How to upload photos
Thank you in advance.
I'm enjoying your border reports, but the lack of photographic evidence is leaving a question mark for me, at least.
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.