A few people have asked me for some tips on how to stay safe, healthy and happy while cycling with your husband in a place like South East Asia.
I’ve had plenty of time to think about this whilst peddling across rural NE Cambodia and, in the last few days, pushing my bike up a seemingly endless 1200m climb in Laos (we’ll tell this story in our next blog post).
So here are my tips:
Tips to say safe
Follow Andy’s rules of the roads. This has surprised me as my natural instinct is to stop whenever I sense danger. Here, I’ve become a road warrior, maintaining speed and direction … and never ever stopping.
Don’t let him take side roads unless you can see tarmac. They’ll either be rocky and bottom-pummelling or sandy and dusty. A passing truck will inevitably cover you in a gritty cloud of red dust.
Start cycling at sunrise to avoid the midday sun. So far, the intense heat has curdled my shampoo and heated my water bottle enough to brew a decent cup of tea. It’s also a beautiful time of day and there’s usually far less traffic on the road.
Use suntan lotion sparingly. It was impossible to buy more in rural Cambodia as the locals don’t use it. I’m not even sure they know what it is as people found it very funny when we put some on.
Respect local customs. Covering up your shoulders and knees in rural areas and at temples is polite, even when it’s 33 degrees.
Make him ride in-between you and any dogs. I was chased 3 times before he realised it was his manly duty to protect me.
Tips to stay healthy
Persuade him to take a rest. A few days pottering around the 4000 Islands in southern Laos on the mighty Mekong was restful, replenishing and reflective.
Don’t expect to always get a perfect coffee. Sometimes it comes with condensed milk that sits at the bottom of the cup. Just be grateful you’re having a coffee break at all.
Drink lots of water. Tap water is not safe and whilst refillable water stations are becoming more popular, they’re not yet freely available. Sadly, plastic waste is a real and obvious problem. It feels weird buying a big bottle of water and immediately pouring it into our cycling bidons.
Drink fresh coconut water whenever it’s available … it’s delicious and refreshing! Bottled fruit drinks are usually sticky and very sweet but Japanese green tea flavoured with honey & lemon has become another favourite.
Eat bananas. They’ve become our staple cycling snack. You can only buy them in big bunches … but he can manage the extra weight in his panniers.
Eat well … today’s food is tomorrow’s fuel. We’ve found the food in all three countries to be really good. Local family-run places offering home cooked meals are often better than bigger (more expensive) restaurants.
Tips to stay happy
Mentally add at least 20% extra to the distance and elevation he’s suggesting for the days ride. That way you won’t have a meltdown when there’s still 10km uphill or off-road to go.
Take public transport if the distance and elevation he’s suggesting is too much.
Get to know the currency. There are no coins in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos and the notes look very similar especially when they’re well worn. The 50,000 Laos Kip note (about £4.50) looks almost the same as the 5000 Kip note (45p). Andy has got it embarrassingly wrong a few times!
Stick on your headphones when the going gets tough. Gazing out at beautiful scenery is wonderful, but it’s not beautiful all the time. When it becomes less interesting or your backside starts aching, you need a distraction. A podcast or talking book works for me.
Make sure there’s a decent shower to get rid of the dust wherever you stay. We’ve slept in a wide variety of places from homestays to luxurious hotels (very good value at the moment because of the coronavirus). Often the cheapest is the best … right now we’re in a typical Laos room on stilts in a lovely guesthouse for £7/night.
Travel light. A good thing about travelling in warm climates is that your clothes dry really quickly. I’m getting used to wearing the same things again and again so next time I’ll try to bring even less. A hotel hairdryer remains a nice surprise but is no longer a necessity – my pink hair roller still does the job well!
And finally … join your husband for a cold beer at the end of the day. It’s tastes great here and is usually the cheapest drink on the menu!
After all … there’s no gain without pain. And he’s still the best cycling buddy a wife could want!