Avoid the center of the city as much as possible. Busy with buses and bumpy. All the streets (main & secondary) are rough with potholes.
Yangon to Kyaunggon 130Ks
Out on Strand for 14Ks. Always 3-lanes. Generally a good surface but at times it’s rough. All urban riding. Left at junction to bridge at 15Ks. After bridge there’s a good side road on the left for 5 to 20Ks. At 22Ks, Circle, 4-lanes, moderate traffic, lots of buses. Flat. Dull scenery. At 50Ks, the road narrows so there is no room if 2 buses pass at you. Greener. The road is older but still good. Winds NW (headwinds). At 63Ks, junction, go left. At 71 Ks, junction, go right. At 90Ks, over big bridge. Nice (flat) rural scenery. Light traffic. At 130Ks, Kyaunggon (off highway 2Ks).
Note: No legal lodging in Kyaunggon.
Kyaunggon to Pathein 65Ks
Kyaunggon to junction 11 Ks, right. Narrow 2-lane road. Strong NW (cross) winds, light traffic. Variable road. Sometimes good, some broken and old and some construction but mostly rough with potholes. Less interesting scenery. It’s hard to get orientated in Pathein. Center at 65Ks.
Pathein to Chaungtha Beach 62Ks
Strand Road along river on rough road (but being improved). At 5Ks junction, left and over new bridge. Good views from bridge. At 6Ks junction. Left to Ngwesaung (27miles) Right to Chaungtha (33 miles) Good gravel road, light traffic, good scenery (rice fields). Strong NW (head) winds. At 16Ks, junction left then at 20Ks, a single lane rough and potholed paved road. Now hills. Some short and steep through scrubland into Chaungtha Beach to Junction at 62Ks. Right to most hotels.
Pathein to Yangon (see above in reverse)
The ride into the Delta is excellent. Mostly good new roads, mostly quiet, good scenery, interesting rural life. But there are No Legal Hotels from Yangon to Pathein which is 195Ks. (See road story).
Yangon to Bago 91Ks
Past Shwedagon. Inya Road to Paya Road, right. Past airport at 17Ks. Straight. And gradually climbing to Sacred Tree at 35Ks. Six lanes, sometimes broken. Moderate traffic. At 36Ks, WWII cemetery. Junction at 37Ks. Left toward Pyay, right toward Bago. At 38Ks, toll booth (bikes free). At 48Ks, Hlegu. Four lanes with a wide shoulder, light traffic. So-so scenery. Light cross to tail winds (NW). Gradual hills start at 70Ks. (At 90Ks, at Mosque, to left for 6K circuit to Pagodas including the reclining Buddah). At 91Ks, Bago.
Bago (mile 50) to Nyaunglebin (mile 98) 78Ks
Out of Bago on a busy road, 2-lanes. Rough black top, no shoulder, mostly slow moving moderate traffic, flat. So-so scenery. At 17Ks, Phayagi, past the junction (mile 61) to Mawlamyaing (south). Mountains come into view on the right. A lot of big shade trees along the road. Interesting village life. North (head) winds.
The Yangon effect – faster buses and cars leave Yangon in the early AM so there’s a crescendo of fast traffic here in the AM.
Better scenery as you go. Nyaunglebin, 78Ks.
In Nyaunglebin, there’s a licensed Guest House for Foreigners but it is frequently full.
Winds from the north. Occasionally, they will switch from the south as in January 2001 for 2 glorious, fortunate, trail wind days.
Nyaunglebin (mile 98) to Taungoo (mile 175) 125Ks
Rough tarred road. Sometimes its been improved. North (head)winds. Flat. The same scenery and village life. Less traffic. Trucks often travel in groups. Fewer shade trees. After 85Ks, the road improves and its almost all good into Taungoo. The last 5Ks into Taungoo is a wide, busy, 4-lane road.
Now (2006), the capital is changing to Pynmana so its no longer open to tourists so there’s no place to sleep. In fact, cyclists or tourists cannot even stop in Pynmana now. In 2001, it was possible to stay in Pynmana and Yamethin then on to Meiktila.
