A visa run involves going to a neighboring country in this case Myanmar being the closest and the one we've heard many good things from other travelers, decided to cross over there by ferry. Before though we had to figure out a few things and of course eat breakfast. We arrived at Ranong just before day break and walked in the semi-darkness to the morning market to get delicious hot coffee and donuts to dunk. We got hot sweet rice and other tasty treats before setting out on our task. The first thing we needed was to confirm the cost of the visa and then convert it to dollars as the only acceptable method. We walked to a hotel but they didn't know, so we decided to wait it out a bit until the banks opened. Afterwards walking towards the pier came to another hotel, which did confirm the price and so went to a bank to convert the currency but they wouldn't do it so after hunting for another one got the required $20 per person for the visa fee. We walked back to the hotel to retrieve out big bag and went looking for the swangthaw to take us to the immigration pier. Walking on the road, spotted the #6 swangthaw, negotiated the fare, and got going for the 30 minute ride.
As soon as we got to the pier, were surrounded by touts to take us to the other side, many of which were overpriced, so after going through the Thai immigration formalities found a cheaper boat for the 45 min crossing to Myanmar. Our little boat took off in bobbing seas with us clutching out things and excited to see another country. On the Myanmar side, we handed over our passports to the captains son, a 12 year old who held our documents on open seas and we prayed that he wouldn't slip or fall. With out papers checked and proceeding on arrived on Myanmars shore, disembarked, and found a country completely different from the one left behind shortly. Saw both men and women walking in sarongs, lots of tea shops, men chewing on Betel nuts, men on boats fishing, and a general sense of calm and life moving slowly. As soon as we entered, a man approached us and took us to the immigration authorities who asked for the money. We gave over the money along with our passports and held our breaths as the officer inspected our $20 dollar bills. If the bills have even the slightest tear, are old, crumpled, the authorities won't accept them and will send you back. Gladly ours was accepted and we were presented with a 14 day stay with the restriction of not going further than 3 km. They held onto our passports, took our haggard pictures, and gave us temporary identification cards.
Upon exiting, the man who had helped us was Ali, who then took us on his motorbike to a nearby hotel as we opted to at least stay one night and explore the area. We checked in and found a country full of extremely hospitable people with quick smiles and delicious food.
Walking back to the pier along the beautiful blue green waters of the Andaman, found a Burmese restaurant with ready samosas at the table along with good chicken filled patties and ate them with cups full of hot green tea. While eating a man by the name of Mohammed came by introduced himself and told us of how he heard of two Americans in the area. He was extremely friendly and told us of good places to eat Pakistani food. He works as a driver, has a son but his wife has passed away, and has worked in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines. He's 34 years old, has 8 brothers, and parents that live in Yangon. He is the driver tonight for a wedding, so invited us to attend and we eagerly accepted.
Earlier, ran into Ali again and chatted with him and found out that he was married at the age of 14, has 2 kids, is himself Bengali but married to a Burmese woman. We were also ticked at the fact about speaking Urdu to the locals as many speak it as they have settled here from surrounding countries. We were invited to sit down and drink tea with Ali, another man of the same age, who is Pakistani who offered to pay for our drinks.
We haven't properly slept or showered, so walked back to the hotel to take a rest before coming back out to attend the wedding. Walking back out later after a hearty dinner with lots of complimentary food, walked past the wedding with music, decorations, and general merriment. Spotting Ali, discussed the political situation, which talking in Urdu felt safer as the authorities are never far away. Mohammed invited us to come in to the wedding reception and sat us down in front of a mountain of dessert with ice cream, coconut pudding, and sweet bread. He even brought over the bride/groom for us to take pictures. I even saw the videographer shooting us, while eating and grinning from ear to ear.
It was a full day, so thanked our friends and walked back to the hotel to sleep with the sounds of croaking frogs and men chatting outside.
We've just arrived and already feel like we have made friends, even strangers such as when walking to our hotel offered us food when we walked by his street stall for free. Next day, I attended the Friday prayers at the nearby mosque and sat down for tea, when Ali came by with his 96 year old father and wife and decided to join us. Being a Friday, it's his day to relax so told us more about his family and learned that he never attended school but is making sure his son is. His father spoke English and was able to converse with him a little bit. Despite being deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, he seems very fit and rides with his son on his motorcycle. Time flies and it was time for us to go back to Thailand so Ali again paid for the drinks and arranged for our boat back. I got our bag from the hotel and we ran towards the pier to catch the boat before the Thai immigration closed. Got back our passports, said our hasty goodbyes, and got on the boat to head back. We arrived on the Thai side 15 minutes before closing, got the visa extension, and rejoiced for our time well spent.