Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge ~ Adventure Travel & Voluntourism on two-wheels

By Dian Hasan | July 9, 2009

Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_3d00256e414621100e73e9bbc176d75eThe growing popularity of “do-good-travel”, or better known under the catchphrase Voluntourism is making inroads into diverse countries across the globe. But what’s even more heartwarming is the means of doing it. As demonstrated by this trip on manual two-wheels, a.k.a. bicycle, organized by UK-based Symbiosis Expedition Planning zipping from Bangkok to Saigon and raising funds for charity at the same time.


Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_B2S00_CAM0058The Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge is an exceptional 2 week, 1,000km mountain bike journey through three of South East Asia’s most exotic countries, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam, to raise funds for underprivileged children. The ride includes a 2-day stop at the majestic Angkor Wat — the world’s largest temple complex and a World Heritage site — plus a day in the riverine capital, Phnom Penh, with its faded French colonial grandure.

As David Mantrop put it (a 2004 participant), the Bangkok to Saigon cycle challenge is “the toughest vacation you’ll ever love!”.

Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_B2S05_0034Over the 16 days cyclists travel through 3 contrasting countries — Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam — and visit 3 major cities (including 2 capitals). Stand in awe of Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious edifice; sail across Southeast Asia’s largest lake, the Tonle Sap; and experience the wonderful watery world of the Mekong Delta.

Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_B2S05_0033_1In addition to experiencing the highlights of the Southeast Asia trail, you will also be raising funds for less privileged children.

This fully supported cycle ride introduces you to the life and lives far away from the tourist track, where your senses will be bombarded with the sights, sounds, and smells of the Orient — with each border crossing you will discover a new and very different country.
Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_B2S_route-map
About the Charities
For each booking made Symbiosis Expedition Planning donates US$100 to be shared between the following Children’s charities. These charities have been carefully chosen as they are all local and undertake tremendous, much needed work. As they are local organisations and not part of larger, international organisations, more of the money they receive actually gets to the point of need rather than being ‘swallowed up’ in administration, funding head offices in ‘western’ countries and large international marketing budgets.
Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_B2S04_0803-21w
Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_Rejoice_logoRejoice Urban Development Project: a multi faceted grassroots project based in the Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand. The Charity was established in 1998. RUDP’s goal is to provide a desperately needed medical and social support system to the population of very poor, sick and underprivileged people living in Chiang Mai’s villages, and urban slum communities, focussing primarily on the diverse array of medical and social needs demonstrated by the people infected with or effected by HIV/AIDS. RUDP is presently caring for around 500 individuals who are suffering with AIDS related conditions. RUDP also cares for 500 children orphaned as a result of AIDS.

Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_Kousar-Thmey_logo-1Krousar Thmey (New Family): the first Cambodian Foundation assisting deprived children, and helps provide deprived Cambodian children with material, educational and social support. Krousar Thmey’s purpose is to help children develop and blossom into responsible adults. Since 1991, Krousar Thmey has been committed to three areas of activity all over Cambodia: i) education and schooling support; ii) child welfare; iii) cultural and artistic development. All projects are run by Cambodians for Cambodians: 220 locals take charge of around 1,000 children and support some 3,000 others. European volunteers provide communication assistance and financial oversight.

Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_Mith-Samlanh_logoMith Samlanh (Friends): established in 1994 as a support system for some of the estimated 10,000 street children in Phnom Penh. It currently has a staff 123 (of which 120 are Cambodian) including social workers, teachers, skill trainers and doctors. Programmes run by Mith Samlanh include workshops and health care services, including an IV/AIDS Awareness Programme which aims to support children affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as educating people n protecting themselves from it. Mith Samlanh’s objectives are: i) meeting the street children’s immediate essential eeds; ii) reintegrating the children into their families, into society, into the public school system, into their culture; iii) building the capacity of the staff so that the Cambodian nationals are able to run the program independent of foreign intervention in the near future.

Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge_SaigonCharity_logoThe Saigon Children’s Charity: founded in 1992 and is a small NGO staffed by professionally qualified volunteers, based in Saigon. Its aim (and its achievement) has been to build small community schools in poor urban districts and remote rural areas. SCC strongly believes education is the best way out of poverty, and has set up libraries, vocational training programmes, and language courses. A scholarship programme is in place for those thought to be in the greatest need, and sponsors of these children are encouraged to commit to supporting a whole school career. 80% of its expenditure goes directly to the projects.

This entry was posted in Adventure Travel, Ecotourism, Green Travel, Responsible Tourism, VolunTourism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bangkok to Saigon Cycle Challenge ~ Adventure Travel & Voluntourism on two-wheels

  1. Pingback: This bike ride will change your life and others too « Ideas, Design & Innovative Solutions for a Better World

  2. Timothy Rann says:

    Looks like quite a wonderful ride! Though how can this possibly be considered a volunteer ride/voluntourism? Less than 5% of the total trip fee is donated to the support charities. There doesn’t appear to be any supplemental fundraising component (though I imagine participants will fundraise and stay involved after they return home), nor do there are appear to be any volunteer activities along the way. Even if you had a group of 20 with $2000 raised, this is less than .1% of just Friend’s (Mith Samlahn) annual budget.

    Again, looks like a great trip but please don’t sell this trip under the guise of riding to help the local inhabitants… the impact is negligible and quite possibly negative depending on the responsible tourism policy of the operate.

    • endangerededen says:

      Hi Timothy,
      I appreciate your comment and constructive input. I admit such trip may not fully warrant a responsible tourism or voluntourism, as I was merely interested in that this adventure trip did offer to give something back to the community (albeit small/miniscule). I know of a similar bike trip – conducted in Sulawesi (Indonesia’s Celebes) – where it also had a small charity component, although the main idea was “cycle+yoga”, while immersing (well… let’s just say heightened/improved exposure) in the local culture/simple village life… along the way.

      So again, it wasn’t my intention to sell this trip under any specific term (responsible/eco/voluntourism or otherwise)… but merely wanted to draw attention of the myriad ways travelers can do a bit more when they travel (and make small differences in other people’s lives).

      Best regards, dian

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