Border crossing Burma – Visa Run

Our visa expires in 7 days which requires a trip to Myanmar border (via Chiang Rai) to renew it, or pay a 500 Baht (£10) per day fine.

Chiang Rai is further north than Chiang Mai and considerably colder (officially it’s winter there). The day time temperature may only reach 22c and the night time could go as low as 14c.  So we packed our British summer clothes: socks, long trousers, scarf, gloves and cardigan/hoodie (no room for wellies)!

On Monday morning we went to Chiang Mai bus station and boarded the 10:30am Green Bus company(VIP seat). The journey was scheduled to take three hours. The bus/coach is a normal sized, yet fitted out with only 24 seats, individual TVs with films and games – a bit like business class of the road. We even had a stewardess/steward, not sure this is the correct term for a lady boy, perhaps stewardesssyboy would be a more appropriate name. We were served with a bottle of water and a cake. The cost of a one way ticket was 288 Baht (£5.76) After a pretty uneventful journey we arrived in Chiang Rai on time and made our way to our hotel.

Tuesday:  Early breakfast and make our way back to the bus station. We arrived just in time to catch the 10:00am Chiang Rai – Mae Sai Mini Van. The distance to the Mae Sai is 63 KM and expected arrival time 11:00am, cost per person one way – 45 Baht (90 pence) Not VIP travel but for less than a quid, you can’t complain.  It was a bit of a white knuckle ride, the driver was hell bent on getting there in record time, he overtook and undertook everything on the road and arrived nearly ten minutes early.

Mini VanMini Van – Chiang Rai bus station

Mae Sai is not a pretty place, the main road up to the border crossing is flanked both sides with street stalls selling trinkets, cheap electronic goods, toys, umbrellas, knives, knuckle dusters and the least thing you would have expected – roasted chestnuts. We made our way to the Myanmar immigration office and presented our passports and the 500 Baht fee (£10). The fee should be $10,(£6.25)  The Dollar note must be new and have no blemishes, this is just an excuse for them to demand Thai Baht and pocket the difference. Perhaps this is why Myanmar came 157 out of 177 corrupt countries. I will say; they were  friendly, courteous and smiled all the time we were being ripped off. We entered the city of Tachilek Myanmar and were surrounded by locals trying to sell us trips and city tours. We were also offered a 200 pack of ‘Marlboro’ cigarettes for 40 baht (80 pence) and when we declined his very generous offer he then produced some Viagra at the bargain price of 70 Baht. Must be hard times in Myanmar. We did find a duty free shop that was selling branded spirits, a bottle of Smirnoff was a very reasonable 250 Baht (£5).  Not tried it yet, hopefully it’s the real deal and not a very expensive toilet cleaner.

Our  return journey from Mae Sai to Chiang Rai wasn’t a white knuckle ride, we had a different driver who didn’t have a death wish. This area of Thai/Myanmar is known as the “Golden Triangle” and is notorious for illegal immigrants and smuggling drugs over the border, the current fashionable drug is Yabba and is a form of crystal meth.  Weekly there are reports of arrests and confiscation of millions Yabba tablets so it wasn’t a great surprise when the mini van we were travelling in was stopped and searched by the Thai police.  Thankfully our 250 Baht of vodka wasn’t confiscated…

Our passport is now stamped and we can officially stay for another 3 months. Unfortunately we will be making the same trip again. Let’s hope the Smirnoff is legit, next time we’ll buy more……

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Immigration office Myanmar
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Green Bus – VIP seat

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