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Asia up close - Burma by bike

Added 12 Dec 2012
Asia up close - Burma by bike

Tour Leader Mark Steadman led the first departure of Cycle Burma. Here he shares the highlights of the experience and conveys what it feels like to explore this enigmatic country on two wheels.

Challenging ascents, spectacular descents and easy-paced pedalling through traditional villages and hidden temple complexes; exploring Burma by bicycle adds a fifth dimension to adventure travel. Remove the sheen from windows and the hum of the engine, travelling by bicycle ignites the senses with the extraordinary sights, sounds and smells of South East Asia!

Our reward for swapping four wheels for two is the ability to leave the tourist traffic behind and enjoy crisp mornings cycling through a colourful patchwork of vegetable farms and sunset cycles through the rice fields; sharing backstreets with ox carts and teahouses with laughing locals.

Nine days of cycling and around 500km pedaled around this beautiful country – it’s Burma beyond the tourists. From smooth asphalt that leads up to the old British Colonial Hill Station at Kalaw to spectacular off-road carless tracks that wind to the amazing mountainside temples at Pindaya, every day adds something new to the mix. Away from the tourist trinity of Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake we get to experience the bizarre ‘Disney does Buddha’ complex at Monywa – more Buddha bling than a Tibetan Palace - beautiful botanical gardens at Maymyo, and stunning murals inside hidden temple complexes en route to Pokokku.

For me though, it’s the encounters with local people that make this experience so special. From the bemused look on villagers' faces as they see a cycling group for the first time, to the children running from schools to wave and cheer as we pass. From resting at friendly teahouses and enjoying local style lunch stops to pedalling through herds of cattle and among chugging ‘trucktors’ – small vehicles laden with fruit, vegetables and people.

There is the opportunity to rest those weary calves and thighs to enjoy sunset horse carts at Bagan, narrow boats on Inle lake and a day visiting the religious monuments of Mandalay. And there’s always the back-up vehicle to rest in if the undulations get a little too much! 

Burma by bicycle gives a unique insight into this fascinating country – it’s the most personal way of enjoying a country, its people and culture. From my own perspective, the adrenaline buzz of leading a tour in Burma from a solid 24-speed Trek bike has just made the best job in the world even better!

We offer two cycling holidays to Burma, Cycle Burma, which is graded as 'moderate', or our new 'easy' rated tour, Burma by Bike. Alternatively, find out more about our cycling holidays or view all tours to Burma.