My Burma (Myanmar) Ride - March 2013

Discussion in 'Myanmar - Road Trip Reports' started by Goran Phuket, Apr 7, 2015.

  1. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Thought of sharing with you our experience during Burma ride that took place just over 2 years ago.





    As you all probably know, government issued permit is required to travel through Myanmar. Tell them how many days you planning to spend there and they provide you with choice of places to see to build your own itinerary. Obviously, some parts of the country are off-limits due to armed conflicts between ethnic rebel groups and Myanmar ruling junta.

    As far as I know certain groups went to Myanmar embassies in Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand to apply for overland trip permits. That takes quite a long time and sometimes involves talking to someone insignificant at the bottom of the ladder who has no clue how to proceed. For starters, I didn't consider, not even once going through such channels; idea was to find reputable International overland agency, preferably with office in Yangon and closely linked to Myanmar government. Once I successfully managed to do that they referred me to their contact in Bangkok, very nice German guy Joerg. He rode in Myanmar just couple of months before us so it was quite pleasant surprise to have all paperwork done in 3 weeks. Thanks to Joerg I organized another 3 Burma rides for my riding pals in 2014 alone.

    Since this trip was quite short notice we had only 6 participants: 5 riders and my wife as a passenger. Tour package price obviously depends on number of participants so we had to fork out whooping US$1,580 each, no discount for pillion rider. Price covered accommodation and breakfast for us, Burmese Tour Guide, Government minder and their van driver, all checkpoint and “Higway” charges, entry fees into certain POI’s etc.

    We were warned in advance about bad road conditions at first 60km’s across Dawna Range Pass. Rocks, boulders, gravel, traffic congestion is what to expect. At that time I had only 1 motorcycle, BMW K1600GTL, no adventure type bike so I was bit nervous. I could have borrowed nice GS from friend of mine but that wouldn’t be it: it is special feeling riding on your own bike, especially in foreign land.

    Night before departure we stayed at Im Boutique Hotel in Mae Sot. Beautiful, clean and cozy place for just THB 800 if memory serves me well. Coordinates: 16.72488, 98.56058 (decimal).

    Website: http://www.imboutiquehotel.com/

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    So, March 8[sup]th[/sup], 6:30am and here we are at the Mae Sot border check point, all excited and impatient. You have to start early to avoid huge crowds of Burmese lining up at the immigration. Me, my wife, Hisham and William from Malaysia, Mark from Singapore and Hugh the Scottsman, Singapore resident.

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    Last edited: Oct 24, 2016
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  3. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Just across the bridge we met our guide and government official who took our passports and completed all the paperwork in less than 10 minutes. Time for customary group photo, we made it into Burma yay!

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    Till next time, goodbye Thailand

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    Time to move on towards dreaded Dawna Range. Unpaved road, I am thinking what's the big deal....this is piece of cake. Even my wife enjoys at the back

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    After about 10km or so ooops what is this? Some kind of gate manned by army police. Guide tells us real fun is about to start so I tell my better half to ride in the van with our hosts.

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    And the party begins....

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    Broken down trucks and buses, no place to go

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    For the first time ever my bike starts overheating....ominous red light flashing wildly. Stopped for a few just to cool it off. 2 other riders stop to keep me company and make sure I am ok.

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    Traffic building up, better move on or we gonna stuck behind breathing diesel fumes

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    Road is getting worse and worse

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    Even GS's beginning to overheat because we have no choice but to ride slow behind all these trucks who wouldn't let us pass
    Mark, experienced rider is absolutely exhausted, just look at his face

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    Finally after about 2 hours to cover 60km's we descend into the valley. Never ate so much dust in my life.

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    Time to move on and look for some place to eat

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    To be continued....
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Wow. Good story coming up. You guys must have been one of the earliest groups to ride in from Thailand.
     
    Goran Phuket likes this.
  5. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Yes David, lots more to come. To best of my knowledge we were the third ever group to enter Myanmar from Thailand. Will continue with report soon.

    By the way, here is the copy of official permit from Burma government....

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  6. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Finally, food....as per recommendation by our guides. It's a village along main route.

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    I actually dig Burmese food....lots of veggies and curry and very similar to Indian.

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    Hisham's look says it all: get away from me or I will eat you too!

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    chatting with "Willy" our guide. Wonderful guy, speaks very good English and highly educated. Apparently Singapore university graduate (Geology Engineer) but chose to work in tourism field. Better money, he says.

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    Time to move towards our first overnight stop - Kyaikhtiyo and Golden Rock Pagoda.

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  7. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    "Trucks" like these are common sight. Right hand drive and driving on right side of the road.....all upside down.