Taungoo to Thasi by train in 2006
Thasi to Meiktila (13 miles) 22Ks
Out 2Ks on rough wide road to junction. To the right, toward Mandalay, to the left, toward Meiktila. Left on narrow slightly broken and potholed road. Beautiful old shade trees in parts. Mostly flat. Cross winds (north). At 21Ks, junction with main highway at the lake. Right to downtown a 22Ks.
Meiktila to Kyaukse (64 miles) 105Ks
Busy out of town then quiet. 18Ks of the usual bumps over potholes and patches to the new wide highway to 31Ks then somewhat broken tarmac. Featureless scenery. Light north (head) winds. Through Wundwin then at 36Ks, new highway restarts. Over rivers and through towns the new highway stops and you go on the old bumpy road. At 80Ks, the new highway becomes 4-lanes. In Kyaukse, there’s more traffic. It’s better scenery toward Kyaukse. The road is closer to the hills and mountains.
Kyaukse to Mandalay 48Ks
4-lanes in town then 2-lanes rough to 4Ks then 4 lanes new divided highway. Early AM busses, moderate traffic. Views of hill top Pagodas. Flat. At 30Ks, over bridge then older, bumpier 4 lane urban road with a good shoulder and eventually a “bike lane!’
Mandalay is a sprawling city with lots of quiet streets and lots of other bikers so its easy to bike to all the local sites.
Mandalay to Meiktila in reverse.
Only difference a rare south (head) wind.
Alternatives to Bagan from Mandalay:
- Meiktila – Kyaukpadanny rode in 2001 & 2006
- Mandalay thru Monywa on other side of the river in 1995
- Through Myotha & Myingyan. Internet account describes this trip as very rough and not recommended (not rode)
Meiktila to Kyaukpadaung 99Ks
Over bridge then bear right at junction. 5Ks of town sprawl. Easy rolling hills. Very light traffic. Good scenery & rural life. The road is broken (rideable) tarmac that has been widened. Some short sections are very rough. South, cross winds. From 30Ks to 40Ks, a newer, better road. Then the usual broken tar road. Hilly. More up than down for first half then more down than up and more gradual for 2nd half. Junction for road to Mt Popa at 99Ks, right.
Kyaukpadaung to Mt. Popa 26Ks
Up and down easy hills for 13Ks then climb on a snaky hill with views of the Mt Popa Pagoda and the plains below to 18ks then mostly flat to 20Ks. Junction, right to Guest Houses at 21Ks then climb on a rough road and finally descend steeply at 25Ks into the base village at 26Ks. To the pagoda by foot only on final ascent.
Mt Popa to Nyaung U 49Ks
From Min Min Soe Guest House (5Ks down from Mt Popa) its 2 gradual Ks down to junction, right. At 3Ks, start steep descent for 1.5Ks then more gradual and the road improves (no pot holes yet). Rolling hills, more down than up. Only occasional views back to Mt. Popa. Then a gradual descent for 8Ks down to junction with Kyaukpadaung to Bagan highway at 25Ks. Right. The road is only slightly rough. Slightly down through Palms, candy and whiskey making. At 43Ks, divided highway and train station. At 46Ks, airport and entry fee booth then 3 more Ks into town.
Nyayng U to Kyaukpadaung (35miles) 56Ks
Back to Mt Popa junction 24Ks (described previously) then rolling rills generally climbing on good 1 lane road. Some views through palms. Winds north (cross). (No overnight, we diverted 21Ks back to Mt. Popa)
Kyaukpadaung to Magway 109Ks
Toward Chauk. Mostly gradual down. Patched tar road, 2 lanes. OK scenery. To junction 12Ks, left (see Nyaung to Yenangyanng through Chauk for alternate route) Single lane patched tar, bumpy, quiet road south. Sometimes under shade trees. Gradually climbing through farm fields to 26Ks then gradual down (great) to bridge at 49Ks. Then climb 2Ks through oil wells. North winds (tail) then hills into Yenangyaung (we slept here in 2001 at the Country Inn) 56Ks. Continue up and down hills through dry boring scenery. After 70Ks, the hills mellow out, the scenery improves and the road is better. Vistas. At 81Ks, descend for 4Ks to ford a dry river on a sand road. Then climb to 91Ks then mostly easy gradual down to Magway Magwe at 109Ks.
