Breathe in rivers, history and beaches on this Southeast Asian cycling dream.
The largest of the countries on the Indochinese Peninsula, Thailand offers one of the best mixtures of cycling and culture anywhere in the world. The Buddhist country has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, fueled by their driving tourist market and growing manufacturing sector. With 16 million (and counting) yearly tourists making their way to Thailand, the main attractions can be crowded during the peak seasons; however, tourists rarely stray from the well-worn paths, so if you are willing to adventure, authenticity is never hard to find.
Metropolitan Bangkok lies in roughly the center of the country, just inland from the Gulf of Thailand, and is the economic engine for the country. With a population of just over 8 million and growing, Bangkok is a fast-paced, world-class city that is not the best for cycling. Bangkok serves as the point of departure when heading east into Kanchanaburi, or west towards Ta Phraya National Park. South of Bangkok lies the white sand beaches, sunny islands, and pristine aquamarine waters that Thailand is known for. To the east in the Gulf of Thailand, lies Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and Koh Samui. To the West in the Andaman Sea is the Phi Phi Islands, Koh Lanta, and Railay Beach, making the south a destination for beach goers.
The north is dominated by high mountains, with remote populations of people who have changed little over the years. Enigmatic Chiang Mai is sure to steal your heart as Thailand’s second city in size, but first in culture as a global site of importance for Buddhists and a haven for 60,000-plus students and scholars. There are over 300 temples in the regional vicinity of Chiang Mai, along with one of Thailand's largest and oldest night markets, all within an easy cycle from the old town. Chiang Mai is the starting point for almost all northern adventures as it caters to road and mountain bike tours in the surrounding mountains. Chiang Rai in the northeast, and Pai in the northwest, are smaller centers that get you directly into the surrounding hills to experience both the natural splendors, and the cultural interactions with the few remaining hill tribes.
Cycling Thailand is an immensely rewarding experience that seamlessly ties together culture, sun, and the beautiful landscapes into manageable rides for all levels of riders. With its affordable prices, delicious food, variety of terrain, and cultural sights, Thailand appeals to every type of traveler.