Time to go to Myanmar! This morning I woke up at 7am and caught a Songthaew from the old city of Chiang Mai to Arcade Bus Station. It cost me 100baht (too much) but I wasn’t in the mood to haggle at that time of day.
I bought my bus ticket to the Thai border town of Mae Sot from a travel agent yesterday for 440baht. When I went back to pick up the ticket the face value was 290 baht! It’s not so bad though, it saved me spending 100-200baht going to collect the ticket myself. I could have simply bought it from the bus station the morning of departure, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out.
The bus left pretty much on time, and it is full, so I’m happy I got my ticket the day before. It’s about 75% locals with foreigners making up the rest. There’s a few on here trying to get to Hpa-An today. At least one other foreigner (from Sth Korea) and I are hoping to cross the border to Myawaddy in time to catch a 5pm night bus to Yangon. We are scheduled to arrive in Mae Sot at about 3pm, giving us 2hrs to get to (and through) immigration and to the bus station in time, and hoping they have seats available.
We arrived in Mae Sot around 4.30pm, and had pretty much given up catching the 5pm bus.
A group of 9 of us all piled into a tuk tuk to take us the 5km to the border. At the border, it only took about 15 minutes to exit Thailand, cross the bridge over the river that separates the two countries, and enter Myanmar.
In Thailand, cars drive on the left, but in Myanmar, they drive on the right (and most of their cars are right-hand-drive!). This makes for interesting scenes on the bridge, where they have to pick a point and change to the other side of the road. There’s no overpass/extra lane system, it’s just up to the drivers to negotiate the changeover point as they go!
On entering Myanmar, it was hard to believe Thailand was just 50m away, it couldn’t have felt more different. It was evident from the beginning that Myanmar is ethnically diverse, which makes sense given it is the only country separating Thailand/Laos from India, as well as bordering China and Bangladesh.
Upon entering Myanmar, we now had a group of seven traveling to Yangon if we could make another bus, rumoured to leave at 8.30pm. We found a small ticket office, where we each paid 10,000kyat for a ticket in a coach/bus leaving at 5pm. But how could this be? It was already nearly 5.30pm? Then it clicked, Myanmar is 30 minutes behind Thailand, perfect!
We were told to get on the back of a motorbike taxi which would take us to the bus station, so somehow, Juho (Korean) and I made it on the back of a locals scooter with our three bags each and were taken to something resembling a bus station. We waited here for 30 minutes with no sign of the others.
Finally, we spotted them walking down the road towards us. After the motorbike taxi driver dropped us off, he had returned to the rest of the group in a minivan, then dropped them off at a completely different place. They were confused and looking for us, so a local woman walked them up the road to us. The motorbike taxi driver/minivan driver feigned ignorance the whole time. We still have no idea what happened.
Now that we were all back together, Juho and I explained to them what the bus station was now telling us; that our bus tickets were for a minivan only. Protesting got us nowhere, so we sucked it up and squashed into a minivan with a few locals and left for the 10 hour drive to Yangon at 6pm, stopping for a surprisingly good beef curry dinner on the way.
We arrived at the Yangon highway bus station (still 20km from the city centre) at 4.30am, split into two groups and caught two taxis into the city. The hostel we arrived at had no room for me, so at 6.30am I walked to another hostel I had friends at. This one also had no room for me, so I went on booking.com and found a place with a vacancy, Dengba Hostel, checked in there for 12,000kyat and went to sleep immediately.