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Join our Myanmar Adventure: Burma Family Cycling Tour to discover a less-travelled, more authentic side of Myanmar. Take the family on a cycling adventure, combining insightful cultural visits with fun, exploratory bike rides. Travel from historic Mandalay to Bagan by boat and bike with a stop in Yandabo pottery village, then onwards to the lush Shan Hills to pedal past elephants, hill tribes and Inle Lake. End of this amazing trip, returning back to Yangon where our two-week adventure concludes.
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DAY 01: MANDALAY ARRIVAL
Upon arrival in MANDALAY, you will be met by our Asia Senses local guide, then transferred to your hotel for check in. Depend on your actual arrival time, some soft sightseeing for an orientation tour is suggested.
After a short break at your hotel, pay a visit to craft shops includes marble masonry, jade and gold-leaf workshop. As a former capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is the centre of skilled craftsmanship. In the past, all skillful craftsman gathered in Mandalay, produced and supplied good to Royal Courts. Observe excellent quality Buddha images, the process of making the 0.00005 inch thick pieces of gold and watch gems being cut and polished.
Continue to Shwe Nandaw Kyaung (or Golden Palace Monastery) to marvel at its carvings, particularly the interior gilded Jataka scenes (past-life stories of the Buddha) and Kuthodaw Pagoda (also known as the world’s largest book), named after the 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist teachings.
In the late afternoon, climb up covered stairways to the top of 240 meters high Mandalay Hill and enjoy a spectacular sunset with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, Irrawaddy River, and city centre.
Enjoy a welcomed dinner at local restaurant. Return to hotel then free at own leisure.
This morning we cruise up the Irrawaddy River to Mingun. Unload the bikes and start our cycling to the main sites. Here lies what was intended to be the world’s largest pagoda before the death of King Bodawpaya. Standing at an impressive 50 metres of the intended 152, it is still a striking sight with a dramatic crack snaking down the middle after the earthquake of 1838. View the Mingun Bell which weighs 90 tons and is considered the world’s largest uncracked ringing bell. Then continue to the beautiful white Hsinbyume Pagoda, whose distinctive style is meant to resemble the mythical Mount Meru.
Following a short break, cycle to Sagaing Hill. Take in the wonderful views over the river and the rolling hills, which are studded with pagodas and stupas. On the hill we visit the ancient hill top Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda, the striking Thirty Caves Pagoda which has its thirty doorways, and the dome shaped Kaungmudaw Pagoda.
After lunch, ride onto Inwa, the capital of Myanmar from 14th to 18th centuries. It's well-known for religious structures left over from several reigns as the nation's capital, from the 14th to the 19th centuries. After a short ferry ride across the river, we visit the old wooden Bagaya Monastery and the remains of the Royal Palace and Fort. There are many small villages located amid Inwa’s ruins and, by riding we will get great glimpses of local life in the Burmese countryside.
Our final stop of the day is Amarapurna where we take a sunset stroll across the famous 1200 metre-long teak U Bein Bridge. On the way, we will visit handmade silk-weaving workshop which produces exquisite handmade products. Enjoy a stroll along the bridge and the fabulous views of Taungthaman Lake and the surrounding countryside.
Return to Mandalay late this afternoon and have the rest of your day at own leisure.
This morning, you will be transferred to the jetty and board a four-hour cruise down the Irrawaddy River to Yandabo Village. The village became famous after the Anglo-Myanmar Peace Treaty was signed in 1826. Today, it is famous for its pottery products.
Arrive at the village, check in your hotel and take a short break. Then head out to explore the village for a glimpse of the traditional Burmese way of life. Learn how the villagers make their famous terracotta pots from the riverside clay. Then try to make a traditional pot, or create a unique design by your own. Not only is this activity lots of fun, but it results in a fantastic souvenir as well!
Finish the afternoon off with a stroll by the river. As the sun sets, watch children playing in the water below and capture photos of the memorable moment.
Overnight in Yandabo Village.
