Having cycled nearly 7,000km across Europe and China I was all but set to tackle India. This all changed when my brother, who currently resides in Hanoi (Vietnam), invited me to spend Christmas with him. Given the choice of a spending Christmas with a family member in a home, or spending it somewhere in southern India (probably cycling on Christmas day) I opted for the former! The last time I saw my brother was in Hong Kong (!) over a year ago.
One Month To Kill
Choosing to go to Vietnam for Christmas posed a bit of a problem. I was already running short of my budget requirements (an unexpected three week visit to Japan, and one month in Vietnam) so had been considering dropping Thailand and Malaysia. The point being I could spend two months in India and in doing so rack up 3,000-4,000km before flying to Australia. At the time of making the decision I only had five weeks until Christmas, so instead decided to visit Thailand as I found a cheap return flight (to Hong Kong) for £140.
In retrospect, Thailand was a good choice. Firstly because I enjoyed the country so much but also because of the bike issues I had. In Thailand I was able to buy replacement Shimano parts for a 28" wheeled bicycle, something which (for the most part) I wouldn't have been able to in India. Given the distances I wanted to do in India, 4,000km would have been a struggle/impossible without replacement parts.
By going to Thailand I was able to add another 1280km (including day trips and cycling to and from the airports) to my mileage. Instead of cycling from Bangkok down to Kuala Lumpur and then having an expensive return flight, I booked a Hong Kong to Bangkok return and cycled the additional distance (sometimes repeating myself due to return journeys) in Southern Thailand.
I will be in Vietnam tomorrow where I hope to switch to a motorbike as a change from the bicycle. It's an awesome opportunity to ride a motorbike in a country that doesn't seemed too bothered how qualified I am. We've yet to decide where to explore in Vietnam, but I will in effect be "Biking to Gdog's". After Vietnam, I will return to Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) and decide what to do.
What Will Affect My Decision
Once back in Shenzhen I will think about the below points as to whether I fly to India for a shorter than planned tour (maybe a month), or cycle Thailand once again down to Kuala Lumpur (to pick up a cheap flight to Perth). Or simply fly straight to Australia from Hong Kong!
Budget - the three week visit to Japan was unplanned. It was expensive, but worth it. Add to that another unplanned stop in Vietnam, for one month. That equates to the budget/flights for India or Thailand/Malaysia. My budget is starting to run down, so I have to plan ahead more if I want to make it to Oz and back to the UK!
Boredom - I have now been travelling for around 180 days. 130 of those days have been spent cycling for 4-7 hours. The thrill has started to fade a little and I find myself less engaged than I should be with my surroundings. India may or may not change that given what an amazing place it is. But regardless, travelling for the sake of clocking up miles isn't money well spent for me. The break in Vietnam will hopefully reinvigorate me.
Bike Health - part of the loss of enjoyment is down to the bicycle being a bit poorly. Given the expense and time I have put into it, it does pain me when it starts breaking. Which is why I have already ordered replacement parts (to home in the UK) for a rebuild when I get back. It's especially pains me when it breaks down in the middle of nowhere, usually on a 35+C day in the midday heat, and I have to fix it. Problems with the bike just add troubles and stress to my trip. The bike will need a full check and service before going anywhere else.
Mileage - The original plan was to cycle 12,000km, but without a full two months in India that won't be possible. 10,000km is more feasible although I am still around 1,500km (the equivalent of cycling Lands End to John O'Groats) short. I would desperately like to make 10,000km as it's a nice round figure.