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Burma Road.

Where the going stays tough.....

Burma Road.

Where the going stays tough.....

Cycling the Burma Road, section 3

Baoshan to Wanding

The section between Baoshan and Wanding is again different from the sections before. This because it cuts through the frontline at the Nujiang River (Salween) and goes through a much lower area resulting in generally higher temperatures.

Total length: 277 Km

This section can be cycled in 3, 4 or 5 days. The four day partition is described below. In five days more time could be spend in towns on the way like Longling and Zhefangzhen and exploring the mysterious X218 section.

Burma Road.
The Burma Road meandering through Yunnan.
Burma Road.
The Burma Road meandering through Yunnan.
WW-II section of Boashan museum.
The WW-II section of the Boashan museum.

Baoshan to Huitong Bridge

(保山 - 惠通桥) 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 focusing 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.

Japanese war time money used in Yunnan.
Like most Chinese museums there are mainly pictures on display at the Baoshan museum but there are a few physical items on display as well like this war time Japanese money and various bayonets.
Japanese bayonets in Boashan museum.
Stone mason workshop along the Burma Road.
Grave stone workshops outside Baoshan.

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.

Lady with bound feet on the Burma Road.
Lady with bound feet.
PBR

Officially foot binding was stopped when China became a republic but in rural Yunnan this practise continued.

The 85 year old lady above was born in 1927 and her feet were bound when she was a young child. In her early teens she might have worked on the Burma Road breaking stone for gravel. Now deaf and blind so we could not ask her.

Old man along the Burma Road selling mushrooms.
Old man along the Burma Road selling mushrooms.

The old man above sells wild mushrooms to compliment his tiny pension.

Born in 1937 and then too young to remember but he might have been bound to his mothers back while she worked on the Burma Road.

Old age facilities in rural area are hardly existing and pensions are at poverty level.

Packhorses on the Burma Road.
Packhorses and mules are still widely used in Yunnan like here for the transport of building materials.
Road sign on the Burma Road.
We are looking for the 'Relics Grops' in the 'Scenic Spo'.

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.

Burma road near the Nujiang valley 1.
The Burma Road at the pass before the Nujiang valley.
Burma road near the Nujiang valley 2.
The Burma Road is covered with cobble stones on the stretch going down the 1400 metres to the Nujiang River valley floor.
Burma Road at the Nujiang valley.
Mountains and more mountains.
Bouncing on the Burma Road.
The Burma Road on both sides of the Nujiang is kept in the original state; even on a motorbike this is rather bumpy.
Early morning on the Burma Road.
Early morning on the Burma Road in the Nujiang valley.

Huitong Bridge to Songshan or Longling

(惠通桥 - 松山 / 龙陵) 32 / 76 Km

This stretch 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 on both ends of this stretch.

Huitong Bridge.
At the monument for the bridge at the west bank.
War damaged tree at the Songshan mountain.
This war damaged tree is one of the only two trees still standing after the battle at Songshan mountain.

History

The Huitong Bridge was the place where the Burma Road crossed the Nujiang River (Salween) and thus of vital importance. In the narrow gorge there was the bridge and a ferry crossing.

The eastern bridgehead was blown in 1942 in order to stop the advancing Japanese army. The river stayed the front line till the Chinese army crossed the river in 1944 to open the Burma Road again.

The 'Flying Tigers' attacked military convoys in occupied western Yunnan from their bases in Baoshan and Yunnanyi. They tried to bomb vital parts of the Burma Road as well to stop or hinder the Japanese army. Especially the road on the west bank of the Nujiang was bombed frequently.

Exploring the Huitong bridge on both sides of the river will take an hour. (The bridge cannot be crossed any longer).

The main battle to retake western Yunnan and open the Burma Road again took place at the heavily fortified Songshan Mountain where Japanese units had been dug in.

A visit to the old battlefield at the mountain will take two to three hours. Visiting the Songshan battlefield museum takes another hour.

Map of the Huitong bridge and Songshan battlefield area.
Map of the Huitong / Songshan stretch. (Click here for large version). The road zigzags up 1346 metres over a 32 kilometres long road of which the road surface is mainly cobblestone.

Physical challenge

If one goes east or west either way it is a climb over rough cobblestones to get out of the valley.

The elevation chart of the original Burma Road shows that crossing the Nujiang valley includes the steepest and longest climb of all the Burma Road. The height difference between the Nujiang River and the top of the Songshan Mountain is 1346 meters / 4417 feet. The pass in the Gaoligong Mountains behind Songshan is even a few hundred metres higher.

