in the middle of the day at Khun Dan Dam, where the same 5 of us who had swam two days earlier, had a swim. Then it was onto the bus for a few hours into Bangkok.

Having a swim below Khun Dan Dam, at the end of the cycling

All up the Thailand cycling was the most enjoyable for me. This was for several reasons;

  1. We spent more time riding point to point, instead of taking the bus, making it seem more like a tour/journey
  2. I had found my cycle legs and worked out how to draft
  3. The roads had curves and undulations instead of being dead-straight and flat.

That said, the overall tour was good for seeing 3 countries while getting a decent amount of exercise. Riding around Angkor Wat was also a highlight.

Overall Summary


Cycle Touring Part 2: Cambodia (26 Dec 23 – 1 Jan 24)

Following Part 1

Lunch was the first priority after the border crossing. We got our first taste of Cambodian food – delicious curry! We did a somewhat meaningless section of cycling along the main road on our new bikes after lunch. At a fairly arbitrary spot we stopped riding and got the bus into Phnom Penh. I was excited that our new bikes were the same Trek hybrid model that I have at home. The only disappointment – mine was blue instead of red.

We had warning about how bad the Phnom Penh traffic was. The bus driver was a superstar – handling the tight corners, in narrow streets, amidst the large amounts of traffic. We were pretty happy to be based out of the same hotel for 3 nights. In retrospect I think the tour could have spent one less day there without suffering for it.

Our first full day we took the ferry to Silk Island and rode around. It was a pretty short day – 20km was the consensus from most people’s devices. That did mean there was time to explore in the afternoon if you wanted to. Tom & I got as far as a money changer to get a dreadful rate on our remaining Vietnamese Dong, otherwise stuck to the air conditioned hotel room. Fortunately some of the others in the group were a bit more motivated and managed to corral most of the group into tuk-tuks to a rooftop bar, which overlooked the river and had great views of the city in general.

Our second full day was sight-seeing via bus. No bikes in sight. The morning was pretty depressing – first up, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. Over 20,000 people were once incarcerated and tortured there. Then we went to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields. This was where the prisoners of Tuol Sleng were executed and nearly 9,000 corpses have been exhumed from the area. Heavy stuff, and unsurprisingly no photos.

The afternoon was stifling hot and most of the group were pretty over the sight-seeing. Going around the Royal Palace a tactic of running from shady patch to shady patch, while listening to our guide, was employed.

Tom at the Cambodian Royal Palace

Grounds of Royal Palace

We hit up another rooftop bar that night, and then Tom & I felt very daring by going to a restaurant on the way back to the hotel with no English menus.

The next day we were off the bikes again as we spent 7 hours on the bus to Siem Reap.

Drinks at our rooftop bar at the hotel in Siem Reap

We were all excited to be back on the bikes on our first full day in Siem Reap (where we also had 3 nights). The riding to and around Ankgor Wat was very scenic, quite shady and enjoyable. Up to that point in the trip it was my favourite cycling day.

Angkor Wat fashions

Central tower symbolising Mount Meru

It had got so busy at the top that they closed the right-hand staircase to upward traffic so the congestion could be cleared from the top

Angkor Wat



Very scenic riding!

Bayon Template, Angkor Thom

Some of the group at Ta Prohm

The queue for the Tomb Raider shot at Ta Prohm… I didn’t wait.

Plenty of other (non movie famous) tree roots

Our next day in Siem Reap we rode out to Banteay Srei via Pre Rup, about 35kms.

Tom in front of Pre Rup

Tom started a trend…

Climbing Pre Rup

Banteay Srei

Doors for making the non-royals feel small

Most of the group at Banteay Srei

In the afternoon there was the option to cycle back, or else go on an excursion to see some of the floating villages on Tonlé Sap. 6 of us elected to go on the excursion. It was probably the most authentic view we got of Cambodia through the trip – seeing the fishing ‘industry’ of the town, and then heading to Tonlé Sap via boat past the floating village.

Visiting the floating village at Kompong Khleang

Our excursion ended up being quite a lot of bus time. As it was New Years Eve, and Siem Reap seemed to be the place to be, the traffic returning to town was pretty busy. We’d been kept awake by practice runs for NYE for the previous 2 nights, but I was so tired that I fell asleep at 10pm and didn’t hear much at all!

