Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crossing Burma overland

Is it possible to cross Burma overland? How would you deal with the occasional dump of a hotel?

Q: I am trying to find out about travelling from Thailand to China, via Burma. Is it possible to do this at the moment, via any means of transport on the route? Thank you for your reply, John.

A: A few years back, crossing Burma overland was next to impossible, especially for a private traveller. Then, in the summer of 2004, a Land Rover expedition became the first Western team to legally cross Burma overland in 50 years, though the red tape was a huge headache. I've just discovered that there is a travel agent called Tai Star Travels providing information about border crossings. It seems that visitors can now enter or leave Burma overland via its border ports, including Mu Se in Burma to Jaegao/Ruili in China. The agency offers to help with your own tailormade itineraries, either overland or via air between Burma and other Greater Mekong destinations in Thailand, Laos and Southern China's Yunnan province.

In China's Ruili town, there is an agency that also offers to arrange trips to Burma.

Then there are border crossing points from Yunnan into Burma's Nam Kham, Kyukoke, Kwanlong and Mong Lar, but they are all very remote and not being recommended by local travel agencies.

Foreigners can take a day trip across to Tachilek from Chiang Rai on the Thai border, then continue to Kengtung, and as far as Mengla on the Thai/China border. It is now possible to travel from Mengla on to Daluo and Jinghong in China but you must arrange the entry visas beforehand. Chiang Saen to China via boat is another option for visitors.

The most official way to enter Burma is to fly into Rangoon. The easy option for overland journeys from Thailand to China is to enter China from Laos.

Burma is a wonderful country and it merits a full month all to itself before you head elsewhere.

Q: How would you suggest people deal with the occasional dump of a hotel that we all hit once in a while on the road? Thip

A: This is a good topic to discuss in anticipation of travel. I'd suggest taking along earplugs, eye shades, a sarong, a bag liner, mosquito spray, and perhaps little things like candy or a snack to share with fellow travellers. But I realise those are personal requirements and I know many fellow travellers don't use eye shades. However, I consider earplugs essential, especially if your room happens to be near a karaoke or busy road. If you like to bond with the hotel owner and guests, prepare a little gift as well. If you don't trust what you'll find inside the hotel room, perhaps you should have your own towel, a roll of toilet paper as well as your own soap. Some of you may consider bringing a light cable and a small padlock to secure luggage if security is an issue. Make your own list, you might think of something different, like a mosquito net if you are allergic to insect spray. Have a good trip!

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