Explore a unique part of Myanmar by bicycle
A two-day bike tour from Myanmar's iconic Bagan plain, a trip full of adventure and discovery which explores this fascinating and little-visited region between Bagan and Salay, travelling the best way possible, by bike and boat, far from the tourist trail.
This bike tour follows a circular route from Bagan to Salay returning along a different trail.
Our carefully crafted route takes you exploring along the rarely-visited western bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River, biking through traditional Dry Zone villages in the foothills of Than Gyi Taung. When we run out of road we’ll take to the river and sail to the charming riverside town of Salay. After an afternoon of exploring, a quiet evening awaits soaking in the tranquil atmosphere of this sleepy Burmese town. The second day we’ll ride along beautiful tree-lined roads and through rolling sandy hills, dotted with the nodding-donkeys of the colonial-era oil fields. Bamboo houses and Toddy-palm plantations eventually give way to the ancient spires of Bagan’s famous pagodas.
This is an ‘On Request’ tour - We understand active travellers value flexibility and we do our best to accommodate every request. Simply propose your travel dates, bring one or more companions and you will receive our standard price - no private tour markups.
More details below the itinerary.
Much is made of Bagan as a place to visit and explore and justifiably so. But for those who crave more of an adventure, to escape the tourist destinations and connect with the real Myanmar, there are opportunities such as this one.
In two days of bike riding, you will experience an astounding sample of Myanmar's long history as an ancient civilisation and as a former British colony, but you will also see what Myanmar is today in real terms, more than you would understand by visiting only the towns and cities.
A ride on peaceful, almost deserted roads, shaded gravel paths and riverside tracks, will bring you in direct contact with the village communities of the central Irrawaddy region where subsistence farmers scratch out a living from hard-won harvests and where the traditional way of life is authentically intact.
Salay, home to an incredible collection of solid Colonial-era buildings, in dilapidated but enchanting condition is where the early exploiters of crude oil in Myanmar resided. It's also home to the Yoke Saung Kyaung - a magnificent Konbuang-period, carved-teak monastery, other 12th and 13th century pagodas and the largest lacquer Buddha image in the world, that reportedly washed up on the riverbanks after a storm one day.
The combination of cycling and boating create a wonderful balance in travel styles and even over just two days, you will step back into modern Myanmar with a completely different point of view.
2 days duration
100 km distance
Trip Features & Tour Inclusions
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Quality, well-maintained GT and Merida mountain bikes in a full range of sizes are included in your tour, fitted with full hydraulic brakes, hybrid tyres for touring. Handlebar bags for your personal possessions and comfortable saddles are also provided, with a women's specific version available.
An experienced English speaking, local leader will host you on this trip who is well spoken, very well informed, and charming. Our leaders are often cited as being the main highlight of the tour. We use local leaders who have a passion for their country and are always well informed on topics ranging from history, politics, cuisine and importantly local customs and cultures. Our leaders will take pride in introducing you to every aspect of their country and will help you to connect with the villagers you meet along the way.
Off The Beaten Path
While nearby Bagan is getting busier and busier, few tourists are making the trip to Salay. Our route includes some stretches of riding through villages where no one had reason to go before, not least because access is primarily by boat.
Tonight you will sleep in the recently-completed “Salay River View Inn”. This new Inn is located next to the Salay House Restaurant & Bar which opened last year in a renovated historic trader’s warehouse from 1906. Both establishments are owned and managed by a young Burmese couple who have dedicated time, money, and a passion for details to the project.
On Day One an elegant local boat made from recycled teak will be our support vehicle and will carry your luggage. There is a simple toilet on board. On Day Two we will swap this for a small pick-up truck and this will be our support vehicle for the rest of the adventure!
Burmese cuisine has a distinct flavor and theme. We will introduce you to authentic Burmese food which is less about the central dish and more about the array of side dishes and condiments that it is accompanied by. Included meals are listed in the day-by-day itinerary, and drinking water is always included with meals. Any soft or alcoholic drinks are not included and will be at your own expense.
Local snacks are provided to keep your energy levels up for the riding, and clean water and electrolyte drinks are always available to keep you well hydrated.
A custom souvenir Grasshopper Adventures sports drink bottle is yours to use and take home at the end of the journey as an extra memento.
2 to 14
This tour is guaranteed for a minimum of just 2 travellers. And we limit the group size to only 14 travellers so that you get all the attention you want in an intimate group.
for Bagan to Salay - Off The Beaten Path
Bagan to Salay by Bike & Boat
45km cycling (dependant on riverside conditions)
We'll pick you up from your hotel and drive to our jetty in Old Bagan where our traditional teak boat is waiting. This boat will be our support vehicle for today so you may stow your luggage here. We'll have fruit, snacks, tea and coffee waiting so you can top up your breakfast while we make our way across the river, enjoying the early-morning sunlight illuminating the many pagoda spires of Bagan. Getting off the boat may well prove more adventurous than getting in, and soon we'll be riding through farmer's fields using tracks made by ox-carts and then onto sandy roads. These will bring us to the first of many villages where astonishment will be the main reaction as they seldom see foreign visitors here.
