Myawadi - 15 January 2009
At Mae Sot you can walk over the friendship bridge (a gift from the Thai government) across the Moei River to Myawadi in Myanmar but unlike the previous border run at Tachilek foreigners cannot stay overnight here.
At immigration it was the same process as before, you leave your passport at the border to ensure your return! The immigration men were really friendly telling us about parts of the country to visit but you can't access any of them from this border by road you have to fly in to Yangon or Mandalay so it wasn't much help.
Again we quickly found a tour guide who spoke excellent English and as we only had a short while to look around (and no maps of the town seem to exist!) we engaged his services. The town isn't at all set up for tourism, for example there are no local postcards or maps available.
We went to a lovely temple Shwe Muay Wan. It has a beautiful golden stupa coated in many kilos of gold leaf and with over 1600 gemstones at the top. It was beautiful with many colourful Buddha shrines placed around the temple.
They seem a very devout race and we saw many people come in to pray- prostrating themselves before Buddha.
There was a feast going on at one of the shrines with monks and high up government officials in attendance. They were immaculately dressed in traditional style but sadly our guide told us not to take pictures!
He also told us not to photograph a group of Karen rebels we saw. The Karens originally supported the English in the 1950s. Then the English lost and they have been fighting the government ever since. Now a break away group are on the government side. They are allegedly heavily involved in the smuggling industry.
The betel nut stalls again were everywhere - you can request different flavours like aniseed or tobacco to be added to the leaf as well as the lime paste. The street scenes and markets were very like Mae Sot though it definitely feels poorer. Clues that you aren't in Thailand include the ladies'' distinctive very long hair and golden face paint.
We saw a young man carrying large bamboo cylinders containing palm wine. There was a glass tankard hanging off that you drank from - if you fancied a quick dram as you went about your business. Apparently it is extremely potent (and as our guide informed us excellent for constipation!) We gave it a miss!
At the end of our little tour we went to a little tea shop and had a traditional Burmese meal - a variety of dishes - beef curry, pickled vegetables, and fishcakes in sauce - all eaten with Burmese rice (far superior to Thai rice we were told!) It was very tasty.
We walked back over the bridge passing many Burmese people returning to Myawadi. They are allowed to cross for the day to Mae Sot but not stay overnight - though many do illegally. We looked down at ladies hanging out their washing and kids playing on the river in tyre inner tubes and it was funny to think that one side was Thailand and the other Myanmar!
As we crossed we saw a great deal of teak products leaving the country - a major government controlled export. It was being sold in stalls on the other side of the bridge.
With another 15 day visa (at a cost of 500 baht or approx $22 Aus each) we headed back to Mae Sot.