In February-March of 2012 I took a motorbike trip with my 68 year old father around Myanmar (Burma) as a way to explore the country on 2 wheels. I live in Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin with my wife, who grew up here, and son, who was born here.I never much rode far outside of the Mandalay area so when my Dad came to visit I had the perfect excuse. We wrote a trip report and posted pictures for our family but it has now become a bit of a guide for anyone else who is interested in these areas or, more specifically, to anyone who wants to travel Myanmar on a motorcycle. If you are interested in doing a trip like this, read this blog, ask around on the travel forums, check with the Myanmar Travels and Tours website to see which areas are off limits and read the news. Our trip worked for us but things change and roads open up or close so please seek out updated information.
Zach B

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Trial Run Day 3: Lashio to Anisakan

February 13th 2012

Start: 10am Lashio
Arrival: 5:50pm Chicken Farm, Anisakan
Travel Time: 7 hours 50 min
Total Distance Traveled (Zach): 232km/ 143mi
Total Distance Traveled (David): 228km/ 141mi
David's Fuel Efficiency: 54 km per liter / 126 mpg
Zach's Fuel Efficiency: 58 km per liter / 137 mpg

Left New Palace Hotel at 9:10 am, David 364.4 k; Zach 11503.0 k

Went to market, hoping to find SanSan's uncle's stationary shop. Did not find it, but did enjoy looking at the various foods, clothing, hardware,flowers,etc. in one area women were eviserating chickens. The meat parts, including feet and heads. The eggs remaining in the carcasses were also offered for sale. Some were only yolks, some had

Took photos of a two-truck accident in which the cabs were completely destroyed. One was covered with a large sheet or blanket, so we think a body may have been in the tangled metal.

At the famous Gokteik Viaduct (gorge) Zach strapped his camera to his chest and shot a video of his descent to the river and the rise in the other side. Traffic was relatively swift, so the video is only 15 minutes. Near the bottom of the gorge a police officer whistled and motioned with his hand to pull over. We have found it better here to act like you know what you are doing and that you belong; so we kept on going. Didn't really want to get into another discussion about why we are here and where we are going, as we did two days ago. No one came in pursuit, so either all was OK or he did not have a source of transportation with which to follow us.

A small group of young people were riding new motorcycles through the gorge, In a determined manner, as if on a mission. One lady (girl) appeared to be high school aged. A few minutes out of the gorge we had to wait for a train to pass at a crossing, so Zach talked with her. She said they purchase new Chinese motorcycles for 350,000K in Muse, drive them to Pyin OO Lin, and sell them for 400,000K, a 50,000 markup. That is about $65 for a very long one day ride. SanSan said she occasionally sees people riding new motorcycles from Muse with 1 or even 2 additional motorcycles in crates, stacked on the seat behind the riders. You would not want to be the unknowing buyer of an motorcycle that had been broken in by hauling double it's weight for several hundred kilometers.

The train that caused traffic to stop did so again a ways further west. It was a narrow gauge train with approximately 8 to 10 passenger cars a d 2 cargo cars. At each road crossing an attendant swings a steel gate across the road on both sides of the railroad track. The slow procedure causes the road to be closed for at least 1 minute before the train passes. It is much quicker once the train has crossed.

While traffic was waiting, all the motorcycles form a second lane left of the larger vehicles. Then there is a rush to get ahead of the cars and trucks once the way is clear.

Zach and I could not get to the Myanmar/China border at Muse because foreigners are not allowed to enter Muse from the south. You can get there from China, if with a tour group, and continue south to Lashio.

At Kyaukme a kind lady, and her motorbike passenger lead us into town and to the railway station. A hen with 10 very young (Zach thinks they were only a day old.) chicks was foraging along the tracks and passenger waiting area. A lady was selling a relatively wide selection of home cooked chicken, pork, vegetables and sweets for sale on the waiting platform.

We stopped in the downtown area for a Burmese lunch at a little open walled restaurant. The tables were made with unfinished wood. They were crude, yet beautiful. The wood had a smooth, worn feel. There were large spaces between the board uses for the top.
The ride out of Kyaukme, to the Mandalay/Lashio road was along an especially nice tree and flower lined street.
Just east of Pyin Oo Lwin we stopped at December Milk for a glass of their yogurt. They raise the dairy cows. From the road it appears as a nice cafe: once inside you are exposed to the beautiful gardens in back. It is open in front (no walls),as are most cafes in Myanmar.
After stopping for fuel west of Pin Oo Lwin, the bungee cord securing my back pack to the motorcycle broke. This was the second time, so tying the ends together resulted in a cord of insufficient length. I had to wear the backpack the remaining way to the chicken farm in Siga. It was OK for a short while, but was abusive to my back. By leaning back, I could get the backpack to rest on the seat.

Fortunately, one of the many supplies I brought was 47 feet of 1inch nylon strapping. With a little experimentation, I should be able to fashion a workable system to fasten the backpack to the motorcycle.

As we neared the chicken farm I was impressed by the changes in the small village over the past 13 months. The has been so much new building. Some of the fields on the road past Myo Kin's gallery now have attractive walls. The entrance to the farm has radically changed. Where we passed a sleepy farmstead last year there stands a new house and other buildings. Most of the trees have been cleared.
Chickens getting tied up to be shipped out

Buyers were at the farm when we arrived, to purchase retired laying hens. They will haul 280 hens to Mandalay tonight and more tomorrow. They hang 100 hens, tied together in groups of three, on three bamboo bars across a motorcycle. A short bar is fastened immediately behind the handle bars; longer bars are crossways behind the rider. Zach said he has never seen so many hens on a single bike. The riders, in short sleeved shirts and shorts, will be very cold when they reach Mandalay as the temperature is already Low into the low 60s.

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