We planned to head out to Namkham, but it was only 30 km and we’d want to ride further. But none of the maps we had showed roads or towns beyond. In the morning, the hotel manager warned us that we’d not be allowed beyond Namkham anyway. Further, he asked us to report at the immigration before leaving town.
We weighed options and had alternate plans of heading to Hsipaw and ride south if we were turned back to muse. So we head to the immigration and they took our passports, made a remark on a photocopy of our location and acknowledging our presence. The officer asked us to report at a gate in Namkham and report back to him when we return. Ouch. Feels like I am back in grade school to get permission for every move. I guess it also meant that the issue in Kachin is a bit serious and they try to keep track of foreigners in case we go missing.
We figured Namkham will be the end of road for us and decided to go on plan B and get a ticket out of town to Hsipaw. This was a bit comical as we had communication issues and after an hour do talking, they said they’d not sell us tickets. I went up to the immigration and asked them to help me with translation. Instead he brought the girls selling tickets and have them a bit of an authoritative word on helping tourists. Finally we managed to get tix for a bus leaving at 4 pm.
It was just 11 and with time in hand to kill, we decided to check out the road to Namkham. It was pretty busy and dusty near Muse, but got a bit quieter as we went further west. It was flattish and we could see apartments and big buildings in the Chinese side of the border. We decided to turn back after a couple of hours. We were near Namkham but I figured the bikes may be an issue with the bus and it was better to be early.
We got back at 3 and the truck that was supposed to ferry passengers didn’t want to take the bikes, so we rode behind it to the bus station. There were people with tons of bags and though they saw our bikes, the bus guys loaded up the local luggage and after 30 mins told us, there was no space for bikes and we cannot take them.
I was amused with this and refused their explanation flatly. Every few minutes someone would come and tell us to wait a few minutes. They asked us to cancel the tickets and go tomorrow. That wasn’t going to work. Who was going to pay for my hotel, I wonder. Many people showed up and started discussing the issue, even the lady who sold tix was summoned but she just said the same. We should go tomorrow.
Chris did a smart move and carried the bike into the bus. Everyone was amused at the sight and when I took my bike in, by gathered to help us put the bike at the back of the bus and then everything was settled. I have to mention that they were super polite to us and I guess were relieved that the issue was settled and the bus could leave. They did charge us 5000 kyat for the bikes (we bargained down from 10,000).
We also realized the tix we bought was valid till Mandalay so decided to head all the way back and figure out a new plan from there. It would be a overnighter on a frigging freezing bus tonight.
Route: Muse to Namkham loop
Distance: 52 km
Ascent: 1300 ft
Descent: 1300 ft
Time in saddle: 4:00 hrs
Expenses: Sg$ 26.79 (bus from muse to Mandalay was 11,000. Bikes were an additional 5000)
Comments: Dusty with potholes, but quietness after a while. However, we have been told Namkham is the end of the road for foreigners. Border to china potentially opens in 2014.