Myanmar to Chiang Mai overland border crossing in one (long) day

Hpa-An to Chiang Mai border crossing at Myawaddy to Mae Sot – a long travel day, but straight forward and do-able.

Our share taxi, pre- arranged by our guesthouse, Soe Brothers II, arrived at 8am to collect Mark and I and another single traveller from Israel. The three of us, along with the drivers’ wife and mother in -law and two other random Myanmar locals we picked up enroute set off happily to Myawaddy. The taxi cost 10,000Kyat (£5.30 per person).

After a few stops – once for the driver and his family to eat, and a second for the car to be cleaned on the side of the road (the driver was clearly in no rush to the border!), we arrived at the border around midday, where there were many currency exchange sites on the side of the road with excellent exchange rate from Myanmar Kyat to Thai Baht. The driver helpfully told us which passport booth to go to (number 9 for foreigners exiting the country), and the customs process leaving Myanmar was straight forward.

A 0.3 mile walk with our heavy backpacks in the midday sun felt like it took an hour, and then there was a 15-20-minute queue for immigration on the Thai- side, but again the process was straight forward.

Sweat soaked and already a little tired, we knew that we had to somehow get to Tak bus station for minivans to Chiang Mai. Our companion was sick with a touch of ‘Burma belly’ so had decided to get accommodation for the night in Tak, but we were determined to make it to Chiang Mai!

A row of pick -ups were parked at the Thai- side of the border, so we approached and explained we wanted to go to Tak and needed to be taken to a bus station to get a mini-van to Tak. The driver charged 20THB (around £0.50) per person and took us to Mae Sot bus station.

We approached the information desk at Mae Sot bus station, where the assistant seemed very helpful and told us the mini-van to Tak would arrived ‘soon’. One hour later and a little irritable, the assistant told us there had “been a bus accident” and he would have to get his ‘friend’ to take us to a mini-van bus station in Mae Sot, where a van would actually take us to Tak. We knew we were being scammed (because all the Thai people were still queuing for the Tak minivan) but felt we had no other option, as we couldn’t communicate to anyone about trying to get a ticket to Tak.

The tuk tuk driver charged the three of us 100THB for the ride of around five minutes, so 34THB each roughly, which we knew some of was definitely going in the information desk assistants pockets, and he even dropped Marks rucksack from the top of the tuk tuk to the floor. I was already missing the honest hospitality of the Myanmar people.

The mini-van to Tak, left five minutes after we arrived and cost only 68THB (around £1.50) per person. It was a pleasant smooth journey on well- looked after Thai roads and took around two hours. By this time, it was already 5pm! The mini-van took us directly to Tak main bus station and from there we purchased bus tickets to Chiang Mai, the bus departing at around 5.15pm, so minimal waiting! The bus journey cost 230THB (£5.10) per person.

The bus was luxurious, and we snagged the back seats at the back, with good reclining and lots and lots of leg room. We ate probably our third bag of crisps and some dry wafers (got to love travel day food!) and settled down for the ride. We both awoke startled at around 10pm when the driver was trying to rouse us from our deep sleep! Everyone had gotten off the bus and we were left at the back in a deep sleep! So unlike me, as I rarely sleep when travelling, but this long day had clearly gotten the better of me.

A taxi charged 100THB (£2.20) per person and we didn’t even care if this was reasonable or not. Around a ten- minute ride to the door of our guesthouse just south of the old walled city of Chiang Mai. We dumped our bags and jumped straight into bed.

All in all, a long day; made longer by the scamming at the Mae Sot bus station. There are public share taxis and mini vans from Hpa-An that leave hourly from 6am, so to try and arrive earlier in Chiang Mai this would be an option. Staying in Mae Sot or Tak would also be a realistic option if you didn’t feel up for a 14- hour travel day, but if you’re fast-paced and stubborn like us, then I hope this helps and provides you with some useful information about how to get there! I’ve heard other people having much smoother experiences from the pick- up drivers at Mae Sot, taking them straight to the correct mini-van station, or the same one as us without the information assistant! Anyway, we made it, its do-able, the buses on the Thai side are excellent quality, and it meant we had another day to enjoy Chiang Mai!

Katy

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