Burma by Bike

In January 2014 we went on our first ever organised cycling tour.  We enjoyed the trip to SW India so much that we decided to repeat the experience in 2015 with a similar trip to Myanmar (Burma). Read on to see if the second trip was as good as the first.

If you're unfamiliar with organised cycling tour holidays the format is as follows. It's a group activity where the holiday supplier (in this case Exodus) organises through an in country agent, the schedule, accommodation, equipment and logistical support for a cycling tour. Bikes are provided (although cyclists often bring their own seats, pedals and saddle bags), and support includes a tour leader, mechanic and drivers for back-up vehicles.  On the Myanmar trip support was particularly good and 11 cyclists were followed by a new air-conditioned bus and a truck accommodating some extremely well maintained Trex mountain bikes.
Organised cycle touring is addictive. Everyone on the Myanmar trip had been on previous tours and one couple was putting three tours together back to back. Interestingly not everyone cycled at home.

 The group consisted of four couples and three single people, two men and a woman. 8 of the group came from the UK, two from Norway and one from Australia. It was a very friendly group and as always sharing a fortnight with a new but surprisingly like minded group of people is one of the particular joys of this sort of holiday.
After decades of sanctions in the response to the then military dictatorship's human rights abuses Myanmar opened up to tourism in 2010 when Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party sanctioned responsible tourism. The country is now rapidly making up for lost time.  Given its limited experience, tourism is surprisingly well organised with hotels comparable to those in SW India.  It was my first trip to SE Asia and although generally speaking, I thought the food was excellent more experienced travelers told me it was not as good as Cambodia or Vietnam. January is definitely a good time to go, it's dry, not too hot and we didn't experience any real issues with mosquitoes who normally find my blood particularly tasty.

'Cycling in Burma' combines visits to most of Burma's cultural highlights with cycling.  There is a lot to see, but if you have absolutely no interest in Buddhist culture, then the visits to the stupas and temple's, and endless Buddha statue's could get a little tedious. The highlight for me was the exploration of the Inle Lake.  Famous for its fishermen who propel their boats standing with a leg wrapped around the oar, it includes stilted villages and crops growing on beds of water-lilies.  It's a stunning place.

Grey Lycra clad cyclists are as popular in Myanmar as they were in SW India and the welcome from adults and children alike is genuinely warm. Perhaps not quite as effervescent as the Indians it doesn't take much more than a smile or a wave to provoke a friendly Burmese response. Cycling through a busy countryside or even along the bustling streets of towns involves close proximity to a lot of people, something completely different to anything experienced in Europe, and is just great fun.  It can be dusty, noisy, dirty and smelly, but it's definitely not boring.

Exodus grade this trip as 'moderate' a little easier than last year's trip.  Although none of the days were longer than 55kms, pushing the mountain bikes up the two hilly stages in the middle of the trip was hard work.  Although generally not used the bus was always there to pick anyone up needed a break.

Although I preferred the lighter hybrid bikes used on last year's holiday to the thick tyred mountain bikes used on this trip, support was better. The crew was incredibly attentive and always turning up with tasty local delicacies and endless quantities of succulent sweet watermelon.

Although the Myanmar trip is better supported, SW India was a better holiday.  In particular, it built up to a lovely crescendo with the boat ride on the Kerala backwaters and the final nights at an Indian Ocean beach resort.  There are all the ingredients on the Myanmar trip for a really great adventure, but for me a few things let it down.   The balance between sightseeing and cycling wasn’t quite right - this was cultural trip with cycling attached - I think most people on a cycling trip want it the other way round.  The hotels were just a bit too variable, and given the high quality of some of them I think this is down to choice rather than availability.  The breakfasts for example, were generally fabulous, but dreadful in Bagan. Finally, although the food was good it was much better when Alex, the tour leader organised it.  Quite often on ‘free evenings’ we were left to find somewhere ourselves and even with the Lonely Planet guide this didn’t seem to work out so well.

So please Exodus have another look at this trip, it's already good, but with a few improvements it could be excellent.

For more detail have a look at the following:

Inle Lake - Burma by Bike
Shan Highlands - Burma by Bike
Mandalay - Burma by Bike
Monywa - Burma by Bike
To Bagan - Burma by Bike
3 days in Bagan - Burma by Bike


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    1. Hi Mark I organise my own trips in Europe but don't quite have the nerve to do it in SE Asia. As it happens we did see a guy from Scotland on a tour on his own and he was doing fine. It clearly is unusual however and he said he was being followed everywhere by some friendly policemen.

  2. That's great information. Thanks for sharing this blog. I did a search and found your blog and glowing review. It's been a big help! Thanx!

  3. In case you're new to composed cycling visit occasions the organization is as per the following. It's a gathering movement where the occasion supplier (for this situation Exodus) composes through an in nation operator, the calendar, settlement, hardware and logistical backing for a cycling visit. Bicycles are given (in spite of the fact that cyclists frequently bring their own particular seats, pedals and seat packs), and backing incorporates a visit pioneer, technician and drivers for go down vehicles.

  4. Great post!!!! I really enjoyed reading this blog post. Very useful information and informative post. I love this blog! It's fantastic!
    Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

  5. Thanks for sharing your great experience. Mayanmar (Burma) is a great way for riding but not to similar Europe or USA.