The road less travelled

Published Dec 13, 2015, 12:01 am IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 6:27 pm IST
The journey matters more than the destination, they say.
Temple in Bagan
 Temple in Bagan

The journey matters more than the destination, they say. A road trip to Thailand has put that line in perspective for me, three times over. So, how does one start planning an epic road trip from Delhi to Bangkok? I have done it thrice in the past and I’m going to list everything that you need to know in order to live the experience.

India on the way
If you start from Delhi/Gurgaon, you will need to cross UP, Bihar, West Bengal and enter the North East. You will need to drive through Assam where you can spend a few days in the company of  horned rhinos at the Kaziranga National Park. Continue your journey towards Nagaland and reach the capital city of Kohima.  From Nagaland drive to Manipur and after a transit in Imphal, drive towards the Tamu-Moreh border to cross into Myanmar. The road that connects India and Myanmar is known as the Indo Myanmar Friendship Road and it has now been designated as Asian Highway 1 (AH1). You can take this highway all the way to Singapore if you are ambitious enough.

Welcome to Myanmar
Once you cross the border and enter Myanmar, a different world will greet you. New language, currency, customs — all because you crossed one thin line. You then start driving towards a small town called Kale and en route, cross 46 iron bridges made during World War II. The bridges will rattle, but don’t be nervous, consider it a warm greeting from Myanmar! From Kale get ready to negotiate through dusty roads and river crossings on stunning mountain roads with panoramic views of peaks and valleys.

On a temple run
It is going to be a rough and challenging road before you enter Bagan, dotted with thousands of temples and pagodas. A small town, Bagan is the jewel of Myanmar and is home to 4,446 pagodas. You just have to be there to feel the vibrations of this holy land. Post the temple run, drive through thick forests and hairpin bends as you get a real taste of Burma to reach Inle Lake that is a beautiful freshwater lake located in the Shan Plateau. It is home to the Intha people who are lake dwellers. This fresh water lake is a world of its own with its shops, craft markets, tobacco units, silk weaving, pagodas and of course the fishermen who have their signature style of fishing. They use their feet to control the fishing nets!

Call from Rangoon
Next, hit the road to Yangon through the new Yangon-Mandalay 16 lane expressway that is famously nicknamed as the “big road”. It will give you a chance to soak in some countryside. Take a pit stop for lunch at Nay Pyi Taw, the brand new Capital where you will find everything from 5 star hotels, concert halls, and convention centres to swanky buildings. The only thing missing will be the buzz of its people as the city is only 50 per cent occupied. After a long but eventful drive, reach Yangon, or as I still love to call it, Rangoon, and take rest. Here, your first stop has to be the Great Shwe Dagon Pagoda and then head to the White Elephant Zoo.

Almost there...
After spending a couple of days in Rangoon, hit the pedals and get to Mt Kyaiktiyo, which is going to be curvaceous and meandering. But the drive will give you your money’s worth when you lay your eyes on the spectacle of Golden Rock. Gaudy yet stunning, it is a rock coated in gold and topped with a stupa, balancing itself on top of a mountain and enjoys the status of being the holiest shrine for the Buddhists. It is now time to cross Myanmar and enter Thailand. Drive through the hilly terrains of Burma before crossing Mae Sot border and enter Thailand. You can drive towards a town called Tak and stop over for the night. Try getting some sleep because the following day, you will be in Bangkok!

The writer is the co-founder of a travel company, always seeking a road less travelled