20 Sep 2017
Inle By Cycle

When Nandar was a child and her dad gave her a mountain bike, it was her absolutely best gift ever. As soon as she was able to, she spent about five days exploring the trails around the lake, to a point that she hurt so much from the riding and the falls that she had to throw the bike away in anger. Today, she is the only woman owner of a mountain bike tours and rental company in NyaungShwe. She would love to see a strong mountain biking community coming out in the area. Her only concern - all the infrastructure development is destroying all the single tracks around the lake, as they convert to motorable roads. She however does not stop discovering!

Did you know? The wine that is produced around Inle Lake is one of the best in Myanmar. The winery sits on the crest of a small hillock overlooking the lake, and makes a wonderful setting for some long tasting sessions. You might come back a bit tipsy after having truncated your ride right there, or even have to call the car to bring you back to the town!

Inle is the largest of a series of lakes in the middle of Myanmar connected by long canals, an hours flight away from the capital Yangon. Its communities live on its swampy edges on stilt houses, surviving on hydroponic agriculture and fishing. On its Northern banks is the touristic town of NyaungShwe, the start of every journey of discovery of this amazing geographic and cultural wonder!

Cycling is one of the best ways to discover Inle Lake - the Venice of the East. Starting at NyaungShwe, one can discover the secrets of this quaint town and visit the unique communities living on its banks on regular city-bikes. The more adventurous can spend between half a day to three days discovering the catchment area on surprisingly good quality mountain bikes, on trails at different levels of difficulty from green to black.

Two Must do rides

Lost in NyaungShwe | 2 hours

A two hours self guided cycling around Nyaungshwe, through its planned township and gradually going south towards the agricultural fields and communities that live besides, the ones just at the edge of tourism.

For this, hire one of the city-cycles or if you want to enjoy the ride, a mountain bike (just because its nicer when you hit a pothole on an agro road with a hard tail with a little suspension), go west on the high street, and turn left when you hit the main canal leading to the lake. Ride south till you reach some jeep tracks and single tracks and try and navigate your way looping back towards the eastern side of the township, using GPS tracks downloaded on your cellphone, or asking your way to the locals. You might get lost, but you are never too far way so eventually you will manage to find your way back. A perfect way to spend half a day.

Top Tip: Shell out a little extra to take a guide. You will take your mind off getting lost, and enjoy the ride. Possible discover a few more secrets you otherwise would not have!

Inle By Sunset

Start an hour or two before sunset. On city bikes, go east on the main stretch and ride the main road on the eastern banks to the small community of MaungThauk. Walk the half kilometre walkway connecting the two communities, one on  solid ground and the other on stilts, before hiring a boat back to NyuangShwe. Time it with sunset from the lake as you zip back.

On Mountain Bikes and guided, discover farm roads, jeep track and single tracks as you go via the Horse Club, the coffee house on top of a hill, the winery (do not stop if you want to experience sunset over the lake. Else, stop there for sunset, and just ride back), the hot springs and a host of small communities that live in the higher areas, and who have stunning views of the lake, before dropping out exactly at MaungThauk. Walk the half kilometre connecting the two communities and hire a boat back to NyaungShwe.

Top Tips

1. Go a bit early. Hire the boat back to the Western banks at KhaungDaing. Visit the roasted sunflower seed operations to understand how sunflower seeds are prepared, before riding back the roughly 10 kilometers back to NyuangShwe. Road and part single tracks options also exist here.

2. Extend the trip to a whole day, but stopping at the different points of interest, and spending time on a touring sort of trip!

3. Take a guide. Important to have the conduit between the culture and you. Well, if you want to understand more.

  • Tags: Adventure, Myanmar, Cycling
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