Touching the Thai border

The first part of my drive today is down Highway 5 along the eastern edge of the Karen Hills. I am starting to find the odd person who is willing to try their English on me, and find out that Burmese TV has English lesson programmes. Burma became independent from Great Britain in 1948 and most colonial ways have been eradicated by the military government. Since then it has had a turbulent existance and only in recent years as it started to find its way out. Each election introduces a little more freedom for the Burmese people, and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition politician, has introduced a possible way forward to democracy within Burma. We will see.

After about three and a half hours I pass Kemapyu and change onto National Road 85, still going south. Google maps tells me that I am now passing between the Thai border to the east and the jungle village of Dutado to the west. Dutado became a news headline in 2010 when the Burmese army attacked the village, forcing the villagers into the jungle in little more than the clothes they were wearing. The village was burnt to the ground and people shot. More than 3,600 villages have been destroyed in Eastern Burma in the past 15 years, an average of four every week. It’s difficult to think that such extremes still happen in the 21st Century, but they do. The Karen National Liberation Army is fighting this area of Burma in a battle for more freedom, but certainly not the only front against the Military rule. Burma is not the only country that conducts itself in this way, but as I drive through in my virtual tour, I have learnt good and bad things, and I feel lucky to live in a largely free society.

I arrive at Hpapun, having taken a path along a very long valley, and take Highway 8 to the west and then south. One interesting thing I notice is the number of airstrips I pass on the way down. I can find that a lot of them were airfields laid down during the Second World War by the Japanese army. The majority now seem to be left to ruin. At Bilin I take the NH 8 on to Thaton, where I will be stopping over tonight.

Thaton was the capital of the Thaton Kingdom between the 9th and 11th centuries. Thaton was once a thriving seaport, trading with India and Sri Lanka. Heavy silting has now rendered the coastline some 16km away and the town is now quite. Its rail connection is not its main link to its surrounding country. I am early enough to find an open store selling cooked food in large metal woks. The food is both colourful and rish in flavour and I choose an aromatic rice dish. This is widely considered the Burmese national dish.

Mohinga dish

A traditional Mohinga street shop

I couldn’t leave Burma without sampling this lively dish. (although I am told that it is normally a breakfast meal, but I prefer something less spicy) I then retire to my camper for the night for a good rest. Tomorrow, I head east across the border into Thailand.

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