We heard of a few routes going out of Kyaukme. One of it was heading to a town that was closed to foreigners. We talked to a local trekking guide and learned that the town was closed to avoid foreigners buying rubies, tax free, from the local market. Duh. He mentioned an alternate route back to Mandalay, which was more scenic and quieter. But too bad we weren’t heading that way.
Our idea was to get to Hsipaw and try to get to another town called Namto. The piece of paper we got from immigration mentioned Namto was a “permitted town”. We figured we could loop back to Lashio the next day.
We took a back road thro villages out of Kyaukme. This was not marked in any of our maps, but on a little hand drawn map that hank picked up from a trekking guide. It was bad roads, but I’d take gravel over in breathable air I think. Once on the highway, it was a gentle ride up and down towards Hsipaw. The scenery in these parts is pretty with wide valleys and mountains as a back drop. A few rivers would show up once in a while to keep things interesting.
We made quick time to Hsipaw and met a Swiss guy who was riding a rental bike around town. He mentioned a small village called namshan up in the mountains but did say that it was closed. Dang, that was along our planned route for the day. After a break for tea, we headed out toward Namto.
This road was off the highway and thou hit was narrow and with pot holes, there were no trucks. Great to ride in. There were a few army camps along the way which we rode thro without any incident. After about 20 km, we hit a road block. The barrier was down, and the guys refused to let us thro. All the locals could go thro without questions, but we as foreigners were denied entry. The police inspector in harder was sleeping and some of the villagers manning the gate didn’t budge. They were friendly though and we had a few laughs, with me pretending to run into the restricted area and the guys suggesting we try swimming across.
After realist ng we couldn’t get anywhere, we decided to head back to Hsipaw for the night. On the way back, we came upon a nice brook and decided to take a swim and relax for a bit. It was a nice little river and it was fun to hang around with some locals mining for stones to build a house.
After A quiet ride back to Hsipaw, we found a nice guesthouse, and got a discounted, but a much better room at 10$, with b’fast too and an Internet that doesn’t really work. Ah well, Internet can wait. We also found a nice little smoothie place. After learning that we were on a bike, he gave us a huge pineapple to eat, guess we’d get it chopped and finish it for b’fast!
Overall a good day though we had to bang our head on a impassable route. Guess we got to try and be sneaky to get across, heh.
Route: Kyaukme to Hsipaw
Distance: 67 km
Ascent: 2000 ft
Descent: 2950 ft
Time in saddle: 7:00 hrs
Expenses: Sg$ 14.61
Comments: we were allowed to go about 20 km from Hsipaw toward Namto. Guess this info is valid for today. Might be different In a week or a month or whenever.