One of our favourite parts of the country was a section on the westbank of the Ayarwaddy river. Here we passed through a few small towns where the feeling was different, the food was interesting, the small markets were nice, there were small gold smiths, and a mix of religions. It was just a nice few days cycling through these towns.
Of course we had to visit Bagan, an area of Myanmar dating back to the 9th century. During the kingdom’s height between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the plains, of which the remains of over 2200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day. We enjoyed seeing the sun rise and set over the temples and cycling through the sandy paths to discover the next temple. We felt a bit like pioneers because it is not very hard to escape the tourist crowd. Just watch out for the prickly bushes when you go there because we both ended up with flat tires!
The country is mysterious, interesting and special and gaining popularity fast. At the same time we felt the country not that suitable for bicycle touring for us. Maybe our expectations were different from reality. Accommodation is expensive (although getting cheaper), there are still frequent control by police without uniform and camping is difficult. The country is not super scenic to cycle and roads are very dusty. At the same time we have the feeling that the difference between backpacking and cycle touring in this country is enormous. Which makes the option of cycle touring stand out positively. We say this because the majority of the touristy places have been open longer for foreigners and it is only recently that the countryside and smaller towns are open for foreigners. On a bicycle we come through the countryside and the towns where not many foreigners have been and it provides us a unique insight into the country and the culture. Actually it is mainly after leaving the country and reflecting on our time there that we feel this so strongly, because at the moment the dust biting did influence our motivation a bit.
Because Myanmar is a bit of a bottleneck where many different cycle roads come together and popularity to cycle this country is rising it is very possible to meet other cyclists. We have met approximately 20 other cyclists while in the country on long and on short trips, flying in and out or cycling from border to border.