Monday, October 15, 2012

Well, that about wraps it up for Myanmar

I know, I really should have gone to the Thai embassy in Vientiane to arrange an extension to the overland 15 day visa exemption before crossing back into Thailand from Laos, but I didn't fancy the prospect of spending another 24 hours in that place, and anyway I wasn't anticipating my bank screwing around so much with my life, feelings and bowels that I'd need to do a visa run to Myanmar and give myself more waiting time.

If I had that sort of foreknowledge, I would have done myself in a long time ago, though at least I could have saved myself some girl trouble and Sri Lanka. Let it go, there are more countries to slag off. Myanmar isn't one of them, as I didn't spend long enough in the sovereign republic to get a balanced perspective. I didn't even spend long enough to watch an episode of Ren & Stimpy.

The running man returns

My girlfriend lives in Thailand, but up to now I've avoided overstaying my welcome in this country by spending half my time in other ones. That wasn't really an option this time though, as I had to stay relatively put to wait for my bank to send me my new debit card, and they'd already cancelled the card I use to book flights, make cash withdrawals and generally not die, so a wasteful visa run was the only option.

I at least tried to make the most of this annoying situation by choosing the only bordering country I hadn't visited yet, which also meant I could avoid paying extra and wasting another passport page (those are getting precious now) with a pointless Cambodia or Laos visa just to enter their country for 20 minutes. There are a couple of border towns in Myanmar that let you in for just 10 dollars, though you're not allowed to venture more than three miles from the jetty. I think I made it about 400 metres before the fear of getting shot and the blank stares of inanimate local kids made me return to the relative comfort of the shouting boatmen, taxi touts and pre-pubescent Viagra salesmen.

Me in mar
(or if you prefer, Bur-me)

I'm always impressed by the lackadaisical attitude to security on these land borders (Israel/Egypt being the notable exception). When I crossed into Laos, the sole guy appointed to check passports and ensure I wasn't an illegal immigrant was preoccupied with watching Thai dramas on a fuzzy TV set. Here in Kawthoung, they solved the issue of staff shortage by getting the boat guy to stamp half the passports of visa runners, like he had any official capacity. I could have been anyone.

The town itself isn't anything to write home about, I don't think many people would start their Myanmar trip here on the road to Mandalay. Everyone who takes the 20-minute boat ride from Ranong seems to be either a white tourist seeking another 14 days in Thailand (guilty) or a local from the Thai side stocking up on some of that green cream that Burmese women are fond of covering their faces with. Maybe one day they'll realise that wrinkled skin is less off-putting than skin permanently smeared with green paste, or design a cream that blends with the natural skin tones of human beings rather than Orion slave girls.

Maybe I'll come back and do this place properly. Or if my bank lets me down again, at least find a different spot along the border to do another wasteful visa run in a couple of weeks time.

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