Bus from Mandalay to Bangkok, in 27 Hours
Last week, when my Myanmar trip was over, I need to go back to the civilization (read: cheap place with high speed internet). So, I decided to go to Bangkok.
The only problem was that I was in Mandalay, a city in the very center of Myanmar soil, so it’s naturally far away from everywhere.
I had wrestled with the several ideas about the route I will take and the transportation mode I will use. I flew to Myanmar and it cost me fortune, so in the name of balancing the book, I chose to go by bus. Beside, it would be a great experience! Distance be damned!
So I quickly asked the reception of the place where I was staying at and asked about the bus from Mandalay to Myanmar-Thailand border: Myawaddy. He said MMK 25,000 (about USD 22), leaving Mandalay at 6PM, and arrive at Myawaddy at 10 AM. Notice the AM and PM. Without any further adieu, I just paid him the money and he gave me the ticket. Great.
At 4:30 PM, I was ready. I went outside of the hotel, and immediately swarmed by motorbike taxi drivers. Let me be their object of auction! Lowest bidder wins!
MMK 3000 and 40 minutes later, I was in Mandalay southern bus terminal. Here’s the thing about Myanmar’s bus terminal: there is no organization at all! All the government provide to the citizen of Myanmar is literally just a piece of land. Literally. They don’t do anything about it, even the roads are dirt. There are a crapton of bus companies in the terminal, and each of them just sort of build a hut anywhere in that land. So, to take a bus in Myanmar’s bus terminals, one just need to navigate through the maze of bus company huts, and find the matching bus company. After that, just wait for the bus to arrive and get on it.
Fortunately, my motorbike taxi driver was super experience, and after just 2-3 minutes inside the maze, he found my bus company: Shwe Mandalar.
After waiting for a while, I just asked the lady in the office, and she pointed which bus I supposed to be on. After that, everything was normal. The bus staff checked my ticket and handle my baggage then onboard I went.
Here’s the wonder of bus terminal in Myanmar. In contrast with the terminal condition, the buses were really really new and in a great condition. I found that shiny new Scania was the most popular buses. After that, it was the ex-Japanese bus. You know, it was like parking your new Lamborghini in your barren backyard.
Anyway, my bus was really good. It was spacious. The bus company treated my well. They provided me with a blanket, box of snacks, a bottle of mineral water, and a bottle of energy drink (huh?). The suspension system was really good, especially for Burmese road (it’s super important!).
Mandalay to Myawaddy
After several hours moving, we were nearing the Myanmar new capital: Naypyidaw when we did a toilet and dinner stop. The scary thing about Myanmar bus ride is that they only give you 20 minutes. Sharp. If you don’t come back to your seat after 20 minutes, they will just leave without you. Hence I just used the toilet and waited literally hugging my bus.
Oh, during that stop, they gave me a parcel which contain a toothbrush, toothpaste, and wet cold tissue. Talking about great service!
Nevertheless, nothing eventful after that because I was just sleeping all the time. My only gripe with literally ALL of bus ride I’ve done everywhere, is that they always set the air con into the lowest temperature and set the blower to the max. One can only wonder why.
Waking up at 7AM, I found myself just one city before the border! At that time, my bus stopped again for a toilet and breakfast stop.
At 8AM, I was there! In Myawaddy! They said that the reason why we just need one hour to reach Myawaddy is because of the new highway. Before this, they needed about 4 hours! Even worse, the traffic was alternating every day, for example today the road will only accepts the traffic to Myawaddy and tomorrow it will be the opposite, never both.
Crossing the Border
After the bus stopped at field (I mean, bus terminal), I walked a bit to the border itself. First, I was looking for money changer, but every money changer there won’t accept Myanmar Kyat. To make it even worse, Kyat can’t be traded outside Myanmar. So my remaining Kyat is void now, until I come back to Myanmar again.
Walking through the border, there is a small building in Myanmar side that has a “Foreigner” sign over it. So went there I did. The process was easy! Just fill in a form, sit down, they take a picture, stamp, done. All in all, just north of 5 minutes!
Then off I go crossing the bridge by foot, somewhere around 300m. Along the bridge, there were a lot of beggars. As my Kyat won’t be useful to me outside, I just gave all of my small Kyat to them. I was suspicious that they know this.
Arriving at the Thailand side, I need to switch to the left side because Myanmar use the right side, the reverse of Thailand, and get to the immigration window. Again, it’s so simple: fill in a form, give it to the officer, stamp, done. No more than 5 minutes.
The next checkpoint was an army checkpoint. They asked me to open my bag as there was no X-ray scanner. Obliged, I was.
And I’m done with the immigration!
Welcome to Mae Sot, Thailand.
Mae Sot to Bangkok
Found a songthaew (passenger pick-up). It was only THB 20 going to Mae Sot bus terminal. The local in front of me was so kind to inform me that I had arrived in my destination. Without him, I would miss the bus terminal.
My first impression of the bus terminal: it was sane!
So I quickly went to the ticket counter and asked for a ticket to Bangkok. The lady said 7PM. No way I will wait! So I looked for the alternatives. They pointed me to go to Nakhon Sawan first by minivan, then from there catch another minivan to Bangkok. So THB 200 later, I got my ticket to Nakhon Sawan.
The journey was 4 hours. Nothing too interesting, other than the fact that the road was really smooth.
Immediately in Nakhon Sawan bus terminal, I was greeted by a Thai lady that knew what she was doing: getting passengers going to Bangkok. It was THB 170 for another 4 hours minivan ride.
Nothing too interesting again between Nakhon Sawan and Bangkok, except that I saw a lot of 7-11 after a week of no conveniece store.
The Last Leg
The driver dropped me in the Bangkok Mo Chit bus terminal. It was in the northern tip of the city. Thankfully there is metro station nearby: Mo Chit BTS Station. Except that it’s not near at all.
So after 2km of walking in the dark, I was abroad the metro.
At 9PM, I was there, in my hostel reception desk.
What a journey.
So, it was 6PM - 9PM the next day: 27 hours! I checked Google Maps and it said that it was 1400km journey.
All in all, it was a really great experience!