A Ride Around South East Myanmar

Discussion in 'Myanmar - Road Trip Reports' started by ronwebb, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    The idea of taking bikes from Thailand to Myanmar has been the dream of many, not least Armin Schoch and Luc de Waegh. These two guys have lived extensively in both Thailand and Myanmar, are both well traveled, are motorcyclists and have excellent contacts in both countries and so I guess its not surprising that about ten years ago they discussed the plan; a dream at that stage if you will, to get their bikes over the boarder and go for a ride.
    In April 2012 Armin approached his contacts in the Myanmar government as the timing now seemed appropriate to put some feelers out once more, for the possibilities of such an idea.
    The response was I guess positive and so with his contacts and business partners in Myanmar, Armin persisted.
    In November of last year Armin sent a mail to some like minded mates to see who was up for it.
    So Luc, Ian Bungy, Dave Early, Horst Engelking, Stu Lloyd were up for it. I declined as I was still repairing my collarbone from Laos.
    However lady luck was on my side. The Burmese authorities asked Armin to delay running this tour from December to January giving me another month of bone healing.
    The idea was simple; to have a ride through everyday Burmese life. No rushing to the popular destinations, just ride in a select area where tourists, for the most part are few, and see what happens.
    Dave has already posted on the process side of things, which I can only say required a ton of photo copies of just about every official document that I have ever possessed but Armin was the conduit to get all that stuff into Naypyidaw for approvals, permits, licenses and the like.
    Dave's posting on that is on;
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/37807-GT-Rider-guys-in-Myanmar?p=286957#post286957
    And so on Sunday the 13th Jan a group of us met at Mae Hia, Chiang Mai and headed off to Mae Sot, overnighting at Mae Sariang.
    The bikes were; Armin BMW Dakar 650, Horst BMW 1200GS, Luc BMW 1200GS, Dave Suzuki DRZ 650 and Ian, Stu and myself on a Honda CFR 250L.

    The meet and the start of an adventure

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    Our route was to go through Mae Chaem and up to Khun Yuam to meet Horst and because its a lovely ride to go that way.

    We stopped and had a look around at the new Japanese museum in Khun Yuam, recommended for those interested in that era.

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    After a hilarious dinner (the first of many) and the night in Mae Sariang we rolled down to Mae Sot the next day.
    The road down is as always a joy to ride, even on a 250 CRF

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    Ian elected to ride straight to Mae Sot and so met up with the rest of us there

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    The next day was to be the day of truth. Would all the photocopies, permits, visas, licenses chops and stamps do the business?
    So off we headed to the Thai immigration and customs. Actually the process on the Thai side was extremely quick and easy, I am sure aided by the fact that Armin found a Thai immigration officer who was exceptionally helpful. All done and so off for a ride over the bridge where in the middle, one changes sides. Myanmar is a left hand drive country.
    At the other side Stephen out guide took all passports and was back in no time. All done! We were in.

    First stop was a tea shop to hook up with the local crew and get out clobber into the support vehicle.

    Armin and Luc on my right. Do they look happy or what?

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    A view from the tea shop of the rather chaotic traffic on the Myanmar side

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    So we get a briefing of whats to come for the day. Myawaddy to Mawlamyine - down the road for ten k's or so and up and over the mountain. The traffic on this road alternates in direction day to day as there is not enough room for two way traffic. Cool, this should be a nice scenic ride!

    This is as good as it gets

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    but for the most part it was more like this

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    I don't think we will have many shots of the mountain. Its hard to find a spot to stop with all the trucks and buses. There is also so much dust that you really cant see too much more than a few feet ahead. Needless to say its chaos. About 50 kms I believe up one side and down the other. That took about three hours!
    Now, at this point, bear in mind that this is the road that all imports from Thailand travel. Millions of bottles of beer, drinks and whatever each day. No wonder this road is smashed to death.
    Also along the way to directorate the road side, one comes across smashed up buses and trucks abandoned as they no longer have any use. Sobering indeed.

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    After the mountain its pretty much flat but not without some entertaining sights along the way.
    Road works....

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    the tar men

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    and finally the road becomes clearer and smoother

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    bridge over the Gyaing river

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    our bridge over the same

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    looks like a Le Mans start

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    various drinks stops on the way provided photo opportunities

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    Eventually we arrive in Mawlamyine at the Strand Hotel. What a top spot on the river

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    and very quickly the beer garden to wash the dust down

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    and finally, much needed solids...

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    more to come......
     
