Myeik→ Bokpyin→ Kawthaung: Hitchhiking Two Consecutive Days in Myanmar

Events described in this post reflect those that happened on Tuesday the 28th and Wednesday the 29th of January, 2020. Jonas and I hitchhiked for two consecutive days from Myeik to Kawthaung with a one-night stopover in Bokpyin, Myanmar. This road is fairly new and quite adventurous. Before they built it, the only way to get from Myeik to Kawthaung was by ferry.

Preparing to Hitchhike the Last Stretch of the AH-112

We had spent a lovely few days at the upscale Regent Hotel in Myanmar. One of the reasons to pick a fancier hotel was that we knew the next 417 kilometers would probably be tough; the final stretch of the Asian Highway 112. That road didn’t really exist until they improved the road around 2015. Before the improvements, the only viable way to get from Myeik to Kawthaung was by ferry. Those ferries have since ceased to exist.

That distance – 417 kilometers – would probably be too much to do in one day, so we checked for an intermediate spot to spend the night. Bokpyin was the most viable town; it had a hotel where foreigners are allowed to stay. In Myanmar, foreigners can only stay at government-approved hotels.

Jonas and I discussed whether we’d say yes to a ride that went all the way to Kawthaung in one day. We decided we’d only go the whole way if we wouldn’t drive more than half an hour after dusk. Anyway, the chances that someone would go all the way already seemed slim.

One of the days, we made a day trip by scooter around Myeik. That’s when we figured out that the University of Computer Studies Myeik would be the best spot to catch a ride from. We communicated this successfully with the staff at reception, who arranged for a tuk-tuk to drive us there on the morning of departure. I made hitchhiking signs for Tanintharyi, Bokpyin, and Kawthaung.

day 0 myeik hitchhiking Myanmar sign drawing cardboard

Another Adventure in Miscommunication

As the staff at Regent Hotel were probably the last few people who also spoke some English, I decided to ask the lady at reception some advice. We’d been struggling with the translation for tollgate/toll booth/toll plaza from English to Myanma, and I wanted to know the written word for it. The reason? I’d love to add that word to Hitchwiki.org so that hitchhikers after us can better communicate where would be a good place to take them.

So I grabbed this picture from the toll booth in Naypyitaw and had my note app and Myanma keyboard ready for her to type the answer.

Hitchhiking Naypyitaw to Yangon 3

“Excuse me, what is the Myanma word for this?” I asked.

“Naypyitaw!”

How…? How the heck does she know this is the tollgate in Naypyitaw? Jonas and I look at each other in what-is-this-sorcery. There’s nothing in the photo that can really identify the city. Yes, it’s clearly on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway, but it could be anywhere. Could she be from Naypyitaw? No, you silly, Naypyitaw didn’t even exist until eight years ago. Nobody is from Naypyitaw, yet.

“You want to take the bus to Naypyitaw?” she asks and proceeds to grab stuff to get us a bus ticket in the wrong direction.

“No! We don’t need a bus to Naypyitaw! We want to know the word for tollgate. What is this building called in Myanma language?”

“Hmm…” She says a word that sounds like it could be it. It’s long, but it sounds right and doesn’t have “Naypyitaw” or anything that sounds off in it. I tell her that’s great and ask her to write it down. She types the following into my note app: နေပြည်တော် ကားဂိတ်. I recognize that the first part is Naypyitaw, but I’m pretty confident that the second word is the elusive term for tollgate. We thank her and leave the reception area.

I trust the information, so I first pack my backpack for the next day. Jonas and I get ready for bed and I do some Duolingo lessons before retiring. That’s when I think about the note and decide to run it through Google Translate before I publish it on Hitchwiki as the Myanma word for tollgate…

Google Translate Naypyitaw not tollgate

Oh no!!

