Thursday, February 9, 2017

Myanmar Motorcycle Epic 6: The Monywa Shot

I had gotten to like the Sino-Burmese proprietor of the Hotel Mindat up there in the highlands of Chin. Nice guy. He gave me “guide rate” that local tour guides pay at the hotel when they bring in foreign tourists. So, as I was packing up my gear on the motorbike, readying myself for a ride to the Chin town of Matupi some 150 km away, when he wandered up to chat, I asked him about the road ahead. 

See, I had some reservations about the feasibility of my plan to travel through the heart of Chin. Based on my experience of the roads from Kanpetlet to Mindat, albeit brief, they were brutal. How would my bike, or me for that matter, hold up to hour upon hour of this kind of terrible road? I’ve had legs in previous journeys which were satisfying and rewarding in hindsight, while on them, they were torture.

Forget you, bus! I'm passing on the right to get to this bridge
before you.
For me, it’s mostly about time. Four hours of bad third-world roads is tough. Six hours is traumatic. Anything more than that, it’s simply not worth it. So how long would it take me to get to Matupi? I asked my new hotelier friend. 

“Eight, nine hours” he told me. WHAT?! But on Google maps it says 4 hours 30 minutes. I had even more reservations about the next leg, 220 km from Matupi to Hakha, the capital of Chin. How long would that take? “Umm… Probably about 12 hours,” he told me. 

Oh, hell no.

Fortunately, despite having my reservations, I had no reservations. Bookings, that is. There was nothing binding me to this itinerary. I had no hotel reservations awaiting me, so, if I wanted, I could turn the other way and go back into the safe lowlands of the Ayeyarwaddy plains. And that’s exactly what I did.

Okay, technically, I'm drinking and driving, but I'm not driving
while drunk. One beer every 3 hours is just carbohydrates
to keep me going.
This whole journey I’ve been on has been (still 2 more days left) shaped by a series of adjustments to the plan. First, I decided against trying to sneak through the prohibited parts of Shan, decided on Chin, and then, as you see in this video, I abandon Chin. I’d seen enough. 

They haven't replaced the ferry that sank.
When I I got to the bank of the Chindlwin River, I remembered a story from last year about a horrible ferry boat sinking here in Myanmar. Many died. It had been the ferry connecting me from where I was to where I wanted to go: Monywa. Home to the world’s largest standing Buddha.

Enjoy the video. BTW, if you watch it on YouTube, click the little cog-wheel on the lower right corner and make sure you're settings are for HD.



  1. Perhaps they fear that if they finish the Tallest Buddha, the world will end?

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