From Mawlamyine to Dawei to Kawthoung to Ranong
From Burma - Mawlamyine to Dawei to Kawthoung to Thailan - Ranong
Following on from my earlier post about Mae Sot to Hpa-An, I exited Burma overland as well. I caught an overnight airconditioned (and very comfortable) bus from Mawlamyine south over a fairly poor road Dawei – 10hours 12,000kyat.
At Dawei, I stayed in Dream Emperor Guesthouse (tel: 059 22166 but no-one speaks English) which was clean and friendly. A single room with fan and attached bathroom plus cable TV cost 9,000 kyat per night. There is other accommodation on the same street but I think it is all more expensive.
At DaWei I bought tickets on the HiFi high speed ferry to KawThoung. Ticket to Kawthoung cost USD$60 ($25 DaWei to Myeik plus $35 Myeik to KawThoung). I was told that a bus would take passengers from the office at 1am (which ended up being almost 2am when it left) for the 1hr trip to the ferry. From there the ferry leaves at 4am and stops briefly at Myeik at 8am and then arrives at Kawthoung about 2.30pm. The boat is fast – it’s just a shame about the wasted night of sleep to catch it. The boats are big, too. The smaller ones can carry well over 100 people. And the water was dead flat – no rolling or up and down. I lay down and had a good sleep on the boat. Some nice scenery, too, although marred a little by the peeling tinting on the windows.
Alternatively, there is a bus from DaWei to Myeik (10hrs). And then, I was told of another bus from Myeik to Kawthoung, also about 10hrs but I’m not sure of that one.
In Kawthoung, it seems that the cheapest accommodation is the Penguin Guesthouse for 500B. There doesn’t seem to be much in Kawthoung so I paid 1000kyat to join a group for the half hour long tail boat ride to Thailand. Both the Burmese and Thai immigration staff were quick and friendly.
In Ranong, I stayed at Star Crab Resort, not far from where I got off the long-tail. 250B room with attached bathroom and Thai TV and free wifi, which was handy after the poor/few connections in Burma. There is a nice little Burmese market and a migrant learning centre not far from the Star Crab – that part of town is pretty well all Burmese.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Mae Sot to Myawaddy to Kawkareik to Hpa An
Mae Sot (Thailand) to Burma - Myawaddy to Kawkareik to Hpa An (November 2013)
With the opening of the Mae Sot – Myawaddy border crossing to tourists for travel through to the centre of Myanmar in late 2013 I thought I’d give it a go. I couldn’t find much info on the web so I thought I’d share what I learnt.
Visas: Without a visa, you can visit Myawaddy from Thailand for one day only. However, if you get a tourist visa you can cross at Myawaddy and keep on going into Myanmar for a month and then exit at any recognized exit point. The police all seemed to be aware of this new opening of travel but a number of locals I came across were convinced that I wasn’t allowed out of Myawaddy (including my motorcycle taxi – he took a lot of convincing. Eventually, via translation to Thai, I explained that the immigration police knew about my plans and then he was okay).
(The visa is easiest to get in Bangkok – express visa 1250B from Myanmar embassy – submit in the morning and collect in the afternoon. If you can wait 3 days it costs 800B).
Money: Changed Baht to kyat in the market in Mae Sot but would have been better off just doing it at a bank in Myawaddy as the official rate is now the same as the market rate.
Changed Thai Baht to US dollars in Mae Sot - Useful to have as rates for accommodation are often quoted in USD and if you want to pay in kyat they just add three zeroes – e.g. pay USD$6 or 6,000 kyat (which makes USD better value).
Mae Sot to Myawaddy
Make sure the song theow driver lets you off at the Thai immigration post at the start of the bridge – mine just drove on through and I had to get him to stop. Both the Thai and Burmese immigration staff were friendly and efficient.
Myawaddy to Kawkareik (pronounced Koorkrey)
Kawkareik is the halfway point between Myawaddy and Hpa-An (the capital of Karen State). The road deteriorates after leaving Myawaddy and eventually becomes a one lane dirt track, clinging to the side of steep hillsides as it winds up and over the central mountain range. The track is rutted and pot-holed and littered with broken-down trucks of all sizes. Traffic is regulated to run in only one direction, which alternates each day. Some information claims it runs east on odd days and west on even days but I went along it on the 7th of November and it was running west. (I think the odd-even theory gets messed up by months with an odd number of days). Passing can be difficult so slow trucks have a big impact on travel times. Break downs can delay traffic for hours.
