Bike Aways

Biking Burma: The Road to Inle

October 16-24 2017
Booking deadline September 1
Cost USD 2280
Single supplement 420
Max Group size 12 . Minimum 2

MANDALAY – AMARAPURA – SAGAING – AVA– MYINGYAN – MOUNT POPA – KYAUK PADUANG – BAGAN – HEHO – PINDAYA (SHAN STATE) – INLE LAKE.

More famous then Burma’s last royal capital is the way there: the Road to Mandalay. 

We go the opposite direction — from Mandalay travelling progressively back in time to the ancient Buddhist Kingdoms on the plains of Bagan, and to the (succeeding) Shan Kingdom up in the hills with its stunning Inle Lake
A more favourable direction for a bike ride, the road to Inle follows the Irrawaddy River along a historic route so decorated with pagoda’s, sacred mountains, spirit homes, and ancient kingdoms, that bike is the only way to take in the landscape without becoming overwhelmed.

Spire-fringed skylines, golden sikaras, crumbling ruins, toddy palms, sunsets on the river, monks on teak bridges, buddhas and bougainvilleas, cotton trees, temple macaques, bullock carts and horse drawn carriages – Upper Myanmar is old Asia, romantic and exotic and a feast for the senses served up with the serenity of travel by bike and boat.

And if you’re in the know, the food is great! Local authentic, home-cooked meals are a highlight, Check out the descriptions of some highlight meals in the section titled A saar a saa. This means food style in Myanmarese, and there are some really special meals and food experiences built into this unique itinerary.

Join us for the “cool season” ride this October.  Fields are still green from the recently ended monsoon and weather-wise, it is the perfect season to ride the road to Inle.

Email: bruce@bikeaways.com to reserve your place.

Itinerary
DAY 1: ARRIVAL DAY IN MANDALAY

Indulge in the romance of one of travel’s most evocative place names: Mandalay.

BYO pith helmet, a bottle of gin perhaps, and get nostalgic over the exotica of empire. Or more to the point, get nostalgic over the last Burmese royal empire, sacked and taken over by the British in1885, the royal family exiled to make way for what became Britain most colonial outpost.

For the Burmese Mandalay remains the cultural and spiritual capital of contemporary Burma. It’s definitely worth arriving a day  early to explore the “Glass Palace” (also a great book), The Teak Shwenandaw Monastery and  the sacred Kuthodaw Pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

In the evening you will meet your fellow riders over a welcome drink at the hotel.  Test your bike out with a pedal about town before dining at our favourite Mandalay restaurant.

Meals: Dinner
Accommodation: 3 star hotel with character, in the middle of the city near the moat. Can walk to beer stations, tea shops.

Breakfast at a Tea Shop – Mandalay Style.

A saar- A saa: Rub elbows with the locals at a lively ‘beer station’, an open-air restaurant selling draught beer and barbeque. Mandalay is famous throughout Myanmar for its beer stations and we will chose one of the most popular. Dine on a selection of grilled meats and vegetables all washed down with ice-cold Myanmar beer.

 

 

DAY 2: AMARAPURA – SAGAING – AVA – MYINGYAN

We bike out early, to beat the traffic and catch the monks on their way back to their monasteries after the early morning alms collection.
The U-Bein Bridge at Amarapura – one of the most iconic images of Myanmar is our destination. Spanning 1.2 kilometres across the Taung Thaman Lake, this is the world’s longest teak bridge, and one of the most picturesque.

Crossing the Irrawaddy River, one of Asia’s greats. we cycle onward to the stupa-filled hills of Sagaing, former capital of an independent Shan kingdom in the early Fourteenth Century.

A short climb pays off with birds eye views of Mandalay City and the Irrawaddy below.

White and gold pagodas are cloned throughout the hills — a down hill cruise the best way to drink in this spiritual landscape.

Cross the Dokthawaddy River ( ‘Small River’) by another picturesque bridge, then another time by local ferry, we cycle along to Ava, a famed royal city formerly known as Inwa.

Four times the capital of Upper Burma. Ava is now a pastiche of farmlands, crumbling ruins and rustic villages well suited to exploration by bike.

Dirt trails and small back roads make for a fun ride.

We transfer to our hotel in Myingyan late in the afternoon for a special visit to the resident mummy — an enlightened monk called Sunlun Sayadaw Arahant whose body has been preserved since 1952.-one of many opportunities throughout the day to begin to understand what Buddhism means in contemporary Myanmar.


Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cycling 60 km
Accomodation: Clean comfortable rooms 2 star hotel, with hot water.

