Monk statues perfectly aligned in front of a monastery in Hpa An, Myanmar
Exploring a new place on two wheels can be very rewarding. I’m not much of a cyclist but I’ve discovered the immense pleasure of cycling leisurely along a flat road with the wind in your face and an endless view to die for. It makes the uphill slog and leg exercise worthwhile.
Here are my six best cycling experiences, accumulated from our travels around Europe and Asia, and in no particular order.
Lucca is a beautiful medieval city in Tuscany with intact city walls that circle the old town. Cycling the city walls is a perfect way to get to know the charming old town. My favourite bits are exploring the old town through the many narrow back lanes and hopping on and off our bikes for a quick gelato break. Oh, and the bikes we hired were so cute I wish I could take them home with me!
Yangshuo is famous for its distinct limestone karst terrain that covers a huge area best explored by bicycle. We would wake up very early in the mornings and cycle to neighbouring villages, passing rice paddies and locals going about their daily lives. In the afternoon as it got hotter we would retreat back to our rooms and venture out again in the evenings to explore other areas. It was so simple and idyllic that it became a routine for us during our time there.
Exploring the Loire Valley of France was a challenging 4 day adventure of cycling from one chateau to another with one too many wrong turns, uphills and glorious sunflower fields to distract us. Of course, we could have easily visited all four castles by train or car but the satisfaction and pride from completing 160km for a newbie cyclist like myself is something worth boasting about 😉
Bled is such an underrated place that I wish more people would know about. Cycling around the most exquisite turquoise waters of Lake Bled was the highlight of our time in Slovenia. Your eyes are constantly drawn to the stunning lake which occasionally throws you off your cycling course! We could stop any time at our whim and fancy, take a few pictures and have a sandwich by the lake with our feet dangling over the waters and ducks waiting to catch any bits of our crumbs.
Paris remains one of my favourite cities in the world and when it’s not freezing cold, cycling on the busy streets, by the Seine or along Canal St Martin is an amazing way to soak in the city. Chic cafes and stylish Parisians line the sidewalks and you get a glimpse of La Tour Eiffel every now and then. The velib system is also easy to use and so cheap to get around town.
Cycling amongst blooming tulip fields in Holland in search of more blooming tulip fields felt like a kid unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. We would be cycling along a stretch of striking red tulips and then spot a streak of purple tulips ahead that we would race down the flat road to get to that field. It was a fun experience of finding tulip field after tulip field, with each discovery getting better and better.
Some days we count our blessings and feel incredibly lucky to be on this journey seeing some pretty amazing stuff that some people only dream of. The Amalfi Coast in the south of Italy is probably what these dreams are made of. Rugged coastlines that connect picturesque coastal villages amidst a backdrop of the Mediterranean sea left our jaw dropping more than once. Ravello, one of the villages that sits atop the hills above the coastline offered us unparalleled views of the Amalfi. The beautiful Villa Rufolo in Ravello is unquestionably one of the best places to take in this view, with perfectly manicured gardens and the prettiest autumn leaves draped over the walls of the villa.
The Tuscan region of Chianti and Val D’orcia is not unheard of. But hearing all about it and finally seeing it right before our eyes is one dream come true. The golden vineyards of Chianti stretch on for miles as far as the eye can see and resemble fields of flowers from afar. The undulated green and brown hills of Val D’orcia are simply stunning like nothing I’ve ever seen before. And the cypress trees. I could go on and on about the trees. To me and many others, the cypress tree is the epitome of Tuscany. Without these trees, Tuscany can no longer be.
There was so much more that we saw beyond these pictures. Medieval towns that sit majestically on hilltops, eerie old abbeys with heavenly acoustics, long windy roads framed with cypress trees leading up to wineries and sleepy towns that seem a bit deserted.
Milan certainly lived up to its reputation. Stylish Italians both young and old strut the streets like a catwalk. Posh buildings house even posher designer names. To fit into MIlan you have to live and breathe fashion, and do it so effortlessly as if you’re born for it. We loved every minute of Milan, stuck up and all. Of course there were moments where we felt inadequate in our dressing but that did not stop us from appreciating that chic middle aged lady riding her vintage bicycle so gracefully with a Prada bag casually slung over her shoulders. Or that grey haired Italian businessmen in a velvet suit with a cigar in hand. Or that young model with the cool tortoise shell glasses sipping a glass of wine in the cafe. Or that hot dude riding a Vespa and pulling off Converse shoes like no one else can. You get what I mean.