When we came back to Shillong we applied online for the Myanmar e-visa. We read another blog by a girl who did the same thing as us, only she got scammed on her visa, paying over 200 dollars for two visas! Make sure you are in the Myanmar Migration department, or click here to get to their official site.
The distance between Shillong and Imphal is 440 km. For us, it took 22 hours to get there… There MUST be a better way to do it, but here is how we did it:
At Polo bus stand, a little down the road from Polo market, right next to the stadium, you can get your ticket from the driver. It cost 900 ₹ per person. The bus is supposed to leave at 2 pm, but it left 45 min late. The bus travels up past Umiam lake which is the wrong way according to google maps, but the bus travels up through Assam because the roads are better there. In Manipur we had to get out of the bus into an army base to get a stamp in our passport and to fill out a form. It was no problem. All the way since we entered Manipur there were signs about HIV/Aids awareness, leading me to the conclusion that they have some problems with this in the area. It was an interesting ride in some ways, because it took us all the way to the border of Nagaland, and allowed us to see many places we otherwise would not have seen.
We reached Imphal at around noon, after 22 hours on this bus. This is a really shitty bus also, the suspension in my seat was gone, so I could not lean back comfortably at all, giving me a terrible neck pain. As I said earlier, there must be a better way to do this trip.
Well in Imphal we went to the Youth hostel, a government funded initiative which provides cheap accommodation to students and travellers. 160₹ for one night in one bed. It’s very simple, you get what you pay for. At the time we were there, Rahoul Gandhi was visiting so there was a massive amount of security. We thought this was due to the general situation but apparently not :p in Imphal we got new prints of passport photos and printed our E-visa approval letter.
In the morning we entered to Moreh Busstand and got a shared mini bus to Moreh, which is the border town. This guy explains how to cross really well, all I can do is fill in our own experience. The shared minibus took some three hours to get to Moreh, stopping at three military checkposts.
When we finally reached Moreh, our driver told us that the border was closed that day due to it being a full moon, which means that Buddhist pray, and thus being a holiday for Myanmar. So our driver told us about this lodge where other foreigners stayed. We got our own room for 300 ₹ in total with a shared bathroom at Sangai Lodge. There is nothing to do in Moreh, its dirty and lots of drunk people roaming at night. But this guy said that one need to be in Tamu before 12 to catch a bus to Mandalay the same day.
Crossing the border
We as foreigners have to get to gate one, which is walking straight from the marketplace. First you reach the Assam Rifels checkpoint, where you need to register, then you walk to the bridge, but instead of going over the bridge,you continue straight to ICP, immigration office, where you will get your exit stamp from India.
Walk in through the gate and then take a left to enter the fancy building which says passenger. There are some more forms, one custom guy who just wanted us to open our bags ( when he saw panties in my bag he asked me to close it right away). He did like a little in the surface of August bag. I can tell you that the Pakistan/India border was waaay more hard core.
So having our stamp, and our backpacks, we go back down and cross the bridge. On the other side of the bridge is a small office in which you need to fill in a form and submit your Visa Approval letter and your passport. They tell you to smile for the camera and the you are good to go!
From the border to Tamu village
We had some Myanmar currency we exchanged some with some Israelis in Nongriat, they also told us that a rickshaw from the border into Tamu should cost about 3000 Kyat (150 ₹ is 2000 Kyat) And so it did! If you are walking like Travel Bert was doing, you take a left when you reach the traffic lights. Our rickshaw first brought us to a money exchanger, just across form the ATM, and the we tried to get a bus to Mandalay. Unfortunately, we missed it because we didn’t take into calculation that time in Myanmar is 1 hour ahead! So we went there at 8:30, which already was 9:30 am in Myanmar! The bus place is located on the right coming from the traffic lights. So the rickshaw driver rushed us to the next place, where they offered shared taxi service to Mandalay. For less than 50 dollars or 70000 Kyat they’d take us both 15 hours in a fancy Toyota Crown… We accepted, being kind of tired of traveling, especially with bus after those 22 hours… The car leaves at 4 pm so we had some serious time to spare in Tamus, we went and got a sim card, it was very easy, no official documents and passport copies like in India, but also no 1,5 GB data per day kinda deal.
Food is more like thai food than Indian food. When we say “Veg” they brought us fresh vegetables. Fresh vegetables!!! We haven’t had that for all our time in India! They provide eating sticks as well as fork and knife and there are some peanuty flavours in the food,making me think of Southeast Asian cuisine.
From Moreh to Mandalay
We left a little after 4 pm, the car made many stops, one for dinner and then for chai and bathroom breaks and cigarettes. People seem to smoke alot in Myanmar also. The road is really bad, only one side has asfalt and the bridges are the worst I have ever seen. But we had a good driver and the fancy Toyota made me feel safe ❤ TravelBert had warned us that we might reach in the morning so I booked a hostel the day before, Kuang Hostel, which has a great location and is REALLY fancy, compared to what me and August are used to. They sent me an email with instructions, so when we reached there was no problem getting in with a code that they sent and they left our room key on the counter and we just went to sleep. We pay 11 USD per night here, or 38 000 kyats in total for two nights, breakfast included. If all accomodation is this fancy and this expensive, we cannot stay here for long.
Because tourism is a new thing in Myanmar, as a tourist you have to stay in places which have a permit to host foreigners. These places are not allowed to host locals, driving up the prices a lot. If a local would host a foreigner, the military would come to that person’s house the next day; they have eyes and ears everywhere. Let’s not forget where we are.
Our first impression is that it is all “less” than India, less people, less crazy, less traffic, less chaotic, less spicy, but more organised… we will tell you more as we go along.
And now we are all caught up! Next post will probably be about what we do in Mandalay but I don’t know, cause it hasn’t happened yet!
Lots of Love
Linnea & August