17th March, 2016
Wendy, the founder and director of The Carter Company, and a true pioneer in the concept of gentle cycling holidays, recently returned from a rather adventurous bicycle tour around Cambodia and Vietnam. Whilst our portfolio remains distinctly European and there are no immediate plans to branch out into more exotic climes (sadly for us trip planners!), Wendy came back so full of excitement and wonderful stories from her travels that we wanted to share them with you, our readers, here.
Where to begin?! Firstly, we recommend heading over to Wendy's Instagram page, where a fascinating gallery of images awaits. We particularly love the shot we picked out for this blog, although it wasn't the only example of ingenious and innovative use of bicycles as transport vehicles.!
Here's what Wendy had to say about her adventure:
"The bicycle has played a massive role in the development of society out there. Nowadays, people tend to use scooters and motorbikes as well as bicycles, but the car isn't anything like as prevalent in the west, and at one time, everyone used a bicycle.
As a tourist, it's a fantastic place to explore by bike. This is because the locals are so incredibly friendly and welcoming. Their sense of community and eagerness to share is really extraordinary. All this means that as you tootle past on your bicycle, children run out of their houses to wave hello; wedding parties invite you to join in their ceremonies; and families celebrating a new temple opening share their home-made sweets with you. Our guide even invited us to his house, where we met his parents and brothers. Pretty much everyone sits outside their houses to watch the world go by, so as you whistle past so there's many an opportunity to stop and say hello, see how the locals live, meet the pigs and chickens in their backyard farms, and even visit their makeshift breweries where they brew their own beer!
The landscape is densely utilised, much of it by small scale agriculture, whilst the waterways are used as transport highways and are packed full of gorgeous wooden boats moving food, wood and other wares from here to there. A highlight was a visit to the colourful floating market on the Mekong River, which some farmers travel 750 miles to get to. We also visited insect food markets (where our guide proceeded to demonstrate the local love of insect food eating a whole tarantula!), man-made vine bridges, brick-making factories, and scores of ancient temples.
This magic was made all the more remarkable by the constant reminders of the darker times in theses countries' histories - the Vietnam War and the Cambodian Genocide. We met one survivor of the latter, who was only allowed to live because he could repair the regime's typewriters. His stories were harrowing. There are no concrete figures of how many were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime as mass graves continue to be discovered to this day, but the most commonly cited figure is two million (which is about a quarter of the population).
The resilience and spirit of the people today is truly remarkable - despite so much hardship, they are such generous and welcoming people. I can't recommend visiting Cambodia and Vietnam enough. A really special travel experience I'll treasure forever."