Welcome to Myanmar (nee Burma), a country saturated in unspoiled cultural interest and natural beauty. From the fascination of ancient cities, to the joy of riding the rolling hills and meeting with the tribal peoples therein, this is a trip with everything. In order to design and present this adventure, it has been necessary for Blazing Trails to team up with a local agent, as independent motorised travel is not possible in the country. As usual though, while you ride your Royal Enfield you will have a crew combining Europeans and locals, with an experienced tour leader, mechanical expertise and luggage-carrying back-up.
This is an all-inclusive tour (see ‘what the tour includes’, below, for full details), featuring a compelling blend of luxury and experiential accommodation. Destinations are romantic, selected to bring you up-close to the nature of the place and linked by some truly beautiful riding. From the busy banks of the Irrawaddy River, through the colour of the indigenous communities, to several thousand intricate temples, photographic opportunities are limitless.
Although some of the roads ridden are unpaved, none of the riding is technical and so we consider this adventure to be suitable for riders of all (qualified) abilities, whether riding solo, or with a pillion.
As a participant in this tour, you will fly to Mandalay, to be greeted by our team and transferred to your overnight accommodation. There will be a welcome dinner, a briefing at the hotel and the following morning we’re off, heading into a land that time has largely passed on by.
There will be a maximum of ten bikes available on this tour. The machines used will be Royal Enfield Bullet EFi models. Click links for further information on BIKES.
As a motorcycle traveller, and as a foreigner in Myanmar, you will be a rare thing indeed – even independent motorcycle overlanders must ride in a group, with a guide.
Less than 20% of the country’s roads are paved, which means there are fewer than 30,000 kilometres of tarmac nationally. Major cities are linked by modern highways, a network with very few dual-carriageways. We will be doing our best to avoid these major routes.
Outside major cities, traffic volumes are very light.
On our tours, we will be riding a mix of highways and more minor routes. Some of the back-roads will be rough and we will ride at a speed appropriate to conditions. There is no ‘off-roading’ on this adventure and no requirement for any dirt-bike skills. On our ‘big’ bikes, we will be something of a novelty, especially in the hills.
Similar to India, ‘might is right’ is the code of the road. This applies especially to official and military vehicles. Traffic drives on the right and helmets are compulsory, both by law and during all riding on our tours.
The ‘Kyat’ is the local currency and there are very many of them to the UK Pound, so expect to carry a fat-Kyat wad. ATMs are fairly widespread and will accept the usual Visa and Mastercards. Beer is fairly cheap, as are most other consumables.
There are currently 1,813 Kyat to the UK Pound.
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar is a large-ish country (twice the area of England) at the heart of South-East Asia. It is bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. The country has coastlines on both the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Its capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city is Yangon (Rangoon).
Myanmar is divided into seven states and although most are predominantly populated by the dominant Bamar group, state borders tend to represent the historical ethnic groups within their boundaries. The national population is around 54 million, the majority of whom live in the Irrawaddy Valley, this river being the longest in the country, flowing for 2170km.
Cities, Demographics and Ethnicity
There are just two cities with populations exceeding one million: Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay. The capital city, Naypidaw has around 400,000 inhabitants and was purpose-built as an administrative capital and the seat of parliament, replacing Yangon in 2005.
The majority of Burmese lead an agrarian life in the riverine valleys. The population is growing, though much more slowly than in similar Asian economies and population density is also relatively low.
There are 135 recognised ethnic groups, speaking over 100 languages and dialects. The Bamar group form the majority of the population (68%), with the next most populous group being the Shan (10%) and then the Karen (7%). Due to historical persecution and conflict, many people of minority ethnicities have fled the country to become refugees in neighbouring countries. A proportion of these have been relocated to the USA.
Although most of the major world religions are practiced, Buddhism is by far the most prevalent, with around 85% of the population following Theravāda Buddhism. There are half-a-million Buddhist monks in Myanmar. Christianity ranks second, with 6%, followed by Islam (4%). There are also older animist religions, often practiced alongside the more recent incomers.
Myanmar has an official literacy rate of 90% and elementary education is compulsory until age nine. The vast majority of education is in the public sector, but increasing numbers of private and international institutions are making an appearance.
