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Tim Foolery

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Let’s Go Singapore Bike Tour

When visiting a new city, I love to hop on a bike tour.  Seeing a city by bike is seeing it like a local. Living life like a local.  You feel the pulse of the city and can truly experience the vibrancy.  With only 68 hours on the ground a Singapore Bike Tour was in order.  First off, I had to find a knowledgeable, local guide and jump on a bike.  It was clear, after just a few searches, that Let’s Go Singapore was the right company to lead me around this City.

After sharing an awkward breakfast at the M Hotel, I hopped on the train and made my way to the Let’s Go Singapore offices.  Arriving 30 minutes early for the tour, I sat outside and organized plan for the post tour afternoon.  The tour was small, just me and two young German tourists.  It can make for an amazing trip when you have a small group of fit tourees.  I’ve had some overcrowded bike tours with people who haven’t ridden a bike in years (like our tour in Barcelona) and it just kills me.

Singapore Bike Tour

Let’s Go Singapore – Fully Stocked for a Bike Tour

Singapore Bike Tour

Let’s Go Singapore is opening a cooking school too. After your bike ride, you can make traditional Singapore cuisine!

The Tour

After adjusting our bikes and getting a brief rundown of the plan, we headed out.  Our guide was really excellent.  First off, he told us the rules of the road in Singapore.  Who has the right of way and how to interpret his directions throughout the ride.  And we’re off.

We moved quickly throughout the City, visiting some major sites, plus places that normal tourists likely wouldn’t see.  We visited places that tourists wouldn’t find on their own either.

Singapore Bike Tour

The Formula One Track in Singapore – Used by the citizens when not racing season

Singapore Bike Tour

Our tour group, posing on the F1 Track

Singapore Bike Tour

Marina Bay Sands from the Singapore Bike Tour

Singapore Bike Tour

Three bike tourees in front of the three towers of Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Bike Tour

Riding away, early in the tour. Singapore’s National Stadium looms ominously in the background.

Singapore Bike Tour

The Gardens by the Bay Arboretum

Singapore Bike Tour

The Singapore Flyer Ferris Wheel

Singapore Bike Tour

Love the greenery built into the architecture all throughout Singapore

Singapore Bike Tour

Closing out the tour near the Mosque

Singapore Bike Tour

I’m really not upset, despite the angry look on my face!

Singapore Bike Tour

Riding away, early in the tour. Singapore’s National Stadium looms ominously in the background.

Singapore Bike Tour

Singapore Bike Tour

The vibrant dining area near the mosque.

Singapore Bike Tour

Colorful Haji Street in Singapore

The day we toured was a little overcast, with a constant threat of thunderstorms.  You can see the cloudiness in the photos, they are not as crisp and clear as I’d like them to be.  Midway through our tour, we had to stop and take refuge in a shopping mall.  Shopping malls are ubiquitous in Singapore and we were thankful for that when it started to rain.

The tour lasted about four hours, plus a bit more because of the rain delay.  This was an active tour, but not a strenuous effort.  I really enjoyed every part of this tour and can’t recommend it enough.  For S$80 ($58USD), I defy you to find a more knowledgeable guide and more fun tour.

No matter how much time you’ve got to spend in Singapore – but especially if it is only 68 hours – seek out Let’s Go Singapore and get to know the city.  While I’m sure all the guides are great, Alfie was really phenomenal.

Do you take cycle tours when on vacation?  What better ways do you have of getting to know a new city in such short order?  What other tour would you recommend in Singapore?  Have you used Let’s Go for a Singapore Bike Tour?

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Bruges by Bike

We love to take bike tours when traveling. We find it is an amazing way to see the city from a local’s perspective, plus you get to cover more area than you normally would by foot. We’ve taken bike tours in Paris, London, Barcelona, Mexico City, Vietnam, Shanghai and South Africa (and more). Belgium is known as a bicyclists’ country (maybe not as well known as the Netherlands though). We didn’t spend much time researching various operators in Bruges, but after spending a few minutes on TripAdvisor and reviewing a couple of blogs, we settled on Quasimundo Bike Tours.

