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Burma Road Yunnan Cycling Tour - 14 Days

Destination: Original Burma Road
Duration: Fourteen Day
Tour Code:
Transportation: Cycling
Best Travel Time:All year
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The original Burma Road is an interesting road to cycle for several reasons. There is of course the historical significance of the road but it is sportive as well. The road is quite a physical challenge to cycle because it crosses thirteen mountain ranges in China alone. Many of these mountain crossings are on tracks with a very poor surface.

Specifically the parts of the road which are not in use as main road anymore often lead through beautiful forests and mountain landscapes with great views and clean air.


Moving by bike brings one in easier contact with the people living along the road. Mind you they will think you are very special (well actually stark raving mad) because none of the locals will cycle these mountain ranges and especially not for fun and very few visitors will do this unique trip.

Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction
US$2100/persons 2100USD/Person

Day 1: Kunming to Lufeng(107 Km)

Starting from Kunming the first landmark is the Burma Road monument.A short climb out of Kunming over the Xi Shan Mountain and one rolls down into Anning. Behind Anning starts an industrial area with heavy industry and probably the ugliest part of the road, good to have this out of the way on the first day. While the motorway continues the Burma Road turns north to Lufeng and climbs. The landscape changes and fields of grapes replace the industry. The first real climb is rewarded by a long role down into Lufeng. Note the old railway embankment now being used as a road just right of the road.

Day 2: Lufeng to Chuxiong(83 Km)

After leaving Lufeng the roads splits in two. The east/west road follows the north bank of the river while west/east follows the south bank. The north side was originally constructed as a railway in 1935. This can still be seen from the bridges and the five tunnels which formed part of the railway. It is a nice example of the creativity used to upgrade the road in a hurry, and it is still in use today. These tunnels can be rather long and dark on a bike.After Jiuzhangxiang the road climbs over the mountain and from there it is all the way down to Chuxiong

Day 3:Chuxiong to Tianshentangxiang.(75 Km)

After leaving Chuxiong the road slowly rises to Nanhua. In Nanhua one can see that the original road was always bypassing the city centre. As a logistic supply road there was no need to pass through towns and as one can see on the old maps all these towns at that date were walled and the narrow streets and gates were only a hindrance. The Burma Road, just north of the old town did have support bases and even now the road at Nanhua is lined with mechanic workshops and tire repair shops but as well small quick meal places and just as before; prostitution.The gradual climb continues after Nanhua and brings one to the Lingguan Bridge across the Longchuan River. The bridge just next to the new one was built already in 1601 and shows that this stretch of the road was in use well before the Burma Road was created.The gradual climb of the road becomes now a serious climb and the road surface gets worse and worse. The Burma Road reaches its highest point here after a long climb. Luckily traffic is light here but every time a car passes a lot of dust is swept up.After the climb there is of course the descend and with smoking brakes one arrives over a much better road surface in a small hamlet called Tianshentangxiang where there is accommodation above the local shop.

Day 4: Tianshentangxiang to Xiangyun £¨74 Km£©

The roads stays rather flat and a relaxed ride leads through rural Yunnan with corn and tobacco fields on both sides.Half way the distance the Burma Road squishes through a valley together with the new motorway and the Kunming to Dali railway until the brought valley in which Yunnanyi lays. The valley is more populated and traffic increases. The original Burma Road here is hard to find because many alterations are made and the motorway dominating the valley disturbs as well. The road is picked up at the old air base in Yunnanyi which makes for a good rest stop as well.

Day 5:Xiangyun to Xiaguan/Dali£¨67 Km£© (Or 85 Km to Dali old town)

Xiangyun like many other rural towns got swept up in the in the speed of times. The Old town walls taken down decades ago are partly back in the form of ornamental city gates and the old bell tower in the centre has been rebuilt. The Burma Road is three kilometres south of the actual town. Then a way to keep the road away from congested cities now like a modern ring road bypassing town.Out of Xiangyun the Burma Road continues through a large area of stone mason workshops turning out grave ornaments. The road then leads through the Dongshan National Forest Park to the Midu valley.Here we meet the pipeline construction crews again. In the actual park the fuel pipeline is laid through tunnels to protect the environment.Before the road hits the valley floor it starts to wind its way up again in real Burma Road style "Keep to the high ground and avoid muddy valleys". The road skirts the valley and climbs up to a mountain range crowned with modern windmills. In the valley fossil fuel still reigns and one can find a petrol station with 18 pumps, they probably didn't notice that this is the old Burma Road and not the motorway.The climb out of the Midu valley is long and steep (The modern motorway and train pass the same mountain through long tunnels). After that it is a fast descend into Xiaguan (Dali) at the Erhai lake.

