Bangkok to Yangon by Bus
Once a journey that required a good deal of planning, the overland trip from Bangkok to Yangon is now a matter of arranging an e-visa and turning up at the border.
The fastest and most convenient route is via Mae Sot which can easily be reached with a direct bus from Bangkok’s Mo Chit northern bus terminal. A ticket costs between 350 and 700 baht, but even the 350 baht variety turned out to be one of the most modern and comfortable buses I had ever taken in Thailand.
We left Bangkok on one of the latest buses at 22:20 which arrived 6 hours later at Mae Sot bus station. From here it’s easy to catch a songtaew (pickup-trucks modified with seats in the back) for 50 straight to the Thai side of the border. Here we sailed through Thai immigration departure formalities within 10min and walked across the Thai-Myanmar friendship bridge that connects Mae Sot with Myawaddy on the Myanmar side.
We crossed the bridge just after sunrise and although this border post is nothing special, the beautiful morning light made this place almost magical.
Once we arrived on the other side, we were greeted with genuine friendliness and hospitality which can’t be said for the majority of border crossings anywhere in South East Asia. Someone took our name in a big ledger and we were directed to a shop nearby to make photocopies of our passports and fill in the arrival card for 20 baht. It was back through the little gate and inside a little room where two border officials processed our papers. It took only 5 minutes until the sent us off with all the correct stamps and a welcoming smile.
Myawaddy is foremost a border town with nothing much to see except for a temple nearby. We decided to get some money exchanged as well as get extra cash from the ATM in front of a shop on the right hand side of the road. All along the main road are little stalls selling tickets for shared taxis, minivans and buses going to Hpa-An, Mawlamyine and to our relief directly to Yangon as well.
We paid 15000 kyat per person for the bus leaving at 9:30am local time. As it was still 8am, already accounting for the time difference of 30 minutes behind Thailand, we used the spare time to buy Telenor sim cards preloaded with 1GB of data for 7500 kyat and another with 2GB for 11500 kyat and had a simple breakfast of fried rice and sunny side eggs in a local restaurant. We were shocked how cheap our meal was after paying 1500 kyat for two dishes, a bottle of water and tea.
Around 9:15 our ticket merchant came to pick us up and brought us first to a shop to make photocopies of our passports free of charge and dropped us off at the new and spacious coach bus in front of what looks like the bus company office. Even though barely anyone on the bus spoke English everyone tried their best to direct us the right seats and provided water free of charge.
Now the interesting part of the journey began. I read many stories about the conditions of the road between Myawaddy and Hpa-An which used to be a very complex undertaking where one could travel only in one direction depending on the day of the week. However since a new paved road was completed this system is no longer needed and our bus sailed through the Dawna mountains whilst both of us were fast asleep. At around 11:30 our bus stopped for a quick lunch break that gave us an opportunity to try some truly local dishes which again turned out to be much cheaper than we expected.
I slept through the majority of the trip, occasionally waking up to marvel at landscapes untouched by modern development. We passed through bigger towns like Hpa-An and Thaton where we gained a little glimpse into local Myanmar life, not unlike that of Thailand 30 years ago.
What was supposed to be a 10 hour bus ride ended up taking 12 hours when we finally arrived at Yangon’s Aung Mingalar bus station at 9pm local time. Here we were immediately offered a taxi ride into town which was still 23km away. As we were three people we accepted the 15000 kyat fare which we knew was more than it should be. The taxi driver zoomed through the streets of Yangon honking away at other cars, trucks and pedestrians who dared to cross in front of him. It took us roughly 30 minuted to arrive on 9th street right in front of our hostel, where our now 24 hour journey came to an end.