Myanmar revives overland route
14 December 2017: Tourists can once more apply for permits to travel overland from Inle Lake to Keng Tung a historical city around 100 km from the border with China and 160 km from Thailand.
The military closed the route along highway 4 from Inle Lake to Keng Tung two years ago, ending a popular overland route used by group tours and even motor bike caravans.
According to the Myanmar Tourism Marketing, a public/private organisation that promotes the country’s tourism, the Ministry of Hotel & Tourism announced recently that it was now possible to apply for permits to travel overland.
The Inle Lake to Keng Tung route following highway No 4 has been called “one of the most scenic drives in Myanmar and opens up possibilities for overland road trips to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China, MTM said in a press statement, Wednesday.
While the Laos and Thailand borders are open to overland tours, the border with China remains closed.
However, the most popular route involved an overland trip to Chiang Rai in far north Thailand where travellers crossed the border at Mae Sai and then continued their overland trip from Tachilek to Keng Tung.
Due to military restrictions they were not allowed to continue to Inle Lake. That restriction has now been lifted, but travellers will still need to book the overland tour with a recognised tour company to obtain a permit.
In Yangon, the “Secretariat building”, arguably the biggest colonial building in Southeast Asia reopened 1 December to the public four times daily for guided tours.
“Visitors get to see historically significant sites such as Myanmar’s very first parliament, the flagpole where Myanmar flag was raised for the first time on Myanmar Independence day (1948) and the Martyrs’ room where General Aung San and his colleagues were assassinated” says Asia Tours Myanmar U Kan Win Oung who is operating the tours for travel agency clients as well as individual tourists.
The building is open Mondays to Fridays (slots available at 0930, 1130, 1330, and 1530 respectively) and on Saturdays at 0930 only. The entrance fee including a guided tour is USD6 per person.
This latest tourist site added to “must visit places” in Yangon covers an area of 6.5 hectares right in the heart of Yangon. Up until now It has been off-limits to tourists.
Yangon Heritage Trust chairman Thant Myint-U said in previous interview with the Myanmar Times: “The Secretariat is a place of tremendous historical importance and a physical link to Myanmar’s colonial history as well as the history of anti-colonialism and the early post-independence governments.
The opening of this new tourist attraction comes at a time when tourists arrivals at Yangon airport (Jan to Nov 2017) increased 7% compared with the same period in 2016. Figures released, 11 December, by the Ministry of Hotel & Tourism show that there was a double digit percentage growth from Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Tourist arrivals from western Europe, North America and Australia and New Zealand showed a decrease of 8 to 9% at Yangon International Airport.
Source: TTR Weekly. 14 December 2017.