Myanmar Stat Attack

2014-05 Myanmar from Chris 136

(Photo courtesy of Chris Buchman)

Myanmar, land of mystery.  Governed by the arbitrary.  Many parts of the countryside still seem stuck in the iron age, while the capital is catapulting straight into modernity.  I had been told that there were no working ATMS, and also that there were several.  That the black market was the best place to go for a good exchange rate, but also that the banks were better.  I had also heard that you could hardly find a hotel room for less than $20 (tourist influx is increasing by the year, but the number of hotels is growing much slower) and that camping was illegal. 

For all these reasons, I expected that spending a month in Myanmar would require a lot of money, and that obtaining it would be a hassle.  I searched Bangkok for an ATM that would let me withdraw dollars, only to find that the only ones that dispensed them were in the airport – after the immigration check, accessible only to those with tickets to somewhere international.  Then I searched for an ATM that wouldn’t charge me a withdrawal fee on Thai Baht (Citibank didn’t charge my friends, but it did charge me. $6!  Thankfully my kickass Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account refunds all international transaction fees – a must have for any American abroad.)  Then I searched for an exchange office that would give me a decent rate (Superrich, find one of the mini-branches just behind the main one) on converting those Baht to crisp, clean $100 bills – crisp and clean because the Burmese banks won’t accept them otherwise, big denominations because you get better rates that way.  I took out nearly $1000, just in case. 

Then I got to Myanmar (at Myawaddy, right next to the Thai border at Mae Sot) and there was a working ATM with withdrawal fees lower than those in Thailand.  Already loaded with more dollars than I ought to need for the next half a year (yeah, prices in India are nearly that low), I decided to exchange instead.  The banks took my dollars without any trouble and gave me Burmese Kyat at the official rate.  On top of that, everything was cheaper than expected, and costs came in at just about average – not counting the bogus $90 fee for crossing the border into India on my way out. 

So, if you’re contemplating a trip to Myanmar – especially on a bicycle – just do it!  The food is awesome, the people are awesome, the sites are a little boring but you don’t really have time to go see them anyway.  And it will cost more or less the same as a month anywhere else. 



View 3RR in SEA in a larger map

 Our route: Myawaddy-Yangon-Pyay-Monywa-Kalewa-Tamu

Km Ridden: 1540 (plus 204 by private van with a sick companion) 

Riding Schedule: 19 Riding Days, 9 Resting Days

Average km/riding day: 81




Road Conditions: Decent (paved) from Myawaddy to Yangon and Yangon to Monywa.

Mostly atrocious from Monywa to Kalewa.

“Pucca” (perfect) on the Indian highway from Kalewa to Tamu.


2014-05-18 to Bagan 028

When it’s good, it’s good.


2014-05 Myanmar from Chris 117

When it’s bad, it’s bad.

(Photo courtesy of Chris Buchman)



 Highest Elevation: 700 odd meters, just after the Thai border.

Highest Temperature: 62C/144F in the sun, 45C/113F in the shade.

  Frosty Mug Draught Beers: 43 that I counted.

Accidents: 1 (unrelated to above), but no biggie.

Flat tires: 1.  Thorn on the side of the highway. 

Other cyclists encountered: 1, Frank, French.  Props and thanks also to Jan and Karina, a German cyclist couple that followed about the same route a month earlier and gave us loads of tips. 

Unpleasant Encounters with Police: 2, both resolved peacefully.

Pleasant Encounters with Locals: About a billion.  Giant trees, frisbee with kids, crazy good food, smiles in the market, hot green tea everywhere, people giving us mangoes and flowers as we sped by. 

Oh, forgot to mention:

Party Members: 6, all mental for mangoes.

2014-05 Myanmar from Chris 116


Time to crunch some datas.


I always get a kick out of doing things on the cheap.  The combination of extreme heat, extreme pressure to reach the border in time, extremely cheap chickpea dishes, and extremely plentiful draught beer with extremely good friends kept me deliriously happy for the whole month…for less what the guidebook says even the cheapest week ought to cost. 


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Why I’ll never be able to go back to normal life. 


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Wearing or carrying?




Attention, Myanmar government: your anti-camping policies are seriously damaging my fauxbo street cred. 


2014-05-25 to Pyainggaing 002

Though actually, we only paid $2 a night for this and got to use their showers.  And some local kids treated us to dinner at their school cafeteria. 


2014-05-26 to Khettegyin 046  

Myanmar, I <3 U!

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One Response to Myanmar Stat Attack

  1. lea says:

    I got my answer 🙂 too curious ^_^
    so funny and happy post I like it a lot