Burma Motorcycle Tour, A Journey into “Old Southeast Asia”
Only 2 tours per year in the absolute best weather months in Burma, because Burma is one, bloody hot country.
2017: February 13-28; December 5-20.
Note: If you are a group of 4 or more you can choose whatever start date you want for the Burma Tour.
This 16-day Burma motorcycle tour will visit Myanmar’s most famous and historic places such as Yangon, the Shwedagon Pagoda, Bagan, Inle Lake, Mandalay, The Golden Rock, and Kengtung.
Burma, or Myanmar as they now prefer to call themselves, is presently undergoing cataclysmic changes as it switches from a half-century-long, iron-fisted military junta rule into an infancy of a government based on democratic principles.
If you want to see what Burma is really like before everyone starts walking around with smart phones and laptops and the roads and cities become choked with traffic, you better come soon before the old ways are lost forever.
The roads are generally in good condition but there are many segments in rural regions where road surfaces are poorly maintained and pot-hole filled. And befitting any country without a long history of motorized transportation, the driving skills of the Burmese in general leave much to be desired.
Therefore we request that only motorcyclists with some riding experience in Asia consider participating on this tour.
It is a long but excellent ride from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot, the border town where we cross over into Myanmar. We spend one night in Mae Sot before entering the Mon State of Burma the following morning.
We cross into Burma and make our way across the Dawna Mountain Range on a road so narrow it can only handle one-way traffic – the flow has to be reversed on alternate days.
We sleep in Kyaikhto, a small town at the base of the Golden Rock.
Today’s highlight is an early visit to the Golden Rock, one of Burma’s holiest and most famous shrines. The Golden Rock is a giant, gold-gilded boulder precariously balanced on the peak of a mountaintop. It supposedly stays propped up as it does because a single strand of the Buddha’s hair is encased in the stupa built atop the Golden Rock and this brings the Golden Rock into heavenly balance.
The Golden Rock is one of Burma’s most sacred Buddhist sites and you will see religious pilgrims from all over the country and the rest of the Buddhist world. This is a fantastic place for people watching; one of the true spectacles of humankind.
After we finish with the Golden Rock, we drive to the outskirts of the old capital city, Yangon, for a 2-night stay. Unfortunately we must leave our motorcycles on the outskirts of Yangon because motorcycles are not permitted inside the city. Despite this, Yangon must not be skipped over even on a motorcycle trip into Burma.
Today is a sightseeing day in Yangon and there is a lot to cram in. We start the day off with a visit to Asia’s most important and dazzling religious monument, the Shwedagon Paya. Wander around and you will witness endless instances of touching religious devotion by the devotees who flock there to earn merit. Fantastic photos are everywhere and anywhere you point your camera. (The Shwedagon Paya is so mesmerizing you might want to return here in the evening for another session.)
Another don’t-miss attraction is Scott’s Market. Over 2,000 shops sell everything under the sun, including antiques, gems, textiles, lacquerware, artwork, etc. In fact, the entire range of traditional crafts that Burma has perfected over the centuries is available at prices not to be believed. Even if you hate shopping you will love Scott’s Market.
These two places are enough to fill the day, but several other excursions are planned to Yangon’s other highlights. Probably the most enjoyable thing you can do is simply wander around the streets of old Yangon on your own and at your leisure and soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of one of the most exotic cities in all of Asia.
We spend a second night in Yangon.
Our destination is Pyay, an important small city on the Irrawaddy River. Pyay is also famous for another large hilltop temple with stunning views across the wide river valley. And there is the huge, ancient Sri Kshetra stupa to visit, situated inside an ancient city undergoing restoration.
Day 6 and Day 7
We’re off for a two-night stay in Bagan, another one of the signature stops in all of Southeast Asia. Bagan is often compared to Angkor in Cambodia for the breadth and scope of the antiquities; over 2,200 temples spread across 100 square kilometers. It would be impossible to visit them all but we will ride our motorcycles to the most important and interesting ones.
Several small towns are situated within the Bagan Archeological zone and the locals are friendly and hospitable to strangers, especially those who arrive on motorcycles and have some money to spend on trinkets.
Bagan is another one of those point-you-camera-anywhere-and-shoot places.
There just isn’t a lot of tourist infrastructure in Burma at this point, so we are forced to overnight in Monwa, a smallish town on the road to Mandalay. Few foreigners have a reason to visit Monwa so it is relatively untouched. A walk through Monwa’s back streets might wind up being one of those unforgettable moments on a tour filled with them.
Day 9 and Day 10
We spend two nights in Mandalay, Burma’s second-largest city and its last capital before British domination began. It is a hustling, bustling place but easy to find your way around because the British laid out the city on a grid. Mandalay is also Burma’s cultural capital.
A scenic temple on top of the hill in the center of town is definitely worth a visit. And watching the activity on the banks of the Irrawaddy River that flows through the city is a scene little changed from biblical days.
Mandalay has their own unique cuisine and we will sample some of the most flavorful dishes during our stay.
Mandalay is another one of those cities where just wandering around is eminently enjoyable.
Day 11 and Day 12
Inle Lake is a delightful stop and worthy of a two night stay. The lake dwellers, who predominantly belong to the Intha ethnic group, have worked out a unique way to garner subsistence from the lake’s waters—they build floating gardens on top of the water in a low-tech version of hydroponics. It works real well because the produce it produces is delicious.
The Inthas build their homes high above the lake’s surface on wooden posts driven into the lake bed. Entire towns have no connection to the land at all, and below everyone’s house is tied a canoe or two because there is no other way to get around. Even the children have kid-sized canoes.
The Inthas have also worked out a unique way of propelling their boats—they row them with one leg and this frees up their hands to fish and cast throw nets.
A cruise around the lake is scheduled when we arrive and the following day there is a terrific day ride to some secluded antiquities and hilltribe villages on the far side of the lake.
280 kms. (approx.)
Today we head into newly-opened-up terrain in the Shan State and overnight in the tiny town of Mongping.
Few foreign travelers have ever entered these lands. We ride into high mountains and today is the best riding we will experience on this tour.
We start to encounter hilltribes in many varieties mixed up with the predominant ethnic group, the Shans, a very old race themselves. The first city of note is Taunggyi, situated high up on a mountain ridge. The people there are famous for their ruby processing and cutting.
Our sleeping quarters tonight are in a simple guesthouse because there simply are not any other lodging facilities available. To say we are in a remote region of the world is a tremendous understatement. And what better to get there than on a motorcycle.
We spend most of this day and the night in the old Shan capital of Kengtung. Kengtung was once a small kingdom in its own right and the predominant population here is a Thai-speaking people. Several beautiful temples survived the ethnic cleansings of the military junta. And another highlight is the big market in the center of town.
Today we reenter Thailand at its most northern point, Mae Sai, and return to a civilization we are more accustomed to.
Return to Chiang Mai and tour is over.
Total tour length: Approx. 3,000 kilometers.
Burma Tour Dates – Only 2 tours per year.
2017: February 6-21; December 5-20.
Tour Price: USD 5,995 based on private room. Pillions: $3,495.
For twin beds – (2 persons sharing a room) – there is a USD 700 discount.
For local riders who ride their own motorcycle, deduct $750 from the tour price.
Minimum group size: 5 Maximum 9
Included in the tour price are all lodgings, food, tolls, entrance fees, and support vehicle.
Not included in the tour price: Air fares to and from Mae Sot, visa fees, vehicle insurance (obtainable at the border) and all items not specifically mentioned as “included in the tour price.”
Watch 2 videos from our Burma Recce Tour: click on the links below: