Even though the voices of dissent has mellowed, one can occasionally hear from one’s friends and colleagues or see postings on FB, questioning why would you want to enjoy when everyone (sic) is fighting for democracy, why would you risk your life to help the military government in stabilising the country, why you want to help the economy under the military to prosper, etc. Obviously these questions asked by NNCP (NUG, NLD, CRPH, PDF) terrorist sympathisers (hard core NLD supporters) in order to instigate hatred towards the current administration and make the general population suffers, just like what Su Kyi has done in the past, when she asked for international community impose sanctions against Myanmar. Based on factual evidence, sanctions do not make the regimes fall. General Than Shwe governed Myanmar 20 years, despite numerous sanctions since the beginning of his administration.
Yet, people, or at least a portion of the general public, continue to believe that NNCP group is taking over major towns and cities soon, battles are taking place along the Yangon Mandalay expressway, military and other vehicles are continuously being ambushed along major routes, inter alia.
So MI team bravely decided to check it out. We decided to travel up to Mandalay via Nay Pyi Taw and later to Dawei in the deep south, via Maw La Myaing. The former trip was made in the first week of June, the latter in the third week of the same month. The objective has been to tell our readers, the truth, the whole truth and nothing, but the truth.
We went first to Mandalay via Nay Pyi Taw on June 5. Only two of us, taking turns to drive. Even our wives and parents got worried and scared. They kept on calling us every alternate hours along the highway, inquiring the situation on the Yangon Mandalay expressway. We took the videos of the peaceful expressway and freely travelling civilians and students. Only after we sent them these videos, the incessant phone calls stopped.
Along the way from Yangon to Nay Pyi Taw, there are about five to six check points. Other than having to show our IDs at one of these check points, we did not have to get out of our vehicle. Upon entry into Nay Pyi Taw, we were asked if we have any invitation or support letter from any authority. We replied we did not have and we were on the way to Mandalay and we were just on transit visiting a friend in Nay Pyi Taw. We told them the truth and the officer asked us to register our details and later, let us into the city.
We stayed overnight at Max Hotel. The hotel was at 40% occupancy for the night. We went for dinner at the famous Ayeyarwaddy Road of Nay Pyi Taw in the evening. The road is filled with so many different types of cars and visitors from everywhere. Pubs, bars, restaurants, KTVs, small and large, lined up the street. The night was still young by the time we left at around 22:30. We even wondered if there was actually a curfew in Nay Pyi Taw. We were pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the capital at night. While we were having breakfast, we noticed many visitors dressed up for an event or occasion. Upon further investigations, we noted that one venerable monk is coming down to Nay Pyi Taw and they were there to pay respect to the Sayartaw (venerable monk). We heard from the hotel that such events were quite common in the capital these days.
It was even easier to pass through another three or four checkpoints on the way forward to Mandalay. We left Nay Pyi Taw at 07:30 and arrived Mandalay at 10:45 with ease. The only incidence has been one traffic light at the junction of Science and 78th Street (a major intersection) being out of order. The traffic was chaotic. We stayed at Yadanar Oo Hotel between 22nd and 65th Streets. Our lunch was settled at Unique Mandalay restaurant, #1 restaurant according to our google search. The food there were all unique and brilliant. Thereafter, we have had some appointments of government officials and we were back to the hotel before 17:00. For dinner, we went out to another famous dinner venue, Shan Ma Ma. The small shop only sell Shan ethnic food and it was crowded. The food was good too. Since both of us are not Mandalay natives, we used Oway Tut Tuts to move around.
We learnt a lot from speaking to Tut Tut drivers as well as the hotel staff. All of them said Mandalay had been peaceful for so long and wished that more people would come and visit the ancient capital. The surprising thing was when we told them that we were from Yangon, some of them asked if the violence and wars in Yangon were over. We did not even know whether to laugh or cry. May be they have been reading too much of the postings on the FB. Mostly fake news! Come to think of that, most of our relatives and friends in Yangon thought Mandalay was a war zone at present too! We even asked our Tut Tut driver to give us a tour of the city late at night. The city was well lit and beautiful. No incidence of any kind was heard of or experienced while we were there.
The next morning we ate breakfast at one busy local establishment, met a few more people and headed back to Nay Pyi Taw around the mid-day. Again along the way back, we did not experience any inconvenience of any kind. The security personnel from the checkpoints just asked where we came from and where we were heading. The final verdict: based on our experiences, the Yangon – Mandalay expressway is super safe and the cities of Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw can be visited without fear and unease.
We rested one week to recharge ourselves to gear up for the next destination – the deep south. With so many rumours of NNCP terrorists attacking the travellers on this highway and taking over major cities down south, our families were even more against this trip. Yet, we left for the second journey on June 14 by car. We left Yangon around 06:30. In all the check points, we were asked of our destination and our departure city. We did have to show our IDs at the check points that straddle the two states; one between Bago and Mon and the other between Mon and Tanintharyi.
The difference between this trip to Dawei and the one to Mandalay has been the fact that the highway that we have to use, for the former, passed through all major towns along the States. While we were travelling, along the way, we saw children happily going to schools, teachers, doctors and nurses going on about their tasks, civil servants carrying out their duties, and other workers being active in performing their daily activities. We have not encountered any market or shops that were closed ‘due to the current environment or revolution of any kind’!
In terms of trade activities, at Mayan Chaung check point (end of Mon State, towards Yangon), we encountered hundreds of 10, 12 wheelers and large trucks, queuing up to go through the check point. No stoppage of trade or whatsoever. It seemed the trading activities were much more than before. The towns of Kyaik Hto, Bee Lin, Tha Ton are all active, alive and full of activities.
We arrived to Maw La Myaing mid day. We had lunch and headed towards the city of Dawei. Along the highway to Dawei, the traffic was brisk. Even young girls on motorbikes are moving about by themselves happily between different towns along this highway. We could deduce that security was not in issue in this part of the country either.
By the time we arrived to the Ka Lane Aung, the last town prior to Dawei, it was already dusk. We drove fearlessly on the road to Dawei in the dark. Even around 19:00, buses and trucks are still ongoing, with occasional motorbike riders, shining their high beams onto us. We stayed in Dawei for two nights and then headed back to Yangon. The return trip was as uneventful as the first, having little to report other than peaceful activities and greenery. The upper and lower Myanmar trips did us good. They clearly let us know that we definitely cannot fall for the trap of believing in social media (FB) postings, that would push us towards wrong judgement and decisions. In the end, we learnt that both highways to upper and lower Myanmar were safe and the reality was quite the opposite of FB postings, made up by those expecting and wishing Myanmar to fail. We have safely travelled. People there have been safely doing their trade and daily activities. We hope that our beloved readers would also put in efforts to visit other parts of Myanmar after reading our experiences. Happy travelling!