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Pedals, Paths, and the People We Meet: Stories from the Road

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Pedals, Paths, and the People We Meet: Stories from the Road

Lirene CilliersBy Lirene Cilliers   Posted 23rd Apr 2024

Welcome to our collection of moments that remind us why we strap on our helmets and set off into the sunset, one pedal at a time. 

Here, amidst the stories of wheels whirring on winding paths, we share a glimpse behind the scenes — where the true magic of our tours unfolds. It's not just about the miles covered or the destinations discovered; it's about the moments of connection. 

So, grab a snack, get comfy, and join us as we recount tales from the road less traveled—where every turn brings a new friend, a laugh, or a memory that sticks with us long after the bikes are parked. 


Meet James, General Manager at Grasshopper Adventures, whose incredible rise from a first-time guest in 2016 to the driving force behind the scenes exemplifies his spirit of adventure. 

Among my early expeditions, and notably one of the revised Stunning Shikoku Bike Tour of Japan's pioneering voyages, was an assembly that could only be described as the crème de la crème of adventurers.  

A smarter and wittier crew you'd be hard-pressed to find, making every mile not just a joy but an impromptu classroom on wheels for yours truly. 
On one of the last days, riding from Kure Bay to Kochi, we tackled a wicked climb. At the peak, victory swelled in our chests, and we celebrated the Grasshopper way-with coffee and snacks fit for kings.  

The view at the top was just incredible! I did such a terrible job at capturing it on camera, but I managed to catch the genuine smiles and laughter that permeated that day.  
Shared with the fantastic quartet of our crew—Toto, Maksym, Yoji, and our dear guests—plus me—this journey was stamped in the annals of "Great Times Had with Great People."


Sokthin, our Operations Manager in Cambodia, ensures the smooth running of each journey from behind the scenes. His heart lies in the rich heritage of his home country, Cambodia. Here are a couple of his favorite moments while joining you on tour!

The Hai Van Pass is not just a road; it's an adventure. Imagine looking at a picture-perfect postcard, but you're actually there, living it. You can see mountains on one side and the endless ocean on the other, offering views that leave you speechless. People from all corners of the globe consider it one of the most beautiful cycling routes in all of Southeast Asia. 

I had the honor to cycle it with our guests on the Vietnam Esseantials tour. As soon as our wheels took on the 10-kilometer climb, we knew this ride would test our determination. But as we cycled, every look shared between us was a word unspoken: "wow." 

We travelled to the Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School with our tour guests. Among us were people from various parts of the world, each carrying unique traditions and lifestyles, bound together by a shared love for exploration and new experiences. 

A chef, whose enthusiasm for Vietnamese cuisine was contagious, welcomed us. And there I was, a man typically far from my own kitchen at home, but the chef had a knack for making every person feel at ease. He started the class, and soon enough, we were chopping, stirring, and tasting. 

Learning to cook authentic recipes meant that I could take a piece of Vietnam home with me.  

But it was more than that. It highlighted a wonderful constant in our human experience: no matter where we're from, the love of good food transcends all barriers. 

Jaz in Taiwan

Many guests will be familiar with our long-time Travel Experience Planner, Jaz, even if only through email.  

Jaz believes that the heart of any destination lies within its people. Here are a couple of Jaz’s most cherished tales that perfectly encapsulate the essence of our adventures. 

On the East Taiwan Self-Guided Tour, we were cycling by endless fruit orchards, and as we passed by an orange orchard, we spotted some people picking them. When they saw us biking, they started yelling, "Orange! Orange!" and motioned for us to stop. As I slowed down, they started throwing oranges up at us! Gently throwing I should add. Then they came up and stuffed our entire pannier bags full of citrus!  

They didn't speak much English, and I spoke almost zero Mandarin, but they asked, "Two people?" and motioned down the road from where we had come.  

Finally, I realized they were trying to work out if we were a larger group, because if more cyclists were coming, they wanted to make sure everyone had oranges!  

Sadly, I don't even have photos of orange orchards! 

Another story; it might be more of a "you had to be there" moment, but it was very sweet! 

Our driver on the Taipei extension, Oliver, was a kind Taiwanese man who spoke decent English. He had lived in China for many years, and I mentioned that my good friend from home was adopted from China and wants to visit someday but is not sure about which guide or tour operator to use.  

He asked what region she was from, and when I answered, he said, "Hmmm, my friend Jerry lives there." The next thing we knew, he was pulling out his cell phone and calling up his friend Jerry, speaking in Mandarin.  
We heard key words like "guide" peppered in the conversation, then he wrote down a phone number on a piece of paper, showed me a photo of a smiling Chinese man, who was apparently Jerry, and said, "When your friend goes to China, tell her to call Jerry! He will show her around the place she was born."  

This level of hospitality is unmatched!!! 


Meet Reece, our Marketing Manager with a true adventurer's spirit. Hailing from the sun-kissed coasts of Australia, Reece now calls Cambodia home. He's been part of the Grasshopper Swarm for more than 8 years. When he's not sharing our story with the world, you might find him exploring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. 

