In and Out of Myanmar in Fifteen Minutes!


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Asia » Burma
August 25th 2009
Published: September 15th 2009
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On Tuesday morning we were up before dawn and waiting for our ‘taxi’ to take us to the port on Ko Phangan. He drove like a maniac up and down the steep hills and throwing us around bends. We had to tell him to slow down for fear of being thrown out of the back. Once at the port we grabbed a quick sandwich and boarded the ferry which thankfully left on time, 7am.

Three hours later we arrived back on the mainland and were herded onto mini scruffy coach, three quarters of an hour later we were dropped off at a café and told to ‘sit down’. No idea how long for so we just grabbed a bottle of water and packet of biscuits as the old stomach was beginning to grumble by now. Soon after we were called to get into a mini bus which turned out to be crammed full so instead the driver ordered us to get onto the Sawngthaew (a kind of open mini bus), again crammed full but after a lot of pushing and shoving we were able to fit in!

Ten minutes later we were dropped off at another café and told to ‘wait’ After a while we noticed our ‘taxi’ driver had a meal so we asked him if we had time for a meal as we our next bus ride to Ranong would be three hours long. He ummed and urred then said ’20 minutes’, we decided to settle for coffee and yet more biscuits. No sooner had we got it and he yelled at us to ‘get on the bus!’ We threw the scalding coffee down our necks and got back on the same sawngthaew only to sit there for ten minutes! We were eventually dropped off again at some god forsaken hovel where the driver ran in, got us a pink slip of paper each with 140 baht written on it and nothing else, presumably the bus ticket, and told us to ‘wait there’. Then drove off, never to be seen again. The time was 11.50am, we’d been told by the travel agent we'd booked through that our bus to Ranong was supposed to leave at 11.30am. We asked around and eventually established that the next bus might be 2pm, which immediately got changed to 1pm, seemed like nobody really knew for sure. Obviously while the driver was enjoying HIS meal we were missing OUR bus. Gee thanks mate!

After what seemed an eternity waiting in the hot humid air with no-where to buy food or drink, we were finally called to board the Ranong mini bus. We dashed like mad as there are very few decent seats on the small mini buses most have no leg room whatsoever due to luggage storage, or they’re the fold up type to gain access to the rear so favour a folding picnic chair rather than a bus seat. Thankfully we got 2 good seats together which was a miracle as we were sure the masses of locals would have heard and understood the announcement before us!

Three hours later we were dropped of on the outskirts of Ranong. We had planned to get a taxi to our chosen hotel but were immediately swamped with motorcycle taxis. It seemed it was the only option so we each hopped on the back of one and zoomed off. It’s rainy season so we nah no problem getting a room for a very cheap price. Our first job was to organise a visa run for the following day to Myanmar (Burma). After that we went in search of a much needed meal. We were quite surprised to find that although the town is defiantly not on the tourist track there were plenty of lively bars. Needless to say Stan and I were the only foreigners (farangs) in the bar much to the amusement of the solo singer/guitarist who kept making comments, in which the only words we understood were ‘UK, and looking over to us. It was all very friendly though and he came and joined us later for a ‘chat’.

The following morning we were picked up in a car (oh, so much more comfy than a sawngthaew!) and taken to the port where we got stamped out of Thailand and then shown to the ‘big boat’. It is possible and cheaper to cross the river/ sea estuary to Myanmar on a longtail boat but not always a good idea during rainy season as it can get very rough and there’s no shelter and you're virtually out in open sea for a whil. After waiting on the boat for over an hour (tide was too low to get going, or so we were told, a few other travellers joined us and we all crossed the border together. We all had one purpose in mind - visa extension! After queueing for 15 minutes we’d all obtained our Myanmar visas and were clambering back across several fishing boats to reach ours. Before we knew it we were back on Thai soil and getting our re-entry visas.

The nice comfy car was waiting to whisk us back to our hotel. The next job was to book our long distance bus ticket to Bangkok for the next day, after which we settled down to watch the rain pour down from our hotel window. Our room was situated next to a ramshakled tin building so the noise was pretty horrendous.

By 7am next morning we were on the bus to begin the 10-hour journey. It turned out to be a very enjoyable journey, the seats were comfortable, the air-conditioning was a pleasant temperature and we were well looked after with regular refreshments, toilet stops and a lunch stop with all the food laid on. All this for a reasonable 428 baht, that’s about £9.

The most enjoyable part of the journey for me, however, was the scenery. As we left Ranong we were quickly driving through lush mountainous country-side with waterfalls in full flow gushing down the hillside. The road followed the Thai/ Burma border for quite a long time and we could see the high mountain peaks stretching far off into the distance.

For much of the day we were blessed with warm sunshine through the bus window but as we got closer to Bangkok the sky turned grey and the rain began to pour, we began to get a sinking feeling but as we approached the bus station the roads became dry. Unfortunately the driver somehow missed the bus station and carried on past meaning we had to do a U turn further up the freeway. By the time we were back at the bus station the rain had caught up with us and we got drenched just stepping off the bus and into the covered area.

Welcome to Bangkok!!






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