It was a long journey. We were sad to leave Laos, we’ve had a really good time in this country we both didn’t know before. We loved the atmosphere, we absolutely loved the people, their chilled pace of living (Yulala!), their welcoming “Sabaideeee”! We also found very interesting that Laos has kept a strong French influence with many people still understanding surprisingly well the language. Leaving Laos also meant for us saying goodbye to the Mekong, this incredible river that has been part of our daily life since our stay in the south of Vietnam, almost 2 months already! But with a little bit more than 3 weeks spent in the country it was time for a new adventure!
Myanmar and Laos have a common border however it is closed to tourism. Flying was an option but there were no direct connections, only expensive flights with long stopovers in Thailand. That left us with crossing the border over land, passing through Thailand…
It took us three long days but we made it! On day one we took a bus from Luang Namtha to Chiang Khong (right after the border). Since we’d missed the first bus of the day in Luang Namtha we arrived late and missed the connecting bus to Chiang Rai, so we spent a night in Chiang Khong where we had our first hot shower in about 2 weeks! It was a strange feeling being back in Thailand, where everybody speaks great English, buses were almost new, roads are in perfect state….
The next morning we headed to Chiang Mai where we arrived in the late evening. It wasn’t part of our original plans, but having been there before it was fun to unexpectedly be back in this city for an evening, enjoing Pad Thai and mango sticky rice, the night market…
Finally on day 3, it was 8 more hours on the bus to Mae Sot. Myanmar felt really close now… A tuk tuk brought us and a group of Israel travellers to the boarder crossing point. There, it was a little bit of a chaos: we didn’t really know where to go, there were no clear indications, a lot of people crossing both ways, it was hot and quite dirty as well… So we stood in line in the crowd of people, our passport in hand. We passed the first checkpoint then walked across the long bridge that separates countries. It was a bit of the same chaos once on the other side but we were taken to a deprive room with air conditioning to process our e-visa with the custom agents. No problem here, we were out 10 minutes later, on the streets of Myanmar!
What stroke us right away was that, just a bridge away from Thailand, the atmosphere was so different! We immediately felt the strong Indian influence present in the country, the different way of dressing with men wearing lungi (a type or Sarong). To be honest we felt disoriented for a few seconds as we first saw people with Thanaka drawings on their faces (the local sunscreen people wear and leaves yellow marks), and the intimidating red stained teeth and lips of people chewing betel leaves and betel nuts, the red spitting marks everywhere on the ground…
A few minutes, time seemed like it had stopped and we stood there with our big backpacks, adjusting to this new unknown culture, not knowing where to go… Until someone called us and asked where we were going. “Hpa-An” we said, and he proposed us a cheap car ride to our destination. The company was called Mr. Beauty and it is Mr. Beauty himself who sold us the tickets, funny guy!
3 hours later we arrived and checked in a small, cheap and very descent guest-house we had found on the internet the day before. We stayed two nights and one full day in Hpa-An, which in our opinion is enough. We rented a motorbike to go around the city and outside to visit Sadan cave, Kyaut Ka Latt pagoda and KawGon cave. Eating at the night market in the evening was great! Located by the lake, there are plenty of cheap and good food stands. Adrien also got his very first haircut by a hairdresser that evening at a local barbershop, which was a fun experience with a more than descent outcome for less than 1usd!
We were starting our Myanmar adventure. Our very first impressions were good. What a change in cultures….
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