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Itinerary ideas wanted

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I’m looking for itinerary ideas for 2 weeks in Myanmar, Dec 25 – Jan 8. I don’t have a sightseeing agenda but would like to know the best places – ideally off the beaten track – to do the following:

1) Rent a bike (ideally multi-speed but I know these are rare) for day trips within a 20-mile radius of the towns I’m staying in. It’s a great way to get away from other tourists and see unusual things while getting exercise. I am also open to creative itineraries such as a 2- or 3-day bike trip with just a daypack on my back, or biking from A to B and taking the bike back on a bus. I’d consider buying a cheap multi-speed bike and selling it used (for a pittance) or even giving it away after a week or so of riding. Are there especially good regions to explore by bike? For bonus points, do you know where I can rent a multi-speed bike?

2) Hike - interesting, strenuous, safe day hikes or multiday treks. The area around Kalaw sounds nice but is there anything more strenuous?

3) Eat great/unusual food in restaurants, homes, or anywhere else. I’m happy to pay for memorable food experiences if I can find them. Where?

4) Meet interesting people and learn what life is like. I’ve heard great things about the people in Myanmar. I imagine I will meet friendly people anywhere in the country, but are there particularly interesting places to just soak up daily life? Are there specific people you know who I should meet? (I’m a youthful 54-year-old guy from the USA especially into food and technology.)

A possible itinerary would include Yangon, Mt. Kyaiktiyo, Kalaw, Inle Lake, and Hispaw, but I'm not absolutely set on any of those if you suggest better places (except I fly in/out of Yangon). Am I crazy to skip Bagan and Mandalay? Is Nay Pyi Taw worthwhile for amusement value?

I’ll probably try to get to Mrauk U if that’s open/safe, but it’s not looking good at this point.

It sounds like I’ll see plenty of impressive temples without trying, so I’m not inclined to go out of my way for them.

My budget is flexible – I like to travel cheaply but am willing to pay for great experiences or convenience (e.g., a flight if it’s significantly easier than a bus). I don’t want/need a constant guide but will happily pay for a great one here and there (and for trekking). Can you recommend any?

Hotels: I am traveling alone, don’t care about fancy hotels, and would rather be spontaneous than pre-book everything with a travel agency. I have booked the first 3 nights in Yangon (at the Mother Land Inn) just to make the trip start smoothly but would rather not pre-book everything. I’ve heard the horror stories but am I foolish to trust that I’ll find someplace warm to sleep every night if I’m persistent, flexible, and willing to overpay a bit on some nights? Are there some places where I should definitely pre-book? While I’m not hotel-focused, if you have a particular place to recommend, I’d appreciate it.

Feel free to suggest anything you think I’d find interesting. Thanks!

Bruce
Seattle, USA

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