There are worlds away from Yangon where the air tastes sparkling clean, where you can enjoy the sunrise, an adventure and be home in bed by sunset.
Jeff’s Jungle Bike Ride
The sun has peaked over the horizon at 6.30am as old friends, new friends ride to BikeWorld, Martin Street Yangon. Today, like every Sunday the crowd of fifteen or so, is venturing into the wilderness for a bike ride through the valleys of Myanmar. Better still, they’ll be home for a bath by 5pm.
It’s all aboard, bikes loaded onto the truck heading to a tea shop breakfast while Jeff, Fearsome Leader, briefs on today’s “Jungle Ride”: 19 miles around the Alaingni Dam.
It’s through valleys to begin, where the gentle smell of wattle blooming wafts through the air.
As the path narrows, you’re in someone else’s world, on a worn village track leading to rubber trees.
Deep into the jungle it’s you, your bike and the next rock blocking the narrow path, barely room for your wheel; any distractions a risk. Your world is nothing, nothing but dirt, potholes and unexpected turns.
The adrenaline pumps, the heat is unbearable.
At 18 miles you look ahead for a millisecond realizing you’re almost back at base, just one more push of the pedal, two, three, the pain is intolerable.
The bike lays beside the dam, as you wade into the pristine waters. It’s over, the adrenaline no longer pumps through the body, but drowns the mind. The best feeling ever.
There’s relief, joy from everyone and it takes hours to slip back into reality of life in Yangon. That’s why for most riders, Sunday’s the best.
BikeWorld: +95 (0) 95134190
Cost: $35 includes bike, helmet, transport, breakfast and guidance or $15 if you have your own bike.
The air is already humid at 7.10am when Dawei’s first flight from Yangon lands. The Tuk Tuk is waiting at the gates ready to launch an adventure of a lifetime.
The fog hangs over the river as 15-year-old Captain Hein Min Zaw rows upstream in his mom’s narrow wooden boat.
“There’s a sea eagle. I think,” said Kaung Htet Myat, Amazon Tours pointing to some shadow in the sky that’s gliding away from the sound of the village drums beat over the water.
Breakfast is laid out on a picnic mat on the rocky shore. This is the wake up needed as the journey picks up pace, but first Captain gives a lesson in skipping stones.
On the hills behind a tranquil Monastery you walk through the deep trenches of the first WWII battle between the British and the Japanese.
Almost lost in the shrubs is a bunker door, that’s today a place of peace not war. Through the long tunnel, a small altar sits in the dark. A place to pray that once was a respite for weary soldiers.
As the sun pelts the Tuk Tuk putts down the mountain to the spectacular San Maria Beach.
The open wooden restaurant is an oasis, with no-one but village women crouching near the water, hammering the sand to uncover cockles.
Yet lunch must wait until the saltwater has soaked into the skin. Kayaks wait on the golden sand as Daniel, Restaurant Manager, highlights the route. Out past the rocks where local fishermen throw their lines, and towards the bridge that leads to the stunning Myaw Yint Pagoda, “Waiting Point” that carries myths of love, tears and sorrow.
For kayaker’s, tears are sea droplets that spray from the oars of your unco-ordinated co-worker as she thumps the waves back to shore.
The reward is cold beer and curry crab that’s delivered to weary bodies lazing and chatting on the veranda.
Kaung Htet Myat reminds you, it’s time to leave. You’ll be in Yangon by 6.35pm.
Panorama Tours: 09450009860; $75 (includes Guide and local transport).
Nyaungdon: Seeking A New Path, Is Not To Be lost
“In Nyaungdon area, there is nothing much to do,” wrote Green Land Hotel. Then how has this region been the inspiration for Myanmar’s geniuses; writers, artists, and film directors?
As the thick haze of lifts, banana trees rise out of the muddy paddocks on the drive north-west of Yangon.
At Nyaungdon wooden boats chuff towards a crumbling jetty, as workers busily cart materials across the muddy shore.
Six monasteries, and four pagodas have been given life from the Irrawaddy. Spectacular as they may be, maybe what is memorable is not the golden pagoda’s but the locals you meet.
The renown catfish are nowhere to be seen at the Kyay Thoon pagoda, but climbing trees are three young monks who stop to instead make my camera their toy.
One boy takes photos as the others pose, blowing into the cockle shell that’s embedded in the hands of a statue.
Walking over the Irrawaddy Bridge we spot a lonely soldier watching curiously as we approach.
After a quick wave he walks onto the middle of the road, blowing his whistle to stop any cars that may appear from the horizon, just so we safely cross to chat.
He laughs shyly when asked for a photo and with pride in his work poses on the path over the Irrawaddy.