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Kunming Burma Road monument.

Doing it the hard way.

Kunming Burma Road monument.

Doing it the hard way.

Cycling the Burma Road, section 1

Section 1

Out of town the Burma Road becomes identical to national road G320 all the way to Xiaguan. This section of the road had been in use before as the connection between Kunming and Dali via Chuxiong. Traffic along this section is light to nearly absent because nearly all traffic takes the modern motorway.

Total length: 403 Km

This section can be cycled in 4 to 5 days. The five day partition is described below. In four days the partition looks like Kunming / Lufeng 107 Km, Lufeng / Nanhua 117 Km. Nanhua / Xiangyun 112 Km. Xiangyun / Xiaguan 67 Km. (Or 85 Km to Dali old town).

Burma Road monument in Kunming.
The Burma Road monument at the foot of Xishan Mountain the end of Renminxilu, the road that led to the old west gate of Kunming.
Burma Road monument in Kunming.
The Burma Road monument at the foot of Xishan Mountain the end of Renminxilu, the road that led to the old west gate of Kunming.
329 kilometres to go.
329 Kilometres to go.

Kunming to Lufeng

(昆明 - 禄丰) 107 Km

Starting from Kunming the first landmark is the Burma Road monument at the end of Renminxilu (See pictures above and below).

Detail Burma Road monument.
Detail 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.

Pucture repair man.
Roadside pucture repair man.
PBR

Fixing a hole for 3¥.

Bicycle repair spots can be found in every town also in rural Yunnan they are more specialised in motorbikes. And there is always somebody showing up who likes to have a look at it when it involves a foreigner.

Tunnel on the Burma Road.
The Mimalong tunnel originally build as a railway tunnel.

Lufeng to Chuxiong

(禄丰 - 楚雄) 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.

Dahua bridge in Burma Road.
Dahua Bridge near Yipinglang in the foreground, originally build as railway bridge in 1935.
Abandoned railway.
Abandoned and partly collapsed railway bridge pylons of the railway.
The candy floss man.
The candy floss man.
PBR

Just making a living.

Candy floss, cotton candy, barbe à papa or suiker-spin, whatever you call it I don't like it but if one gets one offered as a gift one has to.

Outside school yards traders pop up with their sticky sweet and terribly fatty snacks when the kids come out.

Yi minority mural.
Especially in the Chuxiong district murals that depict minority people like this Yi lady and local topics such as mushrooms are abundant.
The road surface is getting more of a challenge.
The road surface is getting more of a challenge. The road goes up as well to the highest point along the Burma Road. The now completely insignificant town of Yunnanyi, 63 Km away, is indicated on the road sign because in the days of the Burma Road it was an important airbase.

Chuxiong to Tianshentangxiang

(楚雄 - 天申堂) 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.

Lingguan Bridge.
The Ming Dynasty Lingguan Bridge built in 1601 got incorporated into the Burma Road.

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.

Bai Muslim architecture.
The Bai Hui minority, who are Muslims, have their own architecture and decorative style as seen on this building.
Bai Hui woman selling vegetables.
White is the colour used by the Bai Hui woman for their scarves. Bai is not only the name of this minority group but means white as well in Chinese.
Rural Yunnan.
Rural Yunnan in September.
Slaughtering a pig.
Home butchering a pig.
PBR

Fresh as can be.

To busy for a talk but if you have some time later you are invited for a feast with plenty of pork-chops.

In rural Yunnan home butchering is quite common and so is the use of large amounts of lard.

Sorting Yunnan tobacco.
Sorting dried tobacco leaves. Tobacco is one of the most important cash crops in Yunnan.

Tianshentangxiang to Xiangyun

(天申堂 - 祥云) 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 into 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 lunch stop and one can have a look at the old town and old airbase. For more information see our special Yunnanyi page.

After Yunnanyi the road continous to the old town of Xiangyun.

Museum 1.
The curiously named 'Transportation Museum of the China-Burma-India Theatre in WWII' in Yunnanyi located in one of the old buildings.
Museum 2.
The museum mainly has pictures on display of the 'Flying Tigers' which was a fighter squadron and not a transport squadron.
The Burma Road monument at Yunnanyi.
The Burma Road monument in Yunnanyi is a large collection of stone rollers used during the road and airstrip construction.
Ritual with rooster at the Yunnanyi temple.
Ritual with rooster at the Yunnanyi temple.
PBR

Yunnanyi temple is one of the liveliest in Yunnan and often when we visit there are large family groups performing religious rituals like the rooster on the back when prostrating oneself for one of the deities in the temple. The rooster will then be butchered and cooked in one of more than ten cooking kitchens of the temple.

The Yunnanyi temple lays halfway up the hill behind the village and was during the war the radio and air control base of the airfield.

New city gates of Xiangyun.
A new pedestrian area with ornamental city gates and a rebuild bell tower in Xiangyun try to create some atmosphere in the centre of town. The layout is based on the old city walls and gates.
Pipes for the fuel pipeline.
In 2012 the construction of the fuel pipeline between the Gulf of Bengal and China was in full swing. All along the road were stocks of the pipes laying ready to be used.
Huge petrol station along the Burma Road.
Petrol station with 18 pumps. Did anybody forget to tell these guys the war is over and the Burma Road is out of use?

Xiangyun to Xiaguan (Dali)

(祥云 - 下关) 67 Km (Or 85 Km to Dali old town 大理镇)

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.

Xiangyun acces road.
Like in so many towns in Yunnan Xiangyun has a huge show-off avenue leading into town, but contrary to most others this avenue has a function, it connects the town to the G320 (Burma Road).

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.

Waste along the Burma Road.
Sadly even in the National Forest Park waste is dumped along the road side.

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 at Erhu lake and from there some 17 Km more to Dali old town.

Thresing on the Burma Road.
Thresing rice on the Burma Road.
PBR

In rural area grains are threshed by laying it on the road and let cars drive over it.

The Burma Road is no exception to this.

Threasing on the Burma Road.
Sifting the grain.

These Yi ladies in Houshancun are hard at work getting this year's harvest in.

The Yi are a highland tribe and the village of Houshancun, near the pass, is some 400 metres higher than the Bai populated Midu and Dali valley.

Burma Road into Dali.
Xiaguan probably holds the record for show-off avenues. The avenue with twice four lanes and a hard shoulder is over twelve kilometres long and is hardly used.
Xiaguan / Dali city centre.
The end of section one at the Xiaguan city centre.

The statue above one can find in all Chinese towns that have been awarded the 'TOP TOURIST CITY OF CHINA' status.

Detail Xiaguan / Dali monument.
Text on the monument.

But this is identity theft, Dali is a further 17 kilometres north of here. There is nothing touristic about Xiaguan to award this status, so go the extra distance to Dali Old Town (Also it is not on the Burma Road).

Swiss TV team in Yunnan.
Swiss TV team stranded on the Burma Road.
PBR

It is not only locals that you meet.

Presenter Barbara Lüthi and producer Elvira Stadelmann and their team got stranded on the Burma Road when one of their vehicles broke down while filming the TV series "Old Burma Road"

In 2015 they travelled the Burma Road to make this series for Swiss TV. The final product can be found here here External link and here External link .

Kunming

Location: 25°02' N. 102°42' E.

Altitude: 1892 meters / 6207 feet.

Xiaguan

Location: 25°36' N. 100°15' E.

Altitude: 1972 meters / 6470 feet.

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