These folks were located just a few minute walk from our hotel and offered tours in Dutch and English normally, but you can get other languages if you request ahead (French is available, and I believe you can get Spanish and German too).  When we arrived there were about 20 people waiting outside for the tour and I started to have real regrets.  Large bike tours like this really lose a lot.  People have varying levels of cycling ability and interest, the guide is spending much more time ensuring the tourees are with the group and has less time to actually give the tour itself.  Luckily, most of these people were heading out on the Dutch language tour – the English tour had just six people (including us).

The tour is billed at around 2.5 hours, departing at 10h00.  Our guide showed up a little after 10h00 and we left at  10h15 as he had a flat tire on his commuter bike.  The guide was very relaxed and extremely knowledgeable.  He effortlessly guided us through the compact city, stopping at sites that were historically, culturally or visually important.  He wasn’t too big on lots of dates and names, as he says, you’ll just forget them anyway, but he did throw out key dates and wove a story connecting each of our stops.

A quaint residential street in Bruges

The canals of Bruges

The canals made the city so picturesque

Bruges is truly a beautiful city

We also stopped off at the oldest continuously operating pub in the city and had a lovely sour beer that is locally brewed.  Being a World Heritage Site imposes some interesting restrictions on a city.  For example, you are to limit the number of trucks going around your historic quarters.  This posed quite the problem for the brewers who had been in Bruges for centuries – if you can’t transport by truck, how do you get your sudsy creations to consumers?  One brewery built an underground pipeline from the historic center to the suburban distribution center.  They didn’t want to pack up and leave their home, but couldn’t grow their business without massive trucks – a simple yet inventive idea.

Bruges was hosting a large public art event when we were there. This whale was donated by Hawaii and made exclusively from plastic found in the ocean.

A classic view – canals, public art and the belfry

A view from the windmill

One of the few remaining windmills in Bruges.

We enjoyed our tour – we got to see some wonderful sites and hear fun and interesting tales.  We did not bike to the two main squares or the cathedrals that Bruges is known for.  This was intentional as those sites are better explored on foot and they would have eaten up quite a bit of our tour time.  Plus those are very easy for tourists to do without a guide.

For 28€/person this was a great way to spent a few hours and allowed us to see parts of the city that we definitely wouldn’t have been exposed to on our own.

Do you take bike tours when you travel?  What is your favorite place to explore by bike?

Bicycle Tours – The Best Way to Explore

We’ve gotten in the habit of seeking bicycle tours when we travel.  We found that one of the best ways to get a feel for a City or Region is to do it by bike. You get a different perspective, feel a bit more like a local and have a completely different interaction with your guides (if you chose to take a guided tour) and the people who live in the area you tour.

The list below will be an regularly updated anthology of our various bike tours around the world. If you have a favorite bike tour or bike tour Trip Report, please let me know in the comments section.

Bike Tour: Chapultepec-Reforma-Roma-Condesa

We love to take bike tours when we travel.  We’ve seen Stellenbosch, South Africa, Paris, Barcelona, Dublin, Shanghai, Vietnam and London by bike.  Mexico City easily made the list of Cities we wanted to explore by bike as well.  As in the past I turned to TripAdvisor but this time, I found a single bike tour offering – luckily it looked interesting.  I shot an email to Mexico City Bike Tour, explaining to them what we wanted to see and how much time we wanted to spend.  They responded within a couple hours letting me know that their standard Chapultepec-Reforma-Roma-Condesa tour would fit our needs.  Book it!

