Trip Report: Naypyidaw - Inle Lake - Taunggyi - Kalaw - Naypyidaw


Nov 7, 2017
Hi, as a new member on this forum, I should also do a quick introduction. I'm British, 58 years old and previously lived in Phuket for about 11 years, where I built and managed 4 small hotels by the international airport.

In 2012, I got a teaching job in Yangon for a couple of years. After a further year of managing the international school in Luang Prabang (Laos), I returned to Myanmar in 2016 to teach at an international school in the new capital city of Naypyidaw.

My weekends are free of work, and as there is almost no entertainment or socialising in Naypyidaw, I bought a secondhand Honda XR125L from Zach in Mandalay.


To justify riding around the nearby countryside, I started a charity project to identify the many orphanages and children's homes within one day's riding distance, to visit each home, assess their needs for educational assistance, and then donate the required items, such as English and Myanmarsa (Burmese) storybooks, SD memory cards loaded with audio and video pronunciation files for the local teachers, as well as toys and physiotherapy items for some of the kids who are disabled due to polio.

Sadly, there are literally hundreds of orphanages all over Myanmar. About 70% of the children are not actually orphans, but their parents are too poor to provide for them. So they stay in the orphanage, where they get basic food, clothes and a safe place to sleep.

Depending on how well-organised the orphanage is, the children will attend the local government primary or secondary school.

Anyway, back to the trip report.

One of my regular routes is to visit orphanages at the popular Inle Lake, then to Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, then to the hill station of Kalaw, and finally back to Naypyidaw. I do this trip maybe once a month, staying overnight in Taunggyi.

Here are some details and a few photos of my journey:

I usually leave my hotel in Naypyidaw at about 6.30am. My XR125 has extra bags loaded with school supplies for the orphanages.

The footprint of the city of Naypyidaw is apparently four times that of New York City!. It is huge. I can ride for almost one hour before I reach the outskirts of the city. Yet the roads are almost deserted.

You've probably all seen a photo of the famous (infamous?) 20-lane road in Naypyidaw. So here are a couple of photos of it:


A few minutes later, I spotted what looked like a low barrier stretching across all 20 lanes of the road. It looked to be about 1 foot in height, but was 'undulating'. What on earth could it be?

When I got closer, the long line had morphed into a different shape - a large group of ducks! They had been crossing the 20 lanes in almost single-file. (There being almost no traffic, the ducks were at minimal risk of getting squashed).


As I neared the end of this road, I stopped to take a photo of a popular model of truck - it is either made in Myanmar or imported from China.


Once you leave the city of Naypyidaw, the road becomes the Yangon - Mandalay old highway. (Motorbikes are not allowed on the 'new' highway). I don't like this stretch of my journey, because the road has many large lorries. I am always very much aware that medical facilities are hopeless in Myanmar, and I must therefore keep my wits about me to avoid any accidents, as the lorries roar by me.

Finally, after a further 45 minutes of riding, I reach the junction where a small road leads through the hills to Inle Lake, going via the small village of Pinlaung.

This road begins in the valley, but soon starts to increase in elevation, winding around the hillside and through the very occasional small village.


The road is narrow, and when a lorry or local bus approaches, I have to drive off the road to avoid a collision.

This route goes through 2 parallel hill areas. In the middle is the hamlet of Paun Laung, nestling on a river of the same name. There is a dam downstream, and so the river in this region has now flooded into some very picturesque lakes, with a bridge that crosses over one flooded section.


My road reaches an elevation of about 5,000 feet as I leave the hilly area and start to ride through an elevated valley towards Inle Lake.

Inle Lake is the only region where I spot foreign tourists. The road that runs up the east side of the lake carries a toll of 13,500 MMK. On my first trip to Taunggyi, since I didn't intend to visit Inle Lake, I drove straight pass the ticket office, ignoring the frantic cries of 'stop stop' from the teenage boy who was manning it!

But last week, since I planned to visit an orphanage close to the lake, I stopped at the toll booth to pay my fee. The same teenage boy stared at my bike and yellow motorbike helmet, obviously remembering my antics on the previous occasion :)

I stopped in the village of Nyaung Shwe, which is the starting point for trips out onto the lake. As the altitude is quite high, all tourists were wrapped up in warm clothes and woolly hats.


The orphanage at Inle Lake rarely has any visitors. About 60 boys are cared for by an old monk. The kids don't attend school and I'm working with a charity organisation from Italy to sort out their basic education. They will fund a local teacher and I'll fund the school books and classroom equipment.


And then onto Taunggyi, perched high on a hill. The few Kms before Taunggyi is a bit of a rat race run on the road, with many cars and bikes screaming along and up the switchback road.

Taunggyi is 'OK'. I missed the lantern festival on my last trip, because I was busy with my volunteer work, but apparently it is well worth seeing this festival.

After Taunggyi, I returned down the switchback road and drove onto the old British hill station of Kalaw, also perched high on a hill like Taunggyi.

