Traveling Around The World With A Bike Friday: Part One
China, Thailand & Bali: What to do, where to ride how to fly
Words and photos by Emily Farthing
When I got to the ticket counter in Shanghai at PVG (there are two airports in Shanghai- important travel tip) they weighed my Samsonite case, bike neatly packed inside, and said it would be 1,494 yuan, equivalent to about 240 USD. This bag’s flight to Thailand was going to cost more than my ticket to Thailand. I had already missed one flight and ate that cost due to lingering in a funky Airbnb in the French Concession with my partner.
This was the evening when I realized there needs to be this blog post- How the f&*^ do you travel through Asia with your bike Friday and not go broke.
Tip One: Airline Choice.
SE Asia is inundated with western backpackers because it’s cheap. You can fly extremely cheap on Airlines that cater to people with no checked baggage and minimal baggage. Thailand, as I learned on this flight is the hot vacation spot for young Chinese, so our weekend trip to the Oregon Coast or Lake Shasta, is their flight to Bangkok or Phuket. They know this little secret and in turn travel light. With Thai Lion or Spring Airlines- Do not try and take your Bike Friday. Instead go with China Southern (Delta Partner), Garuda, or Air Asia; and when choosing Air Asia book from their site. That way you can pre determine the cost of your checked baggage.
Tips for Flying with your bike:
15, 20 AND 30KG Are magic numbers. Cheap Airlines will not allow over 15kg. Air Asia will have you pay for up to 30kg (Ideal for your bike and extra goodies) for about $20. Know how much your bag weighs – an estimate. This will help you determine how much shopping you do.
Use Kayak or Edreams to look at ticket prices then book through the airlines directly to avoid baggage fees. I thought I was saving money when using Kayak but in the end, going cheap cost me more than I bargained for. After paying $240 for my bag once, I double checked every airlines before booking again to ensure I wasn’t paying extra. In the end Edreams was the best cheap booking website because it automatically saved my travel preferences and recognized that I was travelling with a large checked bag.
Tips for traveling with your bike once you land:
Once I got to Thailand I had learned to always request a 1st floor room. This isn’t always an option but easiest when trying to haul your bike to and from your room.
Let people know you have a bike in there– People look at you gallivanting through Asia like a princess with your closet by your side, but watch their face transform when you let them know that inside that suitcase is a bike! Spread the love!
Map My Ride – a great tool once you get into a city to navigate where safe places to cycle are. I used this in Chiang Mai for great City routes with and with/out bike lanes.
China and Internet- There is no Google in China. Yes, a shocking realization. If you get there and want to access google, google maps or a search engine try these two options:
Use Bing. Yup, it’s that once in a lifetime experience of using this when you never ever thought it would come in handy.
Download a VPN- A VPN is an IP address in another country like the US to trick your devices to think you are in the US. My favorites are STAR, and PROVPN, you can find them in the App Store.
Bali is not the best cycling destination. Bali was one of my favorite places on the entire trip. It is rich in Hindu culture, rituals, jungles, lush rice paddies, monkeys, beaches. However, as for infrastructure, the roads are crowded with moto bikes and the entire time I was there I saw only a handful of cyclists. Of course, if you are determined, you can still ride in Bali, but for myself I found it much easier to see the whole expanse of the island, including the active volcano, and beaches, by renting a moto bike. That being said, I was still nervous at riding the moto bike. Streets in Bali and Thailand are British style – on the left side of the road. As you ride a moto bike or bicycle, it takes time to get accustomed to always being on the opposite side of the street. Take Caution.
Favorite Place to ride:
Coming in at my favorite place to ride my Bike Friday was Shanghai. I love that the streets were full of other cyclists in a wide bike lane. This gave me comfort that the drivers were also prepared visually to see cyclists. Contrary to this, many places like Thailand were just launching bike share when I was there so the culture was still largely focused on motobikes. Shanghai is another world when on a bike. You get to see the hole in the wall noodle shops, clothing stores and street vendors that Didi (Chinese Uber) and taking the Subway just couldn’t provide.
If I were to go back, I would do more research ahead of time on routes. When in China or Thailand, the internet can be very spotty. Knowing some designated routes I’d like to go would be very helpful to set daily ride goals. GOOD NEWS: next up I am heading to South America so I can do my research then share all I learn again with you!
Thanks again to Emily for putting this great piece together! For more of her awesome photos, you can follow her on instagram: @eatpraybike