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  #1  
Old 10 Jan 2014
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Crossing Myanmar, the complete story

Hi everyone, I made the promise earlier to make this report, so here we go :

First, what everyone here wants to know : what do you need to make this crossing?

For us, the story of crossing Myanmar began last year in April. We were preparing our RTW trip and wanted to arrive in SEA without taking neither a boat nor a plane. After a lot of research we found that two Italian people did that on a motorbike. They told us that they have discussed during 3 months with the Myanmar embassy in Rome and after that they have been delivered a letter from one Myanmar ministry stating that they can enter from the Moreh-Tamu border. It was the only information we had at the moment.

I went to the Myanmar embassy in Paris in the beginning of May and explained to one Myanmar woman working there our project : "we are leaving on a honeymoon in July, we will be at the Indian/Myanmar border in December, we would like to cross your country with our motorbike, is it possible?". I was quite impressed, because I thought I would have to fight to obtain some information but she answered directly: "yes, it is possible. Your itinerary needs to be approved by our ministry, so please send a letter to the embassy explaining your project and the itinerary and the ambassador will discuss it with the ministry". Wow. This was a happy day at home.

We prepared the letter and sent it. We asked for 30 days in the country and put only a rough itinerary including the following cities: Myitkyina , Bhamo, Katha, Kyaukmyaung Mandalay, Bagan, Pyay, Yangon, Inlay lake, Kengng Taug

We received a mail 2 days later saying that the government didn't allow foreigners to go to myitkyina ,Bhamo and Katha.

We sent a second letter without those cities, the ambassador submitted it to the ministry.

One month later we received an answer from the embassy saying that the ministry wanted to have a more detailed schedule, including the places we wanted to visit,… so we sent a third letter with as many details as possible.

One month later, at the end of July we received a last mail saying "our ministry replied us they can not allow that trip. Sorry". We called them and sent several mails to tell we can change the itinerary but we didn't obtain some answer anymore.

Then I began to look for some agencies able to help us with the needed letter required for the border crossing. I obtained good answers from two people but one of them seemed more trustworthy. We explained him what we wanted/needed and ended up with a proposal for a 12 days crossing including 3 rest days. We chose to trust him, he said he would wait for us on the Myanmar side of the border on December, 8th in the morning.

He told us he could not help us with the permits needed on the Indian side and gave us a contact to help us. Honestly it seems to us that you don't need anything now to travel in the North-East of India. We had the information that the only states for which you need a permit are Sikkim and Arunashal Pradesh and we don't need to cross them to reach the Myanmar border.

If we except the soldier who kept us one hour in Assam because we didn't have a visa for Assam (he seemed to believe that his state was independent, who knows…) we didn't have any problem before reaching the border of Manipur. And by the way, Nagaland is worth it, very, very nice.

We have been stopped at the Manipur border. The Indian agent called the policemen to tell them that we were coming, but we guess that if we had shown up by ourselves we wouldn't have had any problem. There is an office in which we have been asked to fill one kind of immigration document : the usual stuff and one hotel address needed. They also have to put a stamp in your passport. Ask them because they forgot ours, we needed to go back to this office.

In Manipur we felt that there was almost no westerner who came here before, it was very nice. We stayed one night in Imphal where it seems that there is a curfew at night because the only people in the streets were soldiers with rifles.

We then took the road to the Myanmar border. I have never been stopped and controlled so many times by the police/the army. At some place they stopped us, looked at all our luggage, let us go then do this again 2 kms away and ask Laure to go in a cabin to be checked by women. It was long but everytime the soldiers/the police were polite and nice. No hassle.

We arrived at Moreh, the border town at the end of the afternoon. The Indian agent told us to meet his assistant M. Bobby at the Moreh Trade Center. Actually it appears that the Moreh Trade Center is a hotel and M. Bobby is the boss. He began with a lot of apologies. We were waiting, worried that those apologies were because we wouldn't be able to cross the border the day after. Actually it was only because there was someone from the government there this night so he was unable to propose us the "VIP room 1". All the unbelievable things begin here, there are still some stuff we don't understand.

We were offered "VIP room 2" and had a nice night. In the morning one reporter from Reuters came to interview us as we were among the first westerners there. Then M. Bobby told us we were invited. Then we rode with M. Bobby to the police/immigration building followed by the Reuters team still shooting us.

The immigration officer asked us to show him the letter we should have from the Myanmar president. We had nothing to show him. He asked "your embassy didn't give you a letter?" We answered "no, but we have one friend waiting for us on the other side".

