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My Travel Story: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016
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  1. #1
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    Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Next week I'll be in Bangkok for three or four nights, then I'll take a bus to Mae Sot and cross into Myanmar and move north to Mandalay. The Myanmar visa is for 28 days, I hope to stay there for most of that time, and then I plan to cross Thailand and eventually get to Savannakhet, Laos. After some relaxation in Laos, I want to get back to northern Thailand and likely will spend the SongKran holiday in Phrae.

    For the first time, I'm taking a computer with me for my travels, a "ChromeBook" I bought for $100 US. I am hoping it will work well to post updates and pictures to this thread.

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  3. #2
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    I arrived in Hpa-An, Myanmar today. Just before leaving Thailand, about 300 meters or so away from the border, my tuk-tuk driver swerved to avoid a motorbike and we crashed into a parked pick-up truck, making a good-sized dent in its tailgate. No one was injured and the police were standing there watching the whole thing. They obviously considered the motorbike driver (also a taxi) at fault, which I'm sure he mostly was, but the tuk-tuk driver could have been going at a saner, slower speed, in which case he likely could have avoided the situation.

    Same old story: excessive speed, inattention, drunkenness, and sometimes good old fashioned stupidity are the main factors in Thailand's lamentable road accident figures.

    After that, crossing the border and taking a share taxi for the four-hour ride to Hpa-An was calm, relaxing, and fun. Being Sunday, banks were closed and the street money exchange booths across the border from Mae Sot do not take US dollars, so I exchanged Thai baht for Myanmar kyat. There are also ATMs to be found there now, which I believe was not the case until rather recently.




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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    A quick shot from the back of the songtiew they whisked me into after the crash. The offending motorbike with its headlamp lit, a policeman on one side and the tuk-tuk up against the truck. I was just happy we didn't tip over sideways because I was braced for the crash.
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    Last edited by Tim; 08-02-16 at 09:54 AM.

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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    The share taxi from the border town of Myawaddy cost 10,000 kyat, roughly $10 US, for the four-hour ride. We had nine people in the vehicle, though one was a two-month old baby, and three guys were crammed with the luggage in the back, so I had reasonable room actually. It was fun, I got to try out some Myanmar language. Two people also spoke some Thai.

    We stopped twice, once for lunch and again for cold drinks, while boys came out and washed the cars.
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    I'm still in Hpa-An. Today I've ridden a bicycle about 10km to the base of Zwekabin Mountain, the highest peak in this area and a popular climb for tourists. I've stopped at a boutique/resort hotel for beer. I asked about the price for a room and was informed the walk-in rate is $170 USD! Hah, my room in town (admittedly quite basic) is 15000 kyat, about $12.

    One thing I've noticed while sitting here is that the ethnic composition of the staff at this upscale place doesn't quite match the general population in the area. Hpa-An is somewhat more ethnically diverse than I expected, and besides the Karen and Bamar (the predominant ethnic group in Myanmar, from which the word "Burma" came), there are many very dark-skinned people here, some from India or possibly Bangladesh, others perhaps from other ethnic groups in this country. Here at this resort hotel all the staff are light-skinned and have a "traditional" Burmese look, which I'm sure is no accident.
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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    So, maybe someone can make sense of this for me. Issues of international trade are often baffling. Here at my guesthouse and at the "shopping mall" in Hpa-An Myanmar they have cans of Singha beer for 600 kyat, which at the exchange rate I received works out to 18.2 baht. This is much cheaper than the same cans in Thailand at 7-11 or wherever.

    What might be the reason for such cheap Thai beer here?

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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim View Post
    What might be the reason for such cheap Thai beer here?
    Found this almost 3 years old to the day article in The Nation that may explain-they make it there and it is consequently sold cheaper for the local market

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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    Thanks Don. That may not be the whole story. The also sell Chang beer here for the same price. Below is is photo from the lunch stop on my first bus ride here, with paddy fields behind. I took a good look at the cans and there is no indication they are made here.

    On the other hand drinks, food, and most other things are cheaper here than in Thailand (accommodation for foreigners is an exception) so maybe prices are low simply because that is all the market can bear. If so, it shows just how much profit is being made on the beer sold in Thailand.

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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    The Salween River, of the the greatest in the region, with a basin between the Mekong to the east and the Ayeyarwady to the west. All three of those rivers originate on the Tibetan Plateau in reasonably close proximity to each other.

    While somewhat environmentally damaged by logging (teak is very big business around here) the river is not navigable by huge boats so it remains in pretty good shape. It is also not dammed, although the Chinese (and probably others) would love to figure out a way to do that.

    This picture is taken in Hpa-An.

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    Re: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos -- three months in 2016

    U-BEIN'S BRIDGE, AMARAPURA (outside Mandalay)

    I spent eight nights in Mandalay, did a lot of bicycling on the one-speed bikes from the guesthouse. One evening, I rode out to the famous U-Bein's Bridge for sunset. A good time, and I was happy I had my own transport and hung out there long after nearly all the other tourists cleared out.

    It took me about 90 minutes to ride back to my guesthouse, much longer to get there because I got lost a couple times, but I had left plenty early in the afternoon so that was no problem. I brought my super excellent bicycle lights with me from the USA, and they really make me stand out to others on the road -- exactly what I want.
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