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Motorbike Trekking in Shan State - Myanmar

Community Highlights Asia Motorbike Trekking in Shan State - Myanmar


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Most of the village trekking in separatist Shan State of Myanmar is done out of Hsipaw. We heard that a town just before Hsipaw - Kyaukme is a viable and less touristy alternative.

Kyaukme itself is a very lively town on the Mandalay - Lashio trade route from China. There is a buzzing market where you can get all sorts of Burmese street-food and one Beer station that we found by following this instructions from Wikitravel:
(From A yone oo guesthouse turn left, then left again at the end of the street. walk for a few minutes til you go over the canal and the take another left, a few meters along is beer and BBQ!).

We quickly found Northern Rock hotel, which is made up of few large colonial rooms being partitioned into small, cozy and windowless box rooms. We got a double for $12. A charming house and a nice family, but cheep and cheerful rooms. However, since you won't be staying there any longer than a day it's not a big of a deal.

They guesthouse owner said that they can help us with a trek and put us in touch with Jay. Jay is a 20-something chap, who sometimes works as an English school teacher, grows corn to sell to China and doubles up as a cultural trekking guide.
Jay came back at 7ish bringing 2 girls back from a trek, who were very happy with their experience and highly recommended the motor-bike trek! Until this point we never heard of moto-trekking, and were more in favor of using our legs as you do.
There are a couple of options where you can do a fairly short overnight trek along tea growing villages ($20) being dropped off and picked up in the hills, or to take a motorbike a do a much larger loop visiting several villages ($25). The second option sounded more adventures!
Jay asked us about how confident we were on semi-auto motorbikes, by that point none of us had any motorbiking experience and driving it on steep mountain trails sounded like a suicide. For $10 we got drivers who were effectively Jay's students and grew up in highlands riding motorbikes since they were 5.

Next day we all met up, stocked up on water and petrol and hit the road.
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Very quickly we left the road and hit a dusty trail, and when I say trail I actually mean quite literally a cattle trail! Our first point of call was a fairly large village sporting a local school.
Out first point of call was large_IMG_4070.jpglarge_IMG_4073.jpg

All the adults were away away, either in field a working elsewhere until the dry season ends. A guy showed up selling ice lollies from the back of his motorbikes, Jay bought a whole bunch for all the kids, who were needless to say, happy to have their lesson interrupted.
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And as a gratitude they sand us a song. I included it into this short video which should give you an idea of what we encountered on the road.

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And in case you wonder - it's dusty - very dusty!
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After riding for another hour or so we arrived at a small roadside village to grab some Shan noodles for lunch!
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Than we arrived at a more substantial village featuring a pagoda, school and communal hole.
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It's worth to mention here that Shan is a separatist state, there are still occasional skirmishes between Shan army and the government troops. In fact Jay had to adjust our route as there were some reported fighting on one of roads.
People are quite open about supporting independence, in almost every house you will see pictures and calendars featuring Shan army Burmese opposition leader - Aung San Suu Kyi, who at that time was still under house arrest.

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Us having an afternno nap through the sticky March heat.
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Our moto-drivers having a tea break
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We were very happy that we decided to take drivers and didn't try to wing it and learn riding a semi-auto on this mountain trails. Most trails are as narrow as the one below, plus a lot of them pass along steep cliffs and sharp turns.

As we were approaching our overnight stop, one of the motorbikes broke down. large_IMG_4149.jpg
These were unbranded Chinese 125 semi-auto bikes, a brand new one costed only $300 and could be bought in any town. Apparently they were not half bad, to be ridden by two people up and down the hills on nothing more than a hiking trail is a lot of punishment to take. Next time I'm in Myanmar for a month or so I may just buy one for me.
The kids spend about half an hour trying to fix, than Jay took a second Argentinian girl on his bike and we left for the village leaving one of them behind. After dropping us of at the home-stay and introducing to the hosts Jay with one of his students went to his man's rescue.

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The home-stay was very basic but comfortable enough, we had a nice vegy dinner and a couple of Chinese beers for $1. My favorite moment when I told our host that this is beer from China, and he said it wasn't. I was like common it has Chinese written all over it, it's from China to what he responded - no it's from Lasio!

Later on the guys brought back the broken motorbike. Turns out that one of the kids forgot to top up oil and the engine simply burned out. So one more point for the Chinese bile, after all it hasn't simply died on us.

As a way of entertaining themselves and us, Jay and his kids engaged into improvised karaoke performance. It's so popular over there that every self respecting Burmese teenager has a Karaoke up on his smartphone.

Next morning we left one of the kids with a broken motorbike, the plan was for him to push it downhill to the next small town where there is a garage. He told Jay if I haven't called by end of the day please come and find me...

We rented a really shitty, oil leaking bike from one of the local guys. That guy wouldn't rent us his good bike even if it was for a half of a day, instead he gave us the shitty one and asked for $20. Jay said it was a really dick move, as the guy new we were desperate and in Kyaukme you could buy a used bike like that for $50.

We were off to the tea plantations...
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In the next village we visited Jay's family. He sent one of his cousins to drop off the rented bike and got the the other one to take a position of substitute driver with his good bike.
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After that we came down towards rice fields, which gave us a very welcome change to lush green from the gray dusty hills.

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By 5 pm we were dropped of at the highway bus station to catch a bus for Inle Lake.

Great trip, great value for money, the fee we payed included everything we had on the trek (except $1 beer obviously). Jay and his kids are very keen and sincere and I would definitely recommend them.

More on our Myanmar trip

This featured blog entry was written by dima.safr from the blog Roaming the world.
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By dima.safr

Posted Sat, Feb 18, 2017 | Myanmar | Comments