We met our guide at their “office”, which is really just a shed where they store their bikes.  Two other travelers joined us on this tour – both singles – one man from Boston and a young female chef from China, who lives and works in Orlando.  After brief introductions, we were given helmets, retro-reflective vests and a bike.  The bikes were a little run down – by far the worst condition of any bike tour company I’ve used in the past.  The breaks were a little shoddy and my seat wouldn’t stay at the proper elevation — several times I felt like I was riding the bicycle equivalent of a low-rider.  I was concerned about my personal safety from time to time while on the ride, that’s for sure.

The tour was lead by a great guide who is a trained urban planner, with a passion for the environment and a mission to change the way we all think and live in modern Cities.  Mexico City has an amazing traffic problem – but surprisingly (at least to me) a popular bike share program that’s been around since February 2010 and currently has more tan 4,000 bikes and 276 stations.  We made dozens of stops throughout our 4 hours bike ride.

Our first stop was about 5 minutes from our meeting point.  This first quick stop was to confirm that our bikes were all in working order (and mine was at this point), to learn a bit more about our guide and go over the basics of the program.  Antonio asked each of us what we were passionate about – what we wanted to learn while on the trip: History? Architecture? Food? Politics? Colonialism? Future of Mexico?  Our group of four were really focused on History and Architecture – thank god we didn’t have a group of anti-intellectuals who just wanted to ride from bar to bar (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that — just not something I was keen on for this ride).

Colorful Christmas Food and Gift Stalls

Colorful Christmas Food and Gift Stalls

First stop - showing off the poinsettias.  The City was really prepping for Christmas and these beautiful flowers were being planted far and wide.

First stop – showing off the poinsettias. The City was really prepping for Christmas and these beautiful flowers were being planted far and wide.

On our trip we learned about the Spanish invasion (my words, not Antonio’s) of the Aztec empire and the subsequent draining of the lakes around current day Mexico City. We also learned about the impact this had on the land and how the area around Mexico City is still settling and you can easily see the impacts of this settling.  We came across an Obelisk that was constructed in the early 20th Century and over the past 100 years has sunk quite a bit – requiring additional stairs to be constructed (you can see the different colored stairs – this is how much the surrounding area has sunk).

Sinking into the City.

Sinking into the City.

We toured Chapultepec Park and learned about various native plants and saw exhibits that showed how the area that is now Mexico City looked around the time of the Spanish invasion.  We continued down the Reforma (where our hotel was located), which is a street full of tourist attractions (shops and hotels) and is a major street where the residents of Mexico City celebrate and protest (which, you’ve read about here).

Our guide passionately educating us about Mexico City and her History and Architecture.

Our guide passionately educating us about Mexico City and her History and Architecture.

Our guide found a great little place for lunch – a place he had never been before, but his colleagues had recommended.  We ordered several appetizers and entrees all to split.  The chiles rellenos were by far my favorite.  Although the place we stopped didn’t have a visible sign and our guide who knew the exact intersection had a hell of a time finding it – sorry guys.

We began winding our way back through the park stopping to take pictures and to allow one of the slower members of our group to catch up – this last portion had more elevation to climb (some hills and some man made elevation like overpasses, etc) than anywhere else on the tour.  The slowpoke in our group also wasn’t an avid bicycles, so often she’d swerve unexpectedly and run into other members of the tour.  She was a bit rogue – I had to stay away from her while riding.

We managed to make our way through the winding streets back to the little shed where the bikes are stored.  I enjoyed our bike ride through Mexico City.  I still feel this is the best way to experience any City.  Unlike other tours, our guide had an interesting professional background – instead of being a student who had studied a script, this guide was a trained urban planner with a vision for the future of Mexico City and all modern Cities. A vision where cars aren’t the required mode of transport and the pollution they spew aren’t choking all life in the area.

As noted above, my biggest concern was the operational safety of the bikes themselves.  I thought the guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about cycling and the evolving City.  Have you biked in Mexico City?  Do you prefer to have a trained professional (architect, urban planner, historian, etc) or just a normal person whose been trained as a guide?