All of Myanmar falls into the categories of tropical, or sub-tropical, with three distinct seasons: cool, hot and very rainy. Winter runs from November to February and is by far the best season in which to visit. In hot season – March and April – the heat is oppressive and from May to October, the South-East Monsoon does its rainy-as thing. Annual rainfall ranges from over 5000mm at the coast, to less than 1000m in the dry central plain. To the north, the high mountains receive winter snowfall.
Myanmar is rich in oil, natural gas, gemstones and other minerals, but despite this it is low on a scale of human development and little of this wealth finds its way to the general population. Overall, Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in the region. Infrastructure is rudimentary and dated (in the case of some railways, to the 19th Century), although investment from other countries in SE Asia is set to aid development in the years to come.
Myanmar’s biggest agricultural output is rice, with around 60% of cultivated land being dedicated to this crop and over 50 million tonnes being harvested.
Tourism, although very low-key compared to other countries in the region, is also an appreciable income source. As there are few land borders at which foreigners can enter, the vast majority of tourists arrive by air, with an increasing number of airlines providing flights. Independent travel can be very difficult, with guides for the most part being compulsory.
There is Malaria in some regions, but thanks to an ongoing eradication program cases have been radically reduced, by around 80%. Treatment has also improved with deaths reducing by 96% between 2011 and 2016.
It should be noted that tour participants must consult their physicians for advice on anti-malarial medication.
Tap water is generally considered unsafe to drink in most places and bottled water is widely available. Food hygiene is generally good, especially in tourist hotels.
You must have appropriate travel insurance to undertake any tour.
Politics & History
Known for much of its recent history as Burma, Myanmar’s history is so rich, ancient and full of dynastic incident, that it is impossible to but skim the surface here. Hominid remains in the territory date back 750,000 years and from the Mongol invasions of the 13th Century and earlier, to the British annexation, Burma has been colonised and to a lesser extent has colonised its neighbours. Various ethnic groups have risen to prominence and in turn been replaced by others.
Being incorporated into the British Empire has had a profound affect on the Myanmar we see today. Following three Anglo-British wars from 1852, the imperial forces succeeded in annexing most of what is modern Myanmar in 1886.
Under the control of first the East India company and then the British Raj, the established systems of colonial exploitation ensued. Rangoon was elected as Burma’s colonial capital, an important port through which valuable natural resources could be shipped. Dissatisfaction with the behaviour of their rulers led to increasing levels of protest and dissent among the Burmese throughout the early 20th Century and in 1937, under pressure, Burma was ‘granted’ autonomy from the Indian Raj and gained its own legislative assembly, with Prime Minister Ba Maw at its head. However, the assembly’s powers were limited and calls for full Burmese statehood intensified.
As it was for all the British colonies, the outbreak of World War Two fuelled divisions and hastened colonial demise. Immediately prior to the war, Prime Minister Ba Maw, having become the voice of Burmese independence, resigned – this leading to his arrest for sedition. An ally of Ba Maw, Aung San, fled to exile in Japan (immediately pre-war) and formed the Burma Independence Army.
Within months of the war’s outbreak, Japanese forces had swept through Burma, taking Rangoon with ease, and British forces were subjected to an humiliating and bloody retreat. As the British had done, the Japanese instigated an indigenous administration; again under the leadership of Ba Maw. But the country’s exploitation had not ended and under the Japanese it was all-the-more brutal.
The infrastructure and economy of Burma was devastated by the world war, which led to the deaths of some quarter-of-a-million Burmese under the circumstances of Japanese rule. The Japanese themselves lost some 150,000 men in the region. Although many of Burma’s ethnic minorities fought alongside the Allies, the majority (Burma National Army and Arakan National Army) sided with the Japanese. Towards the war’s end, allegiances reversed and in 1945 all Burmese groups fought for the expulsion of the Japanese.
Post-war, Aung San (father of Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi), now the preeminent voice of independence, moved to unify the various Burmese political and ethnic interests in his cause. Despite the assassination of Aung San by political rivals in 1947, the course of independence had been set and by 1948 Myanmar became its own nation under the Union of Burma banner. Untypically, Burma declined becoming a member of the Commonwealth.
