Asian Overland 2020 Road Report – Week #4 – More Myanmar Back to News List

By Jerry Cook

Prior to the expedition, nobody in the group really knew what to expect of Myanmar. It was a bit of an unknown.   Tourism has only been encouraged by their government since 1992 and really hadn’t opened up to travellers until the general elections in 2010 when a civilian government was installed.  It’s not a destination high on travellers’ bucket lists due to its turbulent history, having been involved in one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars. 

For our group of adventure motorcyclists, it really has been a highlight of the trip so far and a country that we have enjoyed immensely. We all have a strong desire to return to Myanmar in the future.   

Our local guide Tun Tun’s passion for tourism, love for his country and willingness to share his knowledge of the culture and religion (Buddhism) really added to our experience.

Several of the riders in the group have spent extensive time in South East Asia and were really impressed by Myanmar – The diversity of the country is so different to that of its neighbours and also the friendliness, kindness and warmth of the people, not to forget some incredible and unique riding conditions and experiences were unforgettable.  

For sure, these have been some of the best ride days of my life!  

If you enjoy travelling in Asia and would like to see something quite different in a safe and super friendly country, that is well off the beaten tourist trail, Myanmar is a must-see destination.

Our second week in Myanmar saw us visiting the incredible UNESCO world heritage site at Bagan. With over 4,000 Buddhist temples (pagodas) from the 12th & 13th Century AD, it is a sight to be seen, some of our group choosing to do so by taking the spectacular early morning hot air balloon ride.  

We had a long-boat trip to explore Inle Lake, a freshwater lake located in the troubled Shan State of Myanmar.  From the moment we boarded a traditional long-boat, from the hotel jetty, we knew we were in for a treat.  It was another blue-sky day and the calmness of the lake made for a smooth journey.  Any waves or chop in this water and these long boats would be in a bit of trouble.   

Inle Lake is where the local (Intha) fisherman row canoes with one leg, there are floating vegetable and herb gardens and wooden homes perch above the water on rickety stilts.  Although Inle Lake is one of Myanmar’s most visited sites, at our “Amazing Hotel”, there was only a handful of other tourists.  It is pleasant to visit a tourist destination such as this and not be smothered by other travellers and touts working on the hard sell.   Not once in Myanmar have I been asked for money or felt intimidated by a salesperson. 

We were now deep in the Shan State of Myanmar which holds the largest minority group in the country.  The food, the people and the culture are quite different.   

These roads in this region have only recently been opened to foreigners and we had our usual tourist police escort in and out of the city limits.  

It was final days in Myanmar where the riding became really special.  Endless twisties, switchbacks and super steep inclines with blind corners kept us all alert. There is also the ongoing roadworks and constructions but when these roads are finished, it’s going to be one incredible road, I must come back and ride it again!   

Once we arrived at the Famous Hotel in Kengtung, we took some photos with the tourist police, enjoyed the regular welcome drink and cool face towel to clean the dirt from our faces and we settled in for the evening.  

Tomorrow we return to Thailand via the infamous Golden Triangle.  

Covid19 is taking a grip on the world and the continuation of our expedition is looking grim due to the closure of the Laos border with Thailand.  

However, we still have some great roads ahead of us as we head to Chiang Mai and ride the Mae Hong Son loop.  

With the situation escalating back home and flight restrictions coming into place some of the riders are contemplating leaving the trip in a few days to be able to return home safely.  We are not ready to finish this expedition but Covid19 has turned to a pandemic and the world will be in lock down soon.  

We will enjoy what time we have remaining of the expedition and do all we can to stay safe.

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