This is the main itinerary and the most common for cyclists. This
might also be the only long one where distances are reasonable and
foreigners are allowed to move freely. I am trying to list all town where you will be able to find lodging.
- the route above is approximate, google maps does strange things sometimes. See http://ridewithgps.com/trips/513818 for the actual GPS trace of my trip with elevation data.
- The placemarks represent places where you can find lodging.
Part 1 – Mandalay – Bagan
Sagaing: 25km from Mandalay. This is not much, but it’s a way to shorten the next step which is very long. It’s also a nice place and you can visit Inwa nearby which worth it.
From Sagaing you have 2 options: going to Monywa or going to Myingyan.
Part 1 – Option 1 – Monywa
Note: I took the other option so I don’t know too well this one. However I met some cyclists who went that way and didn’t advise against. Below are their remarks and comments
Sagaing-Monywa: 120km, mostly flat.
Pakoku-bagan: 50km, nice and easy. There is now a bridge (open January 2012) on the river which doesn’t appear on maps.
Part 1 – Option 2 – Myingyan
This is the option I took so I know better what I am talking about
Sagaing – Myingyan: 95km on a half paved road. Nice scenery, rolling hills but nothing impossible. Overall this is a long but nice day.
Myingyan – Nyaung U (Bagan): 75km. The first part on a terrible road, second on a nice road. No difficulty apart from the road. Alternatively, you could go from Myingyan to pakokku (60 km) and from there go to Nyaung U (45km).
Part 2 – Bagan – Inle
Nyaung U – Mt Popa: approx 60km. Nice road for the surface and the scenery. There is a BIG and steep climb at the end.
Mt popa – Mektila: 110km on a nice road surface, going down to start the day (from mont Popa),
then rolling hills, about 600m total ascent. If you do the loop in
the other direction, then you finish the day with a big steep climb which
might be difficult after 100km in your legs. This is a long leg and there is no way to shorten it as there is almost nothing between the 2 ends.
Metkila – Thazi: 25km, no special interest but given the length of the
legs before and after, it’s a mandatory stop.
Thazi – Kalaw: 95km and for the last 30km, you climb non stop from an altitude of 100m
to 1300m. Total ascent for the day is 1500m. Road is bad but given
your speed when climbing it doesn’t really matter. We found that leg difficult in both direction. You suffer more the road condition when going down. Traffic is not really fun on this leg (fumes and dust). In conclusion, this is not the funniest part and some cyclist decides to take a pick up instead. This can be arranged in Thazi. If you happen to sleep in Thazi, you should definitely go to Wonderful Guesthouse where you will find a 2nd mother to take care of you (N20 50.973 E96 03.328).
Kalaw – Inle: 70km going mainly down but with ups and downs, total ascent about
550m. Road condition is correct and the scenery is nice. The traffic is relatively heavy.
On the way to Inle, you can also go to Pindaya which is 60km from Kalaw on a very pleasant and quiet road. On the way back from Pindaya you can sleep at Aubang (40km from Pindaya) or go all the way to Inle (100km). You can also decide to Pindaya on your way back from lake Inle if you decide to close the loop to Mandalay (see below).
From lake Inle, you can push to Taunggyi (I did not).
GPS data of the route from Nyaung U to Mektila. Note that we didn’t go to Mont Popa and instead went straight from Kyaukpadaung (where we thought we could sleep but we couldn’t) by pickup 😦
GPS data of the route from Kalaw – Pindaya (note that we did the route back and forth and the distances shown are double)
Part 3 – Lake Inle to Mandalay
From Lake Inle, either you consider that it’s the end of the road and fly out, or you can close the loop to Mandalay. However this option is more tricky as there is no guesthouses. That means that you will have to go to the police to ask for a special authorisation to sleep in a guesthouse for local, a monastery or elsewhere. This is not uncommon and those who did it managed to sleep in a safe place. I heard of a few groups of cyclist who did that and didn’t advise against taking that road afterwards. This can be kind of fun. Expect a lot of hills as you will be going through a mountain range.
Lake Inle – Pindaya (with a possibility to sleep in Aungban to cut in 2): see the description of the road in the previous section.
Pindaya – somewhere between Pindaya and Kyaukse: sorry I am not sure enough of the name and don’t want to induce errors. Obviously you will have to research a little before going that way 🙂 But anyway, since there is no guesthouse you could stop anywhere you find a police station. From Pindaya, you need to go back on the road toward Aungban for approx 20km and at the fork on the road you take right (west). Note that the route to take doesn’t appear on google map but is visible on the paper map I had.
Somewhere – Kyaukse: Same story, no place to sleep.
Kyaukse – Mandalay
And you are done!