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Indian artist Kandhi Kuppa Surya Prakash (top-L) gives the final touches with helpers to an Hindu God Lord Ganesh figure made from thin-gauge thermoforming plastic cups and some paper cups at his workshop in Hyderabad

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The Bikers Who Travelled from India to Thailand, Through Myanmar, on the Royal Enfield Bullet share their wonderful Journey

An Indian Army officer took a quick look at our stamped papers and motioned for the gate to be lifted. Noel, my Aussie riding buddy, and I had left New Delhi a few days earlier on Asian Highway 1, battling northern India’s freezing winter conditions on a pair of kick-start Royal Enfield Bullet Machismo 500s.

Many travellers have made the journey to the border at Moreh, only to be turned away. If the Indian border officials didn’t think you’d be allowed into Myanmar, they wouldn’t allow you to exit. But things are different now. After months of anxious planning and wondering whether to attempt this trip, we were almost there.

Myanmar Maps          (Photo: Google Maps)

Until a few years ago, crossing Myanmar overland with your own vehicle was prohibited. It took some enterprising individuals to sort out the paperwork and convince their governments to open the border and allow travellers to enter.

13-bullet-[1600x1200]Riding through the jungles of western Myanmar where the tar road hasn’t reached yet. (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

Myanmar is now, technically, a democracy. But it remains military-dominated and paranoid about state security. What do secretive states fear most? Independent travellers roaming the country, interacting with locals and reporting to the outside world. As a compromise, overlanders are now allowed to cross the country to Thailand with one major caveat – they have to be escorted by a government officer and a tour guide, along with a fixed itinerary following a pre-planned route. This isn’t my preferred style, but the opportunity to be one of the first to blaze the trail across this ‘virgin’ country was too tempting.

Crossing the single-lane, iron Indo-Myanmar Friendship Bridge at Moreh was a big moment – a continuation of my round-the-world journey without needing to take a flight.

20-bagan-bullet-[1600x1200]The enigmatic plains of Bagan with pagodas from a thousand years still standing. (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

The western part of Myanmar is quite remote compared to the south and the east. With no tar roads until a few years ago, there were many tales of notorious mud jungle roads that mired vehicles. But the Indian government, in its bid to open trade with Myanmar and counter China’s influence, surfaced a 160 km-long road from the border to Kalay.

However, any chances of making quick time were ruined by more than a hundred narrow wooden and iron bridges. Some were well-maintained, but others resembled those I’d traversed deep in the Amazon with missing planks and exposed nails.

15-bridges [1600x1200]Crossing over a hundred wooden bridges in remote western Myanmar. How good is your balance?

(Photo: JayKannaiyan)

We made it to Kalay in a day, then set off for Mandalay. The tar surface disappeared within a few kilometres, revealing baseball-sized rocks jutting from the hard-packed mud.

Our Bullets bounced about and just like in the Amazon, when trucks inevitably came from the opposite direction, the road’s fine clay dust enveloped us, drowning our senses for several seconds and leaving a powdery residue everywhere. But in this primitive landscape, riding through virgin jungles, we were in adventure riding paradise.

Down the Irrawaddy River lay Bagan, Myanmar’s tourist Mecca and a place to marvel at the imperial legacy from the Eleventh Century. Thousands of pagodas dot this plain, many covered in gold leaf. Its grandeur is intense, emotional and deeply personal. As we caught the sunset that evening from atop one of the largest pagodas, spontaneous applause broke from the crowd when the last ray disappeared beyond the horizon.

18-temple-[1600x1200]          (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

The next day we headed east and the road twisted tightly up and over the Shan Hills. Bullets are low on horsepower, but their balanced chassis makes for nimble cornering. Going uphill, sliding our butts off the seats, and leaning into corners is a movement every biker learns to love, even if the Bullet wasn’t designed to be ridden like a sportbike.

Back over the Shan Hills and we entered Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital built 10 years ago. Like most planned capitals, this one feels sterile, filled with wide, multi-lane concrete roads almost entirely devoid of traffic. We were left stunned by a 20-lane road in front of the parliament building. Ten lanes each side, with no cars. A sad demonstration of showmanship – no doubt a venue for military parades intended to signal the government’s disdain for Western sanctions – instead it remains a monolith of Myanmar’s squandered fortunes.

26-inlay-[1600x1200]         (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

Bikes are banned from Nay Pyi Taw’s modern four-lane concrete highway to Yangon and they’re not even allowed into the city, so we had to park them at the city’s northern edge from where we caught a van and made it just in time to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Over 325 feet tall, covered in gold leaf, with endless candles lit by chanting devotees around its base, the pagoda possesses an immense spirituality. We said a customary prayer, walked around the base and then headed to 19th Street in Old Town for a night of barbeque meats and cold beer.

119-myanmar-food [1600x1200]         (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

After fetching our bikes the following morning, it was a leisurely ride east to Kyaiktiyo. Here we took the hour-long steep uphill climb in the back of a truck to Golden Rock – a massive boulder impossibly balanced on the edge of a cliff, covered in gold. When the sun came out from behind the clouds and lit up the rock in all its golden radiance, it was almost enough to make me a believer.

