Road from Hong Kong to Tammu 5

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Mandalay Hill from East Moat Bridge
Image via Wikipedia

By R.K. Shivachandra
Muse is a border town in Myanmar side that stood the test of time over centuries. The distance between Muse and Mandalay is about 320 Kilometres. Muse to Lashio is about 160 Kms.Lashio to Mandalay is another 160 Kms. roughly. It took approximately 6 to 7 hours drive through enchanting landscape and ethnic villages to reach Mandalay from Muse. I had been in this terrain on many occasions. Nevertheless the degree of love with Shan State grew stronger within me bit by bit. My frequent visit neither dampens my fondness of Shan Hills nor bored. Every time I visit this dreamy land a new landscape could be explored. Learning the Shan’s way of life and different deities they worshipped in the form of Ummang lai is of great interest and this insists me to explore more about this mystic land and people who have a striking resemblance to the Manipuris. The ranges of mountains and landscapes with its serenity receive me with open arms. A sense of belonging prevails in the air.  Every moment in Shan State is an invigorating experience and lovable episode. Sometime my emotion ran high without a tangible expression. 

Muse literally buried itself amidst the giant mountains by the river of Suili. The town is overlooked by mighty Mountain ranges that stretches as far as eyes can see towards the China’s plain. There is a small village not far from Muse called Khamnung. This sometimes made us bewildered whether the village linked to the Meitei’s old belief Khamnung Shawa.Meites believed that they have been migrated from a subterranean region called Khamnung in Poireiton Khuntokpa the Meitei Puya(Old Manipur Scripture). Many anthropologists opined the view that our roots linked to the TAI groups in Yunan circle.

Shan State over the centuries enjoyed a greater economy more of that of an Independent country. The land experienced civil wars among the multitude of ethnic warring nationalities. It has suffered invasions by the British, the Japanese and the Chinese warlords, causing dislocation and growth of insurgent militia throughout the hill country. Every Burma leader over the past two centuries has been confronted with but unable to control the various conflicting forces in Burmese society that constantly challenged its authority. This continued till general Newin seized power in 1962. He was another Shardar Patel in modern Myanmar history. He replaced everything; the old federal concept had been changed and brought many warring nations under one umbrella with a highly centralized political structure as critic alleged.   Inge Sargent author of the book “Twilight over Burma my life as the princess of Shan” opined the view that TAI people the collective nomenclature is still a topic of Academic controversy but many scholars emerged with consensus opinion that the group were among the highly diversically in Kwangsi and Kweichow provinces, before the expansion southwards of the Chinese empire in 2nd century B.C.In subsequent centuries, as China’s southern border fluctuated with the ambitions and weaknesses of succeeding dynasties, some Tai groups were absorbed, some achieved semi independence under Chinese suzerainty.Many also migrated mostly south and westward to set up newly acquired independent principalities and Kingdom of their own in a wide arc from the island of Hainan in the East across northern Vietnam to present days Laos and Thailand, upper Burma and as far West as the upper valley of Brahmaputra river in Assam. As we do Shans were also never effectively united. For a short period when Bagan Empire fell in 1287, the Shan could flex their muscle and overran almost all the Burmese territories. According to Scholar Josef Silverstien Shan had been Burmese political rival until 1604, when they ceased resisting and accepted indirect rule by Burmans. Back to the trip: The border trade between Myanmar and China flourished till General Ne Win banned all border trade activities when he gripped the military power in 1962. It was almost after 24 years that the border trade re-opened again in 1988 only. Since than trade on the border had been escalated and Myanmar became a major business partner to China next to Thailand. 

Muse is also an outlet that supplies all the Chinese products from household items to big machineries to mainland Myanmar, Mandalay and rest of the North Eastern parts of India enroute Manipur. Myanmar’s exports mainly include fisheries products, beans and pulses, while it imports chemical fertilizers, wax, and cotton thread, fishing nets and industrial and construction materials as well. One Chinese official said that there are no other countries in the world with better brotherly relations than Myanmar and China. Zegao the border town in China on the other hand does attract a lot of business people in India. Varied ranges of the garments and home appliances that are found in Bangkok and Hong Kong are mainly imported from Yunan province. Mostly such merchandise items are available in our local markets via Kolkata. The carrier’s charge from Bangkok to Kolkata for each Kg. is about Rs 250 to 300. If we think of the Tachilek and Maesot in Thailand and Myanmar border we can conceptualize Manipur becoming another economic hub. Many traders in Kolkata have started carrying goods via Imphal nowadays to skip the exorbitant freight charge. But to make it a regular flow, still much homework is needed to be done. When it comes to the Chinese materials we have Muse –Zegao border. Some say Manipur is land locked but once if you ever stand on these two border lines only than you will realize that Manipur is no longer a land locked but a gateway to prosperity for all the North Eastern States including Nagaland.  Zegao is not merely a small border town. It has all the modern facilities and booming business city indeed. The trendy fashion houses and modern machines displayed in many show rooms have lots to do with those business big cats and other fortune hunters in business sectors in our side. I have already shared my views in the first chapter of this travelogue that the distance from Manipur’s border to Yunan province is hardly a day’s drive. It can be safely concluded that from Manipur standpoint the road to Kunming is far safer than the road to Kolkata and Thailand in all aspects. Yunan Province has millions of answers in store to enlighten your queries.  Starting from Muse driving down to Lashio – the trading capital of northern Shan State and then to Psipaw is all memorable experience. The most enchanting and historic site had been the visit to the Palace of Shan State in Psipaw where the Last prince Sao Kya Seng had ruled with his Austrian wife Inge Sargent .

After some 50 Kms. drive from Psipaw lies the Pyin Oo Lwin otherwise Maymyo – the former summer retreat for British colonialist. The road from Psipaw to Mandalay is thrilling. The sprawling paddy fields in far and near that finds its way to the acclivity of Shan plateau, the winding  river with crystal clear water  and glimpse of thick green jungle  literally took me into a dream land. The meter gauge train that clambered the stiff mountains in a day long huffing puffing journey to Mandalay was indeed a sight in itself.   Travelling on this route made me more of an anthropologist rather than a maverick traveller. The matador van that took us up was like a drained- out warrior when it reached the top of the Mamyo Mountains. 

Exactly at 8 P.M. we reached Mandalay. Over the past few years Mandalay is more like a second home to me. Burmese-Manipuris are all around the Mandalay city. Even in the event I lost my wallet somehow or the other I have the capability to push on for another couple of months as a respected guest in Mandalay. I use to boss of with this attribute as newly acquired wealth.

As the matador Van entered the Mandalay City all the charming faces appeared before me one after another-the Manipuris in Mandalay. How is Bamol Khunjao and Eigya Sundergopal? I was so worried of his ailing sister who blessed me to live long every time I touch her feet. Dr.Eigya Khin Lin(Dhanachandra)’s Father was so week at his advancing stage of second childhood of almost 93 years.

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