Democracy, however, was a state of affairs that lasted just 14 years. Rising ethnic ambitions of separation, the influence of Cold-War politics and weakness at the centre of government had left the field open for a military coup d’état and in 1962 a one-party ‘socialist’ system was installed, run by a Revolutionary Council. Governance then swayed between outright martial law and semi-civilian rule for nearly 30 years. During this period there were protests, shutdowns and violent repression, these protests leading to the reinstitution of martial law, but also the planned introduction of a level of democracy.
In 1990, free elections were held, resulting in a resounding victory by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite the NLD taking 80% of the vote, and continuing pro-democracy protests, the military declined to cede power and barred the NLD from government. International sanctions were ramped-up until, in 2010, another round of elections was held. Conversely, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party declared victory, claiming 80% of the turnout. Despite this, in a move toward a partial democracy, outright military rule was dissolved.
Despite the military still wielding great power and influence (automatically granted 25% of seats in any government), subsequent liberal reforms to the economy, censorship and personal liberty have rapidly ensued. By-elections in 2012 saw the NLD un-barred and dominant. In 2015’s general election, the NLD won an outright majority, but it’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, could not take the helm as a technicality in the country’s constitutional does not allow this – due to her late husband and children being foreign citizens. Nonetheless, the NLD’s Htin Kyaw, became the first civilian president and Aung San Suu Kyi is effectively the prime minister.
Major challenges remain, but the silk curtain has been raised and Myanmar is now edging onto the world stage.
Crime & Annoyances
While crime rates can appear high, much of this can be linked to corruption, communal disputes and drug production and smuggling. Crime targeting tourists is reassuringly low, localised and avoided with local knowledge.
Read even more About Myanmar in our FAQ section.
In ten wordsWarm, exotic, romantic, exclusive adventure with cultural and culinary fascination
Riding LevelYou need to get used to local traffic habits and ride on the right. For the most part traffic will be very light. No technical riding, but surfaces can be rough. Tarmac: 70%; dirt 30%.
Pillion RatingThe route is just fine for passengers, but can be bumpy in places. Great accommodation, dining, romantic locations and stunning sunset views make this a winner for couples.
Accommodation & MealsFrom four-star hotels and lodges to jungle camps. Always clean, always beer, good food and local interest.
Day 1: Fly to Myanmar
Board your flight to beautiful Burma.
Day 2: Arrive in Mandalay
You will be met at the airport and transferred to a plush hotel in Mandalay. Flight times permitting, you will be able to spend the afternoon exploring the sights of this historic city. Under the British Raj, this was the administrative capital of the country and is still seen as Myanmar’s cultural capital, packed with temples, palaces, lively markets and monasteries. Gathering for dinner, you will be introduced to your tour team and briefed on the ride ahead.
Day 3: Mandalay to Bagan
Following breakfast, we hit the road to ancient Bagan. Along the way we will take a ride around the historical remains of the Kingdom of Ava. Following lunch, the highway carries us through rural Myanmar to Bagan, a Ninth-Century city founded on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy River. A truly inspirational destination and World Heritage Site, Bagan is home to well over 10,000 Buddhist constructions. A ride around the area will take us to a stunning sunset viewpoint before we park up for the night.
Day 4: Bagan to Mount Popa
Early risers can take a balloon flight (Oct-March), or just a stroll, before we leave. Lunch is taken in the small town of Salay, with its tree-lined lanes of fading colonial houses. Little has changed since the British left this sleepy town and motorised transport is scarce, with most traffic using the Irrawaddy. Next, we ride to Mount Popa, an extinct volcano that rises to nearly 5000ft. Amid the resident monkeys, views can be taken to Taung Kalat (The Pedestal Hill, 2150ft), a flat-topped volcanic plug that rises spectacularly out of the scenery and which is topped with a beautiful monastery. We will spend the night at a mountain resort located on one side of an extinct volcano with an incredible panoramic view.
Day 5: Mount Popa to Naypidaw
We leave early for an excellent day’s riding. Having descended from Mount Popa, there’s some brief mile-munching on the arid plain, but soon the terrain will again become hillier and the road narrower and more interesting. On this small mountain road we follow the ridge-line, with views over teak plantations, eventually leading to the entrance of Naypidaw, Myanmar’s third city and its administrative capital. The night will be spent at a quiet lakeside spa hotel, in high-class wooden chalets.
