I really love exploring a new place by bicycle. I’ve had memorable rides in many places from Lijiang in Yunnan, China, Luang Prabang in Laos, Cochin in Kerala, India to Kyoto Japan.
Rest assured, I have no desire to embark on any epic bike trip around the globe. Nor do I like a full day of riding. For me the relaxed afternoon ride between 4-6pm is ideal.
The beauty of the bike ride is that it gives you the freedom to be more intrepid when it comes to discovering a new area. Make a wrong turn when you are walking and it’s a real pain in the ***. With the bike, no problem, just cycle on out of there!
We’ve been for a few rides so far in Burma. The first one was to explore the temples of Bagan. Around 2000 ochre-coloured temples of varying shapes and sizes are dotted throughout the dry plains west of Mandalay. We cycled on sandy pathways, stopping at pagodas along the way, cooling off in the cavernous interiors of the ancient structures.
We arrived at the best pagoda for viewing the sunset with just enough time to climb the almost vertical narrow stone stairs on the exterior of the temple to the top. Most people arrived by tour bus. Definitely not as satisfying as navigating your own way by bicycle!
On another occasion we headed down a road leading us out of Nyaung Shwe, a small town next to Inle Lake, unsure of where it would take us. With the sun low, we rode past open fields with farmers wearing wide-brimmed straw hats working the land with bullocks.
After 30 minutes of riding we came across a sign for Red Mountain Winery – a winery in Myanmar? Really? The sign said it was open from 9-4pm (it was now 5:30pm) but undeterred we headed up the steep windy path. The view from the top was stunning, rolling hills covered with grape vines, with the occasion glint of a golden stupa in the far distance and lnle Lake shimmering on the horizon. I jokingly said – “hmmm a glass of sauvignon blanc would be very nice right now”.
Amazingly, ten minutes later we found ourselves seated in an open-walled, terrace restaurant sampling the winery’s sauvignon blanc, rose, tempranillo and desert wine* – all for the lovely price of around AUD$5. A very unexpected but most welcome end to an afternoon bike ride!
*The tempranillo was disappointing but the sauvignon blanc was lovely