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  3. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    Day 2 in the Union of Myanmar

    The brief for the day was to ride a loop through the countryside to Thanbyuzayat to visit the war cemetery, to the beach at Setse, Amhurst (also called Kyaikkami) which was the seat of the British Army HQ controlling lower Burma after the first Burmese war (1824-26) and on to Kyaikkami Yele Pagoda.

    Parking at the Strand

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    Early morning at the river front

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    and the bridge from Mawlamyine to Martaban which we were to cross the following day

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    and the back up vehicle driver doubling up as bike cleaner

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    Leaving the hotel we witnessed an express delivery of timber

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    The first strop for the day was in fact a visit to the giant reclining Buddha at Mudon. HUGE....

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    with long lines of monks

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    CRF's taking a break at the Buddha

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    and so on to Thanbyuzayat and the war cemetery. Fuel available all over the place

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    Riding around here was a real treat with the roads mostly to ourselves

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    and the locals going about their business

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    The war cemetery is beautifully maintained as with all in SEA that I have seem. I real pleasure to visit

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    A quick look at the railway station that was the last stop on the Burma railway I believe

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    and the final resting place of an old British locomotive that must have been commandeered after capture by the Japanese

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    Then on to Setse Beach for lunch. We had an escort for this part of the trip cos, well, you never know do you?
    The boys

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    Packing a WWII Stengun and a WWII Remington, Now that's good old fashioned fire power.....

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    Setse Beach is a popular spot for the locals and Yangon folk for a day by the sea. Its a bit like Hua Hin on the Western seaboard of the bay on BKK for those who know that. Horses for rent for a belt up the beach and seafood restaurants. Its a long beach too

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    the ubiquitous snack sellers abound

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    Lunch was a good seafood spread then on to Amherst to have a look at the old British stuff, whats left of it
    A typical Amherst house

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    and then on to Kyaikkami Yele Pagoda which stretches out to sea

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    Finally, on the way back to the Strand, we stopped by the lookout to watch the sun go down.

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    It was also time for refreshments after a hard cultural day

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    more to come......
     
  4. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Great stuff Ron,

    Fantastic photos. Nice window in to the trip.

    Looking forward to the rest rest.

    Only fitting GT Riders lead the way from Northern Thailand,

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  5. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Day 3 in the Union of Myanmar, Golden Rock and Kyaiktiyo Pagoda

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    The Golden Rock and Kyaiktiyo Pagoda are said to be the third most important pilgrimage site in Myanmar. The granite boulder is 15m in circumference and 7.6m in height. It sits precariously on the edge of a rock, with an altitude of 1,090m. There are various versions to the legend of how this rock reached the site, but they all end in the belief that it is held in place by a hair of Buddha. A popular version says the rock was carried there by a boat which then itself turned to stone. Google! It is an interesting tale.

    Note that measurements and distances seem to vary between different sources.

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    It is believed to have survived numerous earthquakes and in recent times the stupa on top of the rock fell to the ground but the rock stayed in place. Believers say that once you see the rock you will become a believer in Buddhism. It is also believed that three trips to the rock in a single year will bring you wealth and prosperity. Worshipers purchase and place small pieces of 'gold leaf' on the rock, thus giving it the gold color.

    We were told by our guide and resident Burma experts that we would board a truck which would take us part way up the mountain, approx 1hr, and then we would be required to walk the remaining 3km+ to the top. It is to be a very steep climb, and for those that can’t make it, porters can be hired to carry you to the top. This is the same information found on most websites ( I have been walking everyday for the last month to get in better shape).

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    With this information fresh in our minds, only Ian, Stu and I decided to accompany our guide on the trek. We are packed into the back of an open six wheel truck/lorry for the climb to the top. It takes an inordinate amount of time because the road is a single lane and is controlled like a railway. Trucks must wait on a siding for trucks coming down to pass. It is a steep and winding climb.

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    We reach a staging area in sight of the top, where our guide disembarks and comes back a short time later. He says this is where the trek normally begins, but he has arranged for us to ride to the top. “What?” He must have arranged it for the whole truck load as nobody got out.

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    In reality, it seems that you now have a choice of trekking up for your pilgrimage, or simply riding to the top where you only have about 500 meters to walk to the rock and pagoda. This walk is of course surrounded by souvenir shops, food and even a hotel with a great bar.
    We take off our shoes, and enter the large marble plaza lined with religious displays and people worshiping.

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    This is true at all Buddhist sites in Myanmar. Also, you must remove your shoes before entering temple grounds, not just the temple area itself. There is a story that a woman, dressed as a man, entered the holy area and touched the rock. The sky instantly clouded over and a fierce storm ensued.

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    The women do their meditations on the walkway below the rock.

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    Can you see the elephant?