On the last day, we crossed the Dawna Range to reach the Thai border. And, just like in the far west where the road is yet to be paved, Noel and I had one last hairy ride. From Hpa’an, the road east is laden with trucks and tourist buses. This deteriorated road gave us a bone-rattling ride, which worsened in the mountains, becoming a gnarly off-road track filled with giant potholes. We charged up along the sides of minibuses, tankers and trucks – not lingering on the cliff edges longer than necessary.

84-inlay-boat-[1600x1200]Long boats on Inle lake where the locals have created a thriving economy whilst living on the lake.

(Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

This thrilling ride made for a fitting end to the journey through this adventure rider’s paradise. We reached the Thai border at Mae Sot and after bidding farewell to our escorts whom we’d befriended over the past ten days, we exited Myanmar.

Noel and I high-fived as we realized we were among the first riders to cross this wonderful country from India to Thailand – and on Royal Enfields!

What a stunning country to experience on a bike. If you would like to do this, get in touch as I’m organising another ride across in a few months.

India to thailand on road       Successfully entering Thailand at Mae Sot after crossing the length of Myanmar. (Photo: Jay Kannaiyan)

 

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Some things travel teaches us

we have came across lot of teachers who inspire us through the journey of life. But when we are on the journey for some destination even the travelling experiences teaches us some lessons.

Patience: Many times while traveling you will encounter set backs. For instance, if you take a local bus in India, don’t expect for that bus to leave on schedule. Many times the local buses wait until all of the seats are full before they will leave. Sometimes it could take an hour or longer.

patience

You can choose to get uptight and irritated that you have to wait, or you can find a way to enjoy that time by reading a book or striking up a conversation with the person next to you. If you are on a backpacker’s budget and trying to go the cheap route, you will encounter many things that will test your patience. After a while, these things seem insignificant and you end up finding ways to pass the time.

Live in the moment: In many places, you have to be on guard while you are traveling. You want to make sure nobody steals from you, mugs you, takes advantage of you, etc etc. Also, you will find that things do not always go as planned when you are traveling. You learn to go with the flow and make the best of what is thrown at you.

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Travel can also teach you to live in the moment by being in constant awe of your surroundings. When you are in a new place, you tend to pay attention to the smells, scenery and noises around you more than you would at home. If you do this long enough while traveling, it can become a habit so that when you get home you may find yourself viewing your surroundings in the eyes of a traveler.

Our day to day problems are not such a big deal: Sometimes we tend to live in a little box and think that our problems are monumental. But compared to what some people have to deal with on a day to day basis, many of our problems really are not that bad.

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Don’t take things for granted: Do you ever wonder what it’s like to live in a small hut in the middle of nowhere? Well, this is many people’s reality in other countries. It can be an extreme shocker to see how some people live in other parts of the world. I know a lot of people who don’t realize they have it really good and they complain about everything because they know nothing except their “world”. They have not visited other places, nor do they care to.

Image COPYRIGHT - Timothy Allen - http://humanplanet.com - You may NOT reproduce this image in any media format without written consent. Please contact http://humanplanet.com for syndication options.

Image COPYRIGHT – Timothy Allen – http://humanplanet.com

These are just a few of the things I have learned from travel.

Mathura – Vrindavan

For those seeking solace in the temples & spirituality in the air must visit Mathura-Vrindavan. These epic areas hold an important historical reference being the birth place of Lord Krishna & invite each traveller with a warm environment. Sing along the holy chants with the devotees and leave back with wonderful memories of the city. For all Lord Krishna lovers, visit during the month of August or sepetember for Janamashtami to experience the magnificent celebrations. Stay over until the pooja ends and taste the delicious ‘Chappan Bhog’ Prasad.

Chappan-Bhog-Lord-Jagannath

Places in India to Travel on a Low Budget

Kodaikanal: Located in Tamil Nadu, about 7200 ft above the sea level, Kodaikanal is called the ‘Princess of Hill Stations’. It clutches to an unexplainable magnificence and boasts of some of the best street food at the lowest prices. There are lovely places to stay which would never burn a hole in your pocket. Moreover, you can try your hand at a few adventurous activities or just revel in the incredible beauty of nature.

Pillar_Rocks_in_Kodaikanal

Darjeeling: A beautiful and gratifying travel destination, Darjeeling is famous for its traditional yet charming little hotels, home stays and cottages that are unexpectedly low-priced. The scenic exquisiteness of the snow laden mountains, marvelous views of the sunrise and the sunset, delectable food available at sensible rates and the divine savor of the renowned Darjeeling tea make it a place worth adding to your travel bucket list.

