Saturday, 24 January 2015


Back in Yangon we are staying at The Royal Star Guesthouse, fairly nice at $30, but with shared bathroom and unreliable wifi.  It was a cool 2 level room with the whole downstairs set out like a lounge room with sofa and large tv, then an upstairs area for sleeping, essentially giving you twice the space you would normally get.

Early the next morning we were back at the Thai Embassy to do my next visa, I was trying for a double entry tourist visa, but as we were crossing into Thailand by land and not flying, they would only issue me a single entry visa.  

This will give me 2 months to stay, plus I can extend it by another month for around $65 au, the double entry lets you visit for 6 months, though you do have to exit the country after your first 3 month stint and activate your ‘second entry’, but this can be done overland.

The cost of visa was $40 US and after maybe only an hour in total, I was told to return the next afternoon to collect my passport and visa, hence forcing us to stay 3 nights in Yangon with very little to do. 

We did find a couple of new favourite places to eat though, 1 of them being directly across the road from the Royal Star. Cheap delicious food, cheap beer and at night they would set up tables right in the very busy small street, a great spot to watch all the hustle and bustle of Myanmar life.

After our unwanted, but very necessary, stay in Yangon, it was another bus trip that took us closer to home and to the town of Mawlamyine, a lively little spot on the banks of the Salween River.  Bus fare was $10.50 and took around 6 hours. 

They were showing Avatar on the little tv in the seats which I still have never seen, so I watched about the first 3 quarters before we stopped for lunch, where we also ran into our boat trip buddies from Bagan.  Once on the bus again I was ready to resume the movie and see the end – BUT NO….  the movie started again! 

 So I read a book on the Ipad and sort of watched it again,  this time around we got fairly close to the end before the bus pulled into Mawlamyine and cut me off from seeing the end of this movie!!  F*** I hate that!

After cruising every single accommodation option in town and finding them ridiculously overpriced, full or both, we ended up at Breeze Guesthouse down by the river.  $20 gets you a shared bathroom with cold water, slow wifi in reception only and was overall fairly average, but the owners are friendly and helpful, can organize most things, plus they have scooters for rent.

We organized one for the following day to take a trip out to Bilu Island, before heading back to the waterfront for a cold beer in readiness for sunset.  They also have a great little night market bbq scene there with a huge selection of food all ready to be cooked, you just pile up your plate and they’ll bbq it and bring it over to your table as you relax with a drink and watch a great sunset.

This turned out to be some more of the best eating we had done and given the chance, I’d probably eat it every day.  There was corn on the cob, marinated chicken, curried potatoes, quail eggs, vegetables, seafood, plus a huge array of different meat skewers – it was so good we went back the next night.  For some reason we didn’t get a photo of any of it…

The next day we took a ride around town, before only just making it to the right ferry in time to head over to Bilu Island, just across the muddy river, but the landing point is about an hour away by boat.  

Boat tickets are $2 each and we somehow got the bike on for free!  When I say ferry, it really was just a large floating platform used to transport all the villager’s and their huge amounts of stock over the river after they had come shopping in ‘town’. 

Once on the other side we were quickly off on the bike, leaving the other tourists (all 3 of them) in our dust as they scratched their head and pondered what to do now?  It was a nice enough ride around the rather plain island, through some villages and at one point past some sort of celebratory procession of bikes and trucks involving at least 200 locals all donned in matching outfits.

Other than that, I would have to say the whole trip did very little for us really, sure it killed a day, but in hindsight I could very easily have skipped the whole thing - Bilu Island did not fare well on my travel highlights scale I’m afraid!  You never know if you never go, but I don’t rate it very highly.

Another $2 each for the fare home, this time in a smaller boat, plus another $1 for the bike and 90 cents at each end for some locals to lift it on and off the roof for me – money well spent!  As I said, bbq dinner again by the water with some other new friends, tonight even better as there was also a lunar eclipse to dazzle us after the great sunset. 

I looked online but can’t seem to find information anywhere regarding this, but it definitely happened!

The whole point of coming to Mawlamyine was to then take the boat trip up river back to Hpa An, but after seeing a lot of the scenery (plus the boat they would take us on!) we decided against it and just took the bus.  The boat takes 5 hours and costs $10, the bus takes under 2 hours and costs $1!  

Though if we felt the scenery might be worth the journey we would have gone for it, but the area between the 2 towns is fairly flat until you get closer to Hpa An.  Once again - you never know if you never go, but we saved $18!!

Back to the Golden Sky Hotel where the whole adventure began and after 27 days in the country I would have to say that this was the best value room we had stayed in during our whole trip, if only they had of all been like that!  

I have seen some reviews stating that the owners or staff were not friendly, that was definitely not the case when we stayed and they were very helpful, plus huge smiles as they recognized us from 4 weeks earlier.

A bike was soon commandeered and we cruised around the very scenic area again and headed back to the bat cave for another sunset on the cliff top.  Hpa An really was a highlight and a place I can see going back to, plus I'd love to explore more of the area south by bike.

Golden Sky organized our taxi back to the border, once again $10 each and this time there were only 4 of us in the car, from memory there were about 8 all squeezed in the first time we did it.  We had hoped for 2 nights in Hpa An, but January 24th was the day the traffic goes east through the rugged mountain road. 

Our driver was once again a fucken lunatic and seemed intent on being the fastest man to ever to do the mountain pass.  One of the backpacker girls in the back seat was getting quite agitated and worried about it all, though by now I must have acclimatised and was just thankful he was making good time.  4 hours and 13 minutes to be exact, possibly some kind of new record, I believe our original journey took at least 6!

A relatively painless immigration check and we were soon back in Thailand and to our previous hotel, the Pongpicha Boutique House, that has been looking after my bike, there were about 40 extra km on the clock, but I can’t really hold that against them!

So tomorrow the bike trip begins again and we head south along the remote border to Umphang, home of Thailand’s ‘largest/tallest.. something or other’ waterfall – Tee Lor Su!  Who knows where the next month or so will lead us, but I’m sure it’ll be great, stay tuned and thanks for reading

Sunset by the water

The ferry

Bilu Island