Tuesday 29 October 2013
Through the Myeik Archipeligo
Burma have very recently opened the borders into Thailand. Previously tourists could only fly in and out. So after some research we decided travel as far as we could go to the south of the country. The first leg of this was a day bus from Rangoon to Mawlamyine. Mawlamyine was a pretty town with more old colonial buildings. I got a traditional longyi here and we enjoyed the sunsets and food. From here we took an overnight bus to Darwei. Arriving at 5am dazed and confused after 10 hours in a bumpy bus we made our way to the beach in a three-wheeled motorcycle-truck.
At 12pm we were collected by moto taxis to drive us back to town to wait for a bus to the port. This was an exciting journey through the deserted streets and up the windy roads. Here we waited for two and a half hours on the street, with locals, for the bus to take us to the jetty to catch the boat at 4am to our next port- Myeik.
The journey was fairly comfortable, bar the blasting monks' prayer and the freezing air conditioning. Upon arrival we were hussled into a small immigration office where our documents were checked. The official was super friendly and helpful and even took us to a restaurant where he drank tea with us and told us that there had only been around 10 or so tourists that have to Myeik by boat so far.
A blog we had read had described Myeik as a horrible place but we grew to really like it. We visited another island where we saw a giant reclining buddha. The most impressive part was inside where there were hundreds on mini buddhas going through the strucutre. It was also fun to sample the street food in Myeik where we ate with a view of the water.
From Myeik we took a 7 hour boat to Kawthoung. The friendly official came to meet us on the jetty to ensure we got onto the boat safely. There is no ettiquette when boarding transport here. We sailed past many islands untouched by tourism along the Andaman Coast, finally arriving at Kawthoung.
Although still in Burma, Kawthoung felt more like Thailand. A pretty town where people speak Burmese and Thai and you can pay in either currency. It was our final chance to have a Myanmar beer before getting a long tail boat across the water into Ranong. Burma is awesome, particularly for its beautiful butterflies, dragonflies, glimmering stupas and pagodas, and wonderful genuine people. The food was hard work at times, but I enjoyed the free chinese tea, the milky sweet tea and the traditional coconut sweets.
Really enjoyed the zero hassle experience as we made our way down the coast. That is, no hassle from touts, taxi drivers and tourist shopkeepers etc etc. There was of course some general travel logistics hassle - but each time we'd hit a sticky spot, some Burmese people would always help out. Nice. Could it be a conditioned reaction to the large blue billboards in each town centre commanding "Welcome warmly our foreign tourists"? Or is it just that the people have been pretty helpful by nature. The latter, I think.