Darjeeling

Hampi: If you love architecture and take pleasure in marveling over the magnificence of palaces, temples, and incredible royal buildings, then, I am sure Hampi will take your heart away. People spend days and weeks in this wonderful city in Karnataka where traveling finds an altogether different manifestation. You can stay at any of the affordable cottages or hotels, rent a bicycle or a bike, eat out at amazing eateries and experience a kind of survival that doesn’t exist in most other places

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Gokarna: A faultless beach town in Karnataka, Gokarna is admired by Indians and foreigners alike. It is the idyllic travel destination for those in search of quietude, splendor and some appealing places of worship. You can stay at one of the multiple guest-houses and home stays at cheap prices and spend days without really worrying about the expense of living through a town as pristine as this.

gokarna

McLeod Ganj: This picturesque city is a suburb of Dharamshala and is extremely popular with travelers who look forward to some out-of-the-world experiences. You just need to take a train to Dharamshala and then move on to McLeod Ganj through a looping bus route or a private car. This place offers you with some of most reasonably priced and outstanding places to stay, marvelous eating joints and cafes, wonderful museums, temples and galleries, and cheap guided treks.

McLeod Ganj

Varanasi: Who said that the lust to travel cannot be merged with an essence of spirituality? Varanasi (Benaras) is one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism and is continually sprouting with the purity and divinity that it withholds. There are a large number of guesthouses and hotels that can fit well within every budget. Also, Varanasi offers amazing yet affordable food options and striking locations for tourists. Just take a walk along the ghats or marvel in the colorful vibrancy of the city and its temples.

Varanasi

Goa: Goa is one of the most touristy places in India and yet I’d never say that it’s overrated. Everyone needs to come across the spirit of Goa at least once in their lifetimes. This delightful and blithe Indian state has some of the best beaches, restaurants, home-stays and churches in the country. When you’re in Goa, you can find the cheapest of accommodation options, rent a bike and roam around, eat at small yet incredible food joints, spend hours on the beach, take a dip in the sea and also, consume very cheap liquor. Up for a party? Goa is your place!

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Courtesy :  Nikitha Mandhani

India-Myanmar-Thailand Highway Becomes Operational

The Myawaddy-Thinggan Nyenaung-Kawkareik section of the Asian highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand has been put into service.

Myanmar Vice President U Nyan Tun, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Chairman of the Kayin National Union General Saw Mutu Sae Po attended an inaugural ceremony of the service on Sunday, Xinhua reported.

With the 25.6-km-long section becoming operational, travel time between Thinggan Nyenaung and Kawkareik will be reduced from three hours to 45 minutes. The construction of the Asian highway section started in 2012 with the assistance of Thailand. The Asian highway runs from Moreh in India to Thailand’s Maesot via Myanmar’s Tamu, Mandalay and Myawaddy.

The section, also part of the East-West economic corridor of the Greater Mekong Subregion, will not only enhance trade between Myan- mar and Thailand, but also contribute to better links among people in the region. A cornerstone laying ceremony was also held at Myawaddy on Sunday for the building of Myanmar-Thailand Friendship Bridge No.2 to link Thailand’s Maesot with Myanmar’s Myawaddy.

Notably, it has been quite sometime that Myanmar and India has been talking about introducing bus service between Imphal and Mandalay.

Did you know why,Mysuru topping clean city rating is no surprise

The emergence of the heritage city of Mysuru as the cleanest city in the country in the pre-Swacch Bharat rankings released last week is testimony to the importance of imbibing a culture of cleanliness over decades and generations.

The number one rank for Mysore among 476 evaluated cities in India comes as no great surprise to locals since high standards of cleanliness have been nurtured for generations by visionary kings from the Wodeyar dynasty who governed the region until five decades ago. The Wodeyars, who had travelled widely through much of the developed world, brought to Mysuru modern ideas that made it one of the best planned cities in the country nearly 150 years ago.

A gradual growth in population (14 lakh at present) and an adherence to the principles of city planning laid down by the Wodeyar kings has helped Mysuru avoid many of the pitfalls encountered by major cities.

Nearly 150 years ago the kings of Mysore created the Vani Vilas Water Works, a drinking water supply system that pumps water from the Cauvery river to the city. They also created universities, colleges and school that provided modern education to the people of Mysore. A culture of democratic participation was also started by the Wodeyars through the creation of Praja Pratinidhi Sabhas where cleanliness of the local environment was an area of key focus. Mysuru was one of the earliest cities to have door to door garbage collection.

Instead of one centralised market where waste piles up, Mysuru has had four markets since the days of the Wodeyars. This has ensured more efficient waste disposal in the city. The Wodeyars decision to set aside 900 acres for a sewage treatment plant has helped subsequent civic administrators handle the problem of Mysuru’s sewage disposal. The sewage plant created in 1994 is today also an important source of cattle fodder. Door to door collection of garbage is efficient with the participation of civic groups and NGOs. In the well-laid out localities there are clearly demarcated areas for garbage collection.

Mysuru has also clearly maintained the demarcation between its sleepy residential localities and commercial areas. In recent months sensing a garbage threat to the city, including several heritage sites, through the uncontrolled proliferation of roadside eateries the MCC has gone on a driven to regulate eateries and move them to designated sites.

Another key factor Mysuru’s emergence as a clean city is its position as a tourism destination of historical and cultural importance. Nearly 70,000 foreign and 20 lakh Indian tourists visit Mysuru annually for the city’s royal heritage and yoga.

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