The Magic of Myanmar by Moto December 2010

May 30, 2009
Hi All

I know for many adventure riders, the Land of Golden Pagodas, has been off limits for ages. Well, that is about to change and that is good news for the people of Myanmar and for those wishing to see something pristine, magical, and just a tad bit mysterious from the seat of a motorcycle. I have just returned from a 3 week survey and ride mission to report back that we will be offering guided motorbike tours through Myanmar in 2011. Group sizes are limited to 4 pax and we already have 2 groups booked, each 2 pax, one date in March, one in May. Contact me for details and info.

In the meantime, I hope that you all enjoy the trip report and photos. I cannot stress what an amazing journey this was through a country that is highly mis-understand and a tad bit too frightened of outsiders. That would be the government, as the locals haven't a shy bone in their body. They just love foreigners and having their pictures taken. And they all asked and pleaded to return and please brings friends as they had never seen tourists and could really use the money. I love Laos and one reason I choose to live here is the people; I have never met friendlier or more helpful folks in my life. From the police, to the soldiers letting me sleep in their barracks, to the poorest toll gate attendants on the Arrawaddy River bridge that let me sleep in their hut, knowing the penalty for housing a "farang" could at best loose them their job, at worst, see their interment at a work camp or even....

Let's see a few pix......

The curiosity started 5M outside the airport....No one shows up with MX gear at the airport in Rangon!!!!

Staff at a local tea shop in Rangon

Snacks on offer...cakes, samosa, roti...this was more Indian influenced, but much of Myanmar is...

Proud of their cables???!? Some pretty strong stuff!

Bath time for the average citizen. There are water urns set up all over the city and the general population uses them for bathing. You can't tell but it's about 9 degrees.....BBBBBBRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

I was fascinated by this old colonial building, one of thousands dotting the city in disrepair. So amazing!

And a contrast....the newer apartment blocks. The newest ones look right out of NYC or London.

Weird, huh? And mostly vacant...Like the new capitol in Nyipitthaw...more on that surreal experience later..

TBC.....I have to leave the house for a bit.....back in an hour or so. ENJOY!!!!!
Jul 6, 2004
Great to hear about Myanmar opening up to the world.
Can individual riders enter the country?
What concerns me is that the Government of Myanmar follow Vietnam and China in insisting on tour guides and an itinerary before entering.
Most motorcyclist's I know would prefer to explore a country on their own.
May 30, 2009
Hi Tom

There is a procedure for individual riders that involves, as you mention, an escort, etc and a general PITA. We have an approved and allowed route on our schedule, so we can bypass alot of BS. However, we do not have authority to bring in outside bikes. We currently own 5 late model Yamaha DT125s for the tours. Possible to expand further, as better bikes do exist, but the tide could change at any time.....hopefully for the better!

Report to continue...enjoy!
May 30, 2009

This was a festival I came across during a foray into the off road areas....Just over a hill, a huge festival, maybe 1000 people. And 1 motorized vehicle....Me. I was shocked and amazed. All these people showed up with their cow carts, had special "cow parking" where attendants carried away poop and brought hay and water for the animals. The people "circled their wagons", stretched tarps out over the backs and sides (it was COLD), and lived there for 3 days. A farang alone was a sight; one on a DT was too much. They loved it!!!

Beautiful Brahma Bulls....the wife said " Wow, their "nuea" (cow) VEEERY big, no? Very beautiful. Not same as Lao nuea. Lao very small" Yup...huge Brahma via India.

Not sure if I'd buy a wedding band here.....

Cycle rickshaws abound in Rangon, as motorbikes are banned 100%

Floating palace restaurant in Rangon

The entrance at night.....

The only "2 wheeler" available in Rangon...pushbike.

Just like milking a cow ;)

Mandalay Hill

Burial pagodas on Mandalay Hill

Rangoon can seem spotless in places, at times. This is due to no shortage of human labor. Teams of people are everywhere, combing every inch of ground for litter. It is a continuous cycle, of course.

Beautiful old Eastern Euro or Russian car

Entrance to Pagoda on hillside

The faithful cram into a truck to make their alms at a famous Wat

A woman watches her shop and passes the day

From what I understand, monks wear different colors in diff countries....Here, red is the color of choice, and I assume it is Pink for the novices....Bummer.
Mar 11, 2008
I have a buddy whose been doing Myanmaar trips in the last couple of years.. From the icecap mountains in the north (proper mountain climbing) to the mergui islands.. He raves about the place.

Just wish the people got a better crack at life without so many controls.
May 30, 2009
You are right on the mark, LOS. Everywhere you go, everyone you speak with, you can't help to be reminded just exactly how much these people are controlled. Be it through education, communication, wealth and income, etc....Just 6 months ago, anyone could buy a $20 or $50 SIM card, and use a mobile. Then they stopped ask for a deposit of around $1500 for a number and SIM on a Myanmar controlled network, not GSM. They didn't want people calling anywhere to anyone, easily. I am really happy to hear your friend is able to help alleviate some of the financial strain for these folks with his travels. They sure deserve it!

A friendly little guy I met fishing in a canal. The kids here seemed very brave compared to alot of kids not use to outsiders. Ask them to climb on the bike for a picture and they clamber on as fast as they can!!!

Fishing friends

The white ghost that came to the village

Panniers filled with fish, actually.

An impromptu lesson in reading and writing. The girl would write words on the slab, wipe away with a big green leaf, and carry on like that. True road side education.

P'yinn P-Loo

There's that pink again....

A fuel line, the queue for gas at the actual "petrol stations" Anything with a tank could get a fill up....for a set price, about $2.00 I think...they pushed bikes thru with no chains, no top ends, just rolling tanks, for a top up!!! To be sold on the street later.....everywhere it's like this. Everywhere.