Bayah Ktoh (Burmese Pakoras)

A saar A saa: After an amazing morning of riding we refuel with a picnic of homemade dishes made by Daw San Ye, the mother of one of our mechanics. Tuck in to a spread of salads and curries served out of tiffin boxes, just like the locals take to school. We will make sure to find a shady spot off the tourist trail to enjoy our feast! 

 

 

DAY 3: MYINGYAN – MOUNT POPA

We set off early this morning to make the most of the cool morning air. The contrast of landscapes is dramatic as we ride into the heart of Myanmar’s ‘dry zone’. At 60 kilometres, we hit the base of Popa, an extinct volcano that is home to many spirit gods — the equivalent of Greece’s Mt Olympus for Burmese people. A short uphill brings us to lunch in a family home, whilst another steep climb brings us to our hotel with …drum roll… an infinity pool overlooking the plains!

Relax in your pool whilst the pilgrims slog it out below.

You deserve it! Or maybe you don’t, and need a penance….Another 777 stairs up the pedestal-like volcanic plug, Taung Kalat, carefully making your way past the grimacing macaque, to pay homage to a brotherhood of spirits called Nats.

37 Great Nats were “recognised” during the 11th century as high-status humans, all but one called Thagyamin who perished in violent or painful circumstances.

Offerings of money are left at the shrines located on the summit, though Min Kyawzwa, a nat known for alcoholism, is most commonly honoured with whisky instead.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Cycling: 70 km
Accommodation: Mountainside Bungalows. with gardens, fabulous views and a spring-fed infinity pool.

Bike Aways Burma Myanmar

Home grown and Home cooked at Ma Paw Paw’s.

A saar A saa: Ma Paw Paw invites us in to her home today for lunch. Although many tourists come to visit Mt Popa and it’s famed nat shrine, few take the time to explore the neighborhoods that surround. We will pedal through dirt tracks, passing fruit trees aplenty before reaching her traditional wooden house. Seated on the floor around a low, circular table we dine just as the family would do. And of course fresh, locally grown produce features highly on the menu!

 

DAY 4: MOUNT POPA – KYAUK PADUANG – BAGAN 

Bike down Popa faster than the nats can curse you for not leaving your duty free gin at their shrine. We stop in Kyauk Padaung for a visit to the vibrant local market, taking tea at a popular tea shop. Tea is a big deal in Myanmar, and tea-shops have always been associated with the resistance in the dictatorship years.

It’s a gently rolling terrain that takes us to our next beverage stop — a toddy farm on the outskirts of Bagan. Toddy is the afternoon brew of the locals, a sweet wine made from the liquid of the toddy palm.

Upon reaching Bagan we’ll have a late lunch, check in to the hotel and enjoy a short rest before heading out to watch the classic Bagan temple-top sunset.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Cycling Distance: 70 km
Accommodation: Old fashioned but charming bungalows around a small pool. Rooms are large and with hot water and air con.

Fresh healthy snacks, including tamarind sweets, are laid out in shady oasis’s by our crew to keep you pedalling on.

A saar A saa: All throughtout Myanmar’s dry zone, rows of tall skinny toddy palms can be spotted. But you may be surprised at what this humble tree has to offer. Our last snack stop of today finds us at one of these farms. In addition to our spread of fruits and local snacks from our crew, we can sample a molasses-like candy made from the juice of the tree and the strong but smooth alcohol that results from a unique fermenting process (just drink in moderation as we still have about 25km to pedal after!


DAY 5: BAGAN BY BIKE & BOAT 

Bagan, Pagan, Pugan or my favourite Arimaddana-pura lit. “the City that Tramples on Enemies” is probably the most amazing pagoda-peppered landscape you will see in your life. People wanting to sell you post cards and oil paintings will chip away at that sense of wonder, which is why mountain bikes are an awesome way to take in the splendour.

Dhammayangyi and Ananda Temples, supreme temples from an architectural point of view, are a must-see, but travelling down smaller off roads and sandy pathways takes you back in time like no other mode of exploration.

Two hundred thousand people once lived amidst the 1000 stupas, 10,000 small temples and 3000 monasteries. Mongols, and earthquakes reduced this to a small sca

ttering of active functional temples and villages, and eery but fascinating ruins.

Late this afternoon, we board a private river boat for a sunset cocktail cruise on the Irrawaddy ll the way to Kyauk Gu U Min, a remarkable cave-temple far away from the main temple zone.


Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Cycling Distance: 30 km
Accommodation: As above

A saar A saa: Is there anything better than a sunset booze cruise? Nope. But this one is special thanks to rum sours made with the delightfully delicious local Mandalay rum (the Brits may have made some mistakes in Myanmar but introducing rum sours was not one of them) and amazing vegetable tempura with tangy tamarind-infused sauce.