The officer was very smart, he didn't want to stamp our passports out as according to him we wouldn't be allowed to enter in Myanmar. It seems that this has already happened there. So he proposed us to let us go to the Myanmar side with one soldier without stamping our passports, then come back to him if everything was ok. So we went, waited again at some military checkpoint checking I don't know what, still with this guy from Reuters and his camera, filming everything and even yelling at one soldier once. Crazy.

We finally arrived at this legendary iron bridge, the border between India and Myanmar. There was one guy wearing a military hat waiting for us. He was our agent. We were really, really happy to see him, we shook hands, we also shook hands to the immigration people who were all expecting us. Our agent yelled at the poor Indian soldier who came with us that he had all the permits (including the famous letter from the president) for us and that we were greatly expected and welcome in Myanmar. The poor soldier was really peeing in his pants. We went back to the Indian side with him, the immigration boss told us again and again "I am really sorry, I didn't know you were so important…". He stamped our passports, even allowing us to take pictures of it.

As it was Sunday the customs were closed, he sent someone find the customs officer, they opened their building for us to be able to do the paperwork, including stamping our carnets de passage.

We crossed again the iron bridge and just had to sign the papers as everything was already filled for us. And all the immigration/customs people were very welcoming and happy to see us.

The Myanmar story begins here, and I won't tell you everything. You should see it by yourself! Now we know that it is possible to cross Myanmar to go from India to Thailand.

Honestly, what our agent prepared for us was just perfect, except maybe the last 3 riding days which were too long for us. But it is definitely one major highlight of our trip so far. All the hotels/restaurants were booked, we had wonderful English speaking guides when needed, we learnt a lot about Myanmar.

You have to know that there are some check points on the roads in Myanmar and for each of them the soldiers had some copies of our passports and registration papers before we arrived. Everytime they knew we were going to come, and when. Our agent (who stayed with us the whole time) told us that we could not change the itinerary because of this. We had to ride through the checkpoints when it was planned to.

To every overlander planning to reach SEA from India I would say the following : You can cross Myanmar and you will have a wonderful experience. You need a letter from the president and I believe it is possible to obtain it from the Myanmar embassy in your country. This can take 3 months, so prepare it long time before your trip. We don't know why our request was denied but we guess that we asked for too many days. You ca try to copy our itinerary. Once you obtain this letter there will be someone in Myanmar who will tell to the checkpoints when you will cross them.

If you don't succeed in doing this by yourself or if you want someone to help you, you can contact Tin, our agent, who is a wonderful guy to work and talk with. He will prepare your trip the way you want it. He allowed us to put his mail address here : tin.apex <{AATT}>> gmail [[DDOTT]] com. Please try not to bother him if you are not really interested. He also told us that he would prefer to be contacted only once you have set up a group of 10-15 bikers to make good prices otherwise it would be very expensive. He kept on telling us during the trip that he made something special for us because it is a honeymoon. We are very grateful for everything he prepared for us.

We'll make at least three articles about Myanmar on our website, the first is already on line here : Cardpostale | A honeymoon around the world.

I hope this is complete enough, nevertheless if you have any question, feel free to ask.

Guillaume

Last edited by Chris of Japan; 20 Jan 2014 at 23:38. Reason: No unedited third party addresses in posts. It attracts spam to that person
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Old 10 Jan 2014
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Old 10 Jan 2014
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Thank you much for the detailed writup! The Pictures in your blog are very nice!

Can i ask how much you had payed per person?

Surfy
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Old 10 Jan 2014
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Excellent stuff. So, a tentative shout to anybody up for a 2015 crossing? West to East.
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Old 13 Jan 2014
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$$

Well done Guillaume ! and thanks for the report.

We all know that China can be crossed, but it's outside the acceptable price range of most of ours, so it's only "open" if money is no object.

Can we put Myanmar in the same category ? Is it less expensive than flying the bike KTM-BKK ?

Happy riding in the land of a thousand pagodas.
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Old 13 Jan 2014
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Please give us price...for all, agent, all licences, hotels etc.
Are roads OK?
Is there enough gas stations?
I planing trip from Croatia to Australia so I'm very interested in crossing Myanmar from India to Thailand...
Thanks a lot

EDIT: i was so excited that i forgot about your blog...but i will left those questions


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Last edited by clansmanCRO; 14 Jan 2014 at 04:25. Reason: forgot about blog
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Old 14 Jan 2014
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Also we don't have embassy in Croatia but there is one in Serbia and in Austria...
What time of year is best for my plan...(Croatia-Serbia-Bulgaria-Turkey-IR Iran-Pakistan-India-MYANMAR-Thailand-Malasya-Indonesia-E. Timor-Australia and back)?
I plan to spend about 9-10 weeks in every direction and about three-four in Australia..


