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Burma by Bike

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  • Itinerary
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Cycle Burma

Fourteen days of cycling through a country steeped in challenges and isolation, and interacting with a deeply spiritual people will feel like a blink of an eye for most adventurous souls. Many people know about the political and controversial side of Myanmar, but few have had the opportunity to see it first hand for themselves.
Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about.” It was true then and it’s probably even truer today. You’ll go through cities and countryside, through valleys and climb up over mountains as you intimately get to know this still mysterious land.

Did you ever think you would:

  • See the mystifying Thousand Temples of Bagan?
  • Soak in the amazing views at U Bein Bridge?
  • Get to know the minority populations and local villages of a small and challenged country?
  • Discover Lake Inle?

If you’re the kind of travel adventurer who wants to make the most of the time they have, this is the cycling tour for you. Over these fourteen days you’ll not only come to know the country, but it’s people’s, culture, challenges, and uniqueness as well.

You’ll arrive in Bagan, considered one of Asia’s most holiest cities, and you’ll have a chance to explore this cultural nerve centre of Myanmar which is only now emerging from its international isolation. From here you’ll have another day of exploring before hitting the road on the bike. You’ll visit Inle Lake, Nyaungshwe, and the Shan Hills, see villages built on stilts, and warm your legs up for the journey ahead.

From there on out, it just gets better and better. The countryside is amazing, the people mesmerizing. You’ll see Shan style Buddhist stupas, floating markets, the famous leg-rowing fishermen, visit sacred Buddhist temples, and places of pilgrimage. Meet traditional silk weavers, explore the Pindaya caves with its more than 8,000 images of The Buddha, take a boat ride down the Inwaddy River, and so much more.

With all these once in a lifetime sights, you might be wondering where the cycling fits in! Don’t worry. You’ll spend eleven days on the bike and you’ll cover an average of 45 kilometers per day. The trip is classified at both road and activity level 3. You’ll have vehicle support for 95% of the trip and you’ll cycle over a mix of back roads and main roads. There are some tough climbs and some long downhills as well.

Anywhere between 6 and 16 others will be joining you on this tour across Myanmar. You and your fellow adventure seekers will thrill at every minute of this rare experience. Fill out the enquiry form today and we’ll help you get booked onto this amazing trip!

Itinerary – Land Only Itinerary below, there is a flight-included option from the UK. Please ask.


Day 1

The day is free to recover from the flight. The huge Bogyoke Market is worth a visit with food, clothing and handicrafts all on sale (closed on Mondays and public holidays), or visit the historic Strand Hotel which was often visited by the likes of Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham. There will be a welcome briefing this evening with dinner at a restaurant.

Day 2
A short flight takes us to Heho, the gateway to the impressive Inle Lake. We then drive to Nyaungshwe our base for exploring the lake and its surroundings.The Shan Hills flank the lake on both sides, with villages on stilts, inhabited mostly by the Intha people (meaning sons of the lakes). In the afternoon we have a short warm up ride. (ride approx. 15 km).

Day 3
Today begins with a ride to Inthein on the western banks of the lake, this intricate pagoda complex has hundreds of Shan style stupas clustered together on the hillside. Following years of decline, and with the forest reclaiming the site, walking around and through it makes you feel like Indiana Jones. In the afternoon we cruise on the lake passing cottage industries, and visiting floating markets (if possible). We will see the famous leg-rowing fishermen casting their nets in the lake – this technique of standing up holding a long paddle in one hand and their leg wrapped around the paddle lower down leaves the fishermen free to cast their conical fishing nets. This unique style evolved as the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see above them while sitting. There is a five day cycle for the floating market that literally circles the lake; here the locals come to sell their traditional wares early in the morning and return to their village for the afternoon. Depending on its current location we will be able to visit it. (ride approx. 54 km).

Day 4
Heading out on our bikes to visit the villages that surround the lake and the dense farmland, our ride is undulating and on quiet roads. We cycle around the edge of the lake towards Intha minority group villages passing rice paddies, sugar cane, traditional wooden houses and colourfully-dressed villagers. We will stop en route at villages and see what is being made and harvested depending upon the time of year. We also visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda the lake’s main sanctuary containing five sacred Buddah images and several royal barges. Proceeding to the village of Inpawkhone, famous for its traditional silk weaving from the stems of lotus flowers, a time consuming process that results in high quality materials we will observe weaving techniques before visiting a cheroot factory where cigars are rolled by hand. We then return to Nyaungshwe. (ride approx. 22 km).