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    Love the bridges, one of quite a few interesting ones

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    Finally arrived to our first overnight stop: Sane Le Tin Kyaikhtiyo Resort: coordinates 17.36765, 96.99200
    http://www.myanmarhoteldeal.com/sane-le-tin_resort.php

    Big bungalow but horrible internet connection.

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    Oh goody....swimming pool! Can't wait to jump in

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    Burmese version of otop and that famous thing you put on your face for better complexion or whatever

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    He had to do it

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    So did she too....

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    Dinner time, tomorrow they will truck us up to Golden Rock Mountain.

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  8. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    From Wikipedia:

    Golden Rock Pagoda is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Burma. It is a small pagoda (7.3 metres (24 ft)) built on the top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by devotees. According to legend, the Golden Rock itself is precariously perched on a strand of the Buddha's hair. The balancing rock seems to defy gravity, as it perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. The rock and the pagoda are at the top of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. It is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Pagoda. A glimpse of the "gravity defying" Golden Rock is believed to be enough of an inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism.

    Bikes are not allowed to Mt. Kyaikhtiyo, instead we have to board these sardine trucks. They drive like maniacs, hair-raising experience.

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    Road hairpins on the way to the top

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  9. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    The Golden Rock....

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    Touch the rock and make a wish

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    Females not allowed across that mini-bridge, let alone touch the rock. Natasha had to settle for this pic.

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    Hermit monks. Couldn't help not to notice them being in awesome physical shape considering their age. We were told by guides some of these monks regularly travel on foot to India and back.

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    Their predecessors originally came from India thousands of years ago and met with Buddha right here near the rock. Legend says 4 of them received 1 bit of Buddha's hair each and placed it under the Golden Rock. Hermit monk rings the bell and makes one foot long step while waiting for bell to stop moving and subsequently makes another step. It takes them ages to cover 100 meters or so.

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    Enormous crowd as early as 9am. Scores of local vendors selling all sorts of stuff from amulets, jewellery, food and souvenirs

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  10. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Day 2 and after coming down from Golden Rock Mt we are on our way to Myanmar's new capital: Naypyitaw. Considered one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the world.

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    Multiple lanes hwy with no traffic at all connecting city center with Myanmar Parliament building.

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    Uppatasanti Pagoda in Naypyitaw: exact replica of famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, just 30cm shorter

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    Burma (Myanmar) Assembly/Parliament building complex also known as Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. It is housed in a 31-building complex, which is believed to represent the 31 planes of existence in Buddhist cosmology. It is officially now biggest government administration complex in the world, dwarfing one of Romanian Parliament. We were not allowed to enter but pics can be taken from outside of fence perimeter. Connected to Naypyidaw City Center by 14 lane highway. It was quite a hazy day though, pic quality not so good.

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    Every 150 meters there is policeman posted by the road side....standing still under the scorching sun

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    "Royal Albino Elephants" - apparently not many of these left around

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    My new pals from Myanmar Police force

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    Overnight at Aureum Palace Hotel, Naypyitaw. Staff member said they were waiting for us whole day and wanted make our stay memorable. Very kind and hospitable people.

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    Menu strictly in US$

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    At the Gems Museum

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    Giant jade slab in front of the museum

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    Leaving Naypyitaw for Bagan

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  11. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Bagan is to be highlight of our trip. As a high school kid I heard lot about this place and in few hours I am about to see this amazing place.
    But before that I really have to mention our hosts: Willy and Sam. They are simply top notch and very flexible. According to trip rules we should be following their van all the time but even they realized that is not much fun. They told us we can go ahead and once we come to intersection without knowing which turn to take to wait for them. I liked this arrangement very much. Without them we would be lost multiple times. GPS back in 2013 simply didn't work....there are no road signs or directions in English.

    San Hlaing (on the left) is government minder and Myint Khine Oo (Willy) is official tour guide. Here pictured at one of our lunch stops along the route towards Bagan.

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    Stopping at gas stations was event by itself. People friendly and curious, offering us hot coffee and cold water. And refuse to take any money from us??? I have been in some remote areas in my life and this is true: poor but willing to share all they got. Compare that western rich world like certain anglo-saxon countries where they wouldn't even offer you glass of water and get the full picture. Bit off topic but that is why I always preferred Southern Europe hospitality instead of western or northern cold mentality. And yet Thailand is full of these expats who moan and bitch day and night and trying to change Thais mentality.

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    At the banks of Irrawady river

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    Bored monk

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    Arrived to Bagan in afternoon. Time to offload the gear in hotel room and go on top of pagoda to observe famous Bagan sunset.

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    Hotel entrance gate

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    Yes, this is an open air dining area right next to thousand over year old ruins. We were told owner of this and all other hotels we were staying is rich guy with close connections to ruling junta.