Day 1: The Tuk-Tuk Ride to Campus

As completely predictable by now, we’re five minutes late. Our tuk-tuk driver is waiting on the driveway ready to take us to the computer science faculty of Myeik University. The tuk-tuk looked brand new and had some very cool features, such as a little door on both sides. Our backpacks fit completely in the trunk.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 1 Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 2

The drive is again quite long, but there’s no doubt today about where we’re going. We drive past many schools and tiny trucks with people of all ages in uniforms. The morning light flashes through the trees. The air is still cool.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 3 Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 4

We take the side road that leads to Tanintharyi. The small buildings disappear and there’s a greenfield of nothingness until the very large university building appears. Our driver searches for the entrance and wants to drive onto campus. We ask him to please stop here and he does. We thank him for the ride and need the driver’s help to figure out the tiny doors of the tuk-tuk. Jonas gets out first and grabs our luggage and pays. We thank the driver again and he sticks around for a while before he eventually turns around his vehicle and returns. Jonas walks to the shoulder of the main road and I follow him while filming. It’s 8:20 and there’s no shadow. We hold up the Tanintharyi Town (တနင်္သာရီမြို့) sign for the people.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 5

Our presence near the campus draws a lot of attention from the students in the back of tiny trucks. We wave at a lot of people, but so far almost no private vehicle travels onward. Two guys in a small truck overloaded with logs drive past us coming from Tanintharyi. They stop their vehicle to have a chat with us. He’s saying he’ll drive to Tanintharyi in two hours. We thank him for the offer and tell him we’d love to ride with them if we’re still here. While talking, a couple of viable vehicles race past us.

Riding Along the Great Tanintharyi River

A small sedan drives in our direction and the driver hits the brakes hard. It’s 8:40. We walk to the window with our backpacks and the man is on the phone. He gestures to open the trunk and get in. We put our backpacks in the trunk and see a goodie bag with the text “the longest drive” on it. I wonder where he’s driving from today.

Jonas sits in the passenger seat and I sit in the back behind the driver. It’s a right-hand-drive vehicle again. Next to me lies a large bottle of whiskey that isn’t completely full anymore and a bag of potato chips. While our driver does look tired, he doesn’t look drunk or tipsy. He’s still on the phone.

day 1 first hitch myeik tanintharyi

I ask Jonas whether he wants to use this ride to get to the toll booth after the Myeik bypass rejoins. He doesn’t really give me an answer. We spot the deserted toll booth and speed through it. As no one is operating it, it’s not much of an obstacle for drivers. So I guess we’re going to Tanintharyi with our driver and will find a new hitchhiking spot from there.

Once our driver hangs up, we have a little chat. I introduce ourselves and ask him for his name: Hlaing Zaw. We ask him if he’s going to Tanintharyi or further, but he confirms that Tanintharyi is his destination. He turns up the music, which is a mix of Myanmar hits and songs by artists such as Phil Collins and Sting by a Myanma artist and with Myanma lyrics. One particular rendition of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” stands out.

Most of the homes beside the AH-112 road are huts. Many of them have solar panels on the palm leaf thatched roofs. The Great Tanintharyi (Tenasserim) river appears to our right. It’s beautiful and so incredibly wide.

We eventually arrive at the bridge that crosses it and we notice it looks exactly the same as it did on Google Satellite view. They’re building a new bridge parallel to the old one, which is single-laned and managed by a traffic light. The frame is metal but the bottom is made of wooden planks. It’s actually a bit wild of a structure. Later, I find out that this bridge should be finished at the end of March 2020. I’d say they’re well on schedule.

Across the bridge, our driver stops and drops us off at 9:45. We thank him for the ride and wish him a good stay in town. He takes the first road into the village as he drives off.

Hotel Blossom and Tanintharyi Town

Walking a bit away from our drop-off spot, we orient ourselves to our new location. We see Hotel Blossom across the street. If today had surprisingly been really tough, we’d probably spend the night here. But traffic is only thin, not non-existent.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 6

Jonas needs to go to the bathroom, and honestly, it’s not a bad idea for me either. We decide to try at Hotel Blossom and ask the receptionist if we could use the bathroom. He nods in yes and says “40.000 kyats”.

Uhm…? That must be the room price.

“We don’t need a room. Do you have a toilet?”

On the second try, all is understood. After we’re done, we try to give some money for the effort, but the young man declines payment for bathroom use.

We walk away from the hotel a few hundred meters towards a new hitchhiking spot. In a turn under a small cliff, we set up shop. It’s a little past 10:00: still a very good time. If the stars align, someone who’s going to Bokpyin or all the way to Kawthaung might drive by. I hold up the Bokpyin (ဘုတ်ပြင်း) sign in anticipation of a quick pickup. Soon, the road splits up in two directions: Thailand and Bokpyin. This border is called the Mawdaung – Singkhon Pass, and it isn’t open for foreigners at the time of my visit. On the Thai side, it’s near the narrowest point of Thailand at just 13 kilometers width.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 7 Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 8

But traffic thinned out. A few people on scooters drive by via the main road in town. It’s like they can see that we’re foreigners from hundreds of meters away. One scooter with three women on it accidentally drives a bit off the road as they get distracted by us. They smile and wave and drive back onto the road like that happens all the time.

