“Travel this Thadingyut” is a series of articles to help you choose your next destination during the upcoming holiday. Special thanks to our friends in the travel industry for sharing ideas and offers. Happy holiday!
The Great Bicycle Bazaar
“Si lo ma ya bu. Si lo ma ya bu.”
The fishermen repeated this again. Shaking heads, lips tightly gripping cheroots.
No way for bicycles. No way for bicycles.
Team Sampan had heard it a lot that day. To their cycling companion, it was merely a challenge to be overcome. She turned to them with one eyebrow raised.
It was April 2023 and they were cycling from Ngapali to Gaw Yan Gyi. Three hundred kilometres down the Myanmar coastline in 5 days.
They started on Day 1 at the crack of dawn. Their friend Ko Tuppi from Ngapali met them for a breakfast of Rakhine noodles and then took them through small fishing villages and along the shorelines of small bays. Tuppi left them at the main road. Day 1 had the best road all day but was also the longest. They were soon tiring and making their way through Myanmar’s wide selection of energy drinks: Speed, Horn, Fire Dragon. They arrived mid-afternoon at Arakan Nature Lodge. Despite weary limbs, the tales of the other guests who had spent the day in Thingyan traffic, convinced them that they had made the right choice.
Day 2 they cycled 25 kilometres to the town of Gwa and then another 25 beside an uninterrupted stretch of undeveloped coastline. They arrived in time for lunch at the sublime Wah Phyu Villas and indulged themselves in seafood ratatouille and fish burgers.
Day 3 was the big question mark. Their goal was to reach Shwe Taung Yan – but before that they had to commandeer a boat, avoid a Chinese power plant and find a road which Google Earth said did not exist. The evening previous they had spent doom-scrolling through Myanmar news looking for wild elephant sightings.
The fishermen were right. Si lo ma ya bu. Much of Day 3 was spent pushing their bikes up and down hills before they finally reached Shwe Taung Yan at dusk.
It was (figuratively) downhill from there onwards. Day 4 they cycled along the beach and arrived at Ngwe Saung as everyone was gearing up from Thingyan. Day 5 the team sped through fishing villages and along an achingly beautiful coastline: water was sprayed on them, raucous mingalabas shouted at them, until finally reached the peninsula of Gaw Yan Gyi. They hung up their helmets with the sense of a job well done and a Thingyan well spent.
Sampan Travel can arrange a tailored version of the above cycling route. The route can be amended to match your experience, fitness and appetite for adventure. Bikes, boats and back-up cars can all be arranged. No need to worry about si lo ma yu bu.
Photo credit: Adriana Karpinska @adkarpin
Explore the Yangon you don’t know
So you think you know Yangon, huh?
Sampan Travel has designed three walking tours in different parts of Yangon. These tours are perfect for those new to the city but also for old hands. The tours have been curated to uncover the hidden secrets and stories of the city – helping you get to know your own home better. The tours dive deep not only into history and culture, but also allow guests to taste new food and discover new restaurants.
As well as visiting the Secretariat and the principal colonial buildings in downtown Yangon, on their Downtown Yangon tour, the guide will take you to lesser-known and lesser-frequented locations which nonetheless have stories to tell. This walking tour looks at the growth of Yangon from a small Mon village to a multicultural hub. You will enter teashops and temples and think about what the future has in store for this remarkable metropolis. You will enjoy the best of Myanmar morning street food – so come with an empty stomach!
Ks79,000 per person
Their Heroes & Handicrafts tour has been crafted in collaboration with Turquoise Mountain. On this tour you will explore the quiet backstreets and lazy lanes of Bahan township. Hear the stories of Myanmar’s independence heroes and see the country’s rich craft heritage. Once the smartest district in the city, these streets used to be named after the men of the British Empire that annexed Burma in the Anglo-Burmese Wars: Campbell Avenue, Churchill Street. Today, these streets have been taken back to celebrate independent Myanmar and the people that fought for its freedom.
Ks69,000 per person
Finally, the Karen Quarter tour takes you into the heart of the Karen community of Yangon. You will learn about how and why the Karen first came to Yangon and about when Karen and Bamar relations reached a nadir at the Battle of Insein in the 1940s. Enjoy a bowl or Karen mohinga and hear first-hand stories from this enclave. Visit grandiose churches founded by American missionaries. Enjoy a steaming bowl of Karen mohinga in the house of one of the community midway through the tour. This is an evening tour so you can look forward to a well-deserved beer at the end.
Ks99,000 per person
Photo credit: Ben Small @_bennysmalls