Remembering the Old School Thai Visa Runs to Kawthaung Myanmar

Kawthaung Myanmar


I wax poetic.


As the Farang Dirt Bag Trail of Tears runs from the Land of Smiles to places like Cambodia and Myanmar these days, I relish the good old visa runs from Thailand to Myanmar.


Before the Thai Coup and subsequent visa crackdown – ending the literally limitless 15 day exit/enter situation that some expats capitalized on for years – Kelli and I did regular visa runs to Myanmar from Thailand. If we stayed in Phuket the closest visa run was Kawthaung, across the water from Ranong in Thailand.


The Morning


After grabbing our $80 for the visa run company the day prior, we woke at about 5 AM. Breakfast. Quick shower. Motorbike to the police station in Chalong. This was the closest meeting point to Rawai (our Phuket town of choice).


The hectic process begins.


A nervous-looking, mildly frenzied visa run company worker hustles us onto the mini-van. We smile, flash the creds and hop on.


The remainder of the trip on Phuket involves stopping every 5-10 minutes at various hostels and hotels. More hostels than hotels. Said hostels house backpackers guaranteed to wake late. GUARANTEED. At least more than a few slowly slink out of their lodging, blinking, slaver on their lips, eye boogers gleaming in the early morning light, and perhaps a drunk being slept off. Even while awake. Talented folks.


Some backpackers are on time. Others 2 minutes late. Others 15 minutes late.


Everybody waits…….waits…….waits…..then we pick up our visa run cargo and off to the mainland we go.


The Trip


Gorgeous tropical, lush, heavy jungle greets you on this journey.


Most of the visa run from Phuket to Myanmar is masked in hearty, pristine, green foliage.


Kawthaung Myanmar


Perfect for passing out. Or for snapping Instagram worthy views. Albeit on the visarun.


Don’t be alarmed at the 14 year old soldiers holding sub machine guns at various check points in remote Thai areas. Most smile. Beckoning you to smile back. Or perhaps laughing at the frenzied farang piddling in their expat and tourist pants at the teens holding automatic weapons at military checkpoints in off the beaten path areas of Thailand where nobody is watching and pretty much anything can happen.


The Stops


Believe it or not, no stops were made on the journey to Ranong. Shocker. Thailand is known for world class rest stops offering you everything save funeral and burial services.


The Arrival to Ranong


Ranong does have a Moes Eisley feel to it. All visa run areas littered with tourists and locals alike do.


A bit lawless in some regards. Save nasty intergalactic aliens who do not like you.


Cattle I mean visa run precious cargo are herded toward boats. Boat operators hustle tourists and expats across beautiful and sometimes choppy waters as the loud hum of the motor provides us with a rhythmic tune.


We enjoyed breath-taking views of Myanmar on the way, various dazzling temples providing us with Burmese Eye Candy.


Bouncing to Burma


The boat arrives.


Aliens disembark.


Men in skirts greet us. Different deal than the Chiang Mai border runs, where men with crisp, white, official immigration duds worked the border.


Kawthaung Myanmar


The skirt dudes accept the huge pile of passports from the visa run guys. One immigration guy was not wearing a shirt.


During processing you are free to buy cheap cigarettes, liquor and other bargain basement fare from merchants. But make sure you return to the immigration spot in time; the visa run folks are on schedules so tight that they make Gordon Gekko look like a slacking piece of crap.


Names called. Passports collected. On to the boat. Off to Ranong.


We stop at a local restaurant for a simple Thai lunch. Covered via our visa run fee.


Hours later we arrive to Phuket, tired, but grateful that we had an extra 15 days to a month to spend in Thailand.