Mae Sai - Tachilek - Kyiang Tong questions???

Nov 13, 2005
1. I heard recently that it may be possible to get a 14 day Myanmar visa at the border. Can anyone verify this? It used to be possible to get a Myanmar visa online but ever since the gov't moved to a new secret location outside Yangon, no one has been able to download the form (someone in Yangon probably forgot to pack the computer). Or is my only option to deal with a travel agent who will send my passport off to Bangkok?

2. Does anyone know of any hotels between Tachilek and Kyiang Tong?

3. Are there any restrictions on travel to Mong Lar near the Chinese border?

Thanks in advance. I promise a trip report if I get to do it.

el jefe
Nov 13, 2005
Here's my promised report, although it doesn't give much new info. I was trying to do this on a bicycle, but was told all the same rules applied to any two-wheeled vehicle. I'm going to try again in December with a 30 day visa that I'll get in advance.


Not from a Burmese prison
March 2006

We recently did our last "visa run". We had to leave the country one last time so we could get another 30 day tourist visa, which would last us until we return to NY.

The easiest place to do a visa run is Myanmar. You can take a very comfortable bus to the border, have lunch, spend an hour shopping in Myanmar, and return home all in the same day, and all for about $20. Originally we planed on spending about a week and going further into Myanmar, to Kyiang Tung, but it was impossible to get good info on visa requirements and travel restrictions. The The Myanmar embassies in NY and Bangkok don't return emails and they never answer the telephone. The military junta that runs the country is paranoid and recently moved most government offices to a secret jungle location. Unfortunately, someone forgot to pack the computer. The government website is always down. So we decided to take our bikes but just spend the one day in Myanmar and ask questions at the immigration office at the border so we'd know what we could do for a future visa run.

At the border you hand over your passport and are given a receipt with the date and a number. You are told that you must return by 5:00pm that day to retrieve your passport. The receipt has lots of fine print that Margaret didn't read. I'm sure most people don't. I did. The only significant detail was that we were "not allowed to leave the Municipality of Tachilek". That would put a crimp in my plans to do a bike ride. I chose to ignore the fine print.

We asked about getting a 14 day visa "for next time". The immigration officer didn't speak much English and sent us to the travel agent conveniently (for them) located next door. "No problem" was the reply. Margaret thought my next question was silly as we thought there was only one road out of town so how could they put restrictions on using it. "So then we can ride our bicycles to Kyiang Tung, right?" "Oh, no, no, no! You must hire a car and driver. No bicycles allowed on road." That certainly smells of a scam designed to make tourists pay for unnecessary rental cars and drivers.

OK, so I'm not allowed out of the municipality on a "one-day visa" and bikes aren't allowed on the only road out of town. That's two rules I'll have to ignore. Mind you, this is a country with one of the worst human rights violations records on the planet. But if I wind up in a Myanmar jail, I'll have no problem finding a publisher for the book I'll certainly be able to write.

Margaret and I have lunch in town and head off down the road to see how far we can get. The already rough road turns to gravel. Margaret turns back. I decide to continue riding. I get to an army checkpoint. They want to see my passport. All I have is that little receipt. I try explaining that I just want to ride as far down the road as I can and still return by 5:00pm. They don't understand my English and I don't understand their Burmese. I do understand "Back to Tachilek", but I'm persistent in my pleading. Eventually someone comes out who speaks a little English. He tells me that with a 14 day visa I can go to Kyiang Tung but that this is the road to Laos and that I missed the turn.

I thank him and turn around. Eventually I found the unmarked turn to Kyiang Tung. I ride several miles and go through a government toll booth (in addition to several "private" toll booths run by local extortionists). Shortly after the toll booth there's some kind of checkpoint off to the side of the road. I just keep pedaling and make believe I don't know what it is (which is mostly true since the only sign is in Burmese which looks like a bunch of circles strung together). I hear a whistle but just assume it wasn't meant for me. (Yeah, right.) I've totally lost track of how many rules and laws I've broken. Five minutes later two guys on a motorcycle pull up alongside me and motion for me to stop. For a change, I obey. But I play dumb. (Most of you think that "dumb" would be an improvement over "incredibly stupid".) They say "You must turn around."
I ask "Why? Who are you? The police?"
"No. We are from immigration."
"Uhh, OK."
I dutifully follow the motorcycle a mile back to the checkpoint where a uniformed immigration officer is waiting for me. He spoke enough English that we could have this meaningless conversation:
"Why you no stop?"
"I didn't know I had to."
"See passport!"
"This is all I have." (I show him the little receipt.)
"No leave Tachilek. Go back!"
"Why? I have until 5:00pm."
"No leave Tachilek. Go back!"
"Why? I have until 5:00pm."
"No leave Tachilek. Go back!"

I'm not sure how long I could keep playing that game so I asked the important question -- "Next time, if I get a 14 day visa can I go to Kyiang Tung?"
"Yes, no problem."
"Thank you. You have a beautiful country. I want to see more of it."
With that he lets me go. I'm just about to click into my pedals and ride off when I notice the motorcycle driver talking to the immigration officer. He calls me back. "Wait one minute. See passport again." He takes my receipt and writes down the number. That can't be a good thing.

I have a very pleasant ride back to Tachilek with a local cyclist on a mountain bike with aero bars. We chat a little. He's returning from a 55 mile ride in the direction I had wanted to go. He tells me about the road conditions (good) and the hotels and guest houses (none). We part ways in Tachilek and I tell him that hopefully I'll see him again soon.

With extra time on my hands I do a little shopping at the border market. I turn down endless offers for playing cards (illegal in Thailand) and fake Marlboros. I do buy a pair of cheap sunglasses and a $2.50 Casio watch.

At 4:55pm I go back to hand in my receipt and pick up my passport. They still have about a dozen passports from people who haven't returned yet, but mine isn't one of them. The officer pulls out a huge registration sheet. Next to my name and passport number is something written in Burmese. He speaks better English now and tells me he got a telephone call saying that I tried to leave Tachilek. I get a brief lecture and then my passport. Phew! Finally we get around to the 14 day visa. He tells me "No problem. With 14 day visa you go to Kyiang Tung."
"Good. then I go to Kyiang Tung with my bicycle. Thank you."
"No, no, no, with bicycle not possible. Must have car and driver."
"Not safe."
"For security."
The government just doesn't want tourists poking around in remote places. So I'm just as answer-less as when I started. The immigration officer at the border says that even with the right visa I can't ride to Kyiang Tung. The immigration officers at the edge of town say "No problem." It's all a moot point though since the government keeps a list of "Undesirable Persons" and I know they added a new name to it today.