Lekker Adventures takes you off the beaten track to the best sights of Myanmar; on back roads and along secret trails. This is an intimate and thoroughly enjoyable way to experience the warmth and friendliness of the people of Myanmar, its scenic beauty and ancient temples and cities.
Here are interesting facts about the places you’ll visit when you cycle around Myanmar with Lekker Adventures…
Day 1: Arrive in Mandalay
Mandalay is the second largest city in Myanmar and situated about 600km north of Yangon on the Ayeyarwaddy River. This historical old city was the capital of the last independent Burmese kingdom. Today it is the major trading and communications centre in the northern and central region, and an eclectic mix of modern conveniences and ancient cultural beauty. Your holiday to Myanmar begins in the commercial heartland of the country.
The once grand Mandalay Palace was the residence of the last Burmese monarchy; built by King Mindon between 1857 and 1859 who designated Mandalay to be the new royal capital city. It was named after Mandalay Hill that now overlooks the sprawling urban landscape. The hill is a sacred site as it is believed that Lord Buddha prophesied that a great city, the metropolis of Buddha, would lie at its feet. King Mindon ensured his prophecy came true.
The palace ceased to be a royal residence during the British colonial era when troops of the Burma Field Force captured the royal family and turned it into their military headquarters (known then as Fort Dufferin).
During World War II, the Japanese installed a military camp in the city. The allies relentlessly bombed the city until nothing was left of the ancient palace buildings. A replica of the palace was rebuilt in the 1990s and today it is a major tourist destination.
It is a busy city and a great place to shop. Mandalay Zaycho is the main market place where you can buy everything from acheik (silk garments), hto moat (greasy cakes), laphet (picked tea leaves) and kadipar slippers (velvet slippers). You can also enjoy a vast array of excellent restaurants that serve both local and international cuisine.
Day 2: Mandalay – Amarapura – Mingun – Mandalay
Explore the former capital of Myanmar, Amarapura. Its name means “city of immortality” and was historically referred to as Taungmyo (Southern City) due to its location to Mandalay. It was twice the capital of Myanmar during the Konbaung period before finally being supplanted by Mandalay.
Today it is a popular tourist destination for day-trips from Mandalay and known for its traditional silk and cotton weaving and bronze casting. Many of the people living in Amarapura have migrated from the countryside in search of work. The township is surrounded by paddy fields where rice and peas are grown.
Amarapura was founded by King Bodawpay of the Konbaung Dynasty and became the centre of Buddhist reforms and learning. The palace buildings were dismantled on command by King Mindon and used to rebuild Mandalay after it was depleted during the Second Anglo-Burmese War. The city walls were pulled down and used to build roads and railways. It officially ceased being the capital in 1859.
A highlight of a holiday to Myanmar includes a walk along U Bein Bridge. This 200 year-old teak bridge is over 2 kms in length and offers fabulous views of the surrounding farms and streams.
Day 3: Mandalay – Pyin Si – Meiktila
Discover the magic of Meiktila, a city that is centred around a lake and is home to several well-known pagodas, Buddhist temples, shrines and museums which are located in the two largest cities and the ancient city of Pagan.
Meiktila was a vital centre of communication for Central Burma. The Japanese used it as strategic base for supplies, a hospital and maintenance units. Its presence prevented Slim’s Fourteenth Army from crossing the Irrawaddy River and acted as a line of defence on the Mandalay front.
Lake Meiktila is a big drawcard to the region. It sustains life for millions of subsistent farmers and fishermen, and dates back to ancient times. It is affectionately named the Royal Lake as it supplied water to royal residents when Meiktila was once the royal capital of Myanmar. Today, the people living at the lake depend on it to irrigate their lands and to harvest fish.
The lake is divided into two portions, namely the northern and southern portion. One portion is heavy silted but the other one is crystal clear. Dams have been created to control the flow of water to avoid flooding that would destroy crops that are cultivated along the shores of the extensive lake.
The route you cycle to Meiktila takes you through Pyin Si Junction. Take in the scenic beauty of the area and observe the rural people going about their traditional lives.
