Sunday, June 14, 2009

From Laos to Thailand to Myanmar in one day

From Luang Prabang, we backed track to Oudomxai. After lunch at Oudomxai, we shot for Huay Xai. The road, route 13, out of Oudomxai was badly maintained up to Na Maw. Until we were about 30 km to Boten, border town to Yunnan, China, we turned left towards Huay Xai. From there on, the road to Thai border was very good. We arrived Huay Xai just before sundown. We checked out a couple of guesthouses and selected Thanomsub Guest House for car parking within their compound but no linternet though. We paid 400 THB for the room with aircon.

At Huay Xai, vehicle ferry was located a couple of km away from passenger ferry crossing. Miss G guided us to the vehicle ferry point. Looking for custom office was tiring. There were no sign board indicating custom office. We were directed from one place to another. Finally, we found the custom office, the hut on the slope (with blue canvas). It took about half hour to get the required stamps on the Carnet. Then, we drove back into town and did our passport clearance. After that we went back to the ferry point looking for ticket office for vehicle crossing. The fare was 1,000 THB.

As soon as we got off the ferry, Thai custom officer signal us to park the car before the barrier. He told us to clear immigration first then custom.

We cleared the immigration in no time and went to the custom office. The office told us that the custom office is one km away and he told us to follow him. On his motorcycle, he lead us to the custom office. The chief of the custom office was very friendly. He could speak Mandarin and we chatted for few minutes. As usual, the clerk punched in the information about the car. Within minutes, the form was printed. Neo Chian put his signature on the form and the chief signed it. Then it was done. We cleared everything by 10.30 am. We decided to look for insurance for the car in Chiang Khong. Finally, we were directed by friendly and helpful Thais to an insurance agent. We paid 300 THB for 3rd party insurance for personal injury, not car. Well, that is better than nothing.

The road to Chiang Rai was very good. We got to Chiang Rai at lunch time. This huge Reclining Buddha was along the way to Chiang Rai. While having lunch, we agreed to head for Mae Sai, border town between Myanmar. Since we have the visa for Myanmar, we could enter Myanmar. If we could find secure parking at Mae Sai, we would cross into Myanmar and stay a night. Otherwise, we would check into a hotel at Mae Sai and enter Myanmar the next day for a day trip. At Mae Sai, we found a secured parking close to the border for 80 THB over night. So, we packed cloth change for one night. With one backpack each, we walked across to Myanmar.

On Thailand side, you could walk to the arch that says "The Northern Most of Thailand". After Thai immigration, you got on the bridge which links the two countries. Probably not more than 100 meters. I took a picture on of the river on both side of the bridge and one looked back into Thailand. These two countries were separated by a river not more than 50 meters wide.

On Myanmar side, we were directed into immigration office. We were greeted by an immigration officer. We presented him our passport. First thing he did was showing us a 500-Baht note and said "500 per person". After he collected our money, he signaled us to the next table. At the next table, this officer keyed in our particular and took my picture with a webcam. Then, a printer printed the personal particulars and photo. Went back to the first officer. He stamped and sign. When Neo Chian asked for the passport, he said no. They would keep and return to us on our way out. Well, we couldn't said No. We left the immigration office without our passport, only a printed card with our photo, passport details.

Riverside Hotel offered 550 THB, 50 THB discount, after a hard bargain. The cheaper room was 400 THB fan only without aircon. After checking the rooms, we took the fan cooled room as it faced the river and was airy. The receptionist asked for our passport. We showed the card. She kept our card! When we asked why, the answer was this is government regulations.
From the corridor (not balcony), we can see the bridge connecting Thailand and Myanmar. The river is so narrow. With a 56 degree wedge, you could probably break the window of the Thai house across the river without even trying a full swing. I caught these two guys "walking" in the river. Thais or Burmese, not sure? They seemed to have fun.

We ventured out to have dinner. Now the border was closed, the bridge turned into open air hawker place. Hawkers laid out the tables and chairs along both side of the road. Immigration closes at 6 pm. and opens again at 6 am. We ended up in a Muslim restaurant as it was the most promising thing we saw. Surprisingly the lady spoke to us in Mandarin. After dinner, while we strolled back to Riverside Hotel. we saw a lady buying durians. Neo Chian and I was discussing whether the durians were ripe in Mandarin. This lady turned around and told us that the fresh is soft in Mandarin. So, we asked her help and bought one durian. The taste was okay, not great. We were surprised many people could speak Mandarin at Tachilek.

The street where we stayed was not lighted. Light from the shop houses helped. Neo Chian's torch light was put to good use. While we were 50 meters from the hotel, people were playing snooker. We watched the locals playing for a while. Knowing we are foreign, the boss came out from the back. He spoke to us in Mandarin. He asked if we wanted to play, 10 THB per game.
That was good deal because it would take us a good 40 minutes to play one game. The keeper set up the table. Wait a minute, something is not right. The coloured balls were set correctly but only 3 rolls of red balls (6) instead of 5 rows (15) as in normal snooker. So a game would only take 15 to 20 minutes. This is smart business idea from the owner who is from Yunnan, China. He came from China 10 over years ago and settled in Tachilek. He sells noodle soup across the street and sets up this one table snooker saloon two months ago. We didn't want to stay out too long and played a game and went back to the hotel around 8.30 pm.

Next morning, we hired a "Tuk Tuk" for 80 THB touring a couple of tourist sites before returning to Mae Sai around 11.30 am.

Township Dhammayou Temple

Shweqdaon Replica at Tachilek

Regina Hotel & Golf Resort

This hotel resort has a casino and 18-hole golf course. If we were to play a game with borrowed club and caddy fee, it would cost about 2,000 THB. We tried our luck at the casino and contributed 1,000 THB.

Tribal Village
The entrance fee for "Long neck tribal village" was 140 THB per person. As usual, we were the only two there. This place was next to the hotel and looked sleepy. We wouldn't sure if we got to see what we had in mind but went along. After we paid our entrance fee, the receptionist shouted in local language toward the slope. (the village is up the slope 20 meters way). While we walked up the steps, these tribal women just coming out from the quarter to their store front. It was a place with tribal mechandize and some ladies dressed in tribal custume. We saw only two long neck women. Within 10 minutes and we were done and back to our "Tuk Tuk". This tribal village visit was a disappointment.

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