Day 6: Naypidaw to Pekon
Hoorah for super twisty roads! Into the mountains of Shan State we go, for fresh views and new cultures. Lunch is taken in a local restaurant in the colourful hill town of Pinlaung. Post-lunch we drop from the hills to the shores of magical Lake Inle, a wetland sanctuary. Mid-afternoon, we will park up the bikes and take to a boat to reach our island accommodation – charming, basic huts and a community project, managed by local fisherfolk. The island and its nature can be further explored on foot before settling by the fire for a chats and a barbeque.
Day 7: Pekon to Demoso
A short, fairly straight ride takes us to Demoso in the Golden Triangle, where we will loop onto small roads and trails, sampling a local lunch in tribal territory. This area is home to many tribal peoples, including the Padaung ‘long neck’ people. As elephants stroll by, we can visit an interesting cave, before we take our dinner in a local market, amid the sights and sounds of rural Myanmar.
Day 8: Demoso to Inle
Today we’ll take the Enfields for a rumble through the mountainous jungle, visiting villages peopled by the Pa’O ethnic group. We will later stop for lunch and a look around amazing Mwe Taw Kakku, where 2500 ornate pagodas/Buddhist stupas sit side-by-side. The afternoon finds us riding through the hills, with panoramas over Lake Inle breaking into view. We arrive at our smart hotel mid-afternoon, giving the opportunity to explore on foot, or just relax by the pool. Drinks, dinner, bed and maybe you’ll need an early night because tomorrow….
Day 9: At Inle
This morning you have the opportunity to take a balloon flight (conditions permitting) over the lake… if you are game for an 04:30 start. If not – or in addition to the former – various sightseeing options are available. Or just take a rest. A lazy lunch can be taken at the hotel, or for those with more adventurous palates we can guide you to some interesting local eating.
Day 10: Inle to Kalaw
Leaving sublime Inle on lesser trails and eating a picnic lunch over the river to watch life float by, we’ll travel on to Kalaw, a less-visited colonial hill station where British Raj administrators would holiday to escape the summer heat of the plains.
DAY 11: Kalaw to Nawnghkio
We will head for the Pindaya Caves, housing some 8000 Buddha statues. Using small roads through the hills, we will enjoy lunch in a small local restaurant, before moving on to chug our ways through the spectacular landscape. The night is spent at a basic, clean and comfortable local hotel in the Nawnghkio hill station where a local-style barbeque is on the books.
DAY 12: Nawnghkio to Bant Bwe Kyin
First, to the Goktheik Viaduct. British-built in 1899. Myanmar’s highest bridge (once the World’s largest rail trestle) carries the tracks 335ft above a river. A brief train trip across the bridge, with jungle views, can be taken. Again we ride the trails into the hills, heading for the Bant Bwe Kyin Waterfall, which plunges over the high escarpment to the lowlands. Views extend over lush jungles and huge lakes and there is the choice to trek to the waterfall’s base and swim in warm, clear pools. In this remote area, we will set up a comfortable camp for the night, with traditional ablutions. A tasty dinner around the camp fire is served to the tune of the jungle’s humming.
DAY 13: Bant Bwe Kyin to Mandalay
Our last day on the road sees us leaving the Golden Triangle and heading back to Mandalay. We start on small mountain roads, descending towards the Irrawaddy Valley. We will stop for a final colonial-era hill station at Piyn Oo Lwin, which was the summer capital of Burma, just as Shimla was in India. George Orwell was stationed here for many of his Burmese Days. Now back to Mandalay for our last night dinner, tall tales and maybe a wee beer.
DAY 14: Mandalay to Home
An aeroplane, or a time machine? It’s back to the future, leaving intoxicating Myanmar with a noggin full of memories and probably a full data card.
WHAT THE TOUR PRICE INCLUDES
- All Meals & Accommodation
- Bike with Mechanical Back-up, Spares & Repairs
- All Fuel
- All Internal Transfers
- Entry Fees
- International Flights (when booked with tour)
- Luggage-carrying Support
- Visas & Documentation
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Travel Insurance (compulsory)
- Damage Deposit on Motorcycle (£600)
- Protective Riding Equipment
- Ballooning (Bagan and Inle); about £200
Myanmar is a very safe country for tourists in the areas through which we travel. For current Government travel advice, check: Foreign Office Website.
