Monday, January 11, 2016

Myanmar Motorcycle Journey 8 - Loikaw to Taungoo

These tractor-buses putt along at about 5 mph
I was very nervous beginning this next part of my journey. My goal for the next three days was Loikaw-->Taungoo--> Pyay-->Toungup. I was beginning a stretch where I'd be going from the far eastern part of Myanmar all the way to it's west coast. Crossing the entire country, about 500 miles, with three mountain ranges in the way.

It wasn't that long ago (2014) that me even attempting this would have been forbidden by the government. Most of Myanmar was closed off to foreigners, either entirely or requiring special permits to enter. This was ostensibly to protect visitors as there's many armed ethnic insurgent groups throughout the country. There still are, but only a few places have active conflicts. There are still a few places I'd need special permission to enter. In my research to find out where, I came across this outfit, Mandalay Motorcycle Rental and Tours. I wrote them, and they told me that as I hold a Myanmar Drivers License, I could go to all these places without need of permits. Other tourists who are here temporarily do need permits unless they're part of a tour group. So, if anyone reading this wants to try something like what I've done, contact Zach at and join one of his tours.

Be careful coming around corners. You never
know what might be in the road ahead.
They also told me they had recently made the Loikaw-Taungoo trek and that the road was very long and very rough. This warning added to my consternation, but at the same time, eased my mind in that I knew it could be done.  During previous stages, I had taken side trips to see sites along the way. For this stage, I only had time for one, the Seven Stages Lake in Kayah State. Be-yoooo-tiful!

This is a road
The roads coming out of Kayah State weren't actually that bad, but I crossed over into the furthest north part of Kayin State, yeah, parts of "Old Road" were torture. Really, really difficult roads. Bone jarring. Another thing I noticed that was different on the western slopes of the mountains was the forested countryside. If you've watched the previous videos, you may have judged Myanmar to be a pretty dry place. We are in the midst of the dry season, and most of these places haven't had any rain in 6 weeks or more. About halfway through the trip, the forest turned to jungle. It felt like a tropical rain forest, which I suppose is what was!

I was so relieved as the hills flattened out and I found myself again in the Bago Valley. The drive took 8 hours, and I rewarded myself with a hamburger at Taungoo's finest hotel (not where I stayed).

Enjoy the video, once again with all-ukulele background music!


  1. Hey, great post! I am in loikaw and bicycle touring to taungoo and find this post. I was warned that the road was far too treacherous for a bicycle. Watching your video it looks doable, but wanted to know about how many miles were Rocky loose sand roads? Also, was it easy to find bananas and food along the way? Thanks and and tips are highly appreciated. Also, we leave tomorrow morning on the journey, so kind of last minute ;)

    1. Oh. Sorry it took me so long to notice this post. I suppose you know the answer by now. I wouldn't recommend it on bicycle. I'm guessing you ended up carrying your bike for significant stretches.

  2. Actually, the road was one of the best we've ridden and it was one of the most enjoyable mountain passes we've taken. Extremely beautiful with incredible villages lining the entire stretch of road. Talking with a local, he said the road was recently just repaired about a week before we were on it so we may have just gotten lucky...

    I HIGHLY recommend this road on bicycle if someone else stumbles on this post.

  3. Hi, am I right in thinking this is the direct road from Taungoo to Pyay?
    We're thinking of doing it the other way round in March but have read you need a permit or to be in a tour. Can you shed any light on that?
    Thanks Paul.


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