New Highway from Mae Sot/Myawaddi in 2014

Discussion in 'Myanmar General Discussion Forum' started by SilverhawkUSA, Apr 9, 2014.

  1. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    This will certainly make it easier and faster. Although the current road(?) definately adds to the excitement.

    Full Story Here.
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  3. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    That will speed things up but as You say, The Old Route Certainly adds Character and a sense of Adventure to the Journey! Is the New Road a Complete Bypass or are they Upgrading the Existing Route?
  4. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    I was told, when we traveled that way Ian, that it would be a new road following a different route to the interesting one we took over the hill. They said that it was cheaper to build a new one rather than widen the existing one, let alone the chaos that would have ensued if they had tried.
  5. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    If you look in Google Earth, you can see the project running Northeast from Kawkareik. You can see, where the new road will connect with Hwy 85 at both ends, bypassing the old route. The image isn't very clear but if you look closely you can see a couple construction camps, but I can't make out much equipment. The image date is December 2013 and there is still a long way to go and very little looks 'finished'. I thought 2014 completion was being quite optimistic, but if you look back at previous images they are making quite good progress.

    First I wasn't sure if that was a dried river bed or mudslide instead of the road. If you use the Google Map timeline you can see the images from 2008 and 2011 and it wasn't there. The February 2013 image shows construction underway at the north end, and the November 2013 is the clearest of all.
  6. blackwolf

    blackwolf Active Member

    Widening the current one is almost impossible as much of it goes right up to the edge of the cliff.

    I've been on the new road. Twice in fact, once on my way up to Mu-se on the Chinese border and then again on the way back about 1 week later.

    The new road is fantastic - it takes just 40 mins to pass (compared to 2.5-3 hours on the old road), is quite wide and without all the ups, downs and twists and turns of the old nauseating road. Also, there are no checkpoints so no need to show your passport twice, once at the beginning and once at the end, like on the old road. It isn't officially open yet and when I passed through (in late January and early February this year) the road appeared to be about 80% complete. Official opening date is reportedly around June-July this year.

    In the meantime, you can travel across it very early in the morning everyday, between around 5am but not later than 6.30am. Outside of these times roadworks prevents all but the smallest scooters and motorcycles from passing through.

    If going on a tour by motorcycle, it's unlikely they'll let you pass through this road until it's officially open. Until then, if you are an independent traveller and go inside a Burmese registered vehicle during the early morning hours, no problems.
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks for all the info & tips.
    It would be really good if you could post a few pics from your trips just so that we can see exactly what you're talking about.
  8. blackwolf

    blackwolf Active Member

    I would if I could upload some images from my computer. But I can only see a link to upload images from a URL.
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

  10. blackwolf

    blackwolf Active Member


    Pictures of the new road. Sorry not the best quality since I was sleepy, it was very early in the morning and the windscreen of the car I was travelling in was dirty. Also, there are two points where KNU soldiers (usually teenagers) will ask for money, usually 1000K or sometimes if you have a cheeky driver nothing is required. They will reportedly disappear once the road opens officially (supposedly around June).

    I am planning a trip driving my own car into Myanmar end of June. The travel agency told me they will try to get permission for me to use the new road; basically if you drive your own vehicle in you won't be allowed to use roads that are not yet officially open for travel, even if (like in this case) the new road is actually safer than the old one! As my trip is scheduled for around the time the road is scheduled to open, it is as yet unclear if permission will be given because it's not even certain the road will be opened in time. Of course as already mentioned if you travel by public transport you can already use the new road, provided you travel during the times when the construction crews are not working (usually 5-6.30am).

    Third picture shows the final short unpaved section on flat ground just behind Kawkareik as of early February. It may have been paved by now. Apart from that, one or two bridges still need to be finished, road markings put in place and shoulders fixed up. Otherwise the road was already about 80% finished when I passed through, with the more winding, mountainous sections already complete. Note that unlike the old road, no part of the road is particular steep or winding. It's even less steep and winding than the Tak-Mae Sot road on the other side of the border. And once you get down to Kawkareik it becomes flat and stays that way for hundreds of km whether you're heading down to Moulmein, Yangon and the delta or even up to Mandalay passing through the central parts of the country.
  11. blackwolf

    blackwolf Active Member

    Here are the pictures:


    Sorry for the relatively poor quality of the pictures. The first 4 pictures were taken on Jan 31, 2015, the last 2 on Feb 6, 2015 both times very early in the morning so I was sleepy and the car's windscreen was dirty not to mention the poor quality of light at that time of day as the sun was just coming up. The last picture is of the transport centre around 12km outside of Myawady, so is before the start of the new road. The tarmac there is however only about 2 years old; previously it ended at the edge of town 5km from the bridge. The transport centre also marks the furthest a Thai registered vehicle is allowed to drive without permission to travel further. It is also officially the furthest you are supposed to go if on a day pass (without a visa) although there are generally no checks on this anymore.

    Another issue on the new road was that there were 2 unofficial "checkpoints" armed by KNU soldiers, usually teenagers with rifles demanding money to pass. Usually 1000K or so would be enough, but if your driver is cheeky then he'll state that you are a member of the road construction crew and give nothing. These guys will reportedly be gone by the time the road opens officially. Note also that there used to be something like 15-20 of these "checkpoints" along the old road prior to it coming under government control and opening for foreigners. Even after it became relatively safe, the presence of these guys, the risk of exortion, kidnapping and even murder were enough to convince the Myanmar army not to allow passage until such time as they cleared them out. This happened around 2012-2013. If you cross the new road, you can currently only cross between around 5am and 6.30am provided you travel by public transport (usually a car with driver). That applies to everyone. Before that time it's too dark and considered potentially dangerous due to these rebels, afterwards road constructions crews do their thing. In any case, once they're gone it may be possible for all night travel to occur because it's actually not a particularly winding or mountainous road. In fact, it doesn't even have any of the almost 90 degree turns and steep climbs/descents you'll find on the Mae Sot-Tak road on the other side of the border. The old road is even worse, takes 2.5 hours on average to cover just 40km compared to 30-40min on the new road, which is also much shorter.

    Note that the new road is supposed to open for traffic officially around June. I am planning to drive my truck into Myanmar at this crossing in late June, but the travel agency told me that if the new road is not officially open by the time I embark on my trip, they won't allow me to use it and thus I'd be forced to use the old road. This, despite the fact the new road is much safer than the old road. However, the Myanmar government only allows foreign registered vehicles to use official roads except with prior permission and if they agree it's not a security risk.

    You'll notice in the third pic is one of the bridges under construction. We had to bypass it by going on a dirt road underneath the bridge. This wasn't easy in a low riding 2wd vehicle and it may become impassable during the rainy season. However, that bridge and the other unfinished one I remember seeing along the way may well be finished by now. As I said before, some 80% of the road appears to have been completed, although some sections that are already complete might benefit from railings being installed on sections which are on the edge of the hills they pass through. Additionally, road markings would also help.

    The fourth picture is from the flat lands just behind Kawkareik. That was the only remaining unpaved section, which may well be paved by now. It bypasses Kawkareik and takes you to a point just outside of town, joining up with the existing but much narrower Kawkareik-Hpa-an highway. It's all pretty flat from this point onwards, with only smallish hills, whether you are heading towards the coastal region near Mawlamyine (Moulmein), Yangon and the delta or even up to Mandalay, hundreds of km away via the central plains. A lot of limestone outcrops sticking up from the flat plains near Hpa-an though as well as the famous Mount Zwekabin. The roads however all follow the flat lands.

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