Friday, 13 July 2007

30th June – Burma

Up early for our trip today. First we had to head over to the immigration office to get stamped out of Thailand and sure enough there was our boat guy waiting for us. After formalities we set off with him, whose name was Mr Rambo, to the pier. It was a mass of long tail boats waiting to ferry goods and people over to Burma. We had to climb over a couple of other boats before getting into his. A long tail boat is powered by a car engine strapped on the back and steered by a huge long pole with a propeller on the end of it. It’s also rather noisy. Mr Rambo turned out to be very helpful and pointed things out to us on the half hour journey across to the Burmese mainland.
We stopped on the way at a small island which seemed to be a sort of immigration and he took our passports to show them to an official while we stayed in the boat. There didn’t seem to be any other foreigners doing it this way which was a surprise to us as we expected to see lots more expats. We found out later that most fly to Malaysia and get a three month extension there at the Thai embassy. After the short stop we soon arrived at the border port of Kaw Thoung. As soon as we alighted from the boat we were surrounded by people, mostly men. ‘You wanna buy whiskey, cigarettes.’ ‘ I show you good shopping’ etc, etc. We managed to get to the immigration office, where it was a quick procedure and a good money maker for the officials as we handed over $40 for the privilege. I really wanted to have a look around the market area before we headed back and maybe explore the town but we were suddenly conscious of the watches we were wearing and the cameras and wallets I had in my bag. It felt very different from Cambodia where we were often surrounded like this and we decided to abandon the idea of exploring and head back to the boat. The only problem was that Mr Rambo seemed to have disappeared. A woman came up to us trying to sell us some awful food wrapped in newspaper, a few men were standing by Nick talking about football one minute and the next asking for money. One man had followed us all the time since we got off the boat. Mr Rambo finally arrived back with a stash of whisky and we got on our way back, much to our relief. It was not a good experience but made us even more determined to visit again and see the country properly at a future time.
It was a quick procedure when we got back to Ranong to get stamped back into Thailand and we decided to start heading back to Phuket straight away.
We stopped at a place called Bang Niang on the way back for some lunch. It was quite sobering when we walked down to the beach as this whole area was the worst hit by the tsunami. It is quite flat so in some parts the wave reached up to 4kms inland. The devastation at the time was incredible. There is a memorial about 1km from the beach of a police boat that was washed up and left as a reminder. All the houses, hotels and restaurants here are brand new and there is still a lot of construction going on.

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