The good news is that motorcycle taxis offer a faster option – they can dodge and weave their way around traffic jams and, even better, they are allowed to go against the flow of traffic – so they can go either direction on any day. The downside is that it can be quite dangerous – I should have realized when Bobo told me to make sure the motorcycle driver was fit and healthy and would not drink any alcohol and would agree not to talk at all (he would have to focus all his attention on the road). Also, make sure (demand) a helmet – there is a fair chance you may need it.
Some motorcycle taxis are restricted to Myawaddy (they have purple vests, I think?). If you ask one of them, they are likely to take you on the back of their bike to another rider who is a long distance rider (which is what happened to me). If you go straight to the long distance rider, the fair will be 6000 or 7000kyat. If you get a local motorbike first, it will be more like 8000.
So, the motorbike ride was a hair raising 2.5 hours, with some stunning scenery and amazing near death experiences. And there were mothers nursing babies on other motorcycle taxis I saw!
Much safer and slower to take the bus. Given the dust, slowness and diesel fumes, it would be worth going for an air-conditioned bus. I am not sure of the price but for an AC bus you may need to get on one going to Mawlamyine and pay the fare for the full trip regardless of where you get off (the fare is probably about 10,000kyat).
My passport details were taken down at a police check point just before we headed up into the mountains. The police mentioned an Irish fellow who had passed a few hours before, walking through, and I later met a French cyclist, who pedaled through the day after me. So, the police seem to be open to alternative modes of transport. They did comment, though, that they thought the motorbike was too dangerous and I should be in a bus.
My details were again taken down at a police check point as we entered Kawkareik. I managed to indicate that I wanted to stay in Kawkareik for the night and the policeman kindly called one of the local guest houses (there seem to be 4 guest houses in town) and arranged things for me. Even so, the guest house staff didn’t quite know what to do when I turned up. Fortunately, my motorbike taxi driver stayed with me until he was able to convince the staff that the police were okay with me staying at the guesthouse (so it may be a good idea to ask the police first about where to stay and see what they line up). The guesthouse had a Burmese name (which I can’t remember) – it was clean and simple and very friendly and cost 3000kyat for a room for the night. Everyone wakes up early in the country – at 5am the next morning all the Burmese guests were up and into it and by 6am they were all gone.
I was followed around town by a number of different plain clothes police, who eventually insisted upon taking me back to my guesthouse – perhaps an over-protectiveness because tourists are new to this town. There are some nice temples but, really, the people are the highlight of the town.
Kawkareik to Hpa_An
From Kawkareik to Hpa-An, catch a line car (a truck with a couple of rows of seats down the back). The trip takes about 4 hours (I can’t remember the fare – 2000kyat or something like that). Soe Brother Guest House is very helpful and friendly and very close to the point at which the line car finishes in Hpa-An. Single rooms start at USD$6.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Travel from Mae Sot, Thailand to central Burma
The ride of your life: Myawaddy to Kawkareik
I’m sitting here in a humid little cell of a bedroom missing my shorts. I accidentally left them hanging on a railing to dry on a beach somewhere near Kuala Lumpur. They were the perfect traveling shorts – lightweight nylon – strong and fast drying but also long, so better suited to the modest ways of South East Asia. I have searched in vain for a suitable replacement. Oh well, at least Kestrel will be happy – she thinks they make me look like I am dressed by an institution. Anyway, today’s journey…
Bobo in Mae Sot recommended that after crossing from Mae Sot (in Thailand) to Myawaddy (in Myanmar) that I should get a motorbike taxi to take me to Kawkareik, which is pretty much the first town en-route, about half way to Hpa-An, the capital of Karen State. (Back 20 years ago, when I taught English in a Karen refugee camp, many people talked of Hpa-An and so it has assumed mythical proportions in my mind and is my main destination in Myanmar).
He explained that, because the road is so narrow, any larger vehicle is likely to get stuck for long periods behind broken down or slow moving trucks. The road is actually so narrow that traffic is regulated to heading East on one day and West on the next (there is conflicting information about whether it’s odd or even days that head west. However it turns out for me that today the flow is west and it’s the 7th of November).
Motorbikes are permitted to go both ways on any day. Bobo warned me to make sure that I selected a driver who was fit and healthy and strong and to ensure that he committed to not talk whilst driving (he must focus on the road) and not drink alcohol. Asians are generally pretty relaxed with road safety so such a warning coming from a local should have struck warning bells for me.