You will need a passport with valid visa, appropriate travel insurance, an international driving permit and your home-country driving licence. Visas can be obtained in advance, from the official government website.
The local currency of Myanmar is the Kyat, which is unobtainable before departure. This, however is not a problem, as local currency can be drawn from ATMs. Although major hard currencies may be accepted at larger shops and hotels, the local wonga will be accepted more widely.
As this tour is inclusive of all major costs, you will only need money for drinks, sundry items and any shopping you wish to do.
As the tour progresses, you can get updated advice on where to change money, or draw cash.
There are currently 1,813 Kyat to the UK Pound.
Myanmar is surprisingly warm and dry in winter. But nothing can be taken for granted and although rain is rare there is always a chance. Evenings remain warm in the lowlands, but cooler in the hills. The average daily maximum temperature likely to be encountered is around 34ºC (more typically 26-30ºC in daytime); the minimum 8ºC (rarely, at night, in the mountains).
On all tours we advise riders to consider their kit in terms of layers. Good quality gear can also prevent a minor spill causing a trip-ruining injury, so we require that you ride with no exposed skin (except your face). More on kit.
While your main luggage will be carried in a support vehicle, you may wish to bring a small rucksack or tail-pack in which to carry articles you need on the road. Your main bag must be ‘soft’ and not a suitcase. Critical documents should be carried on your body, not strapped to the bike.
This tour is not particularly demanding. If you have any existing medical condition, please consult both Blazing Trails and your doctor before booking.
While we insist those joining us have a full motorcycle licence, and recommend a minimum of two year’s riding experience, time in the saddle and miles ridden are of more relevance to an adventure like this. Traffic in most of Myanmar is very light and the speeds at which we travel are relatively low, but demands on planning and observation are high due to locals unused to traffic. Other factors making demands on riders are the sections of unpaved dirt roads.
HEALTH & HYGIENE
Although there is always the chance of getting a ‘holiday tummy’, following a few simple guidelines, such as hand-washing keeps the chances of this to a minimum. If you have any pre-existing medical condition, it is essential that you consult both Blazing Trails and your physician before booking.
To check out our suggested packing list.
How To Make A Booking
Contact us by any of the means above.
Upon deciding to book, please pay a deposit of £700 into our bonded account (or the full balance if within two months of the departure date). This can be done by credit/debit card through our website, by bank transfer, or by sending a cheque to our UK office.
Having booked with Blazing Trails, you will be sent all the necessary information on timings and meeting points. You may also like to use our Facebook group to liaise with others.
BIKE DEPOSIT (MYANMAR ONLY): A deposit of £600 is required against bike damage in Myanmar. You will be invoiced this sum two weeks prior to the tour and the money will be returned rapidly on your return (subject to bike condition).
PLEASE NOTE: A maximum of one week (seven days) will be allowed for your deposit payment to reach and clear in our bonded account. Should this not happen, we can suspend your booking and may have to give your place on tour to somebody else.
Are flights included?
Yes, (if you are booking from the UK) all flights, international and domestic, are included in the price of your tour unless you specify otherwise.
How do I book?
The tours can be booked online, by email, or over the phone on: +44 (0) 7494 050404. To secure a place you will be asked to put down a deposit of £700 and payment can be made by card, cheque, or bank transfer.
Where do I get a visa?
To visit Myanmar you will need to obtain a valid tourist visa. Your passport must have at least six months of validity remaining at time of application. E-Visas are available from the Official Myanmar https://evisa.moip.gov.mm Website. Currently a 28-day visa costs $50.
What other paperwork do I need?
You will need a valid certificate of travel insurance and an International Driving Permit and your UK licence.
Where do I get an International Driving Permit?
Obtain one through the Post Office service, at major branches. All you need is your UK Driving Licence and some six of Her Imperial Majesty’s Pounds.
Can i book from outside the UK?
Yes. If you are booking from outside the UK, please contact us. We will quote you on a flight-inclusive price, or provide you with a non-flight price.