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    And right next to Irrawady River

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    Big crowds of tourists on top of pagoda anticipating sunset

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  12. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Second day in Bagan. Checking out Royal Golden Palace.

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  13. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Negotiating deal for a horse carriage ride

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    And off we go....

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    1700 years old stupa

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    Irrawady river evening cruise - locals trying to sell us stuff

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    Guilty as charged but after all that curry, veggies and fresh water prawn I need some western food for a change

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  14. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    On our way to Pyay

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    It's a convertible...

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    Local kids

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    Stop for sugar cane juice

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    Lots of curious but friendly locals wherever we stop

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    Arriving to Pyay. Statue of General Aung Sun, father of Aung Sun Su Kyi.

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    We stayed at wonderful lake side resort

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    Beautiful little town famous for major ammunition and weapons factory.
    Here pictured oldest temple in Burma, reportedly 2500 years old

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    Sunset in Pyay

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    Downtown Pyay clocktower

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    Tallest sitting Buddha in Myanmar

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  15. Renzobkk

    Renzobkk Ol'Timer

    Beautiful report!
    The first route after Mae Sot is terrible, pure endurance test. We thinking to back again next year for 8 day and get to China border.
     
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  16. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Thanks Renzo but I ain't done yet :p more to come.

    By the way, going to China border from Burma government controlled territory is a no-no right now. You have to go thru rebel controlled areas and they (govt) won't allow that unless you enter via Tachileik.
     
  17. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Today's destination is Bago. My wife, unofficial ride photo reporter ready as usual. Those pics from Dawna Range, full credit goes to her.

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    Just about the only signboard in English during entire journey

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    This was a very tricky bridge to cross, at least for my tourer. GS's had no much trouble.

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    Along the route between Pyay and Bago, Hugh Sutherland found out thru his lonely planet booklet about existence of huge cemetery where 27,000 allied soldiers were buried. Most if not all of them died during 1944. We asked our guide to take us there...
    And here it is
    [h=1]Taukkyan War Cemetery[/h]Coordinates: 17.035695 96.131275 (decimal)

    From Wikipedia:

    The Taukkyan War Cemetery is a cemetery for Allied soldiers from the British Commonwealth who died in battle in Burma during the Second World War. The cemetery is in the village of Taukkyan, about 25 km north of Yangon on Pyay Road. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

    The cemetery contains the graves of 6,374 soldiers who died in the Second World War, the graves of 52 soldiers who died in Burma during the First World War, and memorial pillars (The Rangoon Memorial) with the names of over 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died in Burma during the Second World War but who have no known grave.[sup][/sup] There are 867 graves that contain the remains of unidentified soldiers.[sup][/sup] It is one of the most visited and high rated war sites of all Asia.

    The cemetery was opened in 1951 and the remains of Commonwealth soldiers who died in Meiktila, Akyab (Sittwe), Mandalay, and Sahmaw were transferred here and the graves are grouped together by these battles. A large number of the 27,000 names of Commonwealth soldiers are of the Indian Army and African soldiers who fought and died in Burma. Of the total, 1,819 graves are Indian soldiers.

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  18. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Finally arrived to our destination: Bago Star Hotel. By far worst accommodation so far but apparently the only other hotel in town is absolute shit hole so let's not complain about it.

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    Our van driver was totally exhausted. Fell asleep before even checking into hotel.

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    My usual ritual when arriving to hotel is to dump my gear and go straight to the pool. WTF....construction workers frolicking. I looked at the water and it was so dirty, probably all of them were peeing in at the same time. It really put me in foul mood.

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    Anyways, just wanted to get a hell out of here, board the van and check the town and historical spots.

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    Back in 1975 this site was devastated by earthquake. You can see original part of destroyed pagoda left in place.
    This is Bago Pagoda, according to our guides largest and holiest buddhist site in entire country.

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    Four face Buddha

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    Temple teak wood ceiling....quite impressive. This photo does no justice.

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    Bago Golden Royal Palace

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    Customary sunset shot

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  19. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    About to move to our last overnight stop: Moulmein or Mawlmyaing.

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    Overloaded trucks are common sight

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    Interesting little towns along the way

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    Interesting gas pumps

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    Sometimes you got no choice but....

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    Beautiful bridge at Gyaing River estuary

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    Strand Hotel, very nice indeed

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    Mawlamyaing is attractive, leafy, tropical town with a ridge of stupa-capped hills on one side and the sea on the other. Mawlamyine served as capital of British Burma from 1827 to 1852. Pictured here couple of old mosques and 112 years old British built church.