The new Songshan Monument.
The statues of the new Songshan monument loking at the double summit of Songshan Mountain.
PBR

At the Songshan Battlefield some people try to make a living guiding visitors around or selling them flowers and snacks.

Selling flowers and snacks.
Selling flowers and snacks at Songshan.
Road sign between Songshan and Longling.
Heavy bike.

The stretch between Huitong Bridge and Songshan is short but very steep. It depends on ones physical condition how much time this climb will take. If the climb is slow than there is an option to stay in Songshan. The accommodation is however very limited and the other option is to continue the climb further after which it is all the way down to the town of Longling where more accommodation is available.

The travel scedule depends as well on how much time you like to spend at Songshan.

Watch repair man.
Watch repair man.
PBR

Lao Wu the watch repair man fixed my watch for a few kuai.

Apart from watches he fixes bikes and motorbikes and all kind of consumer electronics.

Car transporter along the Burma Road.
In 1945 huge amounts of vehicles were delivered over the Burma Road going from the west to the east, now it is the other way around. Cycling on narrow roads together with these huge transporters is not that nice.
Japanese bunker in the centre of Longling.
Japanese bunker in the middle of Longling.

Songshan to Mangshi

(松山 - 芒市) 73 Km

From Songshan the Burma Road keeps on climbing the Gaoligong Mountain range for another few hundred metres up. From the top it is nearly all the way down to Longling (龙陵). The last 18 kilometres is over the G320 again which is rather busy because the G56 has not been extended here yet.

For more on Longling see our Longling page.

American mountain gun.
An old American 75mm mountain gun standing in a shop in Longling.

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.

War monument in Longling.
The memorial wall dedicated to the war in western Yunnan in Longling.
Longling museum.
The museum of the crime of the Japanese "Comfort Woman" system.

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.

Boom town Longling.
New construction along the old Burma Road.

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.

Old man with goitre.
Loa Chuoyan in front of his house.
PBR

December 31, 1941.

We were up at 6:30 to start around eight o'clock. We found more dust-filled roads winding around the Yunnan hills. There is snow on the mountains in the distance.

The hill people of the province are working on the road, looking like gnomes, short, stunted and clad in blue rags. Many of them have large goiters on their necks, caused by the lack of iodine in their diet. All are ill fed and poverty stricken in a way that makes our poor look like millionaires.

The above text is from the book: 'With Chennault in China' from Robert M Smith, Radio operator with the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers).

He travelled up the Burma Road by car leaving Toungoo, in Burma, on the 20th of December and arrived on 2nd of January in Kunming.

Constructing the new motorway.
Loa Chuoyan sitting in front of his house while preparation work for the construction of the new motorway is ongoing. (Photo October 2012)
Constructing the new motorway.
Loa Chuoyan still sitting in front of his now renovated house while the motorway above his head is finished. (Photo March 2016)

When we first cycled this stretch of the Burma Road in 2012 work was in progress on both the oil and gas pipeline and the extension of the motorway to Ruili.

Both projects have been completed.

Rising up out of the jungle.
The motorway rising high above the jungle.
WW-II section of the Burma Road.
On the right in this picture, a section of the Burma Road that is preserved with the new road (X218) next to it on the left.
Marker.
The marker indicating this however has fallen over and is broken. Text: "Ruins of the Burma Road".
Off the G320
Off the G320 and following a piece of the old road.

Mangshi to Wanding

(芒市 - 畹町) 83 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 many 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.

Landscape in western Yunnan.
In the far west of Yunnan the climate is more tropical with rubber and coffee plantations.
Rubber tapper along the Burma Road.
Rubber tapper along the Burma Road.
PBR

Work starts early for rubber tappers. With their head lamps they start working when it is still dark to bring in their harvest.

Driver.
Driver.

Not everybody in a police uniform is a policeman. And not everybody with a Jeep cap is driving a Jeep. And policeman usually don't smile at you and want their picture taken.

Stilwell Road Dock wetland park.
One of the few reminders that we are on the Burma Road. The park however has been abandoned.
Original Burma Road near Wanding.
The nearly overgrown original Burma Road going down to Wanding in the forest next to the new road.
Burma Road monument at the Wanding border crossing.
Burma Road monument at the Wanding border crossing.

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).

Information on the Burma Road in Wanding.
Information board next to the bridge / border in Wanding.
The old Bailey bridge in Wanding.
End of the trip: The border at the old Bailey bridge crossing the Wanjiang River at Wanding.

Baoshan

Location: 25°07' N. 99°10' E.

Altitude: 1655 meters / 5430 feet.

Wanding

Location: 24°05' N. 98°04' E.

Altitude: 1100 meters / 3600 feet.

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