Wed 28 Jan 2015
We crossed the border into Myanmar on Monday. We entered at Myawadi. The immigration official on the Myanmar side flipped through my passport and mumbled to himself, “hmmmm……..South Africa” about seven times before calling his colleague to take a look. Fortunately, I was not in trouble. I was the first South African that had crossed their border (that they knew of) and only the third African.
Seven of us formed a group in Mae Sot and we’ve travelled together into Mawlamyine. Two middle-aged British guys (I’ve forgotten their names), Marko and Igor (Italy) and Pia (Germany). Pia is just out of school and rather naive. But I remember travelling when I was 19 and I was the same or worse.
We chartered a car from Mayawadi to Mawlamyine. The first stretch of the journey was along the half-built ASEAN highway. There were dozens of checkpoints, guarded by child-soldiers who the driver had to bribe to let us through.Once off the highway the road was more rural and peaceful. We stopped in a tiny village for a roadside breakfast of vegetarian samoosas and other Indian food.
Our guesthouse in Mawlamyine is right at the river mouth.The water is chocolate-brown, which is normal for South-East Asia, but the rubbish is mind boggling! The surrounding area is beautiful, but the river bank is covered in plastic. The city is nothing spectacular. Very run down and dirty. Old colonial buildings show that westerners were once here. The atmosphere reminds me somewhat of Pemba. The local people are very friendly and quite surprised to see tourists.