It was a beautiful, sunny day as we rode through Northern Thailand, leading up to the spectacular festival of lights known as Loy Kratong. The year was 2018, when Corona was simply a Mexican beer, and the word "pandemic" was not commonly used outside of medical circles. But I digress; there we were enjoying a beautiful ride through small villages and picturesque countryside. During a refreshment break, we noticed a group of ladies harvesting rice in a nearby field. Intrigued by their activity, our guide led us into the field to observe the harvest firsthand. 
The ladies were covered head-to-toe, protecting themselves from the elements, particularly the sun. In comparison, we seemed quite underdressed. They were equally curious about the strange, half-dressed foreigners who had joined them in the field, but welcoming, nonetheless. With the help of our guide and interpreter, we struck up a conversation, and before we knew it, we were invited to try our hand at harvesting. 
The tall stalks, weighed down by the rice, were bundled together and cut near the base using small handheld blades. This method has likely been practiced for centuries and is a far cry from modern mechanical methods used in agriculture today. It was a fun experience to try, but after just a few bundles, you realized the immense effort and physical strain required to harvest an entire field this way! It became clear that such a task could only be accomplished with the support of family and the community. The picturesque field suddenly seemed much larger, but our appreciation for these hardy ladies grew even more. 
After a few attempts, most of us happily returned the blades, grateful for the small taste of rural life. There was plenty of laughter, mostly directed at ourselves for our lackluster farming skills, and everyone took the opportunity to capture the moment, with the ladies gladly obliging. This spontaneous meeting, in a remote corner of rural Thailand, coinciding fortuitously with the harvest, was a moment I couldn't replicate if I tried, which makes me treasure it as a memory and a genuine moment of connection. 


Meet Lise, our creative Chief Tour Designer at Grasshopper Adventures. Hailing from France and now rooted in Cambodia, she channels her cross-cultural expertise to intricately weave each itinerary, curating transformative travel experiences for you! 

Bali is drenched in spirituality. It's seen in the daily offerings at every doorstep, the sacred temples at each corner, and the countless ceremonies continually reminding the islanders of their rich cultural heritage. 

Our group discovered this spiritual heart of Bali on perhaps its most sacred day—Nyepi, Bali's Day of Silence.  

It is a profound observance that marks the Balinese New Year. Esteemed for its spiritual significance, the day is dedicated to self-reflection, fasting, and meditation. The island falls quiet: streets empty, lights dim, and all pause from daily activities for introspection and honor towards nature. The silence is seen as a time for the earth to rejuvenate. 

Passing by residential houses, we found ourselves amidst ceremonies unfolding right before us. Each one of us felt like a participant in a rare cultural encounter. We just stood still, watched in awe, and, for a moment, felt so connected to humanity. This was a moment when Bali revealed itself fully to us.


I come from the land of milk and honey, South Africa. Some of you might know that we have 11 official languages (yes, you read that right!). It comes as no surprise that most South Africans can speak at least 2 of them. For me, it's English and Afrikaans. 

My heart carries the rhythms of Africa, but my feet have found their way to Cambodia, where I've been residing for the past four years.  

I recently had the honor of joining our Thailand Bike, Boat, and Beach adventure. Eager and packed with excitement, I found myself catapulted into an entirely different world with, if I might add, the best Kluai Buat Chi in the world! (It's a dessert with bananas in coconut, and you absolutely HAVE to try it!) 

The people I met on this journey truly carved a memory deep within my heart. Among them were wonderful individuals from the United States and Hong Kong, but it was Mr. A—named so to respect privacy—a kindly elder gentleman, who surprised me most.  

Discovering I was from South Africa, he began speaking Afrikaans to me, taking me by such surprise that, momentarily, I found myself fumbling over familiar words as if they were foreign to me.  

But Mr. A had more surprises up his sleeve. As another guest from Hong Kong joined our group, he switched gears and began speaking fluently in Cantonese. The ease with which he jumped from Afrikaans to Cantonese left me stunned. There I was, surrounded by a tower of Babel, feeling more connected to my roots than ever. 

It's strange how life works. We often talk about Afrikaans as if it's fading away, yet here, in this fleeting moment in Thailand, it felt more alive than ever before.  

This trip was not just about sightseeing; it was a meaningful insight into the power of diversity and the surprising ways we remain tied to our origins. It truly showed that, regardless of our differences, we are all intricately connected.



As we wrapped up the Mekong Bike & Boat Adventure, the whole crew (and I mean, everyone on the ship) came together to offer an unforgettable farewell.  

Having spent almost a week in each other's company, there was a genuine sense of camaraderie among us, akin to what you would feel with old friends.  

The Toum Tiou II may be a modestly sized ship, but its intimacy only amplified the special connections we formed on board, thanks in large part to the crew's efforts to make everyone feel valued and included. 

Among the memorable companions on this journey was Katherine, who was one of the highlights of the tour for me. From the get-go, it felt like she had been part of my family all along. Sharing this adventure with her was truly a delight. 

Join the Adventure

As our journey across these treasured tales winds down, we hope it has instilled in you a sense of the magic that permeates every turn of our pedals. Perhaps these stories remind you of the precious connections you've made on your own adventures. Or perhaps they sparked a desire to head off into the sunset, donning your helmet, and to start creating your own.

If you're ready to forge your own stories of connection and discover the world on two wheels, join our Grasshopper Adventures family. We can hardly wait to welcome you, and who knows—your adventure might become the next tale we recount here!    

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