Crossing from Thailand to Myanmar
Hi Everyone! Things going well and having a really interesting run here, so much to tell. Sorry I didn’t get the Thailand blog finished as I expected another internet session I didn’t get.
So a big THANK YOU to all the runners that ran and helped me there. Also to Narumol, Mr. Narong and Tey pulling the strings from Malaysia, I had a great time there
Hope to catch up as soon as possible.
As you can see this border only opened a few weeks ago,
Running the last 6km from Mae Sot Thailand to the border I was not very optimistic as a Dutch couple staying in my hotel said a lot of restrictions were in place and perhaps its a matter of time before I get pulled off the road thereby ending my unbroken route. I guess I have to be positive.
This is the situation I face after failing to secure my China visa, like a pawn pushed into a corner trying to figure out my next move from a weak position.
Kayin State is my first state here. A bit of a head wrecker this!
I was also a bit surprised when the immigration official referred to Myanmar as Burma. So after changing money from a money changer. Money which I may not be able to change back, Who knows I could be back in Thailand sooner than I expect, the future is uncertain. Then I tried to get a Myanmar sim and right enough the information I had gotten was correct, crazy prices. But before that I had a laugh as I went to a border mobile phone store and they sat me down while a girl went and got me a sim card. I had clearly said Myanmar sim and when I turned back on my mobile there was a welcome from the ‘ Happy Network ‘ saying had 120 Thai Bah!! What could I do, only laugh for it was just a few euro.
Someone told me to go back to the immigration office as they have a ‘ Foreigner Only Shop ‘ nearby where I could purchase one. Well I couldn’t as they were $1,000. The officer said they had a promotion for $100 sims, only 100 and they were all snapped up. A new way to fund raise from foreign visitors I guess.
So a lot of time wasted that day. I ran on into Kayin State feeling very privileged to be running on these roads were closed to the outside world just 10 short weeks ago.
Those first few days I had expected a lot of sad, glum faces but no they are among the happiest people I have met on the run, considering what they have been through. Some people may ask about the morality about visiting this country but I say give democracy a chance, a relatively new still trying to find its feet democracy. Lets be honest if I am running in an area once forbidden to the outside world, that must speak volumes for the great shift towards a free world. Surely if I can run across this country unhindered then the Myanmar government deserve some praise for its efforts?
Traffic drives on the right side of the road, the first time since Argentina 11 months ago. They use the mile system also.The officer at the border told me that as this is a very mountainous area with narrow roads that a one way system is in operation, traffic in one direction one day and traffic the other direction the next. That is only in this area till I clear the mountains in a couple of days.
On the way from the border I was stopped by this procession and offered a delicious juice by a Buddhist monk.
Then I came to what looked like a checkpoint and my heart missed a beat till I discovered it was only an Import/Export control.I ran through unhindered, the run goes on.
Not really sure what it was all about. I decided to play safe that first day and stopped for shelter at a monastery. Next day at an immigration checkpoint the officers tell me the monastery is called ‘ the police monastery.
I have a rough translation explaining what I am doing on the run and had some Burmese people translate it for me into their language. In the monastery a police officer just happened to drop by and I saw the monk show him my translated letter, no questions.Here the officers made a fuss over me, they couldn’t have been nicer even sending someone down to a cafe for tea for me when I asked if they had any coffee. Can’t believe I am running Myanmar, only short of putting my feet up on the table here they make me feel so welcome!
I had a pretty decent 52km first full day over the mountains with the one way traffic to my back. Every so often a vehicle punctured, so there was a backlog. People seem to be transporting huge cargoes of food and wares, probably for their shops in over loaded trucks and pickups.
By the end of that day, I was pretty shattered. I ran into a small town called Kaw Ka Reik and was applauded by even more immigration officers at the checkpoint to the towns entrance. They gave me refreshments and one officer escorted me to a ‘ suggested ‘ place for me to sleep, the Kaw Ka Reik Guest House. Luckily it was only 3 euro a night, so very welcome even if the room resembled a jail cell with bars on the window, I guess so as I cant avoid passport control!
So, I filled out the register, they don’t accept photo copied documents here! Copies work so well in many countries saving me hassle pulling out my passport. Then a young lad came along, no more than a teenager and asked for my passport details again. I asked the proprietor if this man was really a cop, they nodded and laughed. And then another immigration officer called for my details! When he was gone the hotel lady said she wanted to hold onto my passport till the morning. So I told her in no uncertain terms this is all ridiculous and refused.
Instead I spent a while trying to figure out the Myanmar number system that is used on the mile markers. I did this by studying the serial numbers on banknotes, which have dual numbering.
This is mile marker 64.2, Always something to make simple running difficult!
Only the odd sign has the English script. The one below is very rare believe me. I got to get people to write my place names down on a piece of cardboard and compare, or use my camera.
This is obviously a new sign to cater for tourists as its in Kilometres and not miles.
In the morning junior cop was waiting for me outside the hotel and rode down the road slowly after me. When we got to a junction he told me he is a police officer. Its still very hot, very hot.
After running through some town I came to a bridge with police officers sitting at a table. One stopped me and said I couldn’t run on the road across the bridge they were guarding. He told me I had to get on the back of a taxi motorbike.
Impossible I said, I am running around the world, no bikes! So I pointed to a pathway and said keep your road, I’m running on the path
And I did about 500 metres across the bridge. The officer just shrugged his shoulders, the same way a bouncer would when faced with a crowd rush at a gig!
That day I managed 55km and slept in a rubber plantation forest in my bivy. Earlier I had noticed a snake on the side of the road slither back into the grass just as I had to stop due to congested traffic. My foot was very close to his still very visible tail, for some reason I had no fear. That was my second ‘ live sighting ‘ in about 3 days. Despite countless dead, steam rolled into the tarmac snakes, live snakes are still rare, about 8 on the run. Dead snakes are easily the most common road kill also.
Another tough 51km day and I am loving Myanmar. Its a bit like Indonesia, just less primitive and the people sharper, also amazingly have more respect for space despite less foreigner sightings. Also liking to Indonesia is the tight, narrow busy road. That said I have got some maulers and gawkers also and the rubbernecks that want to help cause congestion problems on the road for me.
Here the Buddhist monks, and there are thousands of them ride around on motor bikes and drive cars. Unlike in Thailand. I am sure we all remember the scenes on our televisions from about 6 or 7 years ago with the protesting monks.