Home arrow Trip Emails arrow Burma

We left Bangkok after getting most of our visas - China, Laos and India. The one that we didn't manage to get was Pakistan. With the strong possibility that our way through Tibet will be blocked, the only other way from China to South Asia overland is down the ancient Silk Road through Pakistan. It's a route I have wanted to do for over 15 years, so an exciting Plan B. The problem obviously is getting the visa, however it looks like we might be able to get one in Beijing through the Pakistan embassy there. However, I digress.

We caught the night bus out to the Thai-Burmese border to a town called Mae Sot. It's a town that Ange and I had first visited in 2001 and our visit had 2 purposes. Firstly, we had to renew our Thai visa which we did with a day trip into Burma (Myanmar). Burma has been under the rule of a military dictatorship for years now and the difference in wealth between the two countries is huge. The people, however, are still lovely.

Image Image

Secondly, when we'd previously come to Mae Sot we'd done so in the back of a saewngthaew (pickup truck with 2 benches in the back that acts as a small bus) from the northern town of Mae Hong Son, and about an hour out of Mae Sot we went through one of the most incredible villages I'd ever seen. It was a Burmese refugee camp with bamboo walled and teak-leaf roofed huts packed tightly between the jungle and steep limestone cliffs. It's somewhere I'd dreamed about photographing ever since. The only problem is that it's a refugee camp and foreigners aren't supposed to go there without permits and a guide. Not being a fan of officialdom I hired a motorbike and headed out, drove through the Thai army checkposts and found the gate in the barbed wire fence and went in. I had a wonderful afternoon wandering around the huge village, admiring the simple but beautiful houses, the variations of ethnicity and religion. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming if a little curious. As sunset drew near I climbed up to a buddhist stupa overlooking the town and watched the sun go down. Several hundred photos later and I wondered back to where I'd left the bike. It was now almost completely dark and there's virtually no electricity in the camp. I got the general direction right but went up the wrong alley trying to find the gate. A woman's voice in perfect English said "May I help you?" from one of the huts. I asked if she could point me in the direction of the gate. She led me back and down the next alley and to the gate and my bike. As I was thanking her for her help and completing small talk about half a dozen men surrounded me and wanted to know what I was doing. I explained, mostly through Smi, the lady with the excellent English. They weren't happy that I was there and their group quickly grew to 15 some with walkie talkies and dressed in the militia clothes worn by the Karen army fighting the Myanmar government forces. To cut a long and at times very tense story shorter than the 90-odd minutes it was, I had to delete all the photos I'd taken in order to get the bike key and my passport back and to be able to head back to Mae Sot for Ange's birthday dinner. I wasn't in the dog box too badly as she was just glad to see me. Fortunately, I was able to undelete all the images using recovery software.

Image Image Image Image

I urge you to find out more about the situation in Burma, the regime and what you can do to help. A good place to start reading a general over view is Burma wiki page

From Mae Sot we went north to Chiang Mai and spent a lovely few days there exploring the wats (buddhist temples) and markets again before heading through to Laos.

Image Image Image