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    The “rock” is truly breathtaking and it IS hard to understand what can possibly be holding it in place.

    Our ride back down the mountain is almost as spectacular as the rock itself. On the ride up we had the VIP seat in the front row of the truck. I decided I would try riding down seated in the last row and mingle with the locals. I don’t always make wise decisions. We waited a long time for the truck to become full when suddenly, just before sundown, whole families climbed, pushed, shoved and squeezed their way into the truck. Surrounding me were men who were not exactly what you would call hygienic. and a couple ladies with coughs and sneezes.

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    A lovely young Burmese girl and her baby sat next to me after her husband reluctantly gave up his seat and perched on the luggage behind us. She immediately began breastfeeding the baby. Thrown together in what could be called intimate ways as her husband scowled from behind. she steadfastly clung to my leg for a handhold as we careened down the mountain, with air brakes hissing and rpm's racing on the twisting 'roller coaster' ride down. I gave them my unopened orange soda when we reached the bottom and he seemed appeased.

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    This young lady greeted us near where we parked our motorcycles, and welcomed us with the perfectly rehearsed statement "Toilets, no money please!" Welcome, indeed!

    Oh yeah, two days later I came down with a cold and cough.
     
  6. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    I meant to add this anecdote to Ron's story of our watching the sunset.

    We found these two boys and girl to be 'hanging out' at the viewpoint. Apparently brothers with their sister, obviously impoverished. They were not actively begging, but were interacting with us and gathering our empty cans.

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    At one point I handed the youngest boy my half full can of soda. He took a short drink, and without hesitation carried it over to his sister and gave it to her.

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    I found this quite touching and sad at the same time.
     
  7. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Wow, absolutely brilliant!! Sounds like that first ride from Mae Sot over the mountain is a tough one, but after that the roads are in better shape? Keep it coming!! [​IMG]
     
  8. Not on a Yamaha

    Not on a Yamaha Ol'Timer

    Fascinating!
    Hoping to see more pics!
    Congrats guys on making a great trip to Myanmar!
     
  9. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Excellent ride report guys, the Golden Rock has always been on my "to see" list in Burma.

    The Commonwealth War Graves Commission who is charged with the maintenance of the cemeteries around the world do an excellent job no matter whether it is in the much visited Kanchanaburi or the less visited ones in Burma or even Benghazi!
    Thanbyuzayat Cemetary details here,
    http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/2007400/THANBYUZAYAT%20WAR%20CEMETERY
    If you are searching for a soldier's grave there is an excellent search facility here,
    http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx

    Looking forward to reading more on this report.
    Cheers,
    Rhodie
     
  10. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    After Golden Rock we drove to a strange hotel a few kilometer from the base camp. It was huge with many seperate bungalows and it's own roads. It had a swimming pool, restaurants and even it's own zoo. It was quite full of Asian tourists (the hotel, not the zoo). :problem:

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    They had a leopard, a number of Sun Bears, Gibbons, Ostrich, Deer, reptiles and birds. Quite strange.

    DAY 4, GOLDEN ROCK TO BAGO

    From the base camp of The Golden Rock we had only an 80km ride to the town of Bago (not to be confused with Bagan). Bago is located approximately 80km north of Yangon. We checked into what was the only, shall we be polite and say, ‘poor quality’ hotel we stayed in. It was supposedly also the only hotel. It is the only place we had any type of ‘incident’ on the trip. More on that later…

    We decided to jump into our trusty support truck to do some sight seeing. The locals found this quite amusing to see the westerners riding around in the back of what looked like a jail, or immigration detainee truck.

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    The Shwethalyaung Buddha is a reclining Buddha in the west side of Bago (Pegu), Burma (Myanmar). The Buddha, which has a length of 55 m (180 ft) and a height of 16 m (52 ft), is the second largest Buddha in the world, after the 74 m reclining Buddha in Dawei (Tavoy). The Buddha is believed to have been built in 994, during the reign of Mon King Migadepa. It was lost in 1757 when Pegu was pillaged. During British colonial rule, in 1880, the Shwethalyaung Buddha was rediscovered under a cover of jungle growth. Restoration began in 1881, and Buddha's mosaic pillows (on its left side) were added in 1930.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shwethalyaung_Buddha

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    When we came out of the temple, those that chose to wait in the truck were being accosted by all the local tauts.

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    The Shwemawdaw Paya is a stupa located in Bago, Myanmar. It is often referred to as the Golden God Temple. At 375 feet in height, the Shwemadaw holds the record for the tallest pagoda in the country although the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is usually credited as the tallest pagoda in Myanmar (at 98 meters - approximately 321.5 ft). Shwemadaw, along with the Shwedagon and Kyaiktiyo, are famous Mon pagodas.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shwemawdaw_Paya

    In the evening we had dinner in a great restaurant in view of the Pagoda with a terrific Burmese band.

