myanmar border crossing confusion

2 offices under the same department, saying contradicting things. i would not have minded, but my wallet seriously has deep holes because of it 😭

there are not a lot of information about crossing the thai-myanmar friendship bridge. the myanmar website certainly offers vague information, so i relied heavily on blogger info (shout out to thrifty drifters! you were basically my blueprint for this whole adventure). however from what i can gather, policies change so much that information less than a year old are most likely obsolete (and in my case, definitely yes).

hence in my head, ima head to the myanmar embassy in bangkok, and clarify everything there. now that i am tucked away in hpa-an’s city center, i realize, nah…no one could have clarified anything at all

so, do i need a visa or not?

as a philippine passport holder, i don’t need a visa. i went to yangon last year and i breezed through immigration, no problem. but as i said, myanmar’s website is vague, reports from manila says this no-visa rule is only applicable for air travel, and all land travels require visa.

so my first day in bangkok, the first thing i did was go to the embassy. it’s easy to go to from khao san, just take bus, and it will drop you 1 block away from the embassy.

the visa processing center of the embassy looked a bit chaotic, but there’s a method to the madness, with queue numbers and all (apparently this is a new service in the office). i asked the guard first if i need a visa, having a ph passport. they laughed at me and said yes. ok!

as i waited my turn (about an hour), i observed my surroundings. there were notes on the wall that lists the countries that need a visa when crossing the border; ph was included. validation #2!

and then it was my turn. i asked the consul if i need a visa for land travel and she says yes. the consul’s word is absolute

and yet it isn’t (more on that later)

no more direct bus?!? 😱

this company caused me grief: VEGA TRAVEL. i mean, guys, if the route is discontinued, please update your site. i could have saved myself the hassle and bought a plane ticket. the price is not that different from bus. but i already paid for the visa, so i have to go through with it, otherwise i just forked over THB810 for nothing.

anyway, their office is close to the embassy, and if only i went in there and asked BEFORE i went for the embassy 😓. so the guy at the desk was helpful enough, tried calling some bus companies who has direct bus to yangon; unfortunately they didn’t answer. he did give me these parting words: they have in khao san, don’t worry

and so i did not worry and went back to the backpackers’ district, where i was met with the travel agents’ deriding laughters: myanmar very far! just buy plane. if only i can afford to BUY A PLANE

after swallowing them ridicules, i’ve decided i will push through with travelling by land

convenience vs. perceived affordability

combing through khao san, the cheapest they were selling tickets for was THB750. it seemed ok to me, given that the bangkok bus station is a bit inaccessible, and i will need to pay for a cab to get there anyway, so even if the prices at the station is 50% cheaper, buying from khao san is the less hassled decision

but i’ve been in bangkok a few times, and i was just waiting for my passport. so i went ahead and commuted from hua lamphong to chatuchak (THB42) walked a bit…then there was a construction i couldn’t cross so i got a moped for THB20 to get to the bus station the day before i wanted to leave. and true enough, them prices in the station were dirt cheap! THB392 to mae sot (the border town). i bought my ticket, rode a moped again (THB30) and the train (THB42)

add that to the cab fare i paid going back for my actual departure (THB50 for toll and THB91 for actual cab fare), the real value of that ticket is…THB629. depending on where you’ll be coming from in bangkok, it might be wiser to just buy the ticket from the travel agents

getting on the bus was…a commotion

when i bought my seat, it appeared i was the only one going to mae sot. and i hoped as i have a bad cough. but it was jam-packed, and just getting my big pack in the compartment was…confusing

after waiting patiently for my turn, the driver shut the trunk door, and i was like: hell no! that’s when i started to push my way closer. i noticed some people were paying just to get their stuff in that compartment. whut WHUT?!? luckily, when i showed the driver my ticket, he opened the compartment again and didn’t ask me for money, otherwise…i would have paid because he spoke no english and i spoke no thai

from my window seat i tried to see if my bag managed to stay inside, as they constantly rearranged luggages to force in the other packages people were paying for

are we at the border now? why are guys in fatigues checking passports?

around 4am-ish, a guy in fatigues got in the bus and started checking and stamping passports. that’s when i realized most of the people in the bus where burmese. i looked outside and saw a sign that says tak. ok, i’m still in thailand, far from the border, why are they checking passports?

at this point, i started to become a little paranoid as i’ve never read about any of this before. i read they were gonna check passports IN MYANMAR, but when it was my turn, he just stated that i’m from the philippines and asked me where i’m going (myanmar) and left my passport unstamped

i don’t want to wait for immigration to open at 6.30 at the immigration

it was freezing! so i waited it out at the bus station for 1hr. i saw a group of caucasians arrive and went straight to the songtheaws and i wondered if they new that immigration opens at 6.30

i found myself a songtheaw at 6am and i arrived less than 30min later. i guess they open earlier since i saw no sign of the caucasians waiting it out

on the way to the bridge, we were again stopped twice by men in fatigues for passports. moreover, the thai immigration official asked me how long i will stay in myanmar, which  made my sleepy head wonder once again which side of the border i am on

so…i really don’t need a visa? wiof34g0q4r702qt3fb2if

so i crossed the border bridge, freezing cold, to the other side:

“philippine passport no need visa. can stay 14 days free”

“even by land?”

“yes”

this information was volunteered freely. to confirm his statement, the burmese immigration official looked at what i presumed was a cheat sheet of countries he can give free access to

goodbye THB810

Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge - Myanmar Side
hello from the other side

where the hell are the money changers?

it’s 7am. nothing is open! and i don’t have the money to pay for a trip to hpa-an. so just to get going because i really want to sleep, i exchanged SGD25 for dirt cheap exchange, overpaid a private car by MMK2,000, waited a few minutes for the car to be full, and went on my (un)happy way. (NOTE:  the road is now 2-way, though given the size of some parts of the road, should have probably remained 1-way)

Road to Hpa-An

…and did i mention it’s saturday. no money changers at all

in hpa-an. i stupidly exchanged all my remaining bhat (which i need for when i go back to chiang mai), then later asked for an atm. le sigh. i need to learn how to forgive myself for all the blunders i’m making for this trip

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