Foreigners rarely cross Myanmar-Thai border overland from Myanmar side and there is not enough posts on border-crossing, so, I’m going to make one here!
To this date, four border checkpoints have been opened between Myanmar and Thailand:
- Myawaddy/Mae Sot (the most used one)
- Tachileik/Mae Sai (no idea about this one)
- Htee Kee/Phunaron-Phu Nam Ron (for Kanchanaburi) and
- the most remote one, which I really wanted to use but couldn’t due to fast-approaching visa expiration date, Kawthaung/Ranong
I spent the last days of my stay around Dawei, exploring its gorgeous remote beaches and I was happy to find out that there is a border-crossing to Thailand, Htee Kee/Phunaron-Phu Nam Ron, relatively near: 4 hours away so I didn’t need to take a train back up to Moulmein to cross via Mae Sot. As much as I love train rides, I needed a break from them for a bit.
After doing a ‘market research’ in Dawei, I had found the best price for the transport to Htee Kee at the border in the Sein Shwe Moe guesthouse: 22 000 Kyat. Everything is based on trust in Myanmar, people are still so genuine and I tried to not to make a big deal about receiving a ‘ticket’ in form of their business card with a date and a stamped ‘PAID’ on the back. 7:30 morning, Saturday, sharp, be here, trust me… was what I had been told.
I had been staying in the Dream Emperor guesthouse, in which, although I paid more for the room (10000 Kyat, compared to 8000 Kyat at Sein Shwe Moe), I got a big room with my own bathroom and the most importantly, it was cool, because the heat was dispersed in the building better. But for the night before leaving, I had moved into the small and hot room at the Sein Shwe Moe, to have it easier with the departure.
When I went out to get some breakfast on Saturday morning, I was, yet again, told to be back at 7:30 sharp. These people must have some German blood in them; this was the first time when somebody made a big hush about being on time in Myanmar. Anyway, I ate my fried rice quickly to be back for the departure. And, surprisingly, we indeed left shortly after 7:30 in a private car.
The road was ok for about an hour. Then, after a passport checking at a checkpoint when entering the Tanintharyi township, the road became a high-quality off-road. Our Toyota acted as though it is suited for this type of road and it became clear that our driver was enjoying the ride very much when he passed a sign ’30 max’ by 60km/h. We saw military guys walking around or passing by in cars, nothing unusual at this point of my stay in Myanmar.
3 hours on a winding, bumpy, dusty road passed and we arrived to the Myanmar immigration in the midday heat. Passport check went smoothly, got a stamp with the date and I was out of Myanmar and not yet in Thailand. We had arranged transport between the border controls, the driver was asking us to pay 100 Baht, but the usual price is 50 Baht, so we negotiated. It wouldn’t even occur to me to negotiate, I was so much used to the honesty of Myanmar’s people. I knew that I am in another country when the taxi switched the lines of the road and just like that, in a split of a second we were in Thailand, driving on the left.
Ah, it’s your first time in Thailand? asked me the worker in Thai Immigration office, after she had screened my passport for few long seconds. Unusual, it seemed. Yes, I haven’t been to Thailand yet and I only plan to stay within my visa-free 15-days period, before I return to Myanmar. Got my passport stamped again and I officially welcomed myself to Thailand.
There is only one ATM at the Phu Nam Ron border, which only accepts American Express and Visa. So my MasterCard was naturally declined. Having no money, I faced problem how I pay for my bus to Kanchanaburi, where I’d change for Bangkok. After asking around, I found a guy who exchanged my Kyat to Baht, and with an incredible bad rate I got 125 Baht for 5000 Kyat. Normally it’s 40 Baht for 1000 Kyat… But that was the only possible solution, so I had to survive.
I paid 50 Baht for the bus to Kanchanaburi, leaving from a close-by garage that acted as a bus stop. With changed scenery from no electricity polls and one-way roads in Myanmar to few-lines wide highways, millions of cars, commercials smiling at me from billboards all over this place and proper electricity towers, I thought I came into the future.
In Kanchanaburi, I changed to a minibus to Bangkok, which cost me 120 Baht. And in a few hours I arrived into the night craziness of Bangkok streets and with my backpack in the metro, wild and dirty, I had felt I really don’t fit here.
UPDATE: Mae Sot – Myawaddy crossing (Thailand to Myanmar)
I had some spare hours (days, really) and depleted bank account, so I decided to land-cross again, now from the Thai side, coming from Chiang Mai.
(un)Surprisingly there is no direct bus from Chiang Mai to Yangon, it’s not as popular as Ventiane or Hanoi, so I had to figure out the best way to go about this. I took a Greenbus from the Chiang Mai’s bus terminal Arcade to the border town Mae Sot, they run twice a day (around 8am and 1pm), paying 290 Baht. Six or so hours on a pretty comfy bus, all good.
It was dark when I arrived to Mae Sot and no taxis were around. Very strange, usually they race themselves for customers. A guy in the info booth called a taxi for me, I got in without discussing the price beforehand – another unusual thing. She asked for 100 Baht for a 5 minutes drive, I gave her 40, knowing that they want to rip the tourists of. No way a local would pay a hundred for that. She wasn’t happy, but agreed.
I stayed at Krissana Guesthouse, where the owner didn’t speak English at all and as an answer to my question: Is there a mosquito net? she gave me a wifi password. Yes, yes, internet. Despite of lack of communication, she was super helpful and managed to book me a taxi for tomorrow morning at 7am. I paid resonable 300 Baht.
6:37am next morninf, she was knocking on my door and pointinf a a taxi that came to pick me up (I didn’t say the communication was perfect, better to have taxi early than never!). Again, we didn’t agree on the price before and when I asked him to put on the meter he just shook his head. He wanted a hundred again, I gave him 40 Baht. I felr that was fair. Border control on Thai side went without complications and I could cross the Friendship bridge, where I was greated by passersby and I knew I was in Myanmar!
No visa on arrival service exists on Myanmar’s land crossings, so you have to have a visa before. No complications here either and I even made a friend who managed to get me a motorbike taxi for 30 Baht from the border to the departure place for Yangon. There are normal busses for 10 000 kyats and then passenger cars for 15 000 kyats, supposedly faster, but since my car left an hour and a half later than I had been told I can’t justify one transport over the other. Knowing how crazy the bus drivers are in Myanmar, I can’t imagine the bus being much slower. Nevertheless, it took us 9 hours to reach Yangon (and I was told that the bus takes around 13-14 hours).