….On two rented Yamaha Lanza 230cc we set out for a trip through Myanmar along the historical Burma- and Stilwell Road. This is the fourth blog about this trip. Click to see the introduction and part one and two.
On the way to Inle
The first part to Inle Lake was going back the same way as we had come. Until that point the bikes had done well. Only the daily checking and if necessary topping up the two takt oil was enough to keep them going. Driving back the Burma Road the opposite direction, away from China, shit hit the van.
I used to hate having motorbike problems, but gradually I don’t mind that much anymore. A sequence of motorbike failures in all kind of corners of this planet over the past years have proven that problems are not that horrific as I used to think. A defect will not be the end of your trip. Its maybe even quite the opposite, motorbike problems is where the unplanned and strange situations start, thus a vital part of fun and adventure driving a motorbike in these countries.
The first mechanic we had found in a small village along the road was a complete mess. Like often with these mechanics their garage is also their home. The work in progress, in the form of a car and motorbike, were standing half inside and half outside. The dirt floor inside of the garage was filled with old parts, oil cans, tools, but there was also a bed and a table behind which the mechanics wife and children were sitting. The ‘mechanic’ started hammering on a connection of the exhaust pipe to close a gap and next fills up the cooling liquid reservoir with engine oil. This wasn’t the guy who would get our dirt bikes in better shape.
The next day in a bigger town there were plenty of mechanics, but all of them were closed because of some holiday. Driving around with the lobby boy of the hotel, we finally found one guy who was willing to work (today). Over the phone the owner of the renting company explained the problems to the mechanic and he got started. In the meantime I sat before his shop sipping Chai (tea) while watching the bustling street life. This mechanic became the hero of the day and we were back on track.
Deep in the central Shan Hills the road turned into a dirt bike challenge. So far, the route had been quite good. Not good as you might be familiar to in the West, but quite good, at least better than we had expected beforehand. To reach our new destination (Inle Lake) we had diverted south from the Burma Road. The diversion led through remote hills with many small tribal villages along the way. Deep in a forest the road started to go down into a steep gorge. Plagued by landslides during the monsoon the road went from tarmac to gravel, to sand and into rocks. At a certain point we had to stop and we could wittiness how construction workers were blowing up landslide prone areas with dynamite. These roads were among the best and adventurous we had ever driven. Luckily we had dirt bikes under our bottoms.
Inle Lake seemed to be a relaxed place were we stayed for a day to explore the life on the water. The Lake has unique industries like extracting silk from water plants (for making clothes) and floating gardens for agriculture. Another aspect which makes the Lake famous and reason for heaps of tourists to come are the distinctive fishermen of Inle. We didn’t encounter one while fishing, but when we got back to the tourists main hub, where we stayed in a hotel, some of the ‘fishermen’ had lined up their boats while waiting for tourists. For some money they would perform some kind of acrobatic show for tourists eager to take that one ‘perfect fishing’ shot.
Cherry on the cake
After Inle it was time to bring back the motorbikes to Mandalay. Over the last weeks driving through Myanmar the country had shown itself in many ways. It led us over the historic Burma Road and a small part of the Stilwelll Road and through colonial Pyin Oo Lwin. Along the way we experienced some of the many different cultures of Myanmar, like the Shan, the Burmese and some of the tribal groups. But there was also a substantial influence of Chinese culture apparent, at least in this part of the country. There are the struggles of contemporary Myanmar with the shooting that happened between rivaling groups just before our passing. And we were stopped by the Military because we were entering prohibited area. In these foreigner restricted areas the government keeps the still emerging conflict and fighting over territories out of sight for tourists and foreigners.
Myanmar is also a magnificent motorbike-able country. On many days we had beautiful weather and good paved roads to ride on. The people of Myanmar showed their unrivaled hospitality and were always helpful, with or without our cry for help. Then there was the amazing scenery, especially when going off the beaten track. The day’s ride from Inle Lake back to our final destination Mandalay was in that sense not quite different. The empty roads, the scenery and the freedom of being on the bike, made this last stretch the cherry on the cake.
Now there is the opportunity is go to Myanmar, rent a motorbike and drive around all by yourself. Take it!
This was the final part of the motorbike trip along the Burma- and Stilwell Road in Myanmar.
- Hotel: In cities on the main roads hotels are easy to find. In the more remote area’s it can be harder. Accommodations are decent, but fairly expensive, starting between 20-30 Euro. Often including break-fast though.
- Food is always easy to find and cheap in one of the many roadside restaurants or shops. Especially Shan Noodles are available in this part of Myanmar.
- Fuel: There are many fuel stations along the main roads, often clustered. Also the Two Takt oil for our kind of motorbikes was easily available.
- Read more about the Burma and Stilwell Road: