"Run for the Border"
Apr 11, 2007
Our latest adventure to fill you in on was a quick trip out of the country to none other than Burma. We left Sukhothai with vague plans to move west and go to the Burmese border to renew our visas so that we would all be on the same schedule. Everything went so smoothly that we arrived at the bus station just in time to get on the bus which was pulling out. This would have been great, but unfortunately it left no room for an obligatory prebus bathroom stop. About an hour in (after grinning and bearing it), kate realized there was nothing for it but to stop the bus. Carla negotiated with the bus driver in Thai and they were very obliging. After a quick sprint across the street, and some giggles around the bus, we were back on our way and mnch more comfortable:)
We arrived in Mae Sot midday, and had a quick lunch then set about finding a place to sleep and figuring out the border run. We followed signs to a reccomended guesthouse, that involved crossing the scariest bridge ever. The fear from the unstable rickety bamboo bridge was compounded by the disgusting water below and the fact that we had everything we own on our backs (see picture). Every step seemed like possibly the last, and we have been around long enough to know that it won't be fixed until a farang or two fall in.
After finding a spot to drop our bags and stay the night, we headed off to find a pickup truck bound for Burma. After asking maybe 8 people, we finally found the right one and headed for the border. Now we were a little nervous because this was all of our first time in a slightly unstable communist country. We were happily caught totally offguard by the scene which greeted us. Mid April is the Thai new Year traditionally celebrated by throwing around lots of water (more on that later). When we arrived at the immigration desk, we were assaulted by uniformed guards with water guns (5 days before the actual festival). We fumbled to protect our important documents under a constant stream of water, and maybe ten minute later were cleared to walk, yes walk, over the bridge to Burma.
The other side of the bridge was equally hilarious. Burmese immigration sat us down to several cups of Chinese tea and chat. Not quite the stern faced unflappable beauracratic experience we were expecting. We were given three hours to go explore the town before checking back in and returning to Thailand. We had the impression that not a lot of foreigners make this particular crossing, and it seemed we were a scene unto ourselves everywhere we went. There were no other foreigners in site. We also immediately stuck by the difference as soon as we crossed the bridge. Unlike Thailand, the streets were quiet, with very few motorized vehicles, and all of the vendors were completely nonaggressive. Even the buildings were different, and almost all were made of simple bamboo and wood whereas in Thailand brick and cement are very common.
As soon as we entered town, we met a young Burmese man who wanted to practice his English, and kindly showed us around. He took us to several Buddhist wats, and monastaries (including one that was designed to look like a crocodile), as well as through the town streets and markets. The community was amazingly welcoming with huge grins and waves. It was a great afternoon, and an amazing cultural experience.
Back over the bridge (more water guns), we headed back into Thailand for a quiet evening in Mae Sot. The next morning, we were on the first bus out to keep working our way North to Chiang Mai for the main events... Kappy's Birthday and Songkhran!
Carla, Robin, and Kate