Magway to Aunglan 135Ks
Out of town then easy hills on the usual patched tar narrow road toward Taungdwingyi. Cross bridge at 24Ks. Mostly a moderate climb to 35Ks then gentle grades up and down. So-so scenery. Light tail winds (NW). At 51Ks, junction with gravel and sand road. A new hard, smooth and good short cut. Right. Desolate with vistas. This road is being tarred so now 2006 its almost all good hard sand but where they are tarring it, its almost unridable: sandy and rocky. At 82Ks, old tar road left. At 86Ks, main road to Pyay, right. Rolling moderate hills. More up than down. At 121Ks, more down than up and easier grades. A lot of sprawl before town. At 135Ks, Aunglan
Aunglan to Pyay 74Ks
5Ks of sprawl out of town then almost flat on 2 lane patched tar road. After 20Ks, rare Irrawady River views. Nice to 30Ks then inland (flat and dull). We had a friendly police escort for about 20Ks. Why? Light traffic but more trucks. At 70Ks, 4-lanes and a bike lane with light tail winds (NW)! Ride only slowed by poor road (bumpy) Pyay 74Ks.
Pyay to Letpadan 150Ks
Very mild hills for 30Ks. Past Shwesandaw Paya. Then flat or very gradually descending on the “Best Road in Myanmar”. This best road is starting to deteriorate a little but its still good. A drop down shoulder. Still light traffic but it moves faster. Scenery is dull but there are shade trees and the villages and towns are interesting. Variable winds but somewhat favorable. Easy riding going south. At 147Ks, junction road into Letpadan. 3Ks into town. Got dispensation to stay in an unlicensed guest house from immigration.
Letpadan to Yangon Airport 135Ks
3Ks back to Highway, right (south) “The best road in Myanmar”, somewhat deteriorated. Flat, rice fields. Quiet. Irrigated (green) rice fields. More village population on the road. After 80Ks, more traffic, trucks. At 103Ks, road widens. At 110Ks, gradual climb then descend gradually to 113Ks. Junction. Right toward Yangon on rough 6-lane highway to 133Ks then left to airport. 135Ks.
Impressions of Myanmar/Burma 2006
Yangon a city of former English glory is full of crumbling, buildings in need of repairs and paint. A city of public transportation with busses bulging with people, taxies on their last legs, broken sidewalks and pothole roads. They are moving the capitol out of this city so Yangon will be neglected. In the countryside, there is very basic living. Everyone wears sarongs, men, women & children. Oxen work the rice fields and ox carts carry heaps of hay making deep ruts in the sand next to the narrow road. Buses, truck buses, horse-carts and tri-shaw bicycles share the road with us – all at a slow pace. Then a siren breaks the silence and spinning red light on the lead SUV of 20 SUV’s with dark windows. We all pull over and watch the Military go past at break-neck speed. Then we return to the slow rhythmic pace. The small cities are noisy with Buddhist chanting on loud speakers all night or broadcasting strident clanging music. The schoolchildren all wear deep green sarongs and we hear them repeating back in unison to the teachers as we pass. Repetition is the preferred style of learning. Smiling faces calling “Where do you go”, “What is your name?”,”Hey you”. A month later we are in Thailand riding along the border with Myanmar. There is a refugee camp of over 50,000 Burmese tribal minorities whose villages have were burned by the Military to make room for their new capitol. We glimpse the sinister side of the Myanmar Military Government that a tourist is not allowed to see while in that country.