Day 6:Xiaguan to Yangbi (40 Km) (Or 50 Km from Dali old town).

Out of Xiaguan the Burma Road together with the modern motorway and the Xi'er river (The outflow of the Er'hai lake) go through a narrow gap in the Diancang mountain range. The road is lined with fish restaurant also there is no water left in the river due to repeated droughts.Out of Xiaguan the Burma Road follows national road G320. The road goes steep down here so that goes fast. At Pingpoxiang it turns north and climbs to Yangbi. The road passes the 'Shimen' gap in the Diancang mountain range and comes to the old town of Yangbi. Ones off the G320 the atmosphere changes; people are more friendly. Even going so far as inviting one for lunch while looked for shelter against the rain.Yangbi is the 'Walnut Capital' of Yunnan but as well an old town along the ancient 'Bonan' track of the Southern Silk Road. A 'tea horse' track passes the town as well and leads north to Tibet via Shaxi.

Yangbi is officially a Yi town but many of the inhabitants are of the Muslim Bai ethnic group which shows as well in several mosques that are in use in the town. The old town is concentrated near the old iron chain bridge spanning the Yangbi River. New satellite towns are built and a high-speed rail-link is under construction. The rail-link will tunnel through the mountain and therefore not disturb the mountain scenery.

Day 7:Yangbi to Beidou (51 Km)

As soon as the town is behind you the Burma Road starts to climb and the road surface changes to cobble stones. This distance includes one of the steepest climbs of the Burma Road. Luckily it is through a forested area with little traffic so plenty of thin but clean air. The Qingshuilangshan mountain range is large and in total three separate mountain ranges have to be crossed in the coming days. This over roads with a bad road surface or cobble stone paving.The crossing of the Qingshuilangshan mountains leads one through one of the most beautiful stretches of the Burma Road. This section is no longer used by through traffic and even local traffic is limited. After a long climb through walnut plantations and pine forests one reaches the pass that is often covered in clouds. From there the road winds down to Taiping, the only village on this stretch. After crossing the Shahe River and a short climb one comes to the pass cut out of the mountain side.

Day 8:Beidou to Yongping (30 Km)

After Beidou the road disappears into a pine forest. This is the most abandoned part of the road and for 30 kilometres there is not a single village. This days stretch is short but over a very bad road with, if it has recently rained, muddy spots.The road leads through pine forest and at many places the trees are tapped for pine resin. Not many people will be met this day apart from some travellers on motorbikes and some shepherds with their animals.The last part of this stretch goes down over the G320 to Yongping of which the old town is now under reconstruction. Yongping is famous for its chicken dish in Bai stile.

Day 9:Yongping to Wayao (83 Km)

From Yongping the roads turns north through tea plantations and keeps going up and down. Again the slopes are covered with walnut plantations.At the end of the valley a steady climb is needed to get into the Qiduo mountains. The last two kilometres are the steepest climb on the Burma Road leading to the fourth highest pass on the Burma Road. After this comes the steepest road down and one has to be careful not to burn up ones breaks.From Dalishu the Burma Road keeps hugging the mountain side and slowly goes down to the river. The road is now cobble stones again for a few kilometres. Originally the road crossed the Pi river and continued on the north side of the river to where the New Gongguo Bridge spanned the Lancangjiang (Mekong). This part of the road has disappeared due to rising water levels causeed by damming a bit further downstream of the Lancangjiang. The New Gongguo Bridge itself has been removed and the bridgeheads are now under water, only a monument of the Old Gongguo Bridge remains on the west bank.The road now continues over the new concrete X201 road and passes the new hydroelectric power station. It is a smooth ride along the Lancangjiang River south again. At the bend in the river where it turns west the G320 joins the Burma Road again. High in the mountains one can see the huge bridges of the modern G56 motorway which tunnelled its way through the mountain range that the Burma Road had to climb over. The Burma Road leaves the Lancangjiang valley and rises up to Wayou. Wayou is a town with a rich mix of ethnic groups including Bai, Yi and Dai people.

Day 10:Wayao to Baoshan (66 Km)

This stretch starts with a long climb that starts straight out of Wayao. The Burma Road turned into the G320 again but that road is not that busy on this stretch.At Laoyingxiang the road hits the G56 motorway. The motorway here follows the original track of the Burma Road thus the original road can thus no longer be followed on bike. The alternative is the G320 which zigzags down to the Baoshan on the side of the valley.At the valley bottom the road passes through the old Southern Silk Road town Banqiaozuzhen. This old village is a crossing point of the north/south tea horse trails to Tibet and the east/west southern Silk Road. The old main street is a now nearly forgotten road where shops specialise in funeral gifts like ghost money and paper gifts for the dead.The last stretch between the old town of Banqiaozhen and the modern town of Baoshan goes mainly through the industrious (and dusty) outskirts of Baoshan. The old town of Baoshan was frequently and heavily bombed during the war and the old town has been cleared and now hardly anything reminds one of the old time except of the exposition in the Baoshan museum. The old air base used by the Flying Tigers has been replaced by a modern airport.