The price would be 6000 Kyat but I didn’t seem to mange better than 8000 Kyat (turns out I was negotiating with the wrong person – a local motorbike taxi who just dropped me off at a long distance motorbike taxi and took his cut). But 8000Kyat is only $8 so it still sounded like a pretty good deal to me.
My driver seemed a bit dubious and kept asking me something about Kawkareik as we drove. My two words of Burmese (hello and thank-you) weren’t helping so eventually we stopped and asked another local who happened to speak some Thai. So, speaking in Thai, with a translation to Burmese, it turns out that my driver believed I was not permitted to travel the road to Kawkareik (it only opened to foreigners a couple of months ago) and I was able to explain that I’d discussed it with the immigration police and they were fine with it.
As we left Myawaddy, the road gradually declined from 2 lanes to one and then from a good surface to a potholed one and then a very potholed one and then just dirt and rocks and holes and ruts. I lost count of how many broken down buses and trucks of all sizes that we passed.
Initially, I watched as we picked our way at high speed along narrow strips between deep potholes or ruts on one side and the very edge of the road with an immediate long drop below my right foot. I tried had to make sure not to react to avoid the edge as it may unbalance the bike and knock us of the thin edge the wheels were riding. Eventually, I let go and just put my faith in the driver but there were times when various muffled expressions of fear escaped my lips.
Sometimes it would take a while to get past a truck. We would see a gap and race for it but then the truck would lurch across and close it and with some sudden breaking and swerving we would avoid a side swipe and pull back in behind. We never beeped and they never looked out for us – they were too busy trying to navigate the road themselves. The scariest thing was when we tried to race around the outside of a truck, often with only a foot or so between the truck and thin air and no guarantee that the truck would lurch into our space or, more dangerously, its long trial would sweep us off the edge as it turned. So, the idea was, pick a gap and then go for it – but with 2 people of a 100 cc motorbike (or more like moped) we didn’t have all the acceleration I would have liked.
I wanted to tell my driver to just take it easy and that I was fine sitting behind these trucks but my two words of Burmese didn’t stretch that far and I was scared that:
1. Whilst trying to get my explanation across I would be distracting him and
2. Maybe he would misunderstand me and think that I was disappointed with him not getting past these trucks fast enough.
So, I bit my lip and hung on tighter. We bounced along, raced past slower vehicles within centimetres, occasionally swerving into major potholes or across gravel piles to avoid collisions as the passees swerved onto our path at the last moment. Sometimes we would being racing past a bus and find a motorbike coming the other way, which meant a sudden jamming of brakes and quick swerving to avoid the sweeping bus tail.
There were some fantastic views and I would have loved to film some of the riding as well but my camera was tucked away in my pack in front of the driver.
After about 2.5 hours we arrived at Kawkareik and another police/immigration checkpoint where they scrupulously recorded my details. The officer was very friendly and when he understood that I intended to stay in Kawkareik for the night, he arranged for me to stay in a guesthouse (there are about four guesthouses in town – Honey and Mya Waddy are the only names I remember). However, when we arrived at the guesthouse it was still quite an ordeal for the staff. They kept trying to call the police to no avail. (Perhaps my policeman had called a different guesthouse). I am guessing this guesthouse is not licensed to take foreigners (and the price of 3000 kyat – about $3 reflects that). My driver stayed around and seemed to be explaining that the policeman had said it was fine for me to stay and so they eventually agreed with some trepidation. You don’t want to break the rules in Myanmar.
The smiles and warmth of the people are enchanting. And then, of course, there are the plain clothes police, who are also very friendly but just a bit more insistent upon giving me help that I don’t actually want (that’s the giveaway – and they tend to be men on motorbikes). So I got a few motorbike rides that I didn’t really want – including one that was determined to take me back to my guesthouse, the name of which I couldn’t remember which meant we went via the other guesthouses first). They didn’t seem so keen on me just wandering around town (and I later realized it would probably have been better to keep my camera in my bag).
So, back in my guesthouse, the old lady at reception can speak a few words of English – she is lovely. Another foreigner (Irish I think) must have turned up while I was out – he sounded quite rude as he refused to hand over his passport and shut himself in his room. The old lady and I exchanged resigned looks. I wanted to tell the guy to be more understanding of the situation of the Burmese people – they aren’t making the rules and there are big consequences for them if they don’t follow them. But I didn’t feel like speaking through the wall to him so I went and apologized to the old woman instead.
