Run for the Myanmar border

Big two part mural inside a restaurant close to all the embassies in Yangon
Big two part mural inside a restaurant close to all the embassies in Yangon

Getting to Myanmar was a bit of a race against time. Border crossings are getting easier each year and acquiring an E-visa is a simple procedure for many nationalities. Nevertheless out-dated information can cause some headache.

I was in Pai, North Thailand and my initial plan was to cross the border from Mae Sai to Tachileik. I had two days of visa left when during breakfast someone told me that from that part of Myanmar you could not travel to other parts of the country. Roads would be closed for foreigners. Internet seemed to agree with him. Later I found out he was wrong.

After finishing my breakfast I thanked him for the info, changed my plan and started hitchhiking over the mountains down south. Same man warned me that two days was not enough with the route I had chosen.

3 pick-ups and one bus later I made it to the border 30 hours to spare in my visa.

Big two part mural inside a restaurant close to all the embassies in Yangon
Big two part mural inside a restaurant close to all the embassies in Yangon

First Impression

6 a.m. It was a short walk across the bordering bridge from Mae Sot to Myawaddy yet in the dark I could already see I was entering a different reality. Mothers with young children were sitting on the bridge. They were not begging with their words so much as with their presence.

5 minutes of friendly custom formalities and I was free to go. 10 minutes from that I was sitting in a family wagon with 4 local men heading to Hpa-An. With no idea if the price was right (it was) or any common language we set out on the 130 km journey that would take about 3 hours.

Early hours in Myawaddy. The first of the markets starts at 2 a.m.
Early hours in Myawaddy. The first of the markets in Myanmar can start as early as 2 a.m.

The driver stopped to fill up the tank from some local man with his own pump system. Right next to us was a newly build gasoline station empty of customers. After filling the tank the man gave the driver a bottle of water. An hour later our driver saw a car on the side of the road with it’s hood open. He slowed down and handed them the water bottle. No words were exchanged.

We stopped few times to say hi to a friend, wash the car and buy fruits. I was dropped in front of the bus that goes to Yangon. 7 hours later the bus reached the outskirts of the city. Taxis and motorbikes kept asking: “Where you go?” but left me alone after telling them “I don’t know”.

On the side of the highway a man told me to take the same minivan with him. It  would take us to the centre. An hour later he showed me a good hotel and wished me all the best. Thanks to the help of many people on the way I had arrived to a place where I could take a shower and sleep.

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