Yandabo Home Hotel
DAY 04: YANDABO – MYINGYAN – BAGAN (CYCLING)
Cycling distance: 25 km - Difficulty: Easy
This day, we say goodbye to the Yandabo village, then jump on a 2-hour ride towards MYINGYAN (25km), located on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River. Have lunch at a local restaurant in Myingyan before being transferred to Bagan by coach. Upon arrival, check in and take a rest.
Lacquerware is a traditional local art of BAGAN. In the late afternoon, head out to visit Bagan’s oldest lacquerware shop to see how it's made. From there, take a relaxing ox-cart ride around Taungbi Village and observe daily life. Finally, proceed to a place to enjoy an incredible sunset. The sunset, with views across the plains studded with chedis and temples is an unforgettable experience.
Scores of exotic Buddhist temples are scattered across a vast dusty plain, making Bagan one of the most remarkable sights in Southeast Asia. Sitting on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, the temple-filled plain contains over 4,400 temples, pagodas and stupas.
The the half-day Bagan cycling tour today begins in the bustling river town of Nyaung-U to see the lively market in action and visit the glittering Shwezigon Pagoda, the simple Kyansittha Cave Temple and Manuha Temple which houses gigantic Buddha’s. Close by is the Nanpaya Temple, which was built by captive Thaton Kingdom King Makuta, and Ananda Temple, an existing masterpiece of the Mon architecture with four gold-leaf Buddhas.
The towering Thatbyinnyu Temple provides wonderful photo opportunities before heading over to Dhammayangyi Temple, a massive 12th century temple visible throughout Bagan. After taking a morning cycle around the Archaeological Zone, return to the hotel. This is good opportunity to cool down by taking a refreshing dip in the hotel pool.
In the afternoon, around 14:00, transfer to the local boat jetty for a sunset cruise. The boat heads to a sandbank in the middle of the Irrawaddy River where a table and chairs are set up. Enjoy snacks and drinks on a private ‘island’. This is also a great opportunity for the kids to fly traditional kites or build sand castles while the adults relax and enjoy the views. Return to the town just after sunset and transfer back to the hotel.
Depart the ruins of Bagan and head to the Burmese countryside. Along the way, you will see small fields and farmers who are working hard on their plantations. We also stop to visit a palm tree workshop, see how villagers get juice from palm tree, make candy, wine from palm juice. The palm tree plays an important role in Burmese rural life. Beyond creating juice and sugars for people, it’s also used for making household utensils, construction materials and medicine.
From here, begin to feel the road rising as the cycling tour begins an ascent towards the national park that encompasses MOUNT POPA, a now-extinct volcano. This is the most challenging stretch of the cycling trip, as it heads up a steep incline to reach the summit. For those who find the going tough, our support vehicle will be on hand to take the strain. The Mount Popa is known as the home of the “Nats” spirits among the locals.
The Popa Taungkalat shrine is the favoured home of 37 Mahagiri Nats or aminist spirit entities. These spirits are very important to the people of this region, especially during the Taungbyone Nat Festival Festival that takes place from May to June. To reach the top, you need to remove shoes and socks and climb the 777 steps to the summit.
After that, head to your hotel in Mount Popa to check in. Free at your leisure in the afternoon.
Overnight in Mount Popa.
Popa Mountain Resort
DAY 07: MOUNT POPA – ELEPHANT CAMP – KALAW
Today, you will be transferred to Kalaw via MEIKTILA, passing villages with more opportunities to observe the traditional lifestyle of the rural Burmese. Their life is lacking in many modern amenities yet the concepts of mutual help and cooperation are central to village life.
Make a stop in MAGWE to visit Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp before proceeding to Kalaw. Upon arrival, a specialist guide from the camp will greet and transfer us to the main camp base. Enjoy a welcomed drink while receiving a briefing on the day’s activities, the background of the camp and the history of elephants in Myanmar. Then take a short walk to the river, passing through a reforestation project set up by the camp and villagers. Observe elephant in their natural habitat, see the elephant bath and join with the mahouts to bath these gentle giants if you wish. After the walk, spend some time at the yard elephants. There is no better chance to learn about the elephants’ delicate diet and get a chance to feed them, under professional supervision.
