Sunday, February 08, 2009


We cross into Burma or Myanmar, from Mae Sai, Thailands most northerly town, the River Mae Sai is the actual boundary. We worry our Thai 60 day visa might be compromised if we exit the country even for a couple of hours but it wasn't as a copy of our passport is taken, we pay a 500 bhts fee (about £2.50) and leave our actual passports with the Thai authorities. We give the copy passport to the Myanmar border guards as we walk over the bridge into Tachilek. We have to make sure we are back by 6.00pm when the border closes.

We take a tuk-tuk to a Buddha Temple that has a mural with English titles telling the story of Buddha. Burma used to be an English colony and they still drive on the right. There is a comprehensive article in Wikipedia about the problems and confusion around the use of the name of the country

Then onto a Tachileks golden pagoda high up on a hill overlooking Tachilek and Myanmar beyond. Buddhism takes a different form here and the statues of Buddha reflect this, for instance here he has a kind of crown or a ridge around his head among other things and there are no naga but there is a swan instead. Buddhist monks are allowed to marry apparently and their robes are darker and redder than the bright orange in Thailand.

We see no signs of the ravages of Cyclone Nargis which struck further south west in May 2008, we did see some military on both sides of the border which is perhaps only to be expected. We also saw evidence of poverty; dirty unkempt children begging, some of which were tiny tots barely able to walk, the whole air about the place was run down and sad. We go through a local market that was adequately stocked, although its range of fruit and vegetables was not as extensive as in Thailand. Many women wear a yellow powder on their faces to adorn and brighten their skin, some children have dabs too, the men wear sarongs, long skirts.

There is another market right by the border post, popular with the Thais who cross to shop at the cheap Chinese stocked stalls, here you can buy counterfeit designer goods. we see a group of Thai monks with enormous shopping bags taking their goodies back through the border - I idly speculate that they are outfitting their entire monastery in knock off Calvin Klein briefs, but I'm sure their shopping is really more mundane!

So that was Burma.

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