Herd em up!

The cash register. The biggest note in circulation is basically a $1.25 note, called a "Kyatt". They do print 5,000K notes, but no one ever sees them. Everything is done in 1000 denomination transactions. So everyone just chucks a couple of 1000 notes and fills up.

And the exit from the station.....No $hit.

The ancient palace moat in Mandalay.

Mobile Vcd seller

Kids on the streets on Mandalay.

The shop for our bikes! Yes, you could eat in there.

The old girl on the way out. Yamaha DT125 electric start 2T. I love 2t' simple, so fun, so ample! Even this little 125 would make you smile when it came on the pipe....Anyway...
May 30, 2009

Good eating!!!! Just takes a few....

Down the track and into the horizon

Transport in the village with the big cow!

She made the best coconut filled do-nuts I ever tasted

The future of Myanmar

They don't call it the Land of Golden Pagodas for nothin'!

Girls at the Pagoda selling wreaths of jasmine flowers. Keeps the 2T smell in check.

Petrol queue in another town.

VERY odd choice of architecture. And more strange, in the middle of no where...Maybe 150 miles from any major city and the town around it looked 100 years old.

Work on the farm, rice thresher.

Goats are awesome. These are roadside goats.

One of the few things for sale at the festival. Clay pottery. Since they are seen all over the country like this, maybe they are put out by the festival organizers for people to use or buy cheap?

Kids playing around in the camp ground

This is one of the shelters people lived in at the festival

Proud novice and his friend oversee the herd

Festival lunch. Their version of spring rolls. And Lemon soda. It was delicious.

This man had the job of shuttling $hit and water back and forth to the cow area

Cattle parking

The spread at the festival. The hot pink is a sweet that has been dyed. Not as awful as it looks and it isn't something's guts.

Rifles for sale at the festival. Better than clay pots.

Roll your own. Fresh,too!

Cow Camping
May 30, 2009
Wow...What a PITA...I downloaded a "mass uploader" for the pix....Didn't go so well. Above pix should be fixed and these should be fine as well.

The more than helpful police!!!

A day in the park

Beauty of a vintage pick up truck!



Fresh market

The lakeside in Rangon. A really amazing system of piers and bridges allow people to walk all over the lake area which is huge and has lots of things to exercise with, in addition to people just doing Tai Chi or whatever they feel...Fitness is very important.

Temple guys......

The lake at dusk

Staff waiting to greet patrons
May 30, 2009

Novice and his buddy pose for a shot

This was really strange...I was trail riding up in the mountains, and first noticed this razor wire, fenced in enclosure. Then to the right, across the trail, were 2 soldiers. I drove up further a bit to get a better look. It turns out, it is a labor camp, for prisoners, I assume. And they were quarrying rock by hand and chisel. It looked likes omething out of an old chain gang movie. And the soldier came up later just for a chat, no problems. I expected to get balled out for the camera.

Goats are cool.

Girls here prepare the betel nut mixtures that everyone seems to eat all the time. Pools of what you may think were blood are everywhere, dried and we, but just spit. Ewww...the taste is kinda good, though!

Absolutely stunning vintage Toyota fire truck. Immaculate. I can only assume this is worth a fortune to a collector somewhere.

And the volunteer Fire Brigade!!!

This was as close as I ventured for a photo souvenir of the police station I stayed in. One soldier drove around with me on the bike trying to help my find a guest house..but to no avail...No foreigners....So he proposed I sleep in the barracks, which I had no problem doing. I knew better than to ask about some photos inside as I can only assume what they did would have been severely looked down upon by the big guys. Never happened ;)

Fried rice, en masse.

This old gem was 92 years old, spoke great English, and told me all about her memories of the JAPANESE invasion!! Talk about old timer! Her "daughter" confirmed she had been in their family, as a sort of nanny for more than 50 years. This woman was actually, the word they used was "spinster", never married and had no children or family. She had adopted by several families in the village over time they said. She was not homeless in the sense of what we think of. She was a beaming, charming old soul that flashed a smile and a glint of knowledge in her eyes that kind of made you feel some shame for her plight. Sharp as a tack and she knew she was still getting screwed!

Uhhhh...where'd all the trees go?????

Gotta get those trees out of here....

On down the road....
May 30, 2009

People working in the quarries. They definitely weren't mining anything. They were breaking up rocks and moving them to the tral for re-surfacing going on down the road.

One of those times when the view actually looks good going over the bars!

Glamour shot ;)

The people in Myanmar like to apply white powder to their faces, both men and women, in various patterns for design and beauty.

High in the Shan Mountains

Village wagon

On the head is the preferred way to transport small packages!

Over the tops of the Shan Range

Pan of the high mountain pass

Burning sky over Burma

Keeping close to keep warm

Siblings in the village

Wow what a spread...and I ate it all!!

One of the local markets in a Shan village


Sep 2, 2009
Such a wonderful trip. Wonder if you could give more detail on your route and what is your plan for the trip if we would like to take your service. Thanks and tq.
May 20, 2005
Such a nice trip bro..if junta lets our bike go in to mymar they will make $$$$$
hv nice n safety riding.

big al

Oct 12, 2011
hi i'm gonna be in burma early next year does anyone know where i can hire a bike in the mandalay area ? thanks
Jul 3, 2012
I think people will be afraid to travel in Myanmar on motorbike when they see the pictures of the gas stations on here. Thankfully you don't see lines like those anymore. In the past year many private gas stations, with no lines, have popped up on all the major roads.
Prices are about 4400kyat for a Imperial Gallon of grade 90 (about $5)