I’ve just crossed the border between Thailand and Myanmar. A little frequented land border mostly used by tourists doing visa runs to renew their Thai visas, thereby spending only minutes in the fascinating young country that Myanmar is. I on the other hand couldn’t wait to leave Thailand. I’ve spent 4 weeks island hopping through the southern part of the country and my 30-day visa is running out in a couple of days. Thailand was the perfect destination to rest up after the very intensive first 3 months on the road. The Thai beaches, incredible street food, excellent weather, fruit shakes and easy transport connections treated me really well, but the last week I felt it was time to leave.
As a relaxing, affordable and exotic holiday destination few places in the world beat Thailand, but at the same time the authenticity of many places and the possibility for adventure are scarce and far in between. The country’s succumbing to the hordes of international tourists claiming their place under the sun, and thousands of other backpackers moving along the well-established Pancake trail. To avoid having my soul crushed by yet another set of drunk English speakers being boisterous in the streets and lobster-coloured people complaining to pharmacists about the strength of the midday sun, I decided it was time to leave. I needed a challenge, a place undiscovered by the masses and with possibilities to get a little off the beaten track.
A month in Southern Thailand, an itinerary
Mid-December I took a ferry from Langkawi in Malaysia to Koh lipe, the southernmost Thai island. The immigration office on this tiny island didn’t seem like the worst place in the world to work, located right on an exotic beach with a few beach bars around it.
After 5 nights on this beautiful island I took a speedboat to Koh Kradan, another tiny island that hosted nothing but a handful of beachside resorts. I stayed in the most modest one in the centre of the island, and the only one with a dorm.
Next up was Koh Lanta. As I really needed a few days of doing nothing at all this was the perfect spot: long beautiful beaches, cheap motorbikes to hire and incredible coffee shakes to enjoy with the sun on my face. I stayed at the Blanco Hostel and spent Christmas here with a bunch of other backpackers from all over the world. Great sunsets, too.
Next I spent an exhausting day reaching Koh Phangan for the full moon Party on New Year’s Eve. I met up with Livia who arrived from Abu Dhabi and Ana, a friend of hers. We spent 4 nights at Mayom garden, a pleasant jungle hideaway with outdoor bathrooms and good food. Although the full moon party was the main reason we were here, looking back the splendid night market was more my cup of tea.
Next up: Koh Samui. 2 nights in a beach side bungalow. Thai massages, reggae bar cocktails and a few good conversations.
We said goodbye to Ana who had to go back to work, and Livia and me took a bus to Khao Sok national park. Art’s riverside guesthouse provided us with everything we needed, including swinging from lianas into a natural swimming hole and a daytrip into the national park, trekking through a cave filled with thousands of bats and (probably just as many) huge spiders.
I originally planned to go straight from here north to Ranong to cross the border with Myanmar, while Livia had to go south to Phuket to fly back to Abu Dhabi. My phone had different plans though. The screen suddenly died and doubting that I could find any place in Myanmar that could fix it I decided to make a detour to Phuket. I saw Livia off to the airport, feeling a bit under the weather already. Then I checked in into a cheap but comfortable hotel a little outside of Phuket old town and didn’t leave my hotel room for 3 days, unwell with a cold I probably caught by all the air conditioning everywhere. I extended another 2 days to take care of my phone and to use the surprisingly fast public WiFi to backup 120 GB worth of pictures to the cloud.
Eventually I continued my original plan and took a 6h bus to Ranong where I spent a night in an empty hostel and met up with Diana, the only other person staying there. The next day we crossed the border into Myanmar together, she to get a new Thai visa, I was looking for a new challenge, well rested and ready for the next part of my trip.
So here we are. I have a Burmese e-visa that is valid for 28 days. I’m not sure yet if I’ll use all of these days. In fact I know barely anything about this country, that has only been opened to tourists a few years ago. The southern part where I arrived today is very little visited by tourists. Over the course of the next two weeks I’ll make my way up to Yangon to meet Livia again to travel together to Bagan, the legendary temple site. After that I have no clue as to what to do, but I’m pretty sure an itinerary will unfold itself. It always does. Looking forward!