Bagan, Myanmar or Burma is sort of this hidden gem amongst travelers. It’s got these beautiful ancient temples and pagodas. Plus, the entire region is so rich with history and Myanmar’s culture is so visible. The potential is definitely there but their tourism is only in its early stages of development.
But I do feel quite lucky that I got to experience Bagan when there wasn’t a lot of tourists visiting, as I’m sure that’ll change in the future. The country is steadily growing in popularity for its amazing sights.
Grasshopper Countryside Sunset Tour by Bike & Boat
When I found out that the travel company of Grasshopper’s Adventures is also offering cycling tours around Bagan, I quickly jumped on it and signed up. We chose to join a half-day tour that involves a boat trip across the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar’s largest river and cycling across the countryside. We also got to see the Bagan sunset on our way back across the river.
Just like the Grasshopper tour at Inle Lake, we’re going to explore Bagan’s countryside with our bikes and experience a glimpse of Bagan’s authentic local life.
We got picked up at our hotel and brought to their office to get fitted for our bikes and received safety reminders from our guide, Yeye. And the Grasshopper Bagan Tour has officially started.
We cycled to a boat dock and crossed to the other side of the large Irrawaddy River on a boat with our bikes. When we got off, we cycled through the unbeaten path again, just like in Inle. And just like in Inle, the path we went through absolutely has no other tourists but us with our guide. We’re not completely in the rural countryside of Bagan.
Our guide, Yeye, first showed us the port. He told us that the tides were usually higher but it was quite low than normal on that afternoon at the start of our tour.
Then we’re off on our bikes, once again. Yeye told us that he usually guide the groups cycling by the river but due to the recent heavy rains, the roads were heavily damaged or blocked. And he’s right, we cycled on a dirt trail for a while then reached a cemented road and we quickly found that it’s blocked. So we have no choice but to go around it to continue onward.
Other than the rough roads, the tour was such a breeze. The surrounding countryside was serene and there were no other tourists but us. I got a little comfortable navigating around with the bike as well, after the tour on Inle.
We passed by several rural villages with friendly locals, especially the kids. The local life around here is set at a much slower pace and I find myself thoroughly enjoying the experience.
After some pedaling, we stopped at a place where they produce peanut oil. Then we visited a village where we learned traditional brick making for the Buddhist temples or pagodas, we even played with friendly local children there. The paths we cycled through were all scenic and completely beautiful.
After a while, we had tasty snacks halfway through the tour. Unlike at the Grasshopper Inle Tour where we had a full-on Shan lunch, the Grasshopper Bagan Tour only provided proper snacks because it’s just a midday tour. Not that I’m complaining, the snacks were still quite good and much needed.
We went on our way after the snack and stopped by a place where various ratan products are made. They made those trendy Bali bags from sugar canes or rattan that are similar to what we call abaca in the Philippines, although we do also have rattan products there. There were other rattan products as well like hats, placemats, and many more.
Of course, they also make the balls for the famous game called chinlone in Myanmar. It’s more commonly known as sepak takraw throughout the reset of Southeast Asia but in Myanmar, the specifics of the game are quite different. Rather than having two teams on a court earning points by making the other team drop the ball, Myanmar’s chinlone is more of a performance game by a single group.
It’s quite interesting to watch, the point of chinlone is not to drop the ball and pass it around as gracefully and creatively as possible with the legs and feet. It dates back hundreds of years and any person can play it in a group, be it men, women, or children.
Yeye taught us how to play so the four of us spent some time playing with the rattan ball. Flexibility and coordination will give you an advantage in this game, that’s for sure. It was quite fun and proved to be a good exercise for the hot day.
After we stopped the fun game, we’re headed back to the road on our bikes. It was a hot day and the road we’ve taken goes up and down. We sweated so much from the game, plus the bike ride that when I was offered soda for refreshments, I quickly took it. I really needed one to cool me down even if I don’t normally drink soda.
It’s finally nearing the end of the tour and we returned to our boat just when the sun was about to set. We rode the private boat by Grasshopper Adventures during sunset and it was amazing. There are plenty of sunset cruises offered at Bagan by the river but this one trumps them all.
It was only us floating in the middle of the river with no one else around but the pretty sky above and the beautiful sunset with the orange light reflecting off the river. We were offered beer and cocktail along with some fruits. It was a good way at the end of our trip to Myanmar and Grasshopper tours made it all possible.