By Yamin Vong
My favorite annual holiday must be value for money and off the beaten track. It should be not more than 10 days so that work is not affected.
It must also be a foreign destination that I’ve not visited for a long time so that there are new things to see and learn. If it’s a motorcycle trip, there must be at least one buddy. If it’s a 4×4 trip, there should be at least one car from the host country.
Over the last five years, a few motorcycling buddies introduced me to the joys of exploring countries by Honda Cubs (or their equivalent).
One year, we flew to Hanoi and rented the small underbone motorcycles for 10-day ride to Sapa in the north of vietnam. That trip was put together by Ooi Teik Lee, a Malaysian and veteran event organiser, who’s currently residing in Vietnam.
Another year, with his local knowledge, Ooi put together another motorcycle trip, this time riding through the islands and mainland of the Mekong Delta. The best time for this annual study tour is usually the festive season of Chinese New Year because there won’t be any new car launches nor long assignments.
It’s a good occasion to take leave and explore new places and do some adventurous tourism.
This year, we decided to return to Myanmar. We’ve been to Myanmar a few times, the first being more than 10 years ago when I had to bring a satellite phone for communications. Four years ago, we chartered a friend’s catamaran and sailed northwards from Kauthuong in the south. We saw a beautiful coastline and vowed to do a motorcycle trip as soon as Myanmar opened up.
Sure enough, Myanmar has liberalized and roads that were long forbidden to tourists have started to open to tourists in the past 16 months. Our plan is to fly to Dawei which is in the middle of the 800 km coastline of the Tanintharyi Division. The other option is to take an 18 hour bus ride from Yangon, which is beyond our time budget.
Pierre, the Parisian who was our crew when we sailed the Andaman, will join us for this ride of a lifetime.
He’ll be the advance party to Dawei and make sure that we’ll get the best condition bikes available. So far, we have booked Honda Wave 110cc underbone motorcycles. But that booking is over the internet and nothing beats someone going to the motorcycle rental shop, checking out the bikes, and paying a deposit to confirm that the bikes are there when we arrive.
Myanmar has progressed so much in such a short time. There are supermarkets and the shelves are loaded with the rich local produce – cashew nuts, avocados, local alcohols, and imported foodstuffs.
When before handphones were subject to a quota system, there are now a few operators and Ooredoo is the partner telco for Malaysian Telco, Maxis.
There are plenty of second hand taxis imported from Japan and South Korea. There are no meters however fares to major destinations, say Yangon airport to town centre, is understood to be 6,000 kyat (about RM20). Generally, it’s about 6,000 kyat for an hour’s taxi ride.
The peculiar thing is that Myanmar is a left hand drive country but the second hand cars from Japan are right hand drive. The saving grace is that the drivers are cool and non aggressive. They give way without resentment and there is no honking.
Although it’s an asean member nation, we still need a visa. The good news is that you can apply for it on-line and pay usd50 by credit card. In addition to the normal passport details, you’ll need to download a photo of yourself and the photo of your passport.
Your e-visa will be approved within three days and the e-visa will be emailed to you. Print it out and show it to the immigration official.
There has been an uproar about the tiger that was knocked down and killed while crossing the Lebuhraya Pantai Timur II (LPT II) last week.
Certainly animal crossings must be designed and built by the developers of the highway. Elephant-sized crossings were designed and built for the East-West highway. Didn’t the Malaysian Highway Authority specify similar crossings for the LPT I and LPT II?
If these were built, were they correctly sized? A conservationist told me that if the tunnels are too small, they look like caves and some animals won’t enter unless they see a clear way through.
The public concern over the Tiger’s death brings a similar issue to mind, that of motorcyclists crossings.
Highway concessionaires are obliged to build motorcycle crossings but the way these are designed and executed, it’s obvious that there’s no love lost for motorcyclists.
If the government can improve the design for the motorcyclists crossing over toll highways and provide more of them, I’m sure that can reduce the number of road deaths.