 

DAY 6: FLY BAGAN TO HEHO, BIKE TO PINDAYA 

A short  and early morning flight takes us to Heho, in the heart of Shan State where our bikes will be waiting. The ride to  Pindaya provides a great introduction to the diversity of this region. Rolling hills  fringed with pine forests are a patchwork of produce from this vegetable basket of the North. The farmers of  the Shan plateau are of many and varied ethnicities including the  Danu or Pa-Oh ethnic groups, recognisable  from their traditional dress and tattoos . Taking our time across this beautiful,  cooler mountrainscape, we will take advantage of the pleasant cooler climbs stopping for a picnic lunch along the way.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Biking Distance: 38 km

Accommodation: Family-run inn. Simple clean rooms and friendly staff with traditional breakfast food. Hot water showers but few other amenities.

Myanmar’s famous tea salad.

A saar A saa: Farm to table is no trend in Shan state. Its how people pretty much live on a day to day basis.
After pedaling past farms growing all sorts of produce, we pop in to a local house for a lesson in making
le pet thoke, Myanmar’s unusual but delicious tea leaf salad.
Using leaves grown in the area, make a delicious plate of ‘salad’ accompanied by freshly brewed local tea.

 

DAY 7: PINDAYA – AUNG BAN – INDEIN; BOAT TO NYAUNG SHWE

We begin the day at the Shwe Oo Min Caves, exploring the thousands of Buddha images in hidden cave chambers.  Then its onward we to Kalaw, former hill station of the Brittish, as well as a  rail head and market town for many of the ethnic minorities who make up the Shan State. We cycle  through hilltribe villages and pine forests enjoying breath-taking viewpoints along the way. A fun downhill ride takes us to to the wetlands , and the narrow canals that feed into Inle, the famed lake farmed  by the Inthe tribes, known for their stilt homes, their floating gardens, and their peculiar method of rowing a boat with a single foot whilst casting their fishing nets.

On the far end of the lake we  trade the bikes for boats at this and cruise across Inle Lake toward to town of Nyaung Shwe.

Overnight in Nyaung Shwe
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Biking Distance:80 km (or 40km if preferred).
Accommodation: Large, well-lit rooms; good location not far from town; comfy, modern amenities

 A saar A saa: For dinner this evening we will feast on more locally-grown delights. We will sample fish from Inle Lake itself as well as tomato salad made from ones grown just a few kilometers away on the ‘floating gardens’. Fresh flavours, yummy cocktails. Life is good

 

 

DAY 8: BIKE & BOAT INLE 

We ride the lake’s eastern shores at a relaxed pace, enjoying the views as we get a feel for life on the land around the lake. Jumping aboard a private wooden motorboat, we then head into the stilted villages and floating gardens, enjoying a day on the water . There are villages, temples, workshops, restaurants, bars and boats of all kinds upon the lake to explore as we make our way across the lake back for our final night in Nyaung Shwe.

Back on dry land we have a farewell dinner.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Biking Distance: 25-40 km

Accommodation: Large, well-lit rooms; good location not far from town; comfy, modern amenities

DAY 9: DEPART FROM HEHO

Heho is the end point of the trip, and  we have included a group transfer to the He Ho airport with a Nyaung Shwe-based car and Mandalay guide.  Let us know your onward travel plans. Flights from He Ho depart for Mandalay, Yangon, or  you can even fly to Kyaing Tong then travel overland into Chiang Rai Province in Thailand. We can arrange domestic flight bookings with advance notice.

Meal: Breakfast 

Includes

8 nights’ Accommodation in a shared twin/double room unless single supplement is selected.

English-speaking Biking Guide

Mechanic on biking days

Bike and helmet rental

Snack breaks on cycling days

Private transportation for all included excursions and support vehicles on cycling days
Flight from bagan to Heho

Entrance fees for all included excursions

Meals as mentioned in program with purified water

Tips for included meals and hotel porters

Myanmar sales tax

Bank transfer fees

Not Included

Myanmar visa

International flights

Tips for guide (USD 5 per person per day, mechanics and driver USD 3 per person per day)
Drinks at meals (wine, espresso, etc), laundry, shopping and other personal expenses

Any excursions not mentioned in program

Arrival and departure transfers

Contact

bruce@bikeaways.com
www.bikeaways.com

1F 30 Ta Ho Tun Ha Wai, Saikung, NT, Hong Kong.

The better images on this page are slices of much larger and much more stunning prints by Jillian Mitchell and all available on
http://imagesbyjillian.photoshelter.com/index