A new adventure was about to happen. The first episode, crossing the border from Ranong (Thailand) to Kawthaung (Myanmar).
Arrival in Ranong – Day 0
After 6 hours on a bus and for the cost of 225 bahts (5.6€) I arrived in Ranong. That’s the time it takes from Phuket town (bus terminal 2) to get to Ranong.
Why did I choose the southernmost part of Myanmar to cross the border in? It was the closest to my location and the most unknown according to what I had read on the Internet (nothing because there was no info), so it was a great chance to discover new places 😉
That night I stayed at a guest house near the bus station, Kiwi orchard, 200 bahts (5€) per night in a double room. The place is pretty pretty simple but enough for a night.
As soon as I got comfortable and started checking what there was to see in Myanmar, what itinerary to follow and so on (no, I hadn’t planned anything yet), I started to feel some butterflies in my stomach.
The fear of the unknown, the curiosity of a country recently open to tourism (and not fully, some areas are still closed), I couldn’t say what it was but the butterflies were right there.
I saw a clear itinerary from Kawthaung (the southernmost city of Myanmar) to Hpa-An by road. There is a main road which joins them and passes other cities like Myeik, Dawei and Mawlamyine. It was recently opened. Before, it was only possible to do this itinerary by air, and Google still thinks so. It doesn’t give you the option of doing it by land 😮
From Hpa-An onwards, I’d consider later.
From Ranong to Kawthaung. Crossing the border – Day 1
I woke up around 9 am, it was sunny outside, the best way to start a day 😉
I decide to walk to the Port and see what was going on around Ranong before entering Myanmar. According to Google Maps it was 50 minutes. The city has grown around the border and services offered there. Everybody I met on the way asked me if I was going to do a visa run. It looks like no one enters Myanmar from there and people just come to do visa runs.
The town is nice but with nothing special to see, just some cute residential quartiers, rivers and a tiny place where I found my last craving in Thailand for 50 bahts (1.25 €) 🙂
After 25 minutes walking with the backpack and the sun hitting me, I kind of regretted of my decision to walk. Some minutes later, a soldier came to me and asked where I was going. I said to the Port and he kindly offered me a ride with his motorbike. Right at the precise moment 😉
I arrived there, stamped my passport with the exit stamp from Thailand and looked for a way to cross. After bargaining with a guy, I got my ride for 100 bahts (2.5€, he was asking me 300 baths, 3 times more!). The Port was quite messy and with so many old boats offering the crossing.
Once there and on the boat, I talked to the people, there were around 20 others and all going to do a visa-run to Myanmar. I was actually the only one crossing and staying there.
The boat departed to Myanmar. After 30-40 minutes we arrived. I had my e-Visa (for which I paid $50 in advance), so no more payment was needed (make this clear at the border, they were asking me for 10 dollars but that was just for those doing the visa run) and I had a new stamp in my passport 🙂
It was 13.30 (in Myanmar the time is half an hour less than in Thailand) and as soon as I got the stamp, a guide with perfect English started talking to me. Asking what my plan was, if I wanted to spend a night in Kawthaung and those typical things.
I said that I didn’t know yet and asked if there was something interesting to see. He told me there were some view points, pagodas and a night market, but the accommodation was quite expensive. So I decided to move on to the next city, Myeik.
The guy was really nice. He came with me to buy the bus ticket (it was actually a minivan) which cost 25.000 kyats (17.35€) for 12 hours of journey and just 250km ( 😮 !!!). I could start imagining how the trip was going to be. Here a picture with the prices from Kawthaung to other destinations (sorry for the quality, I had to take it fast).
He took me on a motorbike to withdraw some cash. I was able to withdraw money from the 4th ATM, the rest weren’t working and by the way, there’s a commission of 6.500 kyats (4.5€), to withdraw money. I had read that in 2013 there were no ATMs available in Myanmar but there’s no need to worry about that now. In 2016 I saw ATMs in almost all the places I went, although not always working.
After all this, he took me to a restaurant for lunch too. There I saw the chance and asked him for some words in Burmese. Thank you (tezu timbade), hello (mingalabar) and how much (Bee lau le). Easy and basic to start 😉
Thinking back about the guide who helped me, I don’t know why I didn’t expect him to ask some money for all he did for me, but since there were no tourists around and everybody was so nice at the border, I thought that it might be a service from the border to take care of tourists and develop the potential of the country, naive of me.
At some point and when he offered me a ride around the city before the departure of the bus, I just asked: for free?? And he told me: 35.000 kyats (24.3€). I told him that it was too much and that I would go to the “bus station” (quote, since it doesn’t look like a bus station at all, more like an agency).
When I was leaving, he asked me for a tip, 5.000 kyats (3.5€). I said that it wasn’t fair, his help was very useful but he should have said that before taking me to these places. Finally, I gave him around 2.000 kyats and I left.
So if you are crossing this border pay attention to these super-nice guys ready to help you, they won’t do all these favours for free.
After that I had the chance to see a bit more of the city.
I went to the “bus station” and waited there. The bus was supposed to depart at 4 pm so I went half an hour in advance. It finally departed at 5.30 pm (I’d get used to these delays after some days in the country 🙂 ).
Even though the guide told me that this was the only bus station in the city, on the way to Myeik I saw some real buses, big ones, so I strongly think there might be a real bus station in Kawthaung and that this one was just an agency where they were getting a commission.
If you have time in Kawthaung, I encourage you to look for it and share the tips with us in the comments below. For sure the price will be cheaper! 🙂
First vibes of Myanmar
While I was waiting there I started feeling what Myanmar was going to be about. All the children saying hello to me, a ladyboy winking an eye and everybody looking at me as if I came from another world, I kind of understood how Cristiano Ronaldo feels.
At the same time, a mobile phone store was playing music at a really really high volume. It looked more like a club actually with the shop assistants dancing choreographies outside. (I learnt later that the mobile phone market is booming in Myanmar, so there are some companies trying to attract the attention of new customers with any kind of show).
Finally the minivan arrived.
The journey was scheduled for 12 hours so we should arrive in Myeik at around 5.30 am.
If you want to know how the trip ended, don’t miss the next episode of “Diary of Myanmar”! The journey itself was a very interesting experience.
You can sign up down here! NO SPAM, promised 😉