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  20. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    The Dawna Range, also known as Dawna Hills (Burmese Dawna Taungdan) is a mountain range in eastern Burma and northwestern Thailand. Its northern end is located in Kayah State where it meets the Daen Lao Range, a subrange of the Shan Hills. The range runs southwards along Kayin State as a natural border with Mon State in the west forming parallel ranges to the northern end of the Tenasserim Hills further south and southeast. The Dawna Range extends east of the Salween southwards from the Shan Hills for about 350 km, at the western limit of the Thai highlands. Its southern end reaches the Thai-Myanmar border in the Umphang area, entering Thailand west of Kamphaeng Phet. The Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary is in the Thai side of the range.

    Some geographers include the Dawna Range as the western and the southern part of the Thanon Thong Chai Range. The highest point of the range is 2,080 m high Mela Taung; 2,005 m high Mulayit Taung is located at the southern end of the range.

    Back to Dawna Range again. This time will be worse due to fact we would arrive there around noon when is worst traffic.
    42 degree Celsius, just couldn't stand it anymore. Took my jacket and helmet off. All GS guys and the van went ahead while I got stuck in traffic. If something happens to me they can't turn back against the traffic to look for me. I forgot to mention, one day traffic goes westbound, the other eastbound. Today is eastbound turn obviously. Dropped the bike at one of the boulders and damaged exhaust pipe but nothing serious. What little water I had I used to pour over my head because of enormous heath.

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    Broken down buses on the way down....wouldn't be in their skin no matter what. Road closes at 6pm and unless they reach Miyawadee by that time they have to spent the night in this jungle.

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    Finally made it it down to the border checkpoint. This pic fully illustrates my obvious relief :cool: I would never ever again ride heavy sport tourer on such road.

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    And final group pic upon arrival

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    This concludes my report. Thank you for reading and commenting.
     
  21. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer Staff Member

    One more thing:

    If you ever decide to do Burma ride I strongly recommend ICS Travel Group. I organized 4 Burma tours thru them and have no complaints whatsoever!

    http://icstravelgroup.com/

    Pictures of 3 more groups I sent to Burma after my ride:

    BMW Motorrad Club Malaysia - February 2014

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    Mixed group of Malaysians, Singaporeans, Thai and farangs, also February 2014

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    Triumph Rat Pack Malaysia - January 2014

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    All the best and ride safe! :happy3:
     
  22. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Nice one Goran..
     
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  23. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Thanks for that. Interesting pics of Naypyitaw. Also the cemetery which I'm sure was very moving. Having ridden over the Dawna mountains after Myawaddy, I'm sure it was tricky on those big bikes. On Royal Enfields so it was good fun. Future tours will be seeing lots more interesting sites as Burma continues opening up.
     
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  24. phuketrichard

    phuketrichard Ol'Timer

    WOW thanks
    great report an ride;

    Last year we rented small 125 in Mandalay an rode to Hsipaw- Namsham- Kyaukme- Mogok- Mandalay
    4 days 800 kms 35% on roads like the ones u hit and some ( like to Mogok ) Worse plus we rode in July so had rain 50% of the time.

    Just back friday night from a trip to Myitkyina way up in Kachin state.

    Staring to see some 250 bikes but still not larger yet,
    hear its getting easier for permits an the price had dropped.
     
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  25. phuketrichard

    phuketrichard Ol'Timer

    Not true

    if u have China visa u can go from Mandalay- Lashio to Mu SE and on to Kumming.
    Permits can be arranged in Mandalay. Just need pay $$$

    Was just in Mandalay talking with agents an Zach about it

    also u can now take bikes up to Mogok if u have a guide with you. we did it illegally
     
  26. blackwolf

    blackwolf Active Member

    You can also go up to Mu-se without a permit. I was there in February and I didn't have a permit. I did however go there as a passenger in a private car and back, not by motorcycle. There is an immigration checkpoint at mile 105, just 12km from the Chinese border. The guards there wanted to know where my permit was but since my friend and I weren't crossing the border to China (for which a permit is still required) a couple of phone calls to the border guards at the actual border crossing and we were allowed to stay in town on the condition we didn't try to sneak into China, which we had no intention of doing anyway. Just like almost 2 years earlier, we also had to check in with immigration at the border and present our accommodation form that we got from the hotel and passport, and then "check-out", i.e. inform immigration upon our leaving both Mu-se town and the economic zone. Leaving was very quick, just a cursory glance at our documents and we were allowed to leave.

    Days later the Kokang conflict erupted, but it never affected the main Mandalay-Mu-se highway. As long as you don't head east of Hseni or Kutkai, you're OK. Still, I got the feeling that the guards at the mile 105 checkpoint were a bit paranoid - it might be best to wait until the official opening of the China-Myanmar border there to travel there. I was told it should open later this year, but they've been saying that since October of 2013.
     

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