Return to the main camp for lunch. In the late afternoon say goodbye to the elephants and mahouts and transfer to KALAW. This is a charming little town with a mix of local and colonial-style houses. The slightly higher elevation means that the air temperature is usually much cooler than much of the country.
Today we leave this charming town and start our cycling adventures through the Shan Hills. Before our cycling begins we transfer to the famous Myinmahti Cave, a natural cave system that has been created over thousands of years. The length of the main cave is 1028 feet along with many other small caves.
After visiting the cave, continue to our starting point for the day, NAUNG TAYAR, and hit the hilly roads! Our ride will see us surrounded by seasonal agriculture and Pa-Oh Villages, we will have plenty of opportunities to stop and interact with the friendly locals.
Lunch is served in the form of a lunch box near Mhawbi Bridge, the end point of our cycling for today. We then transfer by a long tail boat to SAMKAR, an ancient village existing on the eastern shores of Inle Lake. If time permits, we can visit Thar Khaung Pagoda Complex, a short walk from the shores of Inle Lake. Check in at your hotel and relax for the rest of day.
Overnight in Samkar.
Little Samkar Lodge
DAY 09: SAMKAR – NAMPAN – NYAUNGSHWE (CYCLING)
Cycling distance: 40 km - Difficulty: Easy
Today we start our next cycling challenge to NAMPAN. It’s an enjoyable scenic and leisurely ride with mountain views at the right and lake views to the left. Not only the farms of maize but also the cultivation of rice will be seen on the way. Upon arrival, have our lunch at a local restaurant.
This afternoon, embark on a long tail boat to see the INLE LAKE. Passing villages inhabited by the Intha people, who build their houses on stilts, and floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud and anchored to the bottom with bamboo poles. We will also see the iconic leg‐rowing fishermen of the lake who steer their boats with incredible balance.
Continue to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains 5 sacred Buddha images, and proceed to the village of Inpawkhone to observe the traditional silk weaving techniques of Innthar people. Inpawkhone is also known for its weaving from the stems of lotus flowers, a time consuming process that results in high quality materials famous throughout the country. We will also visit a cheroot factory where the local Burmese cigars are rolled by hand.
Then, we will head to NYAUNGSHWE, the main gateway to Inle Lake and transfer to the hotel. Free at leisure.
Join with local fishermen and observe their daily activities: fishing. They will show us how they use traditional techniques: rowing the boat with one leg while using both hands to fish, corral fish into their nets. These techniques take a lifetime to master the balance. If you want, you could try to catch some fishes for your lunch. Whether or not your fishing expedition is successful, this will be a memorable encounter with the Intha fishermen.
Afterwards, visit floating gardens on Inle lake. These gardens are a large part of the region’s economy as the produce is shipped to the four corners of Myanmar. Our guide will provide an insightful glimpse into how the gardens are created and harvested. We will have an opportunity to pick our own choice tomatoes for our upcoming lunch. If it’s open, visit Nampan Market and shop for the day’s menu.
Next, proceed to a traditional Inthar house at Tharlay Village where we will spend time preparing the dishes with a local family. It’s a unique chance to spend time with the locals and learn about their cuisine and culture. Together we’ll prepare local delights including Inle styled tomato salad and other Inthar dishes. Our lunch will be served on a low table and enjoyed by sitting on the floor the local way.
After lunch, continue to Khaung Daing Village on the lake’s western shores. This village is famous for its traditional Shan tofu – fried crackers and folded, triangular tofu treats. We’ll be able to watch (and perhaps participate!) as they sift the soy beans, boil them, mash them into balls then form tofu cakes to dry in the sun. This is a fabulous taste of local life on Inle Lake.
