Myanmar is beginning to lift restrictions on domestic travel, much to the delight of both local and foreign residents. But while the airlines and bus lines have gone to great lengths to increase hygiene and decrease risk of infection, many travelers are weary of being stuck in a confined space with strangers.
For adventurers, a motorbike trip is a perfect way to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. While on a bike you are avoiding crowded places, breathing in well-ventilated air, avoiding touching your face and maintaining social distance. Not to mention there is the added benefits of being outdoors and traveling to lift your mood during this dreary time.
Motorbiking as a hobby has gained popularity here in Myanmar and, to meet the rising demand, several companies have emerged as reliable rental providers and tour operators. Here are our picks for the best weekend motorbike getaways and how to book them!
MANDALAY & SURROUNDINGS: Mandalay’s central location means it is well-positioned for great weekend trips. Head to Mandalay Motorbikes to pick up a motorbike. They have a wide range of options from fully-automatic scooters to Royal Enfield Himalayans and everything in between.
After picking out your bike, be sure to have a chat with the owner, Zach. Zach has been zooming around the roads of Myanmar for a decade and is always willing to share his knowledge and help customers plan the best route for their ability.
His favorite 2-day loop takes you out to Dee Dote waterfalls for a swim before climbing up a secondary road to Pyin Oo Lwin. The next day cruise around Pyin Oo Lwin before returning to Mandalay for the evening. If you prefer to get a few more clicks on the bike, ride along route 411 to Ywar Ngan and Pindaya on day one. Then wake up early on day two for a long but scenic ride through Yesawk and pass by Indaw Lake before reaching Nong Khiaw. Cruise in to Pyin Oo Lwin for the evening or, if your butt is not too sore, continue down to Mandalay. If you are looking for a more leisurely weekend trip, then base yourself in Mandalay and spend your days exploring the nearby historic towns of Inwa, Mingun and Sagaing!
SHAN & KAYAH STATES: The Shan State has all the right elements for a great motorbike trip. As Paul Cheron, co-found of M-Ride, sums it up, ‘The winding roads at different altitude and the small tracks, dusty or muddy depending on the seasons, make the area a nice playground. The variety of people and culture in Shan and Kayah is amazing.’
Keen to share their experiences of riding in the Shan and Kayah States with others, Paul and his friends Sai and Thi Ha, set up M-Ride in 2019. They offer packaged tours in the region include a guide, rental of a Royal Enfield 500cc bike, petrol, meals, accommodation, spare parts and a support vehicle to carry the luggage. If you don’t ride but still like the idea of a motorbike adventure, M-Ride’s Royal Enfields are comfortable enough to carry two people so you can hop on the back and let someone else do the driving!
M-Ride’s trips in Shan and Kayah State last between 1-4 days and start at 160 USD per person per day. The team can help you select the best route based on your interests and riding ability. Paul says that, ‘On our trips, every day is different. Riding on our Royal Enfield is not only comfortable but also gives you time to appreciate the journey. Over the years, we have acquired lots of experience, so we are able to maintain the right rhythm and standard for our guests to fully appreciate the journey.’ For more information visit www.m-ride-tours.com or email them on [email protected]
YANGON: Being a motorcycle enthusiast living in Yangon is not easy. The city’s ban on motorbikes plus the effort needed to get out of the urban sprawl make it a challenge to escape on a weekend ride. Discovery Rides is looking to change that by offering a full day dirt bike ride in the outskirts of Yangon. They have a fleet of Honda CRF 250s, the perfect bike for navigating Myanmar’s rougher roads, as well as essential safety equipment like helmets and protective padding for knees and elbows.
The trip, aptly named ‘Bamboo Forest Dirt Bike Tour’, starts at 08.30 AM at the Pansodan River where you load the bikes on a ferry boat to cross the Yangon River. From there, a short ride on good roads takes you to a forested region just south of Twante. Spend the rest of the morning riding on dirt trails that crisscross plantations, bamboo forests and meadows. The adventure continues through the afternoon then return to the main roads, ride back to Dala, cross the river to Yangon where you will say farewell to your guide and bikes.
Mario Basnet, Discovery Ride’s Adventure Manager, describes the ride as follows: ‘This is the great day out, especially because we are able to get out from the crowded city and ride into the Bamboo forest jungle trails which is a super exciting and interesting challenge.’
The tour is available daily, as long as there at least 2 guests signed up. The price of 100 USD per person includes bike rental, helmet, protective gear for elbows and knees, English-speaking guide, lunch and ferry tickets. If a group ride is not your thing or if you want to ride further afield, Discovery Rides offers self-driving multi-day bike rentals starting at 35 USD per day. For more information visit their website: http://myanmarmotorbikes.com/ or email [email protected]