Day 5
Making our way towards the Shan Highland there are a couple of tough uphills at the start of our first day of serious cycling. Continuing through rolling hills we will stop and refuel at regular intervals. The last stretch of today’s journey is the most scenic as we near Pindaya with Pa-Oh and other tribes working in the fields. After checking into our hotel we visit Pindaya caves, exploring its caverns and tunnels. There are more than 8000 Buddha images within the Pindaya limestone caverns and meditation chambers; every day pilgrims flock to the caves and install new Buddha images within this labyrinth of tunnels and chambers. (ride approx. 66 km).

Day 6
Leaving Pindaya we cycle to Kyone junction, then from here we continue over the hills to Ywar Ngan passing more fields and small villages. After lunch we will transfer the rest of the way to Mandalay.(ride approx. 54 km).

Day 7
An early start as we head out to one of Burma’s most iconic sights, U Bein’s Bridge. This teak bridge spans over a kilometer and is best seen at sunrise when villagers use it to begin their journey to work and fishermen below get ready for a day on the water. This is one of the most photogenic sights of the country and not to be missed. We then drive back to the hotel for breakfast before cycling to Mingun, the home of the largest uncracked bell in the world until 2000 at 90 tons. We will have the opportunity to climb a huge unfinished pagoda which suffered earthquake damage but whose flat surface is now an ideal spot for amazing river views. From here we board a boat and head back to Mandalay. (ride approx. 45 km).

Day 8
After driving to Myin Mu we cycle to Monywa visiting the Hindu style Thanbodday temple enroute. Thanbodday is one of Burma’s main attractions, yet like a lot of sites outside Rangoon, Mandalay and Bagan is seldom visited by foreign tourists. The site dates to 1303 and contains hundreds of gleaming gold-topped stupas. Inside, there are more than 500,000 Buddha images of all shapes and sizes. We will also stop at Boditahtaung pagoda, which houses the largest reclining Buddha image in the country, at 100m long and 27m high. Nearby is the largest standing Buddha in the world, Laykyun Setkyar. On arrival in Monywa the afternoon is free. There is an optional visit to Po Win Taung caves which consist of 947 sandstone caves dug out of the hills, that contain what is considered by archaeologists to be the richest collection of mural paintings and Buddhist statues in Southeast Asia. A few hundred meters away is Shwe Ba Taung where monasteries and temples are carved out rocky narrow cliffs. (ride approx. 60 km).

Day 9
Today is a mix of cycling, driving and a boat ride to Bagan. We start off cycling from Yezagyo after about a 2 hour drive, then on reaching Pakkoku we board a boat on the Irrwaddy River to the ancient wonder of Bagan (Pagan).
In Bagan there are over 4000 temples and pagodas in many shapes and sizes to explore amongst the 25 square miles of brick that compare to the Angkor kingdom of Cambodia, Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu as one of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites. This is where Buddhism, Hinduism and Nat worship come together in an array of different shrines. (ride approx. 45 km).

Day 10
This morning is spent exploring the temple complex spreading out as far as the horizon with its peaks of brick stupas that dot the skyline in many shapes and forms. Building commenced after the former Kings of Bagan introduced Theravada Buddhism in the mid-11th Century, a string of Kings followed building temples to worship their gods. Ananda Pahto with its bejeweled hti (umbrella), Dhammayangyi pahto and Shwesandaw Paya are the largest and most impressive sights we will visit along with the smaller hidden gems offering unique opportunities to climb and delve deeper into the history. We return to our hotel in the afternoon for free time, but will finish the day with sunset at Shwe Sandaw Temple with its stunning 360 degree views, don’t forget to look behind as the sun hits the many temples nearby, a truly magical experience and a photographer’s paradise. (ride approx. 42 km).

Day 11
Our scenic drive to Mt Popa takes in more stunning brick temples, before reaching the petrified forest that surrounds the extinct volcano. Perched high on the summit of the peak sits the Taungkalat Monastery displaying its 37 Nats (spirits) with frequent nat pwes (spirit ceremonies) held in their honour. One Nat, Ko Gyi Kyaw is adorned with whisky bottles because he was a heavy drinker, and this vice took him prematurely to his grave. He is the patron Nat of tramps and alcoholics. We take a brief hike up to the summit to pay our respect (not necessarily to Nat Ko Gyi Kyaw) before cycling back to Bagan through villages and quiet country lanes. (ride approx. 45 km).

Day 12
After a free morning we fly back to Rangoon. The bikes and your leader will be available this morning for one last optional ride to Kyuak Gu U Min north of the main temple area on the banks of the Irrwaddy for anyone who is interested. This temple has intricate stone carvings and is situated away from the main archeological zone, so here we can discover a different side of Bagan. (ride approx. 20-30 km).

