Border Run and Palm Reading in Myanmar

Thailand Visa Wisdom

There is no way out! Everyone staying in Thailand over a month has to deal with the visa situation which can be a pain in the neck. There are three main options for those with an entry stamp like us: Border run to Myanmar for a 15 day visa, with some interesting sightseeing along the way; border run to Laos for a one or two month tourist visa, but the trip is uneventful, long and tedious according to my research; fly out and back for another entry stamp of one month.

Note: People can also get a 3 month tourist visa before arrival and extend it in Thailand. I found helpful information about it here.

How to get the best of it?… Our decision 

After giving it some thought we went with option one AND three. This way we could get a feel for Myanmar (we are going to Laos after Thailand anyway) plus we can stop in Chiang Rai for a day/night and explore around there as well. Then, when the visa expires 15 days later, we fly roundtrip to Malaysia for another month extension.

On our way to Myanmar

8:30 am. It is a fresh morning in Chiang Mai. The pavement is still wet from the rain of the night before. As we walk outside the apartment we notice the food vendors in their regular street spot. I can smell the fumes of the soups and meats cooking. I raise my hand and wave down a passing tuk tuk.

A smiling old man stops as we hop in. I read that people smile all the time in Thailand, even if they are having a bad day. It is a Buddhist belief that if they do they gain good karma, but it seems to me that most people are genuinely cheerful. Although, it is true that religion plays a huge role in their culture.

We get to the bus station 10 minutes before 9am.  Having bought our tickets the night before, we have the privilege of arriving just in time. A nap and a few chapters in our books later, we are at the border of Myanmar. It is around 2:30pm. The scene reminds me of a smaller, rundown Asian version of the US-Mexico border minus the long waiting lines; there are street vendors, food, hassling and beggars.

Crossing the border

The border crossing is quite easy and straight forward.

We walk through immigration, a stamp in our passport and are out of Thailand. Then, we continue across a bridge and into Myanmar. The immigration office is rather unobvious for a country’s official entry point so I walk past it. Adam is behind me. They don’t notice I am foreign, but they shout for Adam to step inside, of course, he never goes without notice with his long reddish beard.

We go inside the little immigration room expecting to see an official setup with a uniformed agent. Instead, we see a sweaty young man wearing a black tank top and shorts (no blame, it was hot as hell) sitting behind an old messy desk. He writes something on the computer, collects the normal fee of 500 baht (around $16us) and sends us on our way. Adam and I both chuckle to each other on the way out about the differences between countries like these.

Our shortest visit to any country

We are in Tachileik, Myanmar which was once a major border crossing used in the opium trade from the Golden Triangle (Laos and Thailand). Our first glance shows a huge difference from Thailand, poverty is especially noticeable. A few steps down to the right we see a street market and make our way there. The vendors notice our presence and approach, offering us Viagra and cigarettes. Adam looks at me slightly offended like “Do I look like I need Viagra?!” I can’t help but laugh!

We finally find a place to eat. It is a modest restaurant outdoors. Everyone is staring at us, following our steps until we sit down. There is an older man sitting next to us. I can’t tell if he is drunk or just talks funny, but he speaks English well (something very uncommon) and seems very eager to help. He suggests that we order yellow noodles with chicken, a typical Burmese dish and pours hot tea in two mugs.

Next thing we know he sits at our table and starts going on and on with stories about his time in the army and his visit to Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Both Adam and I start to like the guy and think to ourselves that it’s our luck we happened into a legit conversation with a cultured local.

The conversation somehow devolves into palm reading.

I have to confess that I once believed there was something to this; palm reading, coffee reading, tarot cards… I even went to have my cards read when I was in high school and all I remember is that the guy told me to be careful not to get pregnant. Haha, I didn’t need him to tell me that when I had my mom telling me the same thing at home.

He tells us how Adam started his real adventure in life after he met me; that Adam is verbose and doesn’t mind being around people, but prefers alone time… all very generic things that could apply to many people and obvious after a few minutes talking to Adam.

Then he moves to my side reaching for my palm. He tells me that I am from a very wealthy family in Mexico (He already knows I grew up in Mexico by then). I start cracking up, – I wish!

As you can imagine, before it’s over he asks for money. Feeling obligated we gave him a dollar, and much to our surprise he asks for more! “Sorry, but no’… we feel naïve.

By then, we are done with our lunch and ready to go back to Thailand. We feel a little disappointed to be honest. However, I realize that this is an inaccurate representation of the country. It’s like going to the border of Ciudad Juarez and thinking all of Mexico is the same.

We jump on the public bus, happy to have 15 more days and excited to get to Chiang Rai…


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