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  11. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Day 5 Bago to Hpa An

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    In the morning I came out of our hotel and found missing from my bike, a camera case (empty), a bungy safety net, and a can of chain oil. Others soon followed;

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    Ron was missing a tank bag, and the chrome valve stem caps were taken from Ian's bike.

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    Stu had left his 'helmet' unsecured on the bike. I say helmet, but some of us thought it would better serve as a flower pot.

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    The manager of the hotel and our guide were quite upset and notified the police and called in their security guards from the night. They were all quite apologetic and equally embarrassed. The manager made the offer to take Stu to the local market where they bought a new Index helmet. I think Stu came out ahead on this one!

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    At first I wasn’t going to even write about this incident, but I think the response from the management and police should be commended. In the end our loss was trivial, and we in fact had become quite complacent about leaving things on our motorcycles overnight. It could happen anywhere. Many places would have probably just said, ”Too bad” and sent us on our way.

    We rode to our hotel on the Salween River in a town called Hpa An.

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    Another beautiful hotel located at the base of a limestone karst.

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    (This photo taken by Ian is one of my favorites)

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    Our final sightseeing took us to a small temple located on top of a tall out cropping called Kayukelat Paya. I can’t find much information on this, but there was a small temple near the top and the very top could be accessed by ladder. It was another beautiful sunset.

    Final Day

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    On day six, we left the hotel around 6:30AM and had a swift but nice ride all the way to the border. We actually made better time, and an easier ride, because we did not have an escort and could ride at our own pace. I believe we were at the border somewhere around noon. Soon after our arrival in Myawaddi, our guide and support truck showed up. The truck made remarkable time with the crew smiling and laughing as they arrived. (I haven't quite figured out why they felt we needed an armed escort for this road coming into the country, but not when leaving).

    Our guide, Steve, quickly processed all our Myanmar paperwork, and before we knew it we were back in Thailand. We processed ourselves without problem on the Thai side, shook hands, and mostly left in different directions. It all seemed like we had just lived through a dream, and it was taking a while to wake up.

    Note: This is just a small sampling of what can be seen in Myanmar. We rode only approximately 1,250km in the country itself, avoiding large cities. There were reports the other group allowed into Myanmar rode into the night, as late as midnight, just to cover longer distances. That was not our plan. We will be back!

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    Elevation Change Crossing the Mountains from Myawaddi
     
  12. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    A Few More Photos from the Road

    Photos in this trip report taken by Ron Webb, Ian Rauner, Dave Early & Stu Lloyd.

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    Our Fearless Support Vehicle

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    These are wooden wheel chocks. Sold along the road to the buses and trucks. The assistants quickly jump out and stick them under the wheels when stopped crossing the mountains.

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  13. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Top Report so Thanks Dave and Ron for Taking the Time to write it up! The Trip took quite some Time to Organise so a Very Special Thanks to Armin for going through all that to make it Happen and for Inviting Us. Much appreciated and Enjoyed! A Once in a Life Time Experience! It was made very Easy for Us by the Fact Armin organised the Tour Company and Steven Our Guide took care of everything for Us, and I mean everything! We never had to Pay for one thing and in fact only settled up with Armin Yesterday!!! Brilliant, Nothing to worry or think about except the Sights and Riding! Brilliant! And as Dave said it was almost Surreal and seemed to be all Over before We realised what was happening! The Last Day although We starting Out early was just Beautiful and the Views along the way were very special as the Dawn turned to Day and the Ride was Just so Much Fun I was Smiling all the way! Truly a Day I will cherish as one of the Most Special spent on a Bike, and it was on a Trusty 250!!! By the Time I hoped off back here at the X-Centre in Mae Rim We had been on the Road for nearly 12 Hours yet I felt Elated and Fresh! When We arrived at the Border all seemed to happen so quickly before We knew it We were standing back in Thailand and saying Our Goodbyes before going Our Seperate ways! I had Time to Snap a Last Photo of My Riding Partners and that was it!
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    A little bit of Humour to End the Trip, I had decided to Ride back to Chiang Mai with Stu so both of Us set off on Our CRF250 and had a Lovely Ride to Tak. Here We refueled and Our intention was to get to Lampang where We would refuel again for the last run into Chiang Mai, It is 170 kms between Tak and Lampang! I did this on the way down so knew it was possible if You stick around 110kmh. So We had a Drink and as we pulled back onto the Highway Stu Roars Past Me and proceeds to disappear into the Distance? I thought He was just having a bit of a Blast and I would soon catch up and We would settle in for the Ride? No in fact I never saw Him again till quite a bit Later!!! I quietly Rode by Myself with the Trusty Honda Humming along as I slowly watched the Fuel Gauge Dropping! I thought surely Stu must be using a lot more Gas than Me?
    About 40 or 50kms South of Lampang I come across Stu Parked on the Side of the Road? Sure enough He was out of Gas, Bone Dry after 133kms! He had just held it Pinned from Tak! I thought it Bl**dy Funny but He was not amused and said he had heard Us talking saying the CRF is good for 175kms? Well Yes that is True I told Him, in fact You can get 200kms from a Tank full if You Ride it very Slow! This doesn't apply when ridden at Full Throttle and the Fuel Gauge is quite good at indicating when You Actually need Gas! So after a bit of a Laugh I headed off to find Gas! I had to Go another 25kms before I found the First Gas Station so Got a Big Water Bottle, Emptied that and Filled it with Petrol then Rode the 25kms back to Rescue Stu!!! Besides the inconvenience No Harm done and something We can Talk about for Years to Come!
    Here He is Stranded.
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    And the Rescue Juice!
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    From here it was just a straight Run Home and No more Dramas. Stu, You are a Legend and Provided Me with some Brilliant Memories from Our Trip! In fact all of the Guys although from a multitude of different Backgrounds were Fantastic to Ride with, So Thanks Guys, hope We can do it again!
     