Day 4: Meiktila – Popa
The scenic ride to Popa Mountain Resort takes you through scenery that is spectacularly different. It located in one of the most arid regions, with landscapes filled with toddy palm fields. Watch men nimbly climb the palm trees to collect the juice used to make jiggery (liquor).
Located in central Myanmar, Mount Popa is the core of an extinct volcano that was last active 250,000 years ago. Numerous Nat temples and relic sites sit atop the mountain and it is regarded as a sacred pilgrimage site. Nats are spirits worshipped in conjunction with Buddhism.
The area has also been designated as a National Park and is referred to as the “oasis of the dry zone’. The natural springs, flowers and wooded hillsides of this area are in stark contrast with the dry surrounding lands. The climate is also totally different from neighbouring regions.
On the southwest side of Mount Popa is Taung Kalat (Pedestal Hill) – a sheer-sided volcanic plug. A Buddhist monastery is located at the summit of Taung Kalat which can only be reached by climbing a stairway of almost 800 steps. The steps were once maintained by the Buddhist hermit U Khandi.
Day 5-6: Popa – Bagan
A leisurely ride along Byatta Pan Sat Road takes you to the delightful region of Bagan. A whole day is dedicated to exploring the area, home to one of the finest collections of temples in South East Asia.
Formerly known as Pagan, the remnants of the historical walled city are located on the left bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the 9th to 13th centuries and was the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later become modern Myanmar.
The kings who reigned during this era created the fundamental structures to govern the social, economic and administrative system. Bagan was a sophisticated city of wealth and power and drew people from neighbouring areas who came in search of jobs and prosperity.
Over 1 000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in this era of which only 2 200 have survived. The best thing about Bagan is it isn’t overrun by tourists so you can get a real sense of the peace and tranquillity of ancient times.
The archaeologically-rich zone is equal in significance to the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Not surprisingly, the region is affectionately referred to as the ‘sea of temples’ and includes famous temples such as Ananda Temple, Thatbinnyu Temple, Htilominlo Temple, Myinkaba Gubyaukgyi Temple and famous Shwezigon Pagoda.
Ananda Temple is a popular attraction and one of only four surviving temples in the area. Built in 1105 AD, it’s one of the best preserved of all the Bagan temples and revered as a sacred pilgrimage site. It is said to be an “architectural wonder in a fusion of Mon and adopted Indian-style architecture”. Some affectionately refer to the temple as the “Westminster Abbey of Burma”.
Four huge Buddha images stand guard, each one facing the cardinal direction of east, west, north and south. Eighty reliefs that depict the life of Buddha from his birth to enlightenment make it a fascinating pit-stop. Ananda Temple was damaged in an earthquake in 1975 but it has been fully restored and is well maintained.
Legend has it that the builders of Ananda Temple lost their lives tragically when King Kyanzittha gave orders to have them killed. The King was so pleased with the architectural skills of the monks and the unique features of the temple that he ordered their deaths so that no other similar temple could be built.
Day 7: Departure
The end of your Myanmar cycle tour with Lekker Adventures finds you back in Nyaung U (pronounced Nyaung Oo) township in the Mandalay region of central Myanmar. It is only 4 kms from old Bagan and Shwezigon Pagoda is located there. It’s the international gateway to Bagan and the surrounding areas.
Lekker Adventures will have treated you to a visit to the famous Nyaung U market and one of the many establishments on ‘Restaurant Row’ (Yarkinnthar Hotel Road). After a hard day’s cycle and many temples later, all you want to do is relax and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and delicious cuisine.
Nyaung U is a charming town with loads of atmosphere and a fine place to end an incredible travel experience. And with free WiFi in most restaurants, you can immediately start planning your next travel adventure with Lekker Adventures.
Experience the sights and sounds of Myanmar. Lekker Adventures specialises in providing you with the complete travelling experience to Myanmar. Click here to find out more about travelling to Myanmar with the assistance of Lekker Adventures.