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Old 14 Jan 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wuming View Post

Excellent stuff. So, a tentative shout to anybody up for a 2015 crossing? West to East.
I will probably go in 2015
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Old 14 Jan 2014
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hi,

we paid 1800 USD/pax including everything, so it is not a lot more expensive than shipping from KTM to BKK. I believe it can be cheaper if you set up you own group. Tin told us that for a fast crossing (5 days) with 10 to 15 bikers it would be around 750 USD/pax.

The roads were bad (well, really bad, but after Mongolia nothing scares us) in the West, between Tamu and Monywa. After it was fine. Gas stations everywhere. We broke the fuel pump in Bagan and were able to ride to Bangkok with a fuel range of 100 kms only.

To lbendel, for us crossing China was nice, and crossing Tibet was definitely one of the major highlights of our trip so far. That's the same as for Myanmar, if you plan it well and set up a group the experience will be worth the cost. Days riding on the tibetan plateau at 4000 m high, many passes over 5000 m and a picture of the bike in front of the Potala... priceless!


Guillaume
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Old 14 Jan 2014
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Nice one Guillaume!

For all those interested, I've set up a 9 day/8 night tour with the same guy, Tin, for 1,674 USD per person, as long as i get 5-6 people minimum. I've got 3 (poss 4) and so need a couple more to make it happen. Crossing from Thailand into India, starting 19th Feb. Send me a message if you're interested! (more info on the new thread I started).

Chris
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Old 14 Jan 2014
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Awesome update, great to see that folks are making it across.

I was in Myanmar for a couple of weeks over the Christmas holidays, good fun and a great place to travel.

From a travellers standpoint the country is at an early stage of development and would remind anyone that made it to Thailand in the late '80s or early '90s of what it was like back then.

It's not all easy travelling but has enough infrastructure to make getting around pretty straighforward and the people are simply magical. It never stays that way for long so if you get a chance to visit in the next bit, please try to do so.

The only other thing I found a bit surprising is that with the lack of infrastructure, some things like hotels in the main tourist sites can get booked up at high season and can get expensive if you don't book ahead. The food isn't that great but certainly survivable.
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Old 16 Jan 2014
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Originally Posted by cardpostale View Post
hi,

we paid 1800 USD/pax including everything, so it is not a lot more expensive than shipping from KTM to BKK. I believe it can be cheaper if you set up you own group. Tin told us that for a fast crossing (5 days) with 10 to 15 bikers it would be around 750 USD/pax.

The roads were bad (well, really bad, but after Mongolia nothing scares us) in the West, between Tamu and Monywa. After it was fine. Gas stations everywhere. We broke the fuel pump in Bagan and were able to ride to Bangkok with a fuel range of 100 kms only.

To lbendel, for us crossing China was nice, and crossing Tibet was definitely one of the major highlights of our trip so far. That's the same as for Myanmar, if you plan it well and set up a group the experience will be worth the cost. Days riding on the tibetan plateau at 4000 m high, many passes over 5000 m and a picture of the bike in front of the Potala... priceless!


Guillaume
Hi Guillaume
Well done and many thanks for the information. Unforunately for us to late as we also planned to visit Myanmar overland from India returning back to India in Febr/March 2014. However we are currently in India and will pass on info to others.
However Joern still sem to have the best deal 14 days fr 2000 Euro per car. ( he takes 12 or 13 cars from the India border I am told? He leaves Thailand early February. Just unfortunatly it is only possible to go one way with him from India.

Obvioulsy prices have come down a fair bit as we received the following mail from Mr Tin in November.