Day 13
Rangoon sits under the shadow of the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, the most religious site within Burma that is said to contain eight hairs of the Buddha. As the stupa glitters in gold with 5500 diamonds and numerous other precious stones overlooking the city, life goes on in the busy streets to the south where we will explore dilapidated colonial edifices on our city tour. Chinatown offers plenty of photographic opportunities with its unpaved streets lined with old wooden shuttered houses, medicine shops, temples and the more colourful markets. Close by, we visit Shwe Bontha, perhaps the most photogenic of all streets in the city, with its leafy sidewalks, pavement tea-shops and magnificent colonial buildings. Finally our tour takes us to Lake Kandawgyi to view the glittering Karaweik replica of the Royal Barge before ascending to Shwedagon Pagoda for impressive views over Rangoon at sunset.

Day 14
End Rangoon.

Trip Profile

  • 11 days cycling with 95% vehicle support
  • Mostly good roads but with some broken tarmac and unsurfaced sections
  • Routes follow a mixture of back roads and a few main roads, but Burma lacks the heavy traffic of other Asian countries

Accommodation

13 nights standard hotels, all en suite.

Food

All breakfasts included.

Normal group size and age: Normally 6 to 16, plus local leaders. Minimum age 16.

Reality Check

This trip is classified Road and Activity Level 3. If you have any queries about the difficulty of the trip please do not hesitate to contact us.

Average daily distance: 45km (27 miles) No. of days cycling: 11 (including 1 optional ride) Vehicle support:95% – not available on the first warm up ride

Terrain and route: Routes follow a mixture of back roads and a few main roads, but Burma lacks the heavy traffic of other Asian countries. Burma is mountainous and there are a few tough climbs and long downhills in the first week, but vehicle support is always available. The second week is generally flatter between Mandalay and Bagan.

Depending on the time of the year, conditions will be hot and humid, but rests and water are on hand. Mountain bikes are ideal for this trip and flat bars are preferable, but a good strong tourer will suffice.

 


Price

From £1,849 GBP excluding international flights.

Dates

All departures below join in Rangoon on a SUNDAY – if you would like the flight included option with UK departures please request details.

 

  • Sun 11 Oct 15 – Sat 24 Oct 15
  • Sun 25 Oct 15 – Sat 07 Nov 15
  • Sun 22 Nov 15 – Sat 05 Dec 15
  • Mon 14 Dec 15 – Sun 27 Dec 15
  • Sun 03 Jan 16 – Sat 16 Jan 16
  • Sun 24 Jan 16 – Sat 06 Feb 16
  • Sun 07 Feb 16 – Sat 20 Feb 16
  • Sun 21 Feb 16 – Sat 05 Mar 16
  • Sun 06 Mar 16 – Sat 19 Mar 16
  • Sat 26 Mar 16 – Sun 10 Apr 16
  • Sat 09 Jul 16 – Sun 24 Jul 16
  • Sat 10 Sep 16 – Sun 25 Sep 16
  • Sat 08 Oct 16 – Sun 23 Oct 16
  • Sat 29 Oct 16 – Sun 13 Nov 16
  • Sat 12 Nov 16 – Sun 27 Nov 16
  • Sat 26 Nov 16 – Sun 11 Dec 16
  • Wed 14 Dec 16 – Thu 29 Dec 16

Important notes

Optional single supplement from GBP460

Local bike hire: Trek mountain bikes with front suspension GBP135, paid on booking

If you’re looking for a company with experience you can’t beat these guys. This operator started life in February 1974 when two friends got together to provide an overland truck to travel to the Minaret of Jam, deep in the heart of the Hindu Kush, the most inaccessible of the world’s great monuments.

For the company, and people who work for them “it’s all about adventure” which is what they were founded on and what they are still about today. Their trips take place all around the world where they help travelers to delve into local traditions, cultures, cuisine, lifestyles – anything that contributes to a country’ unique identity.

We love that their groups and guides travel courteously and respectfully, in smaller groups to minimise the impact, to ensure that every holiday is a beneficial experience for everyone involved.

There are many sensitive issues in returning to Burma and many questions asked about whether tour operators such should be going back following years of boycott.
Our operator for this trip has chosen to return since a press release from the National League for Democracy in May 2011 stated ‘the NLD would welcome visitors who are keen to promote the welfare of the common people and the conservation of the environment and to acquire an insight into the cultural, political and social life of the country’.
This statement echoes true with their long standing responsible tourism policy that states that they will design and operate holidays in a way that gives the highest degree of long-term economic benefit to the host communities, whilst also maintaining and/or improving the environment.

The operator has also taken advice from industry experts and organisations on their stance, Justin Francis the respected Managing Director of Responsible Travel and a leading voice in sustainable operations has endorsed tourism return stating ‘The message from Aung San Suu Kyi is clear – she only wants tourism that will help the people of Burma and the conservation of the environment’.

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