In the last couple of years, a lot has changed in Myanmar. In the past, it was really difficult for foreigners to get a visa to enter the country.
This has radically changed since then. In 2016, it is not only possible to fly into the country through one of its international airports, but there are even border crossings overland that you can use.
It all starts with a visa. It still requires a bit of paper work, but getting a visa is not as hard as I thought it would be. It took me 3 trips to the consul in Chiang Mai, Thailand (it would have been 2, if I had noticed that my first visit was on a Sunday and the consul was therefor closed 🙂 ) One to apply, then 2 days later one trip to pick up my passport with a nice cool new sticker in it!
Then the travelling starts..
It’s actually pretty difficult to find out what to do when you want to go to Myanmar: there are no official websites showing you how to get there, and travel guidebooks are all heavily outdated because of all the recent changes in the country.
I decided to try and wing it nonetheless. I took a bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot (both Thailand) which was supposed to take around 5 hours.. In reality it was closer to 8, and all the people on the bus intending to go to Myanmar were getting a bit worried that we wouldn’t get there in time before the border closed.
We made it to the bus station in Mae Sot, where we were greeted by an over eager taxi driver who would take us to the border.. Only he’s not allowed near the border and there’s a huge queue of cars waiting to cross, so he ended up dropping us off hundreds of meters further away and we had to walk the last part to the official border crossing of Thailand.. Then you have to walk another kilometer over a bridge, before you actually reach the official border crossing into Myanmar.
Tourists are allowed to skip any queues and go straight to the designated office to get their passport stamped. 10 minutes later I was officially allowed into the country, and the madness begun.
So cool, I’m in Myanmar.. Now what?
You can choose to stay in the border town of Myawaddy but there is nothing really to see or do there. So if you have the option, I’d suggest travelling further inland.
I choose to go to a place called Hpa-An, which is a good 5 hour drive from the border. Apparently a lot of people chose the same thing, because 10 out of 12 people from my bus crossing the border ended up going to Hpa-An. You can arrange a shared taxi from the border which will drive you there for around 9000 Kyat each (around 7 euro).
It’s a decent little town with a few temples and cool views, and the drive up there is simply beautiful! It’s a good place to settle down and get used to the Myanmar vibe of things, which is definitely different from Thailand!!