I lost most of this post mid way through writing it last time, so have reposted the whole thing anew, sorry for the repeated bit at the top xoxo
The middle aged man in the tired black immigration suit with just one stripe on his shoulder has now told me the same thing four times
“You can not enter”
So I switch tactic and tell him I can, because I always do it this way (lie)
“Many times I do this way, many times”
This is news to him, and prompts a phone call, more waiting and then more of the same.
By now there are ten people lined up behind me, I’m getting anxious (freaking out!).
We’ve paid $2160 to cross Myanmar, and now the Thais won’t let me leave Thailand!
More calls and eventually the boss arrives, a 25 year old guy in a smart suit and dark glasses.
“You can not enter”
“Yes I can, I have a visa, so I am allowed to enter” I insist while trying to remain polite.
“No your thai visa is in this passport so you need to…”
“That is no problem” I interrupt. “Please just stamp me out. I will enter with the other one”
Another call, then both my passports are handed to a mignon who runs over the ‘friendship bridge’ to see if the Myanmar authorities will admit me.
More waiting, but eventually he returns with a thumbs up. Ok then, now the young boss of immigration asks me for my paperwork to enter Myanmar. For fucks sake!
“My agent has it all, he is meeting me on that side” I point to the other side of the friendship bridge (now feeling like the hate bridge).
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure”
“Because without the papers you can not enter”
“I know, I have them, over there”
“Ok then you walk over, find your papers and show them to me, then you can go” he’s not really being very helpful.
It’s a fifteen min walk there in my motocross boots, and I can’t find anyone…
So I resort to just yelling out in the chaos on the street “Burma senses! … Burma senses anyone?!”
A man points at a car, and two other men appear, they smile broadly and shake my hand introducing themselves as Ni and Hey. Ni and Hey seem nice, they have a backpack full of paperwork, this is highly calming. They seems to have it all under control.
Ni tells me to return to Thailand and he’ll meet me there in ten minutes.
I walk back over the Hate bridge expecting to find an irate girlfriend on the other side, but Sal hasn’t been dealing with all this so is only mildly bored…
On the other side I’m greeted by Ni again as if my magic, I’m confused but he explains that he drove across, thanks for the lift I think, but ok now we’re getting somewhere. Ni and I knock at Unhelpful Man’s door and let ourselves in. Ni gives him all the paperwork, (which he cant read as it’s in Burmese), so he just flicks it to one side and now asks me for my conveyance documents… A little light bulb in my head is flickering with recognition, but i tell him I don’t know what a conveyance document is… “conveyance document conveyance doicument…” he’s one of these guys who just has to have the last say. Then the dimly flickering bulb goes to full power and I remember this form, it’s the form I gave to another guy an hour ago at a different window, in return for 15 baht and a dodgy receipt. At the time I smelled a rat, so asked for the receipt, which i now unfold and give to Mr Unhelpful, pointing to the previous cubicle saying “I pay already”
He looks at this receipt in disgust, I suspect because this means one of his guys is corrupt, or because he cant ask me for money, and now he cant argue with me anymore either. Either way, he screws it up and tells me to get out of there.
Excellent. We load the 4 tyres, one chain and a rear tube into Ni’s van and get ready to ride across the Hateful bridge, Ni takes off and we follow but I’m interecepted by another man asking for customs forms… FFS!!
“We do already customs!”
“No no no, customs forms window 12”
He insists that I park the bike out of the way again, probably meaning he’s expecting us to be a while. Sal gets off swearing, I push the bike back and wander over to the window, where they wave another form at me, which like magic I produce from my document wallet.
“yes yes, good good, passport please, please wait, we make copy… sign here… and here… ok all finished”
Unbeknown to me at the time, Ni has tried to return to help us out, but the Thai’s wont let him come back into the processing area, apparently his pass is only valid once – crazy. FINALLY we get moving again and ride over the now not only slightly angry bridge and park in front of the Myanmar customs point.
This side goes like clockwork, mainly because of Ni’s help, and we’re ready to leave in ten minutes. But not before the Tourist police come over to say hello, take a picture, and welcome us to Myanmar. We love the Burmese. Most friendly people on the planet.
We ask Ni if we can eat something before we leave, and he says of course, there’s a restaurant just across the street. I walk back to the bike to put back all my docs and see a puddle of oil under it.
Today has not started well.
The sight glass has fallen out of my rear brake master cylinder, and it’s lost all the fluid. This means the rear brakes don’t work. The sight glass is clear (like glass!) and the size of a 5 cent piece, it would need to be special ordered from somewhere not here, so I go looking for it.
Walking back over the bridge again it seems like a futile effort, I have terrible eyes and it’s tiny, but i spot a freshly leaked drip of oil, so I follow it, all the way back to Thailand!! Approcaching the Thai border the authorities try to usher me to the appropriate window for immigration, but i manage to explain that i’ve dropped something, they relax and I go back to looking.
By now the trail has literally gone dry, i resign myself to finding another solution and head back, but then, just a little way across the Now Quite Friendly Bridge i see a big splotch of oil, hmmmm. Then a little further on, FUCK YEAH!! It’s sitting in some sand in the gutter, I pick it up laughing and head back to Myannar 🙂
Meanwhile the Tourist Policeman who’d introduced himself earlier, along with another 4 guys have followed me across the bridge to try to find the sight glass too. One of them got all the way to Thailand before turning back, i cant think of another place in the world where that would happen. I meet Sal halfway across, and give her the thumbs up, she cant believe it either, we return to find Ni laughing.
It takes 5 mins and a zip tie to get the brakes working again, then we finally go eat breakfast. By the time we leave the border post it’s 10:30am, and we’re really happy to be moving.
In many ways our journey actually starts here, this is the part of the trip that we really wanted to do, and was the seed for the idea of riding all the way to Europe. It went like this.
“It would be great to ride around India, Nepal and Myanmar”
“Yeah so how do we get the bike there?”
“Why dont we ride it?”
“Well if we do that we should just keep going all the way to Europe”
and so we are 🙂