Sunday, 28 December 2014


This morning was an early start, our taxi picked us up from Pongpicha Boutique House around 7.30am, costing 110 baht to take us to the Mae Sot - Myawaddy Friendship Bridge, our border crossing and kicking off point into Myanmar.  

It was a completely painless and fairly quick process, an apparently unusually huge line was no match for us - foreigners are directed straight to the front, don't wait to be asked, just walk on up there!  You will need a previously organized visa though before attempting to cross any overland border into Myanmar.

Once on the other side after walking the bridge, it is simply a matter of finding a car, or them finding you, to take you to Hpa-An.  It is possible to head straight to Yangon (Rangoon) apparently, but that seems like way too long to spend on the road for one day, as it was we spent around 6- 7 hours traveling from Myawaddy to Hpa-An.

There was a bus, but it is cheaper, less crowded, faster and slightly more comfortable to go by car, (once you get enough people for the driver to leave - around 6), so why bother with the bus.  We paid 10000 Kyat, or $10 US each for the journey.   

This was no ordinary 6-7 hours in the car either, the mountain pass from Myawaddy to Hpa An is something else altogether!  I have spent over half my life off-road 4 wheel driving and this was a fucken rough road, massive mountain drop off's and shitty, broken up gravel pits all the way. 

There were ute's in front of us, through some fairly gnarly roads, with 20 people hanging off the back, an all out display of 'anything goes, let's live dangerously'.  I thought I had seen nearly everything crossing outback Indonesia, but these guy's may have just  taken it to the next level!  I saw at least 2 pick-up trucks that finished the leg with big dents in their car that they never started with!

The road is so crappy and narrow that the traffic only flows one way on alternating days, one day is West to East, the next is reversed.  Plan your trip carefully or you may find yourself spending the night in Myawaddy waiting for the traffic to be going your way!

It was a hot, hard slog through the mountains, the spectacular views the only thing keeping me sane.  It really was an amazing journey aside from the rough ride, but honestly, it wasn't much worse than what we would drive through back home to go fishing or camping, just not in a sedan! 

The comfort factor was not helped by a driver that drank beer all day and thought his 1994 Corolla was a 2014 Hilux, nor his incessant Betel nut chewing which was ultimately always followed up by a disgustingly loud hacking up of red phlegm, that he felt necessary to spit into a plastic bottle all the way, mere inches from where I sat!  I can be pretty feral when out camping with the boys, but FFS, this was just disgusting.

We stopped more times than I can recall or that was ever necessary, the day just dragged on and on, he even stopped the car 30km from Hpa An for a wash?! WTF?   

  But we finally arrived here and couldn't have hoped for anywhere nicer to end up after a long day, an amazing river right through town, with nothing but a few park benches and some slight landscaping lining the edges - an incredible spot to have a beer and watch the sunset.

I would love more time here, but have to keep to a rough schedule to make sure we see as much as possible on the way round, before making back to the Thai border before our visa runs out.  We are staying at Golden Sky Guesthouse for $20 US a night inc breakfast.

  We looked at a few places, including Galaxy Motel and Tiger Hotel, the former having nice rooms also at $20 and the latter being full.  The deal breaker for Golden Sky is their amazing rooftop terrace with unbelievable views overlooking farm land and the river, easily being the deciding factor to stay here.  

A solid walk around town with quite a few cheap drinks, dinner almost next door at amazing value and we are now chilling in the room, a good size with fridge, hot water and wifi.   Typing this up on a nightly basis is going to be tough, I am so ready to just relax.

On a slightly different note, Noi and I are both back to square 1, we hate not being able to communicate in the local language anymore!  We were only a few hours into the country and already it felt like a wild adventure - bring it on!  

Visa regulations for those who might be interested...

Border mayhem

The mountain pass from Myawaddy to Hpa An

Those Thai squat toilets don't seem so bad now do they......!!

First meal in Myanmar, delicious and only $4 including beer and sprite

Running sugar cane, i think, through machine to make some local drink with lime...

View from Golden Sky terrace, just awesome!


Along the river front, one of the most incredible places to chill with sunset views that I have been to in Asia

This is what $4 buys you in Hpa An...   Bottle of local whiskey, 3 mixers and a large beer.....  I think i'm gonna like it here!!

Friday, 26 December 2014


After checking out, we took a quick spin around Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park, the often overlooked remains of an ancient kingdom that still co-exist with the modern town, a very interesting and large complex that requires more time to explore than we had at hand that day.

Keen to get to Mae Sot early, to complete our organization and last minute preparations before crossing over into Myanmar, we hit the road and followed the  Ping River (i think) as far as possible, then headed west through the awe inspiring mountain pass of Taksinmaharat National Park.

An amazingly scenic, yet slightly dangerous, ride through tight winding corners saw us constantly dodging trucks, cars, giant potholes and cracks in the road but we managed to arrive safely at the other end, the it was only a short distance further to the town of Mae Sot for our last 2 nights in Thailand.

We are staying at Pongpicha Boutique House for about 650 Baht a night including a great breakfast.  Super friendly and helpful staff, they are even letting us leave our bike here for the month we are in Myanmar.

Oh yeah, that's right....  My biggest worry of this trip is now realized- neither foreigner nor Thai can take motorbikes into Myanmar, a car is ok if it is not a rental.  It was always a high probability, but with no definitive answers anywhere online, I at least had to try it for myself.  Now we all know!

The hotel staff have been brilliant in trying to find a solution for us, though with no luck other than being able to organize a bike to be waiting for us on the other side of the bridge.  With no International Drivers License, and the possibility of police shakedowns at the many checkpoints throughout the country, have decided to leave that option for now and will make a new plan once in country. 

 More bizarre Chinese temples while lost in the bush...

GPS gets us 'lost' again, BUT we did get into the historical park for free!!

On the mountain pass, it was too dangerous to stop just about everywhere