The instigators of this ritual are Jeff and Soe Soe, owners of the Bike World guesthouse and bike shop. Even if you already have a bike, their store is stocked with brand-name mountain bikes and gear and the staff really know their way around spokes and frames and pedals.
Bike World also gives you a chance for off-road rides on Yangon’s outskirts. The Sunday morning mountain biking starts at the brutal but rewarding time of 6:30am and ends just after a late lunch about 3:00pm. The route begins 30 miles (about 48 kilometres) from Yangon at a teashop serving a traditional Burmese breakfast. Riders head from there along back road roads and through villages. Rubber plantations and high-fiving children line the path to a faux Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock on a lake, before ending 15-18 miles from the start.
There is always a mechanic along for the ride, as well as a guide who carries a first aid kit. It’s a great deal at only K10,000 for the day, or K20,000 if you need to rent one of the bikes. If you’re looking for something more intense and longer to get your fix, Bike World leads tours from Yangon to Mt Popa and to Chin State.
If you’re on the tourist trail in Mandalay, the best way to get off of it is a half-day ride through the countryside. Grasshopper Adventures offers “Magnificent Mandalay Mornings” that take you away from the chaos that clogs Mandalay’s roads. It also offers a “U Bein Sunset Ride” that takes you through Buddhist and Muslim villages and ends with a beer on a boat beneath the U Bein bridge at sunset. Both routes take you past workshops, historical sites and picturesque spots, lead by a local guide. If you’re feeling lazy or just hungry, Grasshopper Adventures also offer a “foodies tour” which involves travelling in a sidecar trishaw and stopping at teashops to sample some of the best regional food.
In Bagan, ebikes and bicycles are becoming popular because they are an easy and efficient they are to get around, along with cheap rental fees. For anyone needing something better than a local bike, Grasshopper Adventure also rents bikes and runs a half-day tour around Bagan. The flat land on the temple-studded plain beside the Ayeyarwady makes for an easy and fascinating two-wheel adventure.
Let’s not forget the true adrenaline junkies with a death wish: the local Yangoonie cyclist. There are a couple of good day trips from Yangon that get you out from between those bumpers. The first starts on a ferry to Dala and ends with a beer on the ferry back from Dala. The middle part consists of morning markets, country roads and for those ambitious and strong-legged bikers: the Snake Temple. Be sure to take tyre tube patches.
Another day trip from Yangon that combines history and a good workout is a visit to the Taukkyan War Cemetery, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The cemetery honours the memory of more than 33,000 Allied soldiers killed in the Burma campaign during World War II. The ride itself is a straight 10 miles from Yangon on the busy, noisy Pyay Road, so wear a mask if you have one.
#4/3 Mya Sandar Lane, between Streets 24 & 25, and Streets 62 & 63, Aung Myae Thar Zan Township
T: (09) 402659886
10F Khapaung Road, Yangon
T: (09) 51 527636
This Article first appeared in the January 1, 2015 edition of Mizzima Weekly.
Mizzima Weekly is available in print in Yangon through Innwa Bookstore and through online subscription at www.mzineplus.com