Tag Archive: myanmar

Myanmar: Trekking around Kyaingtung (Day IV) [Akha and Akhe Villages]

My final day of ‘trekking’ around Kyaingtung was sadly not as good as previous days. I don’t have many decent photos so have put a few snapshots from my compact camera in to fill it out a little. The day started as usual, buying a few items in the market to give to the villagers we visited. I also bought some local tea (which i unfortunately forgot to retrieve from Sai Zawm Wan’s bag at the end of the day).

Photo: tea stall at the Kengtung market

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Not far from the main road, we entered an Akha village. My guide had been there some months previously for a village celebration. To his surprise, the people were not wearing traditional Akha clothing. The chief’s son explained to us that they just wear traditional clothes on special occasions. I spotted a small church, and the chief’s son explained that Christianity was now popular in the village. That was a surprise for me! I decided not to take any photos here as it nice to just sit and talk, rather than snapping away.

Following lunch, our next destination was an Akhe village. The Akhe people are ‘sister’ people to the Akhas, and wear similar traditional clothes. The women are also known for smoking large pipes. On entering the village we were called into the first house, where an old lady in traditional costume welcomed us, served tea, and received our gifts. The Akhe clothing is very similar to that of the Akha, but less elaborate; the headdress of the ladies doesn’t carry the sliver that the Akha headdress is known for. Conversation quickly turned to a sales pitch, and various goods we brought out to show. Two more Akhe ladies joined us and immediately started showing me necklaces and bracelets to buy. I was very conscious that there was little conversation happening other than sales which, considering we had been there just a few minutes, made me quite uncomfortable. I told my guide I wanted to leave and we thanked the lady for the tea and made our way back to the scooters. I was feeling quite sad that the introduction of tourism to this village had essentially turned the ladies into high-pressure salespeople and the tourists into cash cows.

Photos below:

  • The ‘toll booth’ to pay for crossing the bridge to the Akha village
  • Fishing with electricity in the river
  • A broken-down truck at the entrance to the Akhe village

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Our next stop was at a pagoda that had views across the plains. At this time of year the air is a little hazy, but that doesn’t detract too much. I was interested in visiting more villages, so I was quite relieved when my guide suggested we move on.

Our last stop was to visit an older Shan man that my guide knew. It was really nice to talk to him about his life, and to hear him talk about his tattoos. He wanted some photos, which of course I took and emailed to my guide for printing. I would have preferred to shoot from a lower angle but, because of a staircase and handrail, I had to shoot looking downwards. Regardless, I hope he likes them. After our conversation was concluded, we made our way back to Kengtung.

tattoo traditional myanmar shan

My last day trekking was a bit of a disappointment. However, the previous days had been really enjoyable so I had plenty of great memories of the area. I hope to visit again next year. However, having seen the nearby villages, I will need to find a guide who can take me to more remote places, including close to the Chinese border. There are many ethnic groups living in this area, and I feel there is much more to see.

I have some final thoughts on hilltribe visits, as it appears the hilltribes get little benefit from tourist visits compared with other sectors e.g. accommodation providers and guides. However, I think I will leave those thoughts for separate post to be made after returning home.

Getting a Myanmar Tourist Visa from the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok

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If you are planning to do an overland border crossing from Thailand to Myanmar (Burma) you will need to get a visa in advance. Visa on arrival may be available in the future, but not at time of writing. Getting a 28 day tourist visa for Myanmar from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in Bangkok is really easy. Here are a few tips to help you get one quickly.

Getting to the Myanmar Embassy

The Embassy of the Union of Myanmar is located at 132 Sathon Nua Road, in the Bang Rak district.  You can go by taxi, but it is cheaper to use the skytrain, getting off at the Surasak BTS station. You need to exit from the north-east exit of the station (exit 3), and walk east on Sathon Nua – just follow the skytrain track back around 300 m.  Keep looking left, as the entrance to the embassy is on Pan Road (Thanon Pan). Click here to see the map.

It’s easy to find, but i used my smartphone GPS  with google maps just to make sure i was heading in the right direction. How easy it is to navigate Bangkok these days 🙂

myanmar-embassy-bangkok

What time to get there and what to bring

The embassy opens at 9 am to 12 pm for visa applications. However, if you want to get in and out as fast as possible i recommend this:

  • Arrive at the embassy at 8 am
  • Ask in the room the left of the embassy for a visa form (free), or get one from the photocopy services outside or up the street (small charge)
  • See one of the many people offering photocopies and photographs to get your passport copied and obtain 2 photographs. I recommend the little shop around 50 m up Pan Road, on the right. They have everything you need and you can sit down and fill out the form. They will also glue your photo and check the form to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Prices are reasonable.
  • Alternatively, arrive at 8:30 am and bring a completed form, passport, photocopy of the main page of your passport, and two passport photographs.
  • You’ll also need to bring some money to pay the fee, see below.

I have heard of people arriving at 10 am and there being no queue outside. However, I didn’t want to risk waiting too long to be seen inside, so i turned up early. I’d be interested to hear from people who have tuned up later in the morning to hear if you had to wait long to get to the counter.

Tips on filling out the form

  • Glue one photo to the top left of the form, and paperclip the other one to the top right of the form (the little shop did this for me)
  • The form asks you to provide an address in Myanmar. It is acceptable to write “holiday in Myanmar” if you don’t know where you are staying
  • You will need to give your occupation. If you are a journalist, they may want to know why you are going to Myanmar so consider if this really is your occupation.
  • You will need to state your religion. If you are an atheist, or a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you may get a raised eyebrow. I wrote “Christian” just to make the process nice and smooth, even though i don’t believe in fairy-tales.

By 8:30 am there will already be a small queue. Join the end and wait for the doors to open!

What to do inside

As you walk inside they will give you a ticket to assign your place in the queue. You then sit and wait for your turn. I was issued ticket T0003, which meant i was third in line for a tourist visa. At 9 am – or shortly afterwards – the counters will open and they will start calling out ticket numbers. They process the visa applications quickly, so if you have joined the queue early you shouldn’t have long until it is your turn. I waited around 15 minutes only.

Hand in your form, passport, passport photocopy, and photographs. You will then be asked to pay the fee:

  • One day processing (same day pickup): THB 1440
  • Two day processing (next working day pickup): THB 1350
  • Three working day processing: THB 800

If you are worried about being in Bangkok without carrying your passport, obviously get the quickest processing time. As a foreigner, you are meant to carry your passport in Thailand at all times. You may also need your passport for things like renting motorbikes or checking into new accommodation. I went for the cheapest (three working day) option.

Put the receipt they give you in a safe place 🙂

When to collect your passport and visa

The collection times are between 3:30pm and 4:30pm. I turned up at 3:00pm and the waiting room was almost full. There is no ticket issued this time and queuing was a bit chaotic. Take a note of the counter number to collect your visa from – see the top right corner of your yellow recepit (below). Try to get near the front before the counter opens as there is a bit of a rush. The visas are issued fairly rapidly, and within 1 hour of arrival i had my passport back in my pocket. When i left the queue was out of the door. I would recommend to turn up before 3pm, or after 3:30pm.

myanmar visa bangkok embassy

The visa is issued for 28 days of single-entry travel, valid for 3 months.

myanmar tourist visa bangkok

So easy….

Please let me know in a comment if anything has changed or you have something to add.