More impression from Myanmar 2006
Myanmar is a unique place. In many ways, it’s actually weird. The people are open, friendly and honest. There’s virtually no crime. The question is this. Is it in their hearts or is it for fear of the heavy-handed control of the military government? How’s this for a weird and xenophobic? The capital is being transferred from Yangon into a mountain strong-hold near Pynmana, a previously sleepy little town south of Mandalay. We’re told that it’s to escape the foreign spy satellites. We are blocked by the Military Police from entering a state where the new government is being moved. Thrown out of a state! We had to take the train thru this area. We also had a police escort on a motorcycle through an apparently sensitive area for 20 miles. We are always told it’s for our “safety”. In the delta area west of Yangon where there are now new bridges and roads, we were kicked-out of 3 towns where we tried to overnight. We got to the first farm town where we had been assured that there were “many hotels”. There was one flea-trap guesthouse. The head military man arrives and tells us we can’t stay. He’s a worldly, English speaking, handsome city boy who has been posted to this back water town. Now he starts with the usual obfuscation. He tells us it is not “comfortable” enough for us. He arranges a truck taxi to take us to the next town. When the guesthouse owner sees foreigners he won’t let us stay. Then another, again kicked out. Finally, 4 hours later we return to the original town. Our now sympathetic “City Boy” chief goes to work on his superiors and ultimately he prevails. It’s like we are city soul mates thrown together in this basic, hick town and it appears that there is no other solution. He takes our passports and deposits us at the flea trap guesthouse. He tells us “You don’t know what I did for you.” But we do know. We’re dog tired and falling asleep on the hard board bed when “Mr. City Boy” returns with the passports. He knocks on our bedroom door and declares “Housekeeping”. We LOL.
Comparing Myanmar and Thailand 2006
We flew to Phitsanulok Thailand from Yangon Burma on Thai air on January 23. 2006. Unlike other airlines we did not need a bike box, or did not have to remove the peddles or turn the handlebars. Just ride up to the counter and they put the bikes on the plane with a smile. We needed Thai money – ATM at the airport. In Myanmar/Burma -no ATM. We never set foot in a bank but changed “perfect” Hundred Dollar bills in dark allies. A cash only economy in Myanmar while in Thailand there is a big choice of ATMs in every town. After bumping along the Burmese roads, the Thai roads seem like silk with doublewide shoulders for bikes and motor cycles. The vehicles are mostly spiffy double-cab trucks and new busses. In Thailand, even the police are nice. One day we climbed all morning. The highway skirts the small towns so we stopped at a police checkpoint to ask where we could find lunch. The Thai’s are first world with one exception: very few outside of Bangkok or the very touristy areas speak any English. We mime to the cop “eat”. He runs inside and comes back with bottles of cold water, and then he jumps on his motor cycle and waves for us to follow. He turns into the town and a steep down hill, then level and another steep down. Before the second steep down we yell, “No, No, Not down!” and stop following. We stop at a store. The cop returns. He comes in and starts pacing. He is trying to figure out how to explain the situation to us. Then he pulls out a chair, motions for Sally to sit, and then he goes to his motor cycle and pats the back seat for Peter to come. He drives Peter to the restaurant and then drives past to show him that the road returns to the highway with a small climb. What a change from the forbidding police state in Burma. In all restaurants in Thailand, even the simple open-air restaurants we find tasty, fresh and clean food. We enjoy ice to cool our soda. The ice would have put us on the Lomitol Express in Burma, if we could find it. The Thai government is a democracy run by a Prime Minister who’s party’s slogan is “Thailand for Thais”. There is a king who is a descent man is revered by all. His photo is on billboards in every town. This is a stark contrast to the Burmese Military Junta, which would not garner 2% – of the vote. IF there was a vote. Our first hotel in Thailand is the same cost as in Burma but triple the value. In Thailand, there is internet everywhere. There is no internet in Burma for travelers. We were in Burma 4 years ago and things were progressing, but that has all stopped and the government is more repressive now. Changing the capital to an area in the north where satellites are unable to take photos. Building underground bunkers and not allowing any foreigners to stop, much less overnight in the area.
For What It’s Worth
- Only American Dollars are accepted for exchange and they must be new, perfect and with no marks.
- Now (2006) its legally possible to enter Burma from China through Dali and Ruili into Muse in Myanmar then thru Lashio, Hsipau and Pyln-oo-win. You need to have camping equipment for this trip.