  14. monty1412

    monty1412 Ol'Timer

    Wow what a great trip and report. GT Rider does it again. Just fascinating and great job to all who were on the trip and thanks a bunch for sharing.
    With possibility of getting into Burma albeit have to be finessed I wonder one day if we can do a Thailand to Burma to India and Bhutan trip...
    Great report and seems like you guys had a WOW of a ride.
    Thanks GT Rider..
     
  15. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    A great place to ramble. Thank youfriends for sharing your pictures and experiences. Lets hope that theregion will soon open to the general public on two wheels. Veryenticing illustrated reports.
     
  16. fierstf

    fierstf New Member

    Thanks for sharing this experience. Myanmar has been on my list of places to visit. It is great to hear that it might be possible for us regular people to see it on a motorcycle in the next few years!!
     
  17. Muzz

    Muzz Ol'Timer

    Great stuff Ron and Dave, very inspiring. Hopefully this does all open up soon to us mere mortals! Great stuff, now where's my Scrambler???? Muzz
     
  18. jimbobs

    jimbobs Ol'Timer

    Brilliant thoroughly enjoyed the report and slightly envious, well done guys on fantastic report and making it possible for the rest of us to contemplate taking this trip in future.
    Safe riding
    Jim
     
  19. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Fantastic ride & trip report -you made it all look too easy.
    AND I'm green with envy, having had to pullout of the trip because of that bloody leg infection I picked up a week beforehand.
    Bring on the next one....
     
  20. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Here are a Few More Photos I thought may be of interest to some People. I thought they weren't bad.
    A Monk on His Bike.
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    The War Cemetery
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    A Fallen Kiwi. The Only one I actually saw in the Cemetery. There were so many Young Australians and English amongst other Nationalities. Very Sad!
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    Sunset.
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    A Couple of Friendly Young Ladies on Our Truck Transport.
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    The Steep Roller Coaster Ride down from Golden Rock!
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    A Couple of Chess Players Deep in Concentration!
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    A Chaotic Street Scene!
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    Here is a Couple of Photos of a New Chinese Built Trike. They are Selling these things all over the Place so must be Cheap and Popular I suppose!
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    Farmers tending their Goats.
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    The Boy Monk.
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    And here is What We saw a lot of. "Myanmar Beer". And I must say it was Very Good. I would rank it better than Beer Lao by a Long Shot! And it was almost always Served Cold unlike Beer in Laos!!!
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    Almost worth making a Temple to That!!!
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    Hope You enjoy the Photos.
     
  21. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Well done lads!
     
  22. burnjr

    burnjr Ol'Timer

    thanks dave and rone for sharing ...nice if burma do open door policy for bikers..
     
  23. 4x4tripping

    4x4tripping Ol'Timer

    Thank you much for sharing - nice pictures!
     
  24. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Ol'Timer

    Dave, Ron and Ian.

    What a trip. Thanks for a brilliant report with photos that show what a great place Burma must be to visit, let alone go riding there.

    I like many reading this report, are truly envious and one hope to get over and see it firsthand.

    Well done guys.

    Moto-Rex
     

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