After spending a full day exploring Inle Lake, we decided to spend the next day on dry land. Exploring the roads around the northern part of the lake via bicycle is quite a popular activity, and one that we enjoyed doing! Starting in Nyaung Shwe, it is possible to do a complete loop involving a transfer across the width of the lake. Most of the hotels and bike rental places will give you a map of the area, and this website has a pretty good rendition of it. Most hotels and tourist places in the area have older bikes which are typically fixed gear and which cost 1000-1500 Kyat ($1-1.50) for the day. We were not terribly excited about riding these bikes, as we had heard the roads in the area were pretty bumpy, and our bums were still a bit sore from our day biking around Bagan. Luckily, we happened across Active and Authentic Travels and Tours (AAT Tours), an amazing little shop located right next to The French Touch (a beautiful but overpriced place to get western fare and coffee) in Nyaung Shwe.
AAT Tours organizes bike tours around the Shan state and also rents mountain bikes out daily; $7 for a half day (4hrs) and $14 all day. These bikes looked to be close to top of the line, and when I asked how much they cost, I was shocked and impressed. The lovely owner told me that she paid almost $4,500/bike ($3000 to the Swiss manufacturer + the crazy Myanmar import taxes!). I was also especially impressed with the genuine attention this place had towards providing excellent customer service:
- They gave us a number to call if we had any issues whatsoever while riding. If necessary they would send out the mechanic, where ever we happened to be. This was especially nice because many bike rental places tend to blame you if the bike has an issue while rented out. AAT Tours wanted to be able to fix any issue that came up before it turned into a bigger deal.
- They made sure that the bikes we rented were properly adjusted, and even changed the pedals on one bike that Anna-Lisa ended up being the most comfortable with.
- They had no problems with us going a bit over the 4 hour limit, as long as we were back before they closed. We ended up returning after about 4.5 hours.
- Finally, they also offered to let us borrow a small backpack to carry our water and other extras when they saw we were planning to just use a bag.
All these little things added up to us having a great experience as a customer, and we highly recommend Active and Authentic Travels to anyone. Sadly they don’t seem to be anywhere online (such as on Trip Advisor) for me to review them. Note that all their contact information is on their sign in the picture above.
I should note that the actual riding experience was also well worth the extra cost, as these bikes were a joy to ride! We could cruise up and down the hills and over the potholes with grace, as we passed people suffering with their one speeds. We did the standard loop going westward. The main attractions are a hot springs bath, a monastery up in the hills, and a winery.
We were excited to go to the Hot Springs as they sounded like they would be nice, but when we arrived we discovered that the price was $10/each to sit in a little hot concrete pool. Or you could pay $5 to go in the regular pools with the locals (who probably pay $.50). Unfortunately the local pools are single sex, so Anna-Lisa and I decided to skip them. It was also a hot day, so a hot, dehydrating “bath” didn’t sound as appealing. We then arrived in Khaung Daing and bargained with the boat operator for a ride across Inle Lake to Maing Thauk on the east side. Unfortunately, there weren’t any other tourists to share the ride with us, so we paid our negotiated rate of $6 in full. The ride across the lake with the bikes at the front was beautiful and took about 20-30 minutes.
Once in Maing Thauk, the attraction is a monastery about halfway up the hill (when I say hill, I mean mountain, that was a tough climb even on our awesome bikes!) It looked quite close on the map we had gotten, but turned out to be a good 30-45 minute bike ride up the mountain. The view from the top was nice, but we had to get going as the sun was starting to come down. Coming down was a lot of fun, as the bikes accelerated quickly if you didn’t stay on the brakes. Once back on the main road, we headed north toward Nyaung Shwe and the Red Mountain Vineyards. For those that are interested, the Red Mountain has a wine tasting that costs about $2-3, which we skipped as well.
We pulled back into town right at dusk, very satisfied with our afternoon outing and feeling great thanks to our awesome bikes!