From there, we hop back on our bikes and ride to catch the sunset at Red Mountain Winery. You might not expect to find a vineyard in Myanmar. Upon reaching the winery, we enjoy wine tasting (grape juice for the kids) with expansive views of the lake below. Then, transfer back to the hotel.
You will be transferred to Ywama floating village to start a fun-filled kayaking adventure. Ywama is an accurate glimpse at the everyday lives of the local people, a lifestyle that has remained relatively unchanged for generations. Our guide will offer a briefing and we will take a short test ride before entering Ywama’s web of canals. Although Inle Lake is the 2nd largest lake in Myanmar, the water is shallow, allowing the local tribes to build entire communities on stilts ‘floating’ over the water. Paddle through these small waterways, under and around traditional floating homes. Kayaking has only recently been introduced to Inle, so be prepared for some odd looks from the locals.
After about half an hour, disembark for a trek through a lively local village. This trek showcases local workshops such as tofu making, blacksmith, and gold smith. There may even be a chance to learn a little about the traditional medicine of the Inthar people.
After exploring the village we head back to the kayaks. From here, continue paddling through the small channels of the village. We will stop at a local house for a cup of tea and sample a few traditional snacks. After some more paddling the trip concludes at the same local house in which it began. Afterwards, transfer back to Nyaungshwe. The rest of the day will be at leisure to stroll around the town or relax at the hotel.
This morning we fly to YANGON. On the way to Heho Airport, stop at the wooden Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery which features beautiful carvings and a collection of Buddha images. Upon arrival, you will be met by our local guide and transferred to the hotel in Yangon downtown. Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is a relatively quiet and charming city with an impressive colonial and spiritual heritage.
After a short break, visit the giant 70 metre-long reclining Buddha of Chaukhtagyi Paya at Chaukhtagyi Pagoda, which has a crown encrusted in diamonds and other precious stones. Then venture downtown to explore the city centre and its fabulous mix of architecture and sites. The streets are filled with historical buildings many of which have a faded colonial charm not seen elsewhere in Asia. We also visit the city’s religious buildings including the peaceful Sule Pagoda in the heart of the city, before wandering through Maha Bandoola Park, a pleasant park which is encircled by a host of colonial buildings and heritage sites, including Independence Monument, City Hall and High Court.
It’s onwards to Little India and Chinatown, a colorful cacophony of restaurants, temples and markets. Moving on we take a stroll around the colourful Bogyoke (Scott) Market, which sells an array of goods, including gemstones, handicrafts and clothes.
NOTE: The market is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Later this evening we visit the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar, the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, where locals gather to make offerings and prayers. Standing at 90 metres tall, the gold leaf central stupa dominates the city’s skyline and turns vivid hues of yellow, orange and red when the sun begins to set.
Today is the final day to do some exploration on bikes! The day starts with a short transfer to Kyi Myin Daing Train Station for a 2- hour scenic train ride in the outskirts of Yangon. Have the opportunity to see colorful bustling markets and watch local people go about their daily routine. This fun local train ride will give you an unforgettable experience.
Upon reaching the small station called Wanat Chaung, pick up your bikes and set off on a loop. Leaving the station, cycle through trails and villages that rarely see tourists. The ride offers great views of the paddy fields as well as a fun chance to interact with locals along the way. The scenery is remarkably different from nearby Yangon, with many trees, local neighborhoods and green fields filling the area. After a 13km ride, take a break for lunch at a basic local restaurant.
After lunch, proceed to the Phu Gyi Reservoir, a great spot for some decent photo opportunities. Phu Gyi Reservoir is one of the main water resources for Yangon city. Take a leisurely ride on the 3km long reservoir bank and breathe in the fresh air. Then continue cycling to the famous Pan Ta Pwint Taung Monastery and through a forest of rubber trees until returning to the start point. Finally, transfer back to Yangon. After freshening up at the hotel, celebrate our farewell dinner at a local restaurant.