Outside, a little festival has just been happening (the yellow something or other) with a little group of musicians and a pretend bull and bullfighter. I took a few photos and some of them have heaps of light orbs in them somehow.
I have the feeling that I’m really in Burma – loving being here and it’s good to be traveling somewhere where there is not much info and they are not quite used to foreigners. There aren’t many places left like that. It’s just hit 11pm and the lights have gone out. I guess that means bedtime for me.Related to:
- Budget Travel
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Flight from Thailand to Burma
Air Asia, an excellent low cost airline, travels from Bangkok to both Mandalay and Yangon.
My flights were on time!
In Mandalay, the airline offers transportation by bus between the airport and the city centre.
Airport to Yangon
Nothing great about this tip other than an updated piece of information as of February 2013. The airport in Yangon is tiny but they country is gearing up for a massive boom in tourism so they are starting to get organized hence the price of the taxis from the airport. The 35 minute drive from the airport to downtown is set by airport authorities or you can bargain but it will end up with you paying from 8000 Kyats to 9000 kyats with a US Kyat exchange rate at 855. Not a bad deal but remember too that the average person only makes a few dollars a day.
Flights in and out of Burma
At the moment you can fly from several different cities in Asia to Yangon. When i have decoded the abbreviations for the different companies i'll add the schedule as well.
You can fly to Yangon from Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Kunming, Kolkata and Gaya (the flights to and from India are as far as i know only during the winter season when many Myanmar go to India for a pilgrimage).
From January 7th 2010 Bagan Air flies from Chiang Mai to Yangon.
Lately, flights have become quite full so if you want to get here on a certain date, book on time. It used to be easy to fly whenever you wanted, there were usually enough empty seats available. Now, you sometimes have to wait a week before you can get a flight if you're late with bookings...
VISA ON ARRIVAL TO BURMA
Effective 26 April 2012, guests that require visa to enter Myanmar can get their E-Visa in 4 easy steps.
Step 1 :
Go to http://www.myanmarevisa.gov.mm and fill out the secure online application form
Step 2 :
Confirm and pay with your credit/debit card
Step 3 :
Receive your approval letter (within 5 working days)
Step 4 :
Receive your visa upon arrival in Myanmar
For more information, logon to www.myanmarevisa.gov.mm
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HIRE A HORSE-CART AND DRIVER FOR A FUN DAY.
HORSE AND CARTWITH DRIVER
A few times in Burma I hired a horse and cart with a driver for the day and found it to be just really a great relaxing way to slowly get around..Seeing that I was'nt in a hurry this mode of transport suited me just fine. One thing I found hard to deal with sometimes was the most oppressive heat. This I found while out on my bicyle..riding in the cart was comfortable as it was covered and was most relaxing.There were cushions to relax and stretch your legs .
I always carried a plastic bag with me which I could put in my hat anthen pour water into it for the horse...There were a few days that I noticed that the horse was exceptionally thirsty and was not given water. Quite often they are left to stand in the one place for long periods of time. .so make sure to carry LOTS of water with you..Hiring these horses for the day can be arranged by your Hotel or hostel. .Sometimes you will also find them at the bus stations as well..They are cheap to hire and a different experience in transportation...to say the least.Related to:
- Horse Riding
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
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ALL INTERNAL FLIGHTS CONTROLLED
I arrived in Yangon from Bangkok by an Air Asia flight. All further flights that I took within Myanmar were with the Burmese Airlines of Air Bagan and Yangon Airways. These airlines are controlled by the military Government and receive all their profits...Anyone flying within Burma must use one or both of the internal airlines. I found both of the airlines to be excellent as I used the both of them. They were efficient courteous, on time and just good airlines. I must say that I was very surprised and wouldnt hesitate to use them if/when I return to Burma.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
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HIRE A BICYCLE TO GET AROUND
Bicycle hire is definately the way to go.I always hired a bike when possible as I found that " day hire "was extremely cheap and affordable. Your Hotel manager can usually organise a bicycle for you and if he has none available will certainly find you one for hire close by. Like everything ,the price is negotiable and of course that will depend on your own bargaining skills. Walking long distances around the cities is rather testing also.Due to the extreme heat and humidity here in Burma its imperative to replace fluid losses with fresh bottled water. When hiring your bicycle also enquire about a local roadmap..so you can get back!!
