Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Crossing into The Republic of the Union of Myanmar

 From Dali we drove to the Chinese border town of Ruili, with its strange proliferation of neon lit buildings, where we spent the night ready to hit the border as soon as it opened at 8:30am.

Our first Burmese Buddha of many!
We got there in good time, and our guide started the process of getting the truck cleared through customs for departure.  And then we waited. And waited. That took us around an hour and a half, and then we had to get off the truck and take our bags through the x-Ray machines.  From there it was a short drive on to the border itself, where it took another forty minutes or so to actually leave the country.

At this point we waved goodbye to our Chinese guide Jason and met up with our new Burmese guide Myo Win Tun. But Myo is not going to be our only travelling companion in Myanmar. Because we are a foreign group travelling independently, rather than using Burmese companies, we are a bit of a new experience from the country, and this is only the third time a Dragoman truck has been here.  So we have to have special arrangements.  Not only do we have to provide a plan of where we are going and where we will be staying, which cannot be altered, we also have to have an escort.

So we were introduced to Mr Khaing, who will drive the little white car that will be our shadow for the next four weeks, and Tang, the government official from the Ministry of Tourism.  These two will be with us wherever we go. As I am posting this towards the end of our time in Burma, I can tell you that in fact this was not nearly as bad as it sounds, and in fact they were both great guys who clearly wanted us to enjoy our trip. Of course they didn't speak English, so there was no real conversation, but we all got along very nicely.

Now that we were out of China, we just needed to get in to Myanmar.  That actually went quite smoothly, albeit slowly, until we discovered that one of our fellow passenger's visa was not quite right as it didn't cover the whole time here. And so began a series of lengthy discussions and negotiations about whether he could be allowed in.  Eventually someone who had sufficient authority decided to allow it, and we were in.

Our paparazzi
After a further interlude spent changing money, as you can't get currency before you arrive, we were off.  Little tip here, Myanmar is another place that if you want to exchange US dollars, they have to be in perfect condition.  Also, you get a slightly better rate for $100 notes.

Getting gifts
Almost before we could go anywhere, we needed to stop off to see the man in charge of driving licenses.  I'm still not entirely sure whether there was really an official need for this, but apparently they wanted a photo of us all with the truck.  So we all got off and smiled for a bunch of people who all wanted to get in on the chance to take a photo of these foreigners and their strange vehicle. But they did also give us all a small gift, so that was nice.

Once released from photo duty, we took a short drive to grab some lunch. Despite gaining an hour and a half in the time change, it was well after 2pm, and we had a long drive ahead of us to get to our campsite at a Monastery in Hsipaw.

Dinner stop
The plan had been to cook once we arrived, but as the hours passed and darkness fell, we stopped off en route for dinner, where I was amused to a flat screen TV box sitting where otherwise you might expect to see the TV itself, and finally arrived at around 9:30pm to get the tents up and collapse.


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