Day 11:Baoshan to Huitong Bridge (83 Km)

Baoshan is a good place for a day rest between the sections and that gives time to visit the Baoshan museum. The museum has the main archives of materials connected to the Burma Road and is a source for photographic material for other museum.Apart from a section dedicated to WW-II focussing on the Burma Road and battles in western Yunnan, there are sections on the ethnic groups living in south/west Yunnan and a section on the prehistoric cultures living in the area.The museum shop sells various books on the topics displayed in the museum but they are only available in Chinese. The regional library is connected to the museum and has historic documents related to the road.Just outside Baoshan one passes what looks like a necropolis. It are however stonemason workshops making grave stones. After a cut down on grave stones and burials in general during the communist time the culture of building extensive graves is back. The new rich of the region go way out in the construction of elaborate graves.Some 15 kilometres south of Baoshan the road turns west and climb out the Baoshan valley. A further 7 kilometres further the Burma Road deviates from the G320, crosses the G56 motorway and turns south. The road goes up and down but stays around the 2000 meter altitude until the last mountains are crossed.Ones passed the G56 motorway the Burma Road becomes a quiet road through a rural area.The last 22 kilometres of this stretch are like a free fall, the road drops 1400 metres to the Nujiang valley floor over a rather rough coble stone road. The views from here this stretch are magnificent.The lower one gets the hotter it gets. The road passes through coffee plantations and patches with tropical fruits. The road is lined with Yucca plants.Through the bushes one can get the first views of the old and new Huitong Bridges spanning the Nujiang River (Salween) down below in the gorge.

Day 12:Huitong Bridge to Songshan or Longling (32 / 76 Km)

This section can be described as the ultimate Burma Road experience.
First historically. It leads from the Huitong Bridge, the only large Burma Road bridge still in existence and part of the frontline, to the battlefield at Songshan. Secondly as a physically / sportive challenge. It is the longest and steepest climb over the worst cobblestones at one of the hottest spots. And thirdly one can add to the adventure the worst accommodation of the entire trip.From Longling to Wanding is 107 kilometres and could by a fit person be done in one day.

Day 13:Songshan to Mangshi (73 Km)

From Songshan the Burma Road keeps on climbing the Gaoligong Mountain range for an other few hundred metres up. From the top it is nearly all the way down to Longling. The last 18 kilometres is over the G320 again which is rather busy because the G56 has not been extended here yet.The town of Longling was the centre of the Japanese occupation of western Yunnan In the centre of town one can still find a Japanese bunker controlling the Burma Road. A small exposition is located in the building behind the town square that has the memorial wall as well.One thing not to miss in Longling is the museum dedicated to the Japanese "Comfort Woman" system. The museum is housed in an old wooden villa that was a Japanese army brothel and 'training centre' for the woman brought into western Yunnan to serve the Japanese army.In the museum one can see a shocking documentary on the fate of one of the Korean woman who, highly pregnant, survived the killing spree that aimed to hide this war-crime when the Japanese army was driven out of Longling.All towns in western Yunnan experienced a building boom lately and Longling is no exception. Traffic follows the ring road and the Burma Road became quiet again.Just outside Longling the Burma Road and the G320 split again but it is hard to find the original road. The Burma Road has been abandoned here for a long time and only recently got used again as service road for the construction of the fuel pipeline and the extension of the G56 motorway. The lower altitudes here result in higher temperatures and the vegetation becomes a bit jungle like.

Day 14:Mangshi to Wanding  (79 Km)

The last stretch starts with a long ride out of town past the Mangshi airport. The Burma Road turns into the G320 again and is busy on this stretch, the motorway now under construction once finished should change this.The landscape changes, it gets more tropical and the Buddhist watts are just like they are in Burma or Thailand.A last climb is needed across the mountains that separate the Longjiang River valley from the Wanjiang River valley.The trip ends at the border in Wanding. The original border crossing with the Bailey bridge constructed by American forces in 1945 still stands as a monument.The border post, now using a new concrete bridge, is still in use but lost significance with the opening of the border at Ruilli 26 Kilometres further down the river.This concludes the cycle trip along the original Burma Road (Or is the start if one cycles from Wanding to Kunming.).




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