Cheers
Fearless

From: Tin Maung Shwe [mailto:tin DOTTT apex ATTT gmail com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 4:25 PM
To: Robert Van Den Hoven
Subject: RE: FW: FW: Myanmar Tour

Dear Robert,
I hereby clarify the costs accordingly and calculation is based on number of pax not on number of vehicles. But in this contex I calculated 2 pax on 1 car.
1. If you go according to 15 days itinerary ,starting from India border with 2 pax in 1 car(lets call it group -A)...it incurred usd 3856 per pax,so for 2 pax would be 3856×2 = 7712 ( if you come 3 or 4 people in one car the cost would be lowered, if one pax in one car the cost would higher )

I hope you satisfy.
Thanks & regards,
Tin
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Old 18 Mar 2014
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Just to confirm the rumors that Myanmar is possible sometimes:

Joern did indeed take 2 convoys across Myanmar in February: from Thailand to India and vice versa: from Moreh, India to Mae Sot, Thailand. We did 14 days, arriving into Thailand on 5 March.

Fearless's price is right: EUR 2,000 per vehicle
We were 12 4x4 vehicles of all shapes and sizes, 2 standard camper vans (!) and 3 motorbikes.

I only have the info I've gathered here on the HUBB, but I have the feeling Tin might be better for bikers. I also have the feeling that Cardpostale got an all-time special, one-off good rate: well done!

Tin will only take you to hotels for overnight stays, he even told us you are not allowed to stay outside of hotels. With Joern we were able to stay on hotel car parks, pitch tents in the gardens or on the roof of the restaurant, as well as staying on dusty football grounds with absolutely no facilities.
He quoted us for a "for 6 pax or 5 pax in 3 vehicles...it incurred usd 4500 per person for your 15 d 14 n trip." (!!!) I am not sure whether he really meant per person or per vehicle: judging by Fearless's email, I fear the former.
I've also seen for around 1,000 USD but that's for a 5 day crossing. Believe me, you will do nothing except drive and ride at least 12 hours a day if you do that. No time even for a photo!

The trip was great, though there was room for improvement on arrangements and communication both before and during the trip.
The best was that we didn't have to drive in convoy through the day, just meet up at the allocated spot in time each evening. I guess you weren't supposed to stray off the obvious route either…

MountainMan is definitely right when he says:
It's not all easy travelling but has enough infrastructure to make getting around pretty straighforward and the people are simply magical. It never stays that way for long so if you get a chance to visit in the next bit, please try to do so.

I'm not sure whether Joern is thinking of doing another trip in the near future. Contact us if you need his email, as I haven't asked yet if we can publish it!

Important point if you find a trip to join and you will start from India:
In India it is very difficult exchange Rp into USD. Many of us on that trip had an issue. We were very lucky in finding a State Bank of India branch in Trivandrum, Kerala, who would have given us maybe even 10,000 USD if we'd asked and they had it on site. Before that we'd been to Thomas Cook who only after much begging parted with 500 USD per person, signing a declaration that we had done so and wouldn't go to another Thomas cook again this year to get more (listed in their central computer).

We had to pay the remainder of the trip in USD in cash at the border with new notes.
This is another issue in Myanmar: some banks will not accept the new, blue 100 USD notes, which most people had gone to so much trouble to get! The description should probably be that notes should be "like new." No dog ears, no creases or folds, definitely no rips or tears.

We posted on our blog about the trip a couple of days ago, though it's ore about what we experienced rather than any organizational matters: Land of golden temples and warm hearts, crying to be free | WanderWheels

Feel free to contact us here or PM if you need any specific info!
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Old 18 Mar 2014
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Hi Wickychicky

Well written and very correct. Wish we had all this info 12 months ago when we were in Thailand. Anyway one of our friends (Yannick and Murriel plus kids) where on the trip and also spoke highly of the tour and Myanmar.

I have emailed with Joern over 4 or 5 months It appears his contacts are good and what he puts together for this price is perfect. (Compared with the myanmar operators)

Shame we were never able to do the double loop India-Myanmar-India with Joern.

Cheers from India just about to enter Pakistan

Fearless
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Old 24 May 2014
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Myanmar Crossing from India to Thailand in Jul/August

Hello everybody,

we are one couple on two motorbikes. We came all the way from Germany by road over Iran, Pakistan and right now we are in India. We want to cross from India over Myanmar to Thailand in Jul/August.

First questions: Is there anybody out there who wants to do the same in the mentioned period of time so we can maybe build a group.

Second questions: Is there a slight chance to reduce the cost by doing some of the paperwork on our own? Is there definitely the only option with a guide? e.g Maybe we have a scheduled time plan of 14 days with cities where we have to go along and there we have to contact than every evening the police station of our plan.

Reason: We are low budget motorbikers who are riding nearly 25 year old Yamaha XT600`s and don`t need the full service.

Thank`s XT Team
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