I completed my work in the town in about 2 hours and started on the long ride back to Naypyidaw. Down in the valley below Kalaw, I encountered a train! This was a big surprise, because although I had seen the narrow-gauge railway tracks in that region on many occasions, I assumed from their worn, rusty and overgrown state that the track was disused. Well, as my animated gif photo shows, it was not disused, (although one could probably reach one's intended destination by walking, which would be faster than this train...).


Back to the village of Pinlaung, and I ride up the switchback road into the hills. By now, my backside is sore from riding for so many hours. I stop for a hot coffee in the lakeside village of Paun Laung, exchanging smiles with the cafe staff, who have now seen me on many occasions loaded up with books and toys when travelling 'outwards', and then without this luggage on my return journey.

I reach my hotel just before it gets really dark at 6pm. (I do not like riding in the dark, since many lorries and local motorbike users drive/ride without any lights, and maybe are drunk. It's better to minimise my risk of an accident). Besides, my XR125L headlight has less power than a candle flame!

I hope you enjoy the trip report.

At the end of this week, I intend to make another trip through the hills to visit some orphanages in the small town of Demoso, in Kayah State. When I do this trip, I'll definitely take some photos and write a report.


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Staff member
Mar 22, 2016
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and the images of your excursions, much appreciated! Even when you can't make it there yourself, its still interesting to read of other people's activities, perspectives and adventures.Great work, and keep those trip reports coming! :)


Nov 7, 2017
I should also add some practical information if you intend to follow the same route as I. Inle Lake has many expensive (and very expensive) hotels. I stayed in the village of Nyaung Shwe, which is at the northern end of the lake. Sweet Inn, right next to the canal and within walking distance of nice restaurants charged $18 USD for a fan-cooled room (air-con not needed at this elevation...).

Naypyidaw has many hotels, but is a pretty souless place - good to visit for a day or two.

Taunggyi, the capital city of Shan State has many reasonably-priced hotels, as well as a good choice of restaurants and shops.

All the roads on this route are in good condition. The hill road between Nayyidaw and Pinlaung is narrow and windy, which makes for great bike-riding, but don't ride too fast because there may be the occasional slow truck or bus around the next blind corner, or perhaps some local driving a little too fast. I have never had a problem because I ride slow to admire the view, and to arrive at my destination in one piece. (Don't forget that the nearest decent hospital is actually in Thailand, not in Myanmar...). Make sure you have medical insurance that includes evacuation cover to Bangkok.
Apr 2, 2008
Once you leave the city of Naypyidaw, the road becomes the Yangon - Mandalay old highway. (Motorbikes are not allowed on the 'new' highway). I don't like this stretch of my journey, because the road has many large lorries. I am always very much aware that medical facilities are hopeless in Myanmar, and I must therefore keep my wits about me to avoid any accidents, as the lorries roar by me.

Interesting you say that, must be a new rule.
Back in 2013 we were allowed to use this highway.
Thanks for great report and keep it coming.

Video footage of our trip



Nov 7, 2017
Yes, the ban on motorbikes seems to have been introduced a couple of years ago - there are no motorcycle signs along the new highway now. Zach told me that some people do try to ride on the highway, skirting the toll stations to avoid being spotted. But if the police order you off the highway, then you're in some poo-poo, because the old highway doesn't run close to the new highway, and so you'll end up on extremely minor roads in the middle of nowhere.

In Naypyidaw, they are also now erecting no motorcycle signs on the main roads, where there is a parallel service road. I'm ignoring these signs for the moment...

The only time I encounter police and police checks is within or close to Naypyidaw. I am usually stopped at police checks on a daily basis and my passport and employer ID checked. This is presumably because Naypyidaw is the seat of government and HQ for the police and military. But the police are always friendly, no problems.

I am never stopped by the police in other locations. While riding in Loikaw (Kayah State) a couple of months ago, the local police stopped all the traffic to allow me to ride past!


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Fantastic to have you on GTR....many thanks for the report; that was brilliant.

If you want to start off a list of recommended restaurants & hotels you are welcome to do so.
The more we can get the better for everyone.

How many bikes does Zach have now?


Nov 7, 2017
Hi David, thanks for the kind words.

Many of my trips will actually be 'repeats'. I travel almost every weekend to towns in Shan and Kayah states to visit orphanages, speak with their teachers and do follow-up status reports for overseas charities. But each time that I do a trip, I first look at the map to see if there are alternative roads to ride on.

I was planning to visit some new orphanages in Demoso Town (Kayah) this weekend, but can't find any hotel in the town which is licenced for foreign guests. So instead, I will ride tomorrow to Inle Lake again to visit 2 orphanages for the first time.

I usually stay at Sweet Inn in Nyaung Shew. This is right next to the river/canal and within walking distance of good restaurants. I'll make a note of the restaurant names next time.

I'm not sure how many bikes Zach has to rent now. I bought my XR125L from him, second-hand and in good condition for $1,000 USD. So far, apart from a puncture, it has been very reliable and gets me around the hilly roads.

Although there are many police checks in and around Naypyidaw, the police only want to check me and not my bike (although I do carry my ownership papers etc always).