BURMA = MYANMAR: A couple hours ...

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July 29, 2009 in Mai Sae Thailand, we crossed into Myanmar for a couple hours. By foot.

With fellow bikers/explorers David Unkovich and John Gunston. Great guys by the way ...

David at the Myanmar border.

We were close to the border anyhow, our Thai visa had only a day left, so best to re-enter the country and get a new one, versus extending.

Of course Myanmar will NOT let you in with a bike, I tried. Even wrote months ahead to Ambassador U Nyunt Tin, Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, Ottawa Canada. Mr. Ambassador was neither dignified nor polite enough to even to get a secretary to reply. Here is my letter to him:

My unanswered letter to the Myanmar Ambassador

John Gunston (photojournalist) and his beautifully tricked-out BMW 1100GS; David Unkovich's brilliantly tough Honda Africa Twin with 250,000 km on the clock, and Black bike – at the northernmost point in Thailand. Just as we are about to cross into Myanmar for a few hours ... sans les bikes.

Photos courtesy John Gunston, the guy with the BMW.

Lots of begging in Myanmar, rotten-teeth women on the street, pesky-as-hell kids one of whom I had to tell to 'fuck off' forcefully after five minutes since nothing else worked, and he amusingly replied the same words in decent English. But he did fuck off while cursing me back. Even the monks bugged us in our short time there.

A contribution basket is under the monk robe;
you make a donation, pray to him, get a blessing in return.
They traditionally do their rounds every morning.
Food is the normal donation in villages.

We just walked the marketplace, which is aimed directly at the Thailand cross-border business, composed of hundreds if not thousands, of small shops selling mostly made-in-China blatant knock-offs. Louis Vuitton, Cartier bags, etc., every kind of $10 fake watch you could dream of, entire huge shops of DVDs and CDs, cartons of fake Marlborough cigs, and the Viagra peddlers are non-stop on the street – why they picked on me almost literally every minute, with the fake Viagra bargains, remains a matter of painful speculation. (It's not funny, wipe that smile off your face.)

Our entire purchase was a Neil Young, Heart of Gold DVD movie, for $1. I'm not suggesting it might be pirated, but at a buck including identical packaging ... We passed on the countless Michael Jackson complete collections, including one in an aluminum suitcase.

By the way, the Government keeps your passport at the border and gives you a card in it's place; the passport is retrieved on exit, no problem. The entry visa is about US$20 per person for a short stay.

Myanmar is clearly a poor and fairly tough place these days, although we saw almost nothing of it. I tried to photograph one soldier/cop – he was nothing like warm and friendly, waved me away with zero uncertainty. This is a no-nonsense military state.

Too bad, it evidently has great and beautiful historical monuments and a rich traditional culture.

Maybe some day.

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