The next morning was, unfortunately for those who had stayed up, an early start to get to the border. We left behind our Cambodian bikes and crew after a 3 hour bus ride to Poipet.

Continue to Part 3

Cycle Touring Part 1: Vietnam (23-26 Dec 23)

From Đồng Hới we returned to Saigon – with more time that expected due to our flight rearrangements. We visited the War Remnants Museum which was sobering, and also interesting to read from a Vietnam bias.

Hipster cafes along with the best of them in Saigon

More upbeat was a Street Food Tour on the back of scooters with local university students. We got some delicious food and it was also great (if slightly terrifying) to be part of the traffic chaos rather than just dodging it.

Street food tour

We survived the Saigon traffic

View from our room. This was a quiet traffic moment!

The next phase of the trip was a 13 day cycle tour (though day 1 & 13 were just arriving/leaving). The trip was marketed as Saigon to Bangkok which sounds pretty impressive. However, there was a lot of sitting on the bus as well as cycling, so maybe not as impressive as it sounds.

We met up with the group in Saigon. There were 16 paying clients on the cycle tour – many countries represented – Scotland, England (3 resident, 1 via Greece), Canada, New Zealand, Poland (via Switzerland), the remaining 8 living in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Brisbane). Probably a few too many Australians for some people! We had a consistent Group Leader across the 3 countries the tour went to, but local crews (& bikes) in each country. At minimum we had a bus driver, truck driver, mechanic in each country, and other cycle/tour leaders/photographers (!) depending on where we were.

Unsurprisingly, given the traffic in Saigon, we didn’t start riding straight out of Saigon but got a bus south to the Mekong Delta.

The Vietnam bus

Our first day was only 30km of cycling, followed by a boat trip to our homestay for the night. This happened to be Christmas Eve. Saigon had been in full Christmas mode – Christmas trees, Christmas carols, Christmas decorations everywhere. But once we got into the more rural areas there was little to remind you of it.

I think the group had been a bit apprehensive of how basic the homestay was going to be – it was better than I was expecting. Segregated rooms (well walls) in a large building with en suite (outdoor) bathrooms.

Mekong Delta boating

Group on the boat

Christmas Eve dinner

In Vietnam we were on Trek mountain bikes as the surfaces weren’t consistent, particularly while we were riding through the delta on paths that were largely used by pedestrians or scooters. Christmas day was one of the longest cycling days of the trip. We had some lovely sections, including through a flower market, and some lovely shady paths through rice paddies.

Christmas day touches

Rachel cycling

Tom cycling

Delta cycling

Goose farm in the delta

Christmas day lunch

Ferry across somewhere in the delta

However the itinerary had set an expectation of 75km, and the day had been full of misinformation. “It’s 1km to lunch” 4kms later… etc. So when we were told at 70km we had another 15km to go, with another (optional) 29km to the hotel, I wasn’t too happy. In the end 4 of us pulled up stumps at 75km, 7 going on to 85km, and then 5 strong riders doing the optional 29km to finish with a 114km day. My ego was a bit deflated stopping at 75km but when I saw the state of my saddle sores later that evening I knew I’d made the right choice.

Going to the homestay on the first night we had to pack a small bag with our overnight gear, rather than take all our luggage. This essentially locked us into whatever we’d decided we needed for day 2 of riding as well. It wasn’t ideal as we had to make those decisions before we’d even seen the bikes. I’d made a poor choice of bike pants for day 1, and continued to suffer for that choice on day 2 as well.

Our third day of riding took us on a very straight road all the way to the Vietnam/Cambodia border.

Rice paddies en route to the border

Bye, bye Vietnam. At the border with the Thai crew

Riding in Vietnam was over just like that. Whether it was because it was Boxing Day, or just lucky, the border was very quiet and so we got through as fast as a group of 16+ foreigners could expect to… We were obviously an unusual sight as the border guards were taking photos of us queuing – of course we didn’t dare take any photos ourselves.

Continue to Part 2

Folly Point (17-18 August 2019)

Originally this walk was meant to happen in May but with injury issues I’d had to cancel it. It was only after it was republished on the club weekly update that Tom told me he couldn’t make the new dates. Oh well, his loss! I love going to new places, but running trips to areas you haven’t been to before brings additional stress to running a club trip. Despite this being a well-known route and shouldn’t bring many difficulties there were still plenty of things playing on my mind in the lead up. Would the fire trail be as easy to ride as I thought I remembered it would be? Would there be water at Folly Point? Would anyone’s bike break down? Would everyone arrive in the right place at the right time on Saturday morning?

