Thomas Heaton spent 6 days exploring 750km of Myanmar by scooter. Here is his fascinating experience about the journey to Shan state.
People in Naypyidaw consume a lot of alcohol because it is very cheap and easy to buy. With only 2 dollars, you can have a liter of Mandalay Rum or Grand Royal whisky. But we didn’t touch a drop of it during the time staying here.
The night in Naypyidaw is crazy. We couldn’t sleep much due to the lack of air – conditioning in the scorching hot weather in Myanmar and the noise of some late – night events taking place in the hotel disrupted my sleep. There were also awful din from the karaoke and parties nearby keeping my tired eyes open. Despite the sleepless night, with a hasty breakfast, we head up to conquer the remote areas of Burma, knowing that the road ahead is full of difficulties. We arrive at Kalaw – an old British colony, high up in the western of Shan state in the hottest month of the year.
The first 30 km is rather easy with the newly – constructed lanes of the Naypyidaw. After that, the bumpy one with gravel and dust appears instead of smooth paved road. Civilians come into view in the vivid landscapes of Myanmar.
Every once in a while, the chanting and music are blasted out from the loudspeakers of the people calling for donation to build schools and monasteries. They often stand in front of the half – built constructions or sometimes a pile of bricks waiting for passers – by throwing money out of the window, usually 1000 kyat (about 1 dollar New Zealand). Hence, not everyone care about it.
We keep pushing north towards Mandalay. After running our eye through the region, we choose the greenery hill of Shan state to be our next destination – Kalaw. At first, we plan to stop at the foot of the road but then it turns out very steep. So finally we choose a tea house on the hill to stay. Here, we stuff ourselves with a kind of special Burmese tea leaf salad – laphet – yeh and yeh – new – jan as well as a lot of under- ripe mangoes with chilli salt. These are also the common food supplies for our trip and of course, plenty of water too. We are served with a cup of black tea sweetened with condensed milk, green tea and some traditional snacks in a shop while watching the cows wander around.
We keep moving east as the height rise drastically. The scenery is like the one in the famous movies about war – Apocalypse Now that makes me think some helicopters will suddenly appear in the sound of the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s by Fortunate Son.
We don’t stop much during the time driving up in the mountains. Just pull over for a swim and cooling down the engine by a river. Due to the lack of the cooling system, we have to cool our scooters by the water of the river ourselves.
In other ways, we stop at the watering stations on the road where the lorries’ brake pads are selling.
It’s about 25km out of Kalaw until my brother’s scooter stops working. Thus, we have a chance to know more about the culture of the locals in the hospitality for the first time.
We stop at a modest hut where our scooters are cooled down by water from a couple of taps around. The local man tries to fix our bikes’ engines by some simple moves like slap and smack. They do work somehow for a few kilometers. And after confusing a kind local for a mechanic by our little English and not any Burmese words, we continue to conquer the dusty roads of Kalaw.
We continue to hit the road without any charges for the repair work. And of course our scooters were definitely worked too hard for this may be the longest and harshest trip that they have ever experience.
In conclusion, Kalaw is unlike any other places in Burma. It appears as a scorching hot place but also a cool retreat from the lush vegetation and the tranquility of the colonial town with not much tourist around. Churches and mosques come into view in the sound of the prayers.
We find a hotel to spoil ourselves a little bit with a local drink and search for some of the best specialities of Shan State. Eventually, we have a long day thouh everything at first is difficult.
» If you find this adventure inspiring, Myanmar tour packages provide a lot more interesting adventures to the untouched and pristine areas of the Golden land.