29th September, 2014

Some members of The Carter Company team have just returned from some pretty spectacular travels around the other side of the globe. As always of course, we were eagle-eyed and on the lookout for bicycles and interesting bit of local cycling culture in the two countries we visited, Bali and Japan, to share with you back here on our blog.

Unexpectedly cycle-friendly places

First up, Bali. Or more precisely, Lombok. Indonesia is fairly notorious for its terrible traffic problems, and the mode of transport associated with this country that first springs to mind is the moped. Everyone seems to be riding them, even kids who look like they've barely made it to senior school! Of course, people whizzing about the streets in all directions in apparent mayhem is all part of the vibrant charm of a place like Bali. But it does mean it's not usually considered "cycle-friendly". However, hop on a boat to the Gili Islands (officially part of Lombok but usually visited as part of a Bali itinerary), and the scene is quite different. Here, on what we would call the most laid-back place we have ever been - all the furniture is designed with a very generous reclining angle! - there are no cars or mopeds. This means transport around the islands is limited to horse and cart (perfect for when you arrive and need help transporting your luggage to your hotel) and of course the humble bicycle. The rather idyllic picture from above we think illustrates pretty well how incredible it was to cycle around this car-free, pollution-free and noise-free island. And in case you're thinking there is no way the sky really was that pink, think again. We'd certainly never seen sunsets like it! But back to the cycling, the point is that it was truly wonderful to enjoy and experience such a beautiful place on two wheels without any cars about. So hats off to the village chiefs of the Gili Islands for making the decision to rule out cars!

Bicycle hire schemes in Japan

It was also exciting to see cycle hire schemes made available to tourists in some of the Japanese cities we visited. Our (unexpected) favourite by far was Kanazawa, a small-ish city just north of Kyoto that boasts one of the top 3 gardens in Japan, numerous old Shinto and Buddhist temples, a speciality local tea called Bo Cha (roasted twig tea which we can't recommend enough!), a stunning modern art museum, a strong craft tradition and the best sushi restaurant in Japan (categorically according to us, and the internet! It's called Otomezuhsi. You must go if you ever visit Japan). What made our trip to Kanazawa all the more enjoyable was hiring bikes and cycling from one sight to the next. Once again our conviction was confirmed that cycling REALLY IS the best way to see a new place and discover some hidden gems not in the guide book. All cities welcoming visitors should set up cycle hire schemes like the Vélib in Paris and the Boris Bike in London. Unless you're already on a cycling holiday of course! If this has whet your appetite, check out our inspire me page for bike tours and walking holidays galore.