The actual Burma Road was largely built by the Chinese themselves — 160,000 workers with almost no equipment hacking a road out of the mountains of Western Yunnan, from the regional center Kunming on the Chinese side to the railhead Lashio on the Burmese side, starting in 1937. After 1941, US Army Engineers also worked on this part of the road. Travelers on today's Yunnan tourist trail cover some of this route, albeit on far newer and better roads. Traces of the old road, including some milestones, are still visible.
The Burmese part of the Burma road is short, from the border town Ruili to Lashio, and can be traversed only one way which is (Ruili to Lashio) and only under escort.
Another road was originally built by the British and Indians, starting in the 1920s, from Ledo in Assam over the mountains to Lashio in Burma (now called Myanmar). This Ledo Road was heavily upgraded by US forces during the war. Traveling this road today is nearly impossible. The four hundred kilometers between the border with India (near Pangsau Pass) and Myitkyina is off-limits to foreigners. The road itself had mostly returned to the jungle but has been rebuilt, allegedly with forced Naga and Kachin labor, in recent years. The Myanmar junta is in the process of converting this section into an all weather section for trade with India. (Note: The Indian section of the road, from Ledo to Nampong on the Ledo road is also a restricted area.) The Ledo road is also known as the Stilwell Road because it was championed and built by General Joe Stilwell. There was a good deal of fighting in the area by British, Indian, and African troops under General Slim and Colonel Wingate, and Americans and Chinese under Generals Stillwell and Wedemeyer, battling Japanese forces that held much of Burma and at one point even threatened India. Keeping the road open was an important Allied objective.
The alternative to the road was "flying the hump", which was taking supply planes from airports around Calcutta to Kunming over parts of the Himalayas. This was done by American pilots at great risk. Another Allied objective in Burma was to knock out bases used by Japanese fighters harassing the hump flyers. Today "The Hump" is a popular tourist bar in Kunming and there are commercial flights Kolkata-Kunming.
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In the event that sections of the road open up to travellers, the following are some of the highlights along the Ledo Road and the Burma Road.