Ranong to Bangkok

Leaving Ranong was a prolonged affair. As the days counted down to our departure, there was a steady succession of sad goodbyes – the last day of each of our classes, the official farewell with all the MMR staff, The long-awaited Paknam Seafoodsa nice dinner out with the community at the place they’ve been saying we should try since our first week here, some wonderful visits to our students’ houses, the last afternoon at the Prayer House, the last Thai Mass, the last Burmese Mass….. – many of which were premature, as we would usually see the people involved the next day anyway. So I’m sure there were sighs of relief all round when we finally, really and truly, actually this time, LEFT.

We had booked many tickets on the Bangkok night bus for our visitors, but this was the first time we had taken it ourselves. It was a holiday weekend and the VIP busses were all booked out by the time we went to buy our tickets so we had to make do with the 3rd class option. Luckily, our fears of an uncomfortable 10 hours were unfounded. If anything, the absence of Thai music videos blaring all night made this bus even better than the luxury one, and even I managed a few hours sleep. Andrew, of course, slept right through…..

Now we’re settled into a nice cheap wee guesthouse in Bangkok, a few hundred metres away from the main backpacker strip of Khaosan Road – close enough to be interesting, far enough away to be quiet. We haven’t yet been taken out by a bus/tuk tuk/other crazy Bangkok driver, although I have gone one up on Andrew by being the first to be hit by a taxi. (Ok, ‘nudged’ might be more appropriate. It was moving at roughly the same pace we were walking, and the wing mirror just caught my elbow. The driver was very apologetic.)

Streetside dinner means dinner ON the street

Streetside dinner means dinner ON the street

Our first day here was taken up with navigating our way through the complexities of the Burmese visa application process. Finding the location of the embassy (the complete lack of a website and the embassy’s tendency to neither answer the phone nor return phone messages meant an address was hard to come by) in hindsight, turned out to be the easy part. I don’t know what it was that made the guy behind the counter so intensely suspicious of us, but for some reason he just didn’t seem to believe that we were only tourists. We suspect the six months in Thailand on non-immigrant visas didn’t do us any favours. Long story short, after much questioning we were told to produce a letter from our employer in Thailand certifying that our trip to Myanmar had nothing to do with them. Since the closest thing we had to an employer was a 10 hour bus ride away, some quick thinking, a few phone calls, an email or two and a pp’d signature were  required to get the requisite letter to Mr Suspicious before the close of business. But mission accomplished: two Burmese visas in hand by the next afternoon

(Mr Suspicious, dangling our passports just out of reach; “Just tourists this time, right?”

Us: “yes, yes”.

MS: “Ok”. Pause. “I believe you”.

Us: earnest smiles and inward sighs of relief.)

The Iranian visa by comparison was a walk in the park. We eked a small smile from the serious man behind the counter as we proved ourselves to more organized than he imagined possible, by pre-empting his every request for further information/documentation/authorization codes/proof of payment in advance. Most bizarre moment at the Iranian embassy: we had both dressed as conservatively as possible for the occasion, with full length pants and long sleeve loose fitting shirts. Our attire was duly inspected at the gate and I was given a headscarf to borrow before we were allowed to enter. But when we walked into the waiting room, one of only two other people waiting was a Thai woman in short shorts, a t-shirt and no headscarf in sight. Bet her visa wasn’t processed as quickly as ours…

Grand PalaceOf course our time in Bangkok hasn’t all been hanging out at embassies. We’ve seen the grandeur of Wat Kaew, Wat Po and the Grand Palace, climbed the spires of Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), wandered through the chaotic markets of China Town at night, eaten cheap and tasty wanton noodle soup by the roadside, and spent hours walking off the good food we indulged in far too much of in Ranong!

Chinatown by night

And tomorrow the travels really begin, as we set off for Burma – our crack of dawn flight to Yangon will be followed immediately by a 17 hour bus trip to Taunggyi. Prayers of all fashions are most welcome =)

4 thoughts on “Ranong to Bangkok

  1. iran? what the hell are you going to do there? are you making a world tour of international pariahs? i’ve heard pyongyang is lovely in the autumn. your trip sure is interesting. tell ahmadinejad i send my love, from one jew to another (don’t know if you heard the news, but it turns out that he’s actually jewish, his parents converted after his birth).

    even more absurd, what the hell are you doing in thailand trying to purchase VIP bus tix? what have you done with andrew?

    the 17 hour bus ride after the dawn flight sounds about right though. carry on.

  2. Hi Nuala and Andrew, Must be exciting to be on the move again. Well done with all the organising with the goodbyes and getting visas. Seth is right, your real live story is getting more and more interesting. Enjoy Burma, safe travels!! Helena.

  3. Hiya Andrew and Nuala, all the best as you move on from Ranong… yes…keep safe in Burma. I would love to hear your stories first-hand of what it is like on the inside well beyond the border. All the best for the adventures ahead. I’m sure you’ve trained up your replacements in Ranong well! Frank

  4. Thanks for the e-mail. Glad you made it into Burma..isn’t it wonderful to be able to talk to people in their own language? Whatever ‘the government is..’ we will have to wait to find out as there was ‘some text missing’. Mandalay sounds exotic.
    Prayers assured. Love you both. Mum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s