Monday, February 27, 2017

Myanmar Motorcycle Epi 13: Into the State of Shan

Rush hour in Maymyo
Shan State comprises about a quarter of the entire nation of Myanmar. It's in the northeast, it's hilly and the people there maintain an ethnic identity of their own. Mind you, lots of different ethnicities live in Shan, but most of them are of the broader ethnic group known as the Tai. This group includes people in Yunnan Province, China, Laos and of course, Thailand. As I left Pyin Oo Lwin, my plan was to spend the next week exploring Shan State. 

Just before the border between Mandalay Division and Shan State, there's a cave called Peik Chin Myaung. Before I left Yangon, on my last
day with my students at the time, I'd explained where I was going, and asked for recommendations of things to see along my route. One student recommended this cave.  Whereas I've seen lots of caves filled with Buddhist imagery on other trips around Myanmar, Peik Chin Myaung did not disappoint. Definitely worth visiting. 

Just east of a town called Naungkio (remember this name; it's going to come up later in the narrative) there's a river canyon cutting a huge gap in the Shan plateau. 80 years ago, the British built a rail bridge over this canyon that is considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. No pictures of that bridge, still in use today, but I got to experience driving without a bridge.
Get along little doggie. I'd love to ride a water buffalo one day.
The road through the Gokhteik Canyon is one of the most remarkable roads I've ever been on. Trucks need to make their way cautiously and slowly. Me on a motorcycle, I wanted to speed through it. What resulted was a fun puzzle in traffic negotiation. 

Finally, I made my way to my destination for the day, the Shan town of Hsipaw. The owner of the company I work for has lots of connections throughout Myanmar. I knew he had a relationship with a hotelier there in Hsipaw, so I e-mailed my boss asking for a referral. Sure enough, just by explaining who I was and my connection to my boss, I was able to get a $25/night room at Mr Charles Hotel for only $15/night. Connections, baby. 

Interesting decor on the resort grounds.
Thing was, it was a $20/night hotel room. No desk. One electrical outlet in the whole room. No fridge. 80% of the space of the room was taken up by the bed itself. Yeah, fine if you're a backpacker on a budget, but I wanted something nicer. Well, Mr Charles also owns a riverfront resort. I was very happy that even after checking in, they let me upgrade to the $45/night resort on the edge of town with a similar discount to what I was getting at the hotel. I'm too old for cheap hotel rooms. 

Time for a bath, so it's down to the river.
Adjacent to the resort was a traditional Shan village. The cool thing was that these folks, living so close to this busy resort, had become accustomed to foreigners wandering down to take a look around. In most villages in Myanmar, my presence would have stopped everything. Everyone would have just wanted to stand around and stare at the foreigner. As you'll see, I got a chance to look at how these people live their everyday lives. 


  1. I'm not sure my comment went thru. I clicked "sign out" instead of "publish." Just saying we have enjoyed your videos of your recent trip very much. Love Mom

  2. I thought your resort room was lovely! And, I thank God for protecting you, for the way you have to drive among vehicles and trucks, is amazingly dangerous! Glad you're okay. Blessings, Lynn


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