We’ve never seen so many smiling, happy people who were excited to see us, as we crossed friendship bridge into the Burmese country of Myanmar. The bridge was pure chaos! You had to change lanes from the left to the right hand side of the road as you cross into the Burmese country. Thankfully we were on foot & found the mayhem rather amusing.
It’s always really confronting crossing a boarder into a new country. The world you know changes in a matter of seconds, the language you just spent 4 months learning is now useless & you have get used to a new currency. We were totally unprepared as usual, had no clue of what to do, where to go, what the exchange rate was & spoke no Burmese. So we retreated to a phone store to get Wi-Fi & sort out our life.
The girls there were so sweet & helped us so much. We got Wi-Fi, bought a sim & data after exchanging our money & were back on track. We were offered a lift to Mawlamyine with two Burmese blokes who were chilling at the food stand next to the phone store. Same price as a packed mini van, so why not?
Turns out they were driving product there anyway, so we stopped & helped them pack the van. We’ve never been stopped so many times by checkpoints & Burmese police in such a short distance. Thankfully they were kind, friendly & only trying to keep us safe. Realistically, it’s still a new country, the borders have only been opened for a few years & they’re still trying to work out what to do with foreigners like us…
The drive to Mawlamyine was an eye opener to say the least. After being in SE Asia for almost a year, we’ve never encountered crazier, kamikaze drivers in our lives. Trucks overtaking semi trailers around blind corners on narrow winding roads. It was bloody scary & a recipe for disaster.
After 30 minutes we stopped, this Burmese guy managed to run off the road & tip his truck over. Thankfully he was okay, however the next accident we encountered, the driver wasn’t so lucky…. The guard railing was still in tact, but his truck lay flipped & squashed at the bottom of an embankment near a tight corner.
Just when we thought the roads couldn’t get any worse. We decided to take a shortcut as it starts to piss down raining. Soon the dirt turns into mud (go figure) & we’re stuck behind a bogged truck. I turn on our GPS to check out where we are & turns out there’s no towns around us & we’re not on even on a road…
I didn’t get a minute of shut eye on our drive to Mawlamyine. It was something out of a movie, smashed up cars abandoned on the side of the road & barriers dangling from the roads edge. But we made it, in one piece.
The Burmese are some of the kindest & friendliest people on the planet. Everyone is excited to see you & wants to help you. However sometimes their friendliness can sometimes be quite inconvenient…
We had our game plan all sorted; arrive at Mawalmyine between 3-4pm, get some food & catch the 7pm bus to Dawei. That way we arrive at 5am, can grab a coffee somewhere & save paying for a nights accommodation. But our friendly Burmese driver had different plans for us…
As soon as we arrived in Mawalamyine, old mate kindly organized us a mini van to Dawei. Within the space of 5 minuets, we had our tickets, bags stored away & were shuffled onto to this packed van. We had a small breakfast at 9am before crossing the border, so by 5pm we were famished! Our dream of getting food, a bus with air-conditioning & reclining seats soon vanished before our eyes.
Instead we were packed like sardines on a mini van with 13 seats & 19 people. We couldn’t move at all, let alone straighten our legs & the Burmese guy next to me kept felling asleep on my shoulder. The fact that we were absolutely starving was just icing on the cake.
We were forced to watch cringe worthy Burmese comedy with the volume blaring so loud, I don’t know how anyone could get some decent shut eye. Besides the noise, it’s not easy trying to sleep when your stomach is growling so loud at you. Each time we saw lights ahead or reached a village Dyl & I would get so excited that we’d be stopping for food. Each time we got our hopes up we were utterly disappointed…
We watched everyone mung into their snacks with severe envy. I’d even look interested & point to the weird food that they were eating, in the hopes that they’d offer us something, anything! After 5 hours on the mini van, we’d given up hope of eating. All we could do was crack jokes to each other “oh mate you forgot to stop at that food place, don’t worry we’re not hungry anyway”.
Just as we’d started nodding off to sleep, the lights suddenly turn on burning our sleep-deprived eyes. You know when you wake up super confused, well imagine waking up to some random Burmese dude opening the door of your van & speaking jiberish in the highest decibels possible. It scared the absolute shit out of us! Then we realized that we could finally eat, after 6 hours on this stupid mini van & you couldn’t wipe the smile off our faces!
The food was weird & we didn’t want to get stitched up eating intestines again. So we basically played a game of charades to try work out what each dish was. We looked like total dickheads, mooing like cows, snorting like pigs & doing the chicken dance, everyone was staring at us & laughing. Finally we got our meal & it tasted like heaven! Realistically it was semi cold rice with weird oily mystery meat aka “chicken” plus they over charged us. But you know what, beggars can’t be choosers, our bellies were full & we were happy.
After devouring our meal, we fell into a deep food comatose sleep. We woke up at 1.30am on the side of some random rode on the outskirts of Dawei. Thankfully there were a couple of random dudes on motorbikes, who drove us to a 24hr coffee shop. We spent the next 6 hours playing, uno, uno & more uno, until the motorbike rental place opened at 7am. Ahh the things you do to save money, when you’re backpacking on a budget!