23.03.2011 - 23.03.2011 28 °C
I had planned to do a motorbike tour in the mountainous Shan province of eastern Burma, however when I got to Mae Sai, the Thai border town, my guide was drunk. I found out that he is unable to see his family who live in central Burma because the military government imposes strict travel restrictions within the country, applying to locals as well as foreigners. So depressed, this guy took to drinking. It was heart breaking to see and hear. This guy, once a respected and well recommended tour guide, had been reduced to a wreck by the policies of a paranoid dictatorship. It brought home the human impact, on a personal level.
Without a guide, foreigners are not allowed to travel independently in the Shan province. You are allowed to visit Tachileik, the border town on the Burmese side, however. Many people take advantage of this by doing a visa run to extend their Thai visa.
The bridge between the two countries. Flags change at the centre point. Burmese immigration rules are, as you can expect, pretty strict. Every visitor has to surrender their passport on arrival and get it back when they leave.
Tackileik market was much grittier than the one just over the river. People constantly try to sell you drugs, fake cigarettes, porn, pirate DVDs and clothes.
The ‘Golden Triangle,’ consisting of the area where the Thai, Burmese and Lao borders meet is one of the most notorious drug producing regions in the world. Poppies are grown mainly in Burma, smuggled over to Thailand and then distributed all over South East Asia and further afield.
A temple for Buddhist nuns. The few Burmese people I met were lovely. Here, a lady saw me looking at the building and welcomed me inside to show me around.
The girls were chanting and swaying together in a trance; it was quite hypnotic.
Further down the road I bumped into a woman and two children who thought the sight of me was hilarious. They were so sweet, smiling, waving and giggling. These people clearly don’t get to see many foreigners wandering around and many would stop and stare as I walked past, with looks of curiosity on their faces.
The hills and valleys around the town were so beautiful and tranquil. After half an hour or so I was out of the town and in the middle of a rural scene which probably hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.
Cool number plate.
Burma on the left; Thailand on the right.