The forecast, in contrast to the previous weekend, was great. Light winds, pleasant winter temperatures, just what I wanted. We were all at the National Park car park with bikes loaded up, ready to go by 9am. Woohoo! The initial section of road to the campsite and toilet was a bit rocky and covered with fallen sticks – not the most fun first few hundred metres. But things soon were easier going and I enjoyed the slight uphills as we cycled towards Newhaven Gap.


Toni looking like she does this all the time!

Stashing bikes we headed off on foot towards our goal of Folly Point. From now on it was all new to me, as well as 3 of the 4 others in the party. The track doesn’t seem to get a lot of use and was pretty overgrown. Certainly it was much easier going than had there been no track, but there weren’t many sections where you weren’t either ducking through banksia corridors, walking through spear grass, or generally pushing your way through vegetation. The occasional spots where you popped out and got a view were much appreciated.


Dennis taking in our first awesome views


Negotiating a crack


David approaching camp

We didn’t have major difficulties following the track, though I could see if you were not used to route finding that it would potentially be easy to miss it in many places. There was only one spot where we faffed about for a couple of minutes before we re-found it. During those few minutes I managed to fall into a small gully and pay my skin sacrifices to the scrub gods (and continue to be constantly reminded of that sacrifice 2 days later). We got to camp mid-afternoon which gave us plenty of time to explore and appreciate the views.


Cosy campsite in the banksia


Watson Pass logbook

I clearly hadn’t needed to be worried about the water situation. There are several deep potholes in the creek below camp, and it would take a very long extended dry period before they would be completely dry (if ever?).


Some of the water at camp

Those of us who hadn’t been to Watson Pass before went for an outing down below the cliffline. It has some scrambles that would be challenging with a pack. The spikes and chains themselves are curious, you look at them and think “are they really necessary?”, but I couldn’t see a way up without them. With help from someone else I could probably make it up, but if on my own I think I’d be stuck.


Dimitri using the spikes on Watson Pass


Scrambly section of Watson Pass

I was going to go back up the track and look for the other lookout I’d read about, but when David showed us the views on the cliff edge I didn’t really feel I was going to get a better view elsewhere! It was just stunning, and the pinnacle at the edge had a very convenient spot to sit with a back rest.


Pretty speccy


Amazing view, great weather. Bliss.


Vantage spot. Two late arrivers found somewhere to camp out here!


A bit of exposure

We climbed up the pagodas behind camp to get view towards Talaterang, which didn’t leave a lot of time for gathering firewood. Unfortunately that meant Dimitri and I were hauling eucalypt up the pass as the sun was setting. We were a little surprised to then bump into two women coming towards the pass! I asked where they were heading for and they said “the point”. “Good luck with that!”. Any way we didn’t see them again that night, and when David headed out for some early morning views he found them wedged in somewhere with a view of sunrise from their tent. Good on them.


Exploring the many pagodas surrounding camp

By the time we had wood collected it was a bit late to drag everyone back out to the cliffs for sunset. I ducked out for a couple of photos, before returning to the fire and happy hour.



I also got up for sunrise which was nice, though the wind had picked up overnight so it was a bit chilly out on the tops.




First light on The Castle and surrounding peaks


Early morning


Breakfast fire

The party was very efficient in getting ready and we were away 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. We seemed to make better time on the way out, maybe lighter packs? Though my knees were suffering a lot more with a second day of bush whacking. I think trousers would be my apparel of choice if I head out that way any time soon.


On our way out, with the ubiquitous cairns


Climbing out of a gully


The track was pretty over grown – this was one of the easier banksia sections!


Morning tea on day 2


More “track”


Almost back at the fire trail

Back at the bikes by 11:15am we road unencumbered up to The Vines. From there it’s just a short out and back up to the Bora Grounds on Quiltys Mountain. We had lunch with a stunning view down Kilpatrick Creek towards Pigeon House Mountain.


Complete change of scenery below Quiltys Mountain


Bora Grounds on Quiltys Mountain

Then it was just a matter of riding back to our packs (though some of the party got a bit of extra riding as they didn’t recognise the spot we’d left them…), and then back to the cars. A very civilised finish just after 3pm meant I was home in time for dinner. It was a wonderful weekend in the bush.