Along the Ledo road to the Lake of No Return

Photo - Thurein Yu

The Man, The Club, The Trip

The man of adventure will never be lost out of life…..

In January, following a year of preparation, three intrepid adventurers embarked on a 6-day long drive to the far reaches of Upper Myanmar to “The Lake of No Return.” Thankfully they did return and My Magical Myanmar sat down with Thurein Yu to hear about the experience.

Early one January morning they set out on the drive that would take them beyond Mandalay, further north than Myitkyina to northwestern Sagaing Region which turns into Eastern Nagaland. The town of Pansaung is next to the Indian border and is situated on the historic Ledo Road.


Experienced road trips and expeditions to destinations around Upper Myanmar…

Nearby is the Lake of No Return which got its name from the many myths and dark mysteries that originated there during WWII when pilots would crash land their planes nearby looking for a soft landing after being shot or malfunctioning.  The route took Thurein Yu through the most remote parts of Myanmar — across rapid rivers, traversing hairpin turns along mountaintops, edging along cliffs and slogging through seas of mud.


Most essential needs….

So remote was their route that he had to carry 10 gallons of drinking water and 60 gallons of extra fuel on his truck - a hazard in itself. 

Their goal was to get to the famous Stilwell Road (later renamed Ledo Road), a section of which runs through Naga - land. Built during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938 by the allies for transporting supplies to China, The Ledo Road would lead the 4x4 Myanmar team to their ultimate destination- The Lake of No Return simply called Pangsau Inn (Pangsau Lake) by the locals. 

4x4 Myanmar’s off-road - An enthusiastic outcome of confidence
The adventure was organized by “4x4 Myanmar” a group of off-road enthusiasts who embark on rugged road trips and expeditions to destinations around Myanmar which they deem as “challenging” a few times each year. 

The members - The toughest challenges & The biggest risks

The team members, based in Yangon, have made ten trips out of Yangon Division to various parts of Myanmar since its formation in 2015. Founding member Thurein Yu has been exploring the country in his 4x2s and 4x4s for the last 19 years.  On the Ledo Road trip, Thurein Yu drove a Ford Ranger together with 4x4 Myanmar co-founder Thaw Zin in his Mitsubishi Pajero and newcomer Thein Gadday with his Toyota Land Cruiser. 

“After you’ve driven these kinds of roads you gain some confidence. You know what your car is capable of.” 

Listening to Thurein Yu tell the story about the Ledo Road expedition, it becomes clear that a great deal of planning took place before the trip. Only a small percentage of people who wanted to join the motorcade owned vehicles sufficiently modified to be capable of the journey. 

“Out of hundreds of enthusiasts, there are about 30 active members in 4x4 Myanmar who have modified their vehicles to handle the kind of rough terrain like Ledo Road.” 
Even so, the Ledo Road expedition proved the toughest challenge undertaken thus far for the vehicle and drivers' endurance. The biggest risks were the road conditions, which were often extremely dangerous. 

“Even during the dry season, the jungle doesn’t allow enough sunlight to get through the trees to dry the terrain,” Thurein Yu said, “So all year round it stays wet, muddy and soft.” 
Evidence of this enduring muddy condition was provided by the broken down or crashed cars left abandoned along the extreme climbs and descents of the Naga mountains. 

“We had minor car trouble but no one got into any major trouble. But this was all because of preparation, our regard for safety, and communication with locals along the way. People say one out of five vehicles overheat while ascending the steep mountains of Nagaland,” said Thurein Yu. 

For five consecutive days of setting out early in the morning and driving hard until late at night, the three-car convoy pushed north. 
On the sixth day they arrived at The Lake of No Return and set up camp in the nearby town of Lahe. 

Reaching achievement - The Lake of No Return

“Just getting to the lake was a real achievement and a highlight of the trip for me. We had driven so far for so long, never really sure if we would actually get there." 

The Lake of No return is a 1.4km long 0.8km wide body of water that sits at the Myanmar-India border. The area is sometimes referred to as the Burmese Bermuda Triangle because of the myths and legends associated with the lake and the area. 

Local legend indicates that crashed planes have remained at the bottom of the lake since WWII. One story tells of a group of Japanese soldiers who, while returning from battle, got lost and wound up at the lake only to all fall ill and die. 

After spending some time in the area by the lake and at the border the 4x4Myanmar motorcade spent the night in Nanyoun. 

Joining to celebrate with people from another world - Naga New Year
The next day, they continued their return journey and arrived in Lahe just in time for the bonfire of Naga New Year celebrations and camped in tents arranged by Thaw Zin who had been to Lahe the previous year. 

“It’s another world altogether- people speak their own dialect, eat their own type of food, and lived off the land with nature. Many of them are shy and not used to seeing travelers.” 

So…… what is next for the intrepid travelers of Myanmar 4x4 Association? 

Coming soon…… the winter expeditions in Kachin State

“This coming winter, we are hoping to go to where the snow falls in Kachin State, east of Myitkyina and Putao,” Thurein Yu said. 

“Our cars have been modified over the years to cope with expeditions under harsh conditions; any expedition. But snow will be fun and unlike any of our previous experiences.”

And we will need to think about our security; our modifications don’t include bullet proofing.

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Marie is copy editor and writer at My Magical Myanmar since 2016. From Ireland but living in Myanmar for the past five years, she specializes in travel writing and hotel and restaurant reviews. Her writing and photography have been published in numerous local as well as major international publications including Al Jazeera and The Irish Times. Her passion lies with exploring unknown destinations and discovering diverse ethnic cuisines."""


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