DO I NEED INSURANCE?
Yes, you need travel insurance to cover you for the period of the tour. This insurance must cover you to ride a bike of up to 500cc while away. The bikes are insured for third-party risks, so bike insurance is not a concern.
Where should I change money?
We would advise that you have some idea of the Myanmar Kyat exchange rate before you leave, to avoid getting ripped-off. We would advise changing around £100 at the airport. In many towns, there are cash-points that will accept major credit and debit cards.
How much spending money will I need?
This is an inclusive tour. About £100-£150 should cover drink and sundries.
Are there other costs I should know about?
Apart from the £600 bike deposit (returned if all is OK) I can’t think of any
Will I have to share a room?
No, you can pay a supplement to hold a single room during the booking process.
What standard is the accommodation?
For the most part, we are in clean, comfortable spa hotels. In one place you will be staying in a tented camp; in another, in bamboo huts – it’s all part of the adventure experience.
Will we have electricity?
It can’t always be guaranteed and there will be no mains power when camping. Thus, if it’s vital you need electrical power every night, please speak to us before booking. Don’t forget a travel adaptor if you need to recharge your electricals.
How much riding experience do I need?
We would recommend only booking a tour with us if you have a full licence (compulsory) and have at least two years’ recent riding experience. The main criterion, however, is confidence. If you’re happy to zip through a London rush hour, then you’ll be capable of dealing with road life in Burma.
Is riding in Myanmar dangerous?
Riding anywhere carries with it a degree of risk, as does riding in Myanmar. For more information on the riding side of things see ‘Riding’ in the ‘About Myanmar ‘ section of this site. If any rider joining us rides in a manner we suspect will endanger themselves, or others, or indeed displays antisocial behaviour, they will receive one warning. If they continue to display a threat to the safety or enjoyment of others on the tour, they will be excluded from the remainder (with no refund given, see terms and conditions).
How fast will we be riding?
Due to road conditions and other traffic, vehicles tend to move a lot slower in Myanmar than they do in the West. We will do likewise where appropriate, enjoying a swifter ride where conditions permit.
Can I use the bike in the evenings?
No, you can’t ride independently of the tour group, sorry.
How fit do I need to be?
This is not a strenuous tour – a person of average fitness can easily take part.
Can I take a pillion?
Yes, this is an excellent tour for couples and a very romantic destination. Although there are dirt roads on our route, none are difficult to ride, especially at the speeds at which we will be travelling.
How much luggage can I bring?
You are limited to 20kg by most airlines. However, we suggest you pack as lightly and in as compact a form as possible. As support vehicle space is tight, we insist you bring soft luggage. If you turn up with a suitcase, we will ask you to buy a soft bag and repack.
How much luggage should I bring?
Keep it minimal. One set of riding kit for the tour and a couple of sets of clothes for the evening. Laundry facilities are available at any two-night stops.
Isn’t Myanmar A Dangerous commie hell?
Not really. Myanmar values its tourist industry and foreigners are treated very politely. Like anywhere, there is a low-level risk of crime, but you will be given a briefing on sensible behaviour before we set off.
Do I need a towel?
One small travel towel might be useful for our camping night. Otherwise our hotels provide towels.
Is food included in the price?
Yes. All regular meals are provided in the price.
What Burmese food like?
The food is one of the highlights of this tour. Perhaps the closest example you’re likely to have encountered is Thai cuisine. We will be having several barbecue meals and will usually be able to provide less spicy alternatives. If you have specific dietary requirements, contact us and we will endeavour to help.
Are laundry facilities available on-tour?
Laundry service is available at Inle (night six on the road). Underclothes can be hand-washed in the evenings and dried overnight.
Do I need waterproofs?
Yes. If your riding kit isn’t waterproof, then bring some light waterproofs.
Do I need to bring a sleeping bag?
There is one camping night, when a clean sleeping bag will be provided.
What medication should I bring & what inoculations are required?
Consult your GP/travel clinic for immunisation and malaria advice. Bring enough of any prescribed medication you take regularly. If this medication is essential, try and bring a surplus that can be carried by the tour team. A basic first aid kit is useful (plasters, antiseptic cream, bite/sting relief, plus insect repellent).