We'll make our way from the flatlands towards the distant hills, passing fields of crops and through bamboo villages. The trail occasionally hugs the riverbank and finally delivers us to a small jetty where our boat will be waiting to sail us to Salay, allowing for a scenic couple of hours relaxation after the morning's exertions.
On arrival at Salay we will disembark right at "Salay House", a restored Colonial house where we will eat a fabulous traditional lunch. This small, sleepy riverside town hides a surprising number of interesting places to visit but for now remains pretty much off the tourism radar. Elegant, although mostly crumbling, Colonial-period houses line the Strand Road on the river bank, some still crowned by the rampant lion emblem of the British Royals.
Apparently, the British officials tasked with managing the nearby oilfields at Chauk preferred this smaller town for their base, building these magnificent dwellings. Salay had previously been an ancient satellite town of Old Bagan, with a number of Bagan-era pagodas dating from the 12C and 13C. It also hosts the largest lacquerware Buddha image in Myanmar, which is said to have washed up from the river after heavy flooding in 1888.
Salay to Bagan by Bike
55km cycling (dependant on location of your hotel in Bagan)
Setting off nice and early from Salay not only beats the heat but is in step with the locals who are all up at the crack of dawn. We will start on a peaceful road through the countryside as we climb steadily away from the riverbank and make our way inland, heading for the oil-producing town of Chauk. Here we'll visit the bustling, all-local market where giggling schoolkids and ladies carrying large baskets greet us with curiosity. After a short stop at Ma Tin Win's noodle shop to sample some of her signature specialities we press on to encounter rolling hills dotted with the hypnotic 'nodding donkeys' of the oil pumps. Oil was discovered here by the British in 1902, giving birth to a company called British Petroleum.
The hills die away as we pedal through villages on a road that runs parallel to the Ayeyarwaddy River, catching glimpses of its tea coloured waters through the gaps between the toddy palm trees and peanut crops. We'll get a better view when we stop for lunch at a riverside restaurant, not far from Bagan itself. After lunch our guides will guide you to your hotel using the quietest trails they know and will introduce you to some of the more esoteric ruins along the way, showing you some fine examples of medieval mural painting.
Create Your Own Date
On-Request scheduling is subject to the availability of guides and tour resources on the dates that you would like to travel and as long as two or more people are travelling we will charge the standard tour price - no markups!
1. You must have booked and paid your deposit for travel dates that are at least 48+hrs in the future. This just gives us time to organise all travel arrangements.
2. Create Your Own Date for this tour applies for bookings of two or more people only. If you are a solo traveller we can accommodate you for a surcharge. Please enquire for a quote.
3. All trips are subject to availability. In peak season we may not have the capability to add tour dates to our already busy schedule.
What's the Riding Like?
Mostly flat, some hills
Some dirt tracks & sand
2 days riding
The terrain is a mix of sealed and unsealed roads, tracks and sandy trails. The riding is easily achievable for those who are comfortable on a bike. You should be comfortable riding in quite hot conditions, especially outside of the winter months and it is highly recommended to get some practice on unsealed surfaces with a little loose sand and gravel as this will help you feel more confident on this ride. The support vehicle is always on hand should you require a break from riding, and on the second day, where we are on narrow bike and pedestrian style paths and trails along the river bank, our boat can always meet us if there is an urgent need.
Coolest time: Nov-Feb
Wettest time: Jul-Aug
Our favourite: Oct-Nov
Given that Myanmar is the biggest country in 'mainland' South East Asia, (about the size of Texas, or the size of Germany and Italy put together) it should be no surprise that there are great regional differences in weather. The Wet Season in Upper Myanmar might mean rain two or three times a week while Yangon and Lower Myanmar might get it two or three times a day! Generally the coolest time of year is from November to February, with temperatures rising to a peak in April and May. With the arrival of the rains in June temperatures fall but humidity rises. July and August are the wettest months with a return to dry conditions in November.
Our Recommendation: The combination of lower numbers of tourists together with the lush countryside that blooms from the monsoon season means October and November are great months to cycle in Myanmar.
What our guests tell us...
Just a selection of our great reviews for tours in Myanmar
The sights were stunning with a few hidden gems … I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. Great English speaking guide as well as very friendly. Worth every cent and some.
We (a family of four with teenage kids) just spent two wonderful days with Thwe Thwe on the Tour Bagan to Salay. We just loved it! A great mixture of insight in country life, boat ride, culture, answer to all sorts of questions, lovely hotel, very good food and of course lots of biking on high quality bikes.
My husband, two sons (ages 12 and 11) and I thoroughly enjoyed our two day semi-private bike tour with Grasshopper Adventures. We were joined by a lovely Australian couple and together the 6 of us were led by two outstanding local guides (Hein and Yeye) on a two day adventure involving a boat ride across and later down the wide Ayeyarwaddy river where we began our ride to Salay...We ate in delicious local restaurants, noodle shops and tea houses and spent the night at a lovely, locally owned small hotel called the Salay House. Quiet back roads, well tuned bikes, lots of friendly locals... all in all an epic experience.
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