DON'T forget your water
DON'T carry your handbag in the basket of the bicycle.!!.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Budget Travel
Booking Internal Flights on Line
i would recommend booking tickets on line, the price on line is about half of the published fare. depending upon the time, they can get booked. recently burma introduced visa on arrival and that has spurred a spurt in tourist arrivals.
there are lots of tips on burma/myanmar on VT and there are quite a few Myanmar Experts on VT.
If you can get hold of a book called From Myanmar with Love it is a compilation by one of the Vters of travellers stories and helpful hints.
Yangon has the best kept british colonial architecture and the burmese people without doubt are the most gentle of all asian people. also the land is a tribute to the living buddhism and almsot all people who visit Burma/Myanmar fall in love with the place.
good Luck and Enjoy Myanmar
Border crossings between Burma and Thailand
The rules apparently have changed again. Now you can enter Burma again overland at either Kowthoung or Tachileik (and exit there too) but you need to get a special permit (aka a package tour-thingy) to do so. You can get permits (or info on them) by emailing to them. From Tachileik you have to fly on since the overland route is closed to foreigners and if you come form the south then either take a flight from there to Yangon or take the boat to Myeik (around $25 one way). After that you'll have to fly to Yangon with either Air Bagan or Air Mandalay. Both charge $87 dollars for a one-way ticket (all prices are from before the price rise of august 2007). If you want to do this trip overland you'll need a special permit which you need to apply for 2-3 weeks in advance. And you can never get the permit just by itself. It is always part of a package tour and therefore quite costly. The MTT people told me that it would start from around $500 for a 3 night/4 day trip incl. transport and lodgings but still that is a huge amount of money.
For info on the permits/package tours contact the ministry of Hotels and Tourism. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Short distance bus
These truck-buses run everywhere (much like the pick-up trucks). Again they seem more in the 'short range' business but I've been in buses like this for 5 hours and more (even once for about 13 hours when we went to Namhsan. In the back on bags of something. With 9 people occupying a tiny bit of space(don't get me started on that one)). A bus like this runs the Mandalay-Bagan route. Or from Mandalay to Monywa or Hsipaw. From Pathein to Chaungtha we were also in a bus like this (though these pictures I took in Yangon itself where they were running as city buses). In the bus from Pathein to Chaungtha we were seated somewhere in the front. The bus was so full that my boyfriend exited through the window. We also unloaded our luggage through there. Me, I didn't want to go through the window so I painstakingly made my way through the overcrowded bus. I Was midway when the window started to become very attractive as exit. But by that time the way back was as bad as following through with my exercise..Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Old but reliable: the bullock cart
In many small communities the bullock cart is THE way to get around. Of course, nowadays you can also go by bullock cart for tourist purposes and these rides are offered at the known places like Mingun and Bagan (at least I've seen them there). For us it was a genuine cart, used by some villagers to bring us to the next place we wanted to go. Thankfully it wasn't too far because no matter how picturesque it looks, comfortable is quite different. It looks like the cart goes real smooth until you're actually sitting in one....
With humour and a lot of patience
As said in the title, do bring a good sense of humour and a lot of patience. This country is definitely not run on time. And especially with transport you can find that the original 15 hours (or so) can turn into a lot more if there is something along the way that will hold up your bus/pick-up/whatever you travel with. Local buses and pick-ups especially have a tendency to leave only when full. And this can mean sometimes that your still there an hour or more after the official departure time.
Buses and pick-ups are usually also packed up to an absolute maximum and then some. Not the long-distance buses but the local ones. 30 to 40 people in and on a pick-up is also not at all uncommon so be prepared to be a bit uncomfortable sometimes. This doesn't mean that it is going to happen, it means that it can happen.
In the case of the broken shock breaker we were about 6 hours away from Bagan when the bus broke down at around 9 pm. The owner tried to get a bus from a place closer by but eventually a new bus was send for us from Bagan itself. The driver must have gone quite fast since he arrived 7 hours after we had the emergency stop and this time also included one of the bus-employees hitchhiking to the nearest place to make the call and the owner trying to find a new bus. Anyways, somewhere in the early morning we transferred to the new bus and finally continued our way to Yangon.
Kandawgyi Palace hotel is located on the shore of Royal Lake. I hope these pics will help you to...more
True story, someone I love dearly passed away during new year 2012 vacation in a villa in this hotel...more
Great hotel, arguably our favorite in Myanmar. You can tell the owners put a lot of thought into...more
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