Indeed, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) hailed the completion of the first privately organised motor caravan travelling from India to Myanmar and Thailand, which formally concluded on February 8.
The historic 2,500-kilometre journey, undertaken by a group of 20 Indian citizens, including one female driver, was organised by the New Delhi-based specialist road travel operator Adventure World, led by Sanjay Madan and Tushar Agarwal, who had done their pilot India to Thailand road trip in 2013.
And now, the successful completion of their 20-group caravan roadtrip sends a strong positive signal to the global travel and tourism industry that one of the last remaining sections of the Asian
Highway linking South Asia and the Asean countries is now ready for road travel.
Travelling in a fleet of four sturdy Toyota and Mitsubishi cars and one Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the group started in Imphal, capital of the Indian state of Manipur, on January 23, crossing into Myanmar via the Moreh-Tamu border crossing, and drove through Myanmar before entering Thailand at the Mae Sot border checkpoint.
They arrived in Bangkok on January 31 and were hosted to a welcome reception by TAT headed by Dr Walailak Noypayak, TAT’s Executive Director for Asean, South Asia and South Pacific Region.
After three days of rest and recreation in the Thai capital, some of the group members returned to Imphal also via road, but using a different itinerary in Myanmar. Others chose to fly back to India.
TAT’s Executive Director for Asean, South Asia and South Pacific Region Dr. Walailak Noypayak said, “This historic trip marks the start of a new era for the travel and tourism industry in Asia and Asean. The long-awaited road linking India to Thailand will open up many unseen parts of Asia, put new destinations on the map, attract investment, create jobs and alleviate poverty.
“It also proves the success of our long-standing strategy to position Thailand as a hub of travel, tourism and transport throughout the region.”
Mr Sanjay Agarwal, Co-Founder of Adventure World, said he was proud that Indians had been at the forefront of this historic journey. He said that although some small parts of the road still need further improvement and the paperwork requirements both before the journey and at the border checkpoints can be fine-tuned, the journey proved that both the hardware and software were mostly in place for other road travel adventurers to follow suit.
The ground handling agents in Myanmar and Thailand were Bright View Travels and Exo Travel, respectively.
The caravan is the second one between Thailand and its Asean neighbours to be held in the first two months of 2016 alone. Between 7-16 January, 2016, Toyota Motor Thailand Co., Ltd. in collaboration with TAT organised the second Asean Friendship Caravan through Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Thailand.
The 3,400-kilometre journey was designed to publicise the many cultural and heritage destinations of the four countries that are now becoming increasingly accessible by road.
Leading the trip and co-founder of Adventures Overland, Sanjay Madan remarked, “The journey is not as easy as it sounds! It’s challenging and expensive yet worth doing in one’s lifetime!”
“After driving through more than 50 countries and six continents in the last three years, despite all these challenges I would still rate Myanmar as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I like to call it as ‘Land of Happy Faces’ as opposed to the Land of Gold,” he wrote on a trip report posted on the Global Travel Community website tripoto.com.
He went on to explain the procedures for returning to India from Bangkok.
“You have two options. One, put your car on sea and ship back to any Indian port, or two, drive back via the same route.”
TAT & Adventures Overland
TRIP TIPS & CHALLENGES
Suggested Route: Delhi - Imphal - Moreh - Kale - Bagan - Inle Lake - Yangon - Maesot - Tak - Bangkok
1. 200% Carnet Fees: To exit and re-enter in India one needs a Carnet. Carnet is a document which is like a passport for your car . You need to cough up 200% of your vehicle’s value (refundable security deposit) to obtain this piece of paper from the Automobile Association of India. Carnet is also accepted by Thailand customs as a valid document to enter their country if you are driving a foreign registered vehicle. It is advised not to approach Delhi AAUI for this as the group struggled for more than 6 months to retrieve the security refund). Adventures Overland took care of all the paperwork during India to Thailand trip from Jan 23 to Feb 8, 2016.
2. Local Guides: A local Burmese guide is mandatory to travel with the group who needs to be hired from the travel company approved by Ministry of Myanmar Tourism.
3. Lead Car: A lead car for the convoy is mandatory too as per the directions by Ministry of Myanmar Tourism. This is must even if you drive a single car. Poor sign boards and language problems make it a tough nut.
4. Paperwork & Permits: Apply for special overland permits and permissions through a local agent one month in advance to drive into Myanmar. Apply for a Temporary Import permit for the vehicles in Myanmar through a local agent as this country does not accept Carnet. You will also need to apply for a temporary driver’s licence to drive in Myanmar, while an International Driver’s Licence is required to drive in Thailand.
5. Visas: For Myanmar and Thailand, it’s advisable to obtain the necessary visas in advance if entering through a land border crossing.
6: Cash: Carry US$ while travelling inside Myanmar as you may not find many ATMs. In Thailand there are many ATMs and currency exchange services to obtain Thai baht.
7. Food: Carry emergency food supplies and your favourite snacks you don’t want to miss during this trip. Bring many more useful things you would need for a long road trip, including your original vehicle papers, air pump, puncture kit and a first aid kit.