Thursday, February 2, 2017

Myanmar Motorcycle Epic 5 - The Mountains of Chin

The landlocked state of Chin here in Myanmar is one of the poorest regions in a very poor country. It's only recently been opened up to outside world, and as road development is usually directly linked to economic development, as I found out quickly on the next leg, the roads in Chin are quite bad. 

I left my mountain bungalow in Kanpetlet (see pic) and headed even higher up into the mountains. The road I was taking barely showed up as a scratch on Google maps, but since it was going through one of Myanmar's national parks, I thought that might mean some funding would have gone to road repair. 

For the first ten kilometers of the road in the park, I thought I'd made a terrible mistake. Absolutely horrible road conditions. It turned that the road disrepair was just a stretch. It got better. This bone rattling motorcycle ride was more than made up for by the spectacular vistas around every corner. Perhaps the prettiest road I've ever been on. 

One thing that I found very odd about all these little Chin mountain villages I was passing through is that none of them had any shops. In the rest of Myanmar, every village, sometimes even every house, has a little shop out front selling snacks, cigarettes, water and gasoline. These Chin villages had none of these. I was thirsty and running out of gas. As I looked ahead at the road on the other side of the valley, I began to get more worried because there didn't look to be any settlements nor shops on the switchbacks I could see on the mountain ahead.  

Eventually, I reached the bottom of the valley where a beautiful and pristine river flowed. All I could do was head up the next mountain and hope I make it. 

I did! Just before getting to the town of Mindat, there was a roadside stall selling gasoline. As the lady proprietor was filling my tank, one of her young patrons was all over me. It was a little after noon at that point, and this young man had obviously been drinking all morning. He insisted I sit with them and have some whiskey. He was so drunk, he started speaking in Malay to me. Whereas he's Myanmar, like many people here, he'd obviously spent time working in Malaysia. I speak Malay, so I could understand him. Sort of. He was mostly speaking in drunkese. At one point in his attempts to woo me into the roadside stand to drink with him and his buddy, he pulled out a machete! Just to show me he had one. Even better reason to get out of there as quickly as possible.

I got to Mindat. I convinced the owner of the only real hotel in town to give me the resident Myanmar rate, which was about 30% less than the foreigner rate, for a room, and settled in on top of the world. 

I've found a way to make my video without the flickering problem! Those weird frame interjections only occurred after I had rendered the raw video to an MP4 file. My fix, render to the older MP2 format, which means much larger files and not as good of a picture quality. It's still not bad. Enjoy. 

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