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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mae Sot Thailand / Myawaddy Myanmar Border Crossing

The border crossing from Mae Sot, Thailand into the small town of Myawaddy, Myanmar went smoothly this morning. In fact, it was the easiest, cheapest, most relaxing Thailand border crossing I have ever done.
First of all, it's a relatively easy trip from Bangkok. You can take the overnight VIP bus to Mae Sot, step over the border when it opens at 6:30 AM, be on the bus to Bangkok at 9:00 AM, and back to good 'ol Krungthep 24 hours after you left.
Another great thing about this border is that there were hardly any foreigners there. (Although now that I am publicizing it here, that might change!) And since there were not many white faces, there also were not hordes of children begging for money as there are at other crossings. Also, the Myanmar "day-pass" only cost 500 baht (US$12), which is much better than the 1200-1500 baht that is charged to get a visa in Laos or Cambodia.
I had time to spare, so I ended up spending a couple of hours in Myawaddy, walking around and checking out the sites. At one point a twenty-something year old Burmese boy walked up to me and started chatting. His English wasn't very good, so when he ran out of things to say, he called his friend. Soon, I had two Burmese guys following me and chatting me up.
They seemed intent on showing me around the town, but they weren't pushy about it at all. In fact, if they had been, I would have told them to get lost (in a nice way, of course). But they were very nice, and besides, I figured it would be good to get the local perspective.
They took me to the village market where all kinds of clothes, household goods, and vegetables were for sale. Then the boys took me to the main temple in town, which was actually quite impressive. It was still raining at this point, so even though they wanted to show me a few other things, I decided to head back to the border.
On the way back, though, we stopped in a small cafe for a taste of Myanmar beer. And yes, even though it was 8:30 AM at this point, the beer really hit the spot. After all, I had pretty much been awake all night on the over night bus! It took me a bit of negotiating to convince the boys to drink one with me, but eventually they agreed. (Does that make me a bad person?) The beer wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't one of my favorites. But considering the three draft beers cost us a total of 50 baht (US$1.25), I can't really complain.
After crossing the bridge over the Moei River back into Thailand, getting the right stamps, and taking a 10-baht songtaew to downtown Mae Sot, I was in a minivan to the famous tourist town of Sukothai. The 4 hour drive through the mountains of Tak was very beautiful. The air was cool and foggy as we passed through various hilltribe villages and highway-stand markets. I'd like to make it back this way to explore more someday.
But for now I am in Sukothai, which some call the "first capital of Thailand". My plan is to stay in here tonight, checking out the historic ruins tomorrow morning, and then back to Bangkok tomorrow night.


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