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Cycling 300 Miles on Six Exquisite Philippine Out Islands

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By Jay Jacobson (member since the 1990's)

I decided to change my scheduled February two week Saigon-Bangkok ride due to unrest in Cambodia and Thailand.   The bike tour operator, Bangkok-based Spice Roads Cycle Tours (www.spiceroads.com) agreed to let me substitute this sensational 13 day Visayas archipelago tour which they ran the same dates.

The tour began in the country’s second largest city, Cebu and included pedaling on 6 gorgeous islands.  We, our leaders and paraphernalia sailed between them on ferries.  From our saddles we caught glimpses of lush palm trees and other verdant vegetation,  friendly natives in towns and countrysides, volcanic areas, indigenous animals, terraced rice fields, coconut and pineapple plantations, languid rivers, hot and cold waterfalls and springs and sandy beaches (black, gold and white).

The daily cycling mileage ranged up to 75 kilometers, 90% on nicely paved roads.  The roads were in better condition than many Rockland and Bergen County roads after our epic 2014 winter! The terrain included several steep and long climbs as well as flat coastal island-encircling roads.  Some of the islands resembled a sombrero with a brim around a mountain in the center!   There wasn’t much of a problem sharing the roads with other vehicles.  Many of them were actually going more slowly than we and we were able to pass them even if they were motorized.  In the few cases where there was fast or heavy traffic, we were shuttled through it on our support vehicle.

Most Americans are not familiar with these islands, but for the record they were Cebu,
Bohol, Camiguin, Negros and my favorite, exotic Siquijor.

Our very capable tour leader(Philippinos call him the “trail master”!) was Jens Funk a Philippine resident who relocated from Germany some years ago.  Jens who speaks English fluently is the co- author of “Cycling Philippines-Explore the Islands by Bike”.  He operates an adventure tour company called “Bugoy Bikers” and can be reached at [email protected].  Jens was adept at transferring us, our bikes and baggage through often chaotic and tumultuous ferry ports.  His assistant, Junbe cycled with us and kept my bike in a good mechanical condition.  We were also supported by 2 additional people who drove the support vehicle, handled luggage and performed other important functions.  In this country the sag wagons are “jeepneys” which are small colorful busses mounted on jeep chassis and engines.  They originally used jeeps the US GI’s left there after World War II.

Our tour group of five cyclists (ages forties-seventies) consisted of a couple from Wisconsin, a gentleman from Norway, a French woman and myself.   The excellent meals featured local and continental cuisines and were served family style or ordered a la carte off the menu by us.   The meals and the hotels were included in the tour price of $3225.  Each of us rented mountain bikes from Spice Roads for an additional $250.  The daily average cost of under $300 is much less than many U.S. based companies charge.  A single room was available for an additional $450.  Air fare and a small amount for incidentals were additional.

As in other Spice Roads tours, one or two of the hotels the tour used didn’t have customary US plumbing and AC.  This is apparently because they were located in excellent biking areas where no better facilities existed.  The other hotels were fine—equivalent to three or four stars on the European scale.  For 3 days I was assigned a modern ocean front villa which would have cost $500 or more nightly in many parts of the world.  The cycling day usually ended early enough to allow for some downtime at a nice pool, beach or in an always available hammock!

I emailed several NYCC members who were born in this interesting and scenic country with my positive impressions of it as an excellent cycling destination. Over our leisurely dinners, the  group’s members and leaders  exchanged  stories of their interesting bike tour experiences and possible other Spice Roads tours  we were contemplating for the future.

The bike tour was just a part of an epic round the world journey my wife, Joan and I were making for the first time in our lives.  We first flew to the Middle East and spent a couple days each in amazing emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman.  In Abu Dhabi I cycled about 20 miles on a paved bike trail on its sea front corniche.  It was somewhat like the downtown lower end of New York’s West Side Greenway.  We were in Dubai at the time of the first Dubai Tour, a four stage race in that amazing city February 5-8.  It was won by Taylor Phinney, son of professional cyclist Davis and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, the gold medal winning Olympic cyclist.(dubaitour.com)

Then we flew to Vietnam, where I had taken 3 bike tours since the early 1990’s and we stayed at three of the the same hotels(in Saigon, Da Nang and Nha Tran).  It was Joan’s first time in the country and I showed her the momentous changes I had seen over the years.  From Saigon, Joan flew home via Hong Kong and I continued the journey by going to Manila and eventually crossing the Pacific.  We circled the globe for the first time always flying with tailwinds.

The weather was perfect for cycling and all of other activities—it rained for about a total of 10 minutes during the 30 days and temps were always between 65 and 85.   We didn’t encounter any people, health, mechanical problems or accidents, only a couple of stressful(time-wise)  international plane changes—we almost didn’t make our connections.

The international travel arrangements were made by Asia Transpacific Journeys([email protected])

Author can be contacted at [email protected]

Other biking  travel  experiences: http://search.bootsnall.com/?cx=009147657344347428265%3Apqdx3whvc3u&cof=FORID%3A9&q=Jay+Jacobson&x=12&y=9

 

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