Suddenly, a whole motorcade of pickup trucks drives through town in our direction. The first one stops and the others take the opportunity to overtake the white pickup truck. We talk to the driver through the window. He responds to our Bokpyin sign with hesitation and tries to tell us something. Then he talks with the other male passenger in the other seat and the woman and toddler in the back and gesture us to get in.

We put our backpacks in the trunk and Jonas gets ready to sit in the back, but they’re confident we can all fit in the backseat of the cab. I’m in the middle and Jonas sits on the right behind the driver. We speed off at 10:15.

Dropped Off Near the Thai Border

The next fifteen minutes of driving are some of the fastest ever. None of us in the back have seatbelts. Our driver doesn’t let go of the gas for anything and we often fly over the potholes. I have almost nothing to hold onto and I ask Jonas to put one arm over me to prevent me from flying up too much. The toddler doesn’t really want to sit still in one place and there are a gazillion toys all over the car.

I realize that they might go to the border to Thailand instead of Bokpyin. So this might just be a short ride after all.

We pass a small village where they’re fundraising for the construction of a new pagoda. Our driver finds the brake to put the car to a halt and donate some money. The lady who holds up the silver donation bowl looks in the car and smiles when she sees us. We say “Mingalaba!” and they’re having a small conversation about what we just said and we hear the word “Sawadee” come by… That’s hello in Thai. Are they Thai? Huh… The lady from the pagoda donations gives us some candies, which we try to give to the child, but it’s for us.

We speed off again at the same pace and I touch the ceiling with my head as we fly over a bridge. Oof, owie, ouchie. Then we arrive in a town called Yndo, which is apparently a Malay name. Our drivers stop here at the end of town at a restaurant. They tell us they’re not going to Bokpyin and that we can take a bus from here onward. We get out of the car and take this opportunity to drink a coffee. We thank the drivers and wish them a pleasant drive to Thailand. This is still a guess.

It’s only 10:30 somehow, but my body feels like that drive took much longer. We sip our instant coffee and analyze the map. The split in the road isn’t far from where we were dropped off; just a little over 1 kilometer. I’d seen on Google Satellite that the road improves quite a bit around that junction. But walking there probably won’t improve our chances by much.

day 1 break yndo myanmar

Walking Away from Yndo

We get ready to find the next ride from within Yndo. We pay the 300 MMK two instant coffees usually cost and thank the people. I follow Jonas away from the café/restaurant to the edge of town just 50 meters down the road. It’s a good spot with a little shadow and lots of trash again. We put our backpacks down at 11:00 and grab the Bokpyin sign. The people from the nearest house walk out to tell us we can sit on plastic chairs on their driveway. But we thank them for the offer and stay at our spot beside the road.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 9

This kind of triggers the inevitable conversations about our sign and what we’re doing. A lady asks her daughter to take a photo of the three of us. A man with a completely naked baby also joins the party. They’re still trying to convince us to sit down with them at their house. We try to communicate that we really need to be here next to the road to get to Bokpyin.

A minibus stops in town, which of course begs the question of whether we want to be on the bus. We thank and decline, but how else are we going to get to Bokpyin? Next up is a taxi driver who we also decline. A car with a monk drives by us that we show the sign to. The people around us are getting a little upset about what we want. Frankly, all we want is to be left alone.

A car that has been a bit up the road drives to us. It contains three young guys, of which one is smoking a cigarette and giving me the stink eye. I have a bad feeling about this and don’t actually want to spend time with these… fellas. They say they can drive us to Bokpyin. Jonas gets ready to take it, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a hitch. I ask the driver if it’s a taxi, and he says it is. Suspicions confirmed, we decline the offer politely, which they don’t handle well. They say a few angry-sounding words to the people around us and drive off.

Welp, I think we’ve overstayed our welcome in this town. People haven’t really left us alone and I feel that even if a private pickup would stop, they might accidentally try to sabotage what we’re trying to achieve. So I ask Jonas to pick up his backpack and walk a few hundred meters with me in the direction of the split. We’ll try again once we’re out of sight.

Some 700 meters down the road, we put our backpacks down again. We arrived at our new hitchhiking spot at 11:45. There’s a pleasant shadow coming from the palm oil plantations flanking the roads. Every now and then, there’s a pleasant cloud passing over. In the shadow, it’s not bad to wait a long time.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 10

Traffic drives a lot faster here, but at least we’re isolated. There’s plenty of space to stop safely next to the road. Now, all we need is some traffic. But there isn’t much happening on this road at this time of the day. Long-distance drivers are probably out for lunch.

The first long-distance buses pass us by at 11:55. Two of them.  Within a few minutes of each other. There’s the odd motorbike driver making a short distance between villages. That’s all the traffic there is. And in between the odd vehicle, there’s blissful silence or the sound of the wind. I’m thinking that I don’t mind waiting here for a few hours.

The Final Ride to Bokpyin

At 12:10, another caravan of pickup trucks breaks the quietude. A car with MON license plate hits the brakes. An older man with a kind face rolls down the window and says he’s going to Bokpyin. There is no doubt in our minds that this is a proper hitch. So we drop our backpacks in the cargo bed and enter the cab. Within minutes we drive by the fork in the road. Bye Thailand, we’ll see you later after Kawthaung!

Jonas sits in the passenger seat and I sit in the backseat. Once again, it’s a right-hand-drive vehicle. There are boxes in the trunk that look like the man’s work. We ask him his name, which is Myaing Thaung. Asking about his purpose of visiting Bokpyin, he shares with us that his office is in Bokpyin and his home in Dawei. Ah, Dawei. Jonas gathers that he works in telecom.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 11

Myaing Thaung turns on some music. The screen shows the names of the songs and artists also in Latin script. None of them I’ve ever heard about before. And I can find absolutely none of them on YouTube when I search for them later. Though this Myanma artist could be one of them. Or this singer. But definitely possibly this guy. Honestly, it’s impossible for me to retrace.

We drive through forests, villages, and stretches of roads that are under construction. Those patches of unfinished roads are tough. But I expected more roughness than this. Somehow, I thought this road would be similarly hellish like the Ruta Transchaco 9 in Paraguay. When hitchhiking between Mariscal Estigarribia and Estancia La Patria back in 2015, I basically got a neck injury from that shitty road. So on this stretch from Myeik to Bokpyin to Kawthaung, I was very focused on keeping my posture right to prevent damage.

In the back of the cab, I don’t have a seatbelt. So I need to hold myself in one place by means of grabbing Jonas’ seat. After the town of Hkyaungg Noutpyan (ချောင်းနောက်ပြန်), we pass a sign saying “We ♡ Forest”. We’re driving through an area with intact forest landscapes that are threatened by deforestation. Gradually, the road becomes steeper and curvier. We’re climbing until we come across a small pass between the hills.

At 13:00, we’re in a town called Kyaung Su. That’s where our driver stops to make a phone call and get out at someone’s house. Someone came from the house and joined us on the final 80-kilometer leg of our journey. It’s a friendly young man and he’s chatting with our driver for the remainder of the ride. At a village called Lehnya (လေည), the road improves a bit in terms of bumpiness.

At 14:00, we’re still outside of Bokpyin. WE overtake both of the buses that had driven by in Yndo. Jonas is very sleepy. I’m fairly sure we will spend the night in Bokpyin to rest our heads and necks. Then we see the big “Welcome to Bokpyin” sign. What a relief!

We drive by a very large reclining Buddha as we’re entering the town. Our driver asks where we’re going, and we say we need to go to the foreigner hotel. He remembers it’s not far from the main crossing in town and discusses it with the newest passenger. We drive into the street indicated by OSM as the one with hotel Mg Lay Guesthouse. There’s no sign saying “HOTEL”, but we know it’s approximately here. Our driver stops, we get our backpacks and thank him for the ride.

“God bless!” he says, and drives off.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 12

Exploring Bokpyin in One Afternoon

We checked into the hotel at 15:30. The lady from reception wanted to keep our passports overnight, but we insisted on keeping them with us. We paid for the room on the spot and let her take photocopies of our passports while we waited.

The room was very basic, but it will do for the night and only costs 20.000 MMK. There’s a shared bathroom down the hallway and no internet. The room in the best condition is, of course, the prayer room. There was no mobile internet reception when we arrived either, so it’s a good thing our driver just arrived in Bokpyin to fix things.

hotel mg lay bokpyin rooms basic hotel mg lay bokpyin

After dropping off our stuff, we change our shoes and find some food. Jonas orders a laphet (tea leaf salad) but forgets to ask for without shrimp, fish, etc., so of course, it’s overloaded with dried shrimps. We walk around some more to find a place that serves beer, but it seems like there might be as many Muslims here as Buddhists.

After Jonas’ unilateral lunch, we hike up to the main pagoda in town. There are many small monk kids carrying bags of cement up the hill to the pagoda. As always, it’s under construction. On top of the hill, we have a beautiful view of the Andaman Sea, the village, and the telecom tower. Jonas checks his phone again. Finally, phone reception is back!

Downhill from the pagoda, we find our flip flops again and walk through town toward the other hotel on the map. When we arrive, it appears that the hotel is closed, though in a good condition. None of the signs indicate that they cater to foreigners.

Our small hike around town brings us past many parts of small Bokpyin. Besides the Myanma businesses, we also see some Thai businesses. Probably, this part used to belong to some Thai or Malay kingdoms too in the past. We walk on. This way, we see the Muslim neighborhood, the old mosque, and the new mosque. Our presence in town is quite the attraction, judging by the number of people ‘secretly’ filming or photographing us.

We eat at the Thai restaurant across from our hotel named after the lady that runs it, Natali. She greets us with great English. Unprompted, she shares with us that she’s from Phuket, and asks if we’ve been to Phuket. We haven’t (and aren’t planning on). But we’ve been to Chiang Mai, we share with Natali. And in the grand scheme of things, we liked it there, though it wasn’t for Chiang Mai itself.

Natali’s mom, who doesn’t speak much English, smiles a lot at us. We smile back and Natali comes to tell us to translate what her mom said to her. “My mom thinks you’re very beautiful. Normally, the only foreigners that come here are old men.”

As Natali’s is a Thai place, it seems obvious to us that there’s beer. We’re right, but only this time as we haven’t seen southern Thailand as of yet. A drunken man bothers us during our dinner of delicious pad thai, spicy salad, and green curry to share with a large Myanmar beer. Neither of us is lucky in the lucky draw.

We retire for the night quite early and decide to get up whenever we awake in the morning. That’s when we’ll hitchhike on to Kawthaung.

Day 2: Hitching for Kawthaung from My Coffee

We awoke at 6:00 and decided we wouldn’t gain anything from sleeping more. So we got dressed, brushed teeth, and packed up our stuff, in the quiet hotel. By the time we left, others were also awake.

The air is cool and the town sleepy. But not everyone is sleepy; we hear simultaneous Buddhist chanting and the Muezzin calling out the adhan. Soon, it will be full of life here. A few people on motorbikes interrupt the early morning religious activities.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 13

We arrive at a café called My Coffee at 7:10. It didn’t take us long to walk the 1.3 kilometers to this end of town. Jonas helps me put my backpack down and we balance our backpacks against each other. I check out the café.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 14 My Coffee café

It’s closed and there are no opening times on the door. But it looks like a super decent kind of hipster café. There are some people going about their morning routine at the house behind the café and bakery. I decided to try again later.

Jonas holds on to the Kawthaung (ကော့သောင်) sign, the last sign we will need in Myanmar. A few cars pass us by, but they all return within 20 minutes. It’s a little over 200 kilometers that we need to cover today. There’s no one really on the road yet, so we flip the backpacks so one of us can sit on my backpack. We apply sunscreen the minute the clouds move away from the sun.

I see some activity in the café, so I go by and they let me in the building. A portrait of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi hangs on the wall. The coffee is apparently locally produced in Bokpyin and they also sell it. I order one cappuccino and one double espresso for 2.800 MMK. Not super cheap, but that’s the price of not getting instant coffee. There are also some baked goods, but I’d have to check with Jonas first if he’s hungry. So far he hasn’t been very nauseous in the vehicles we hitchhiked, but that can change. Adding food in that equation can have disastrous consequences.

A guy delivers our coffees to us in tiny disposable cups. We drink it while standing by the road, truly living the good life.

day 2 my coffee bokpyin

At 7:55, we’ve finished our coffees when a pickup truck with three guys stops for us.

The Telecom Crew to Kawthaung

The driver says they’re going to Kawthaung, but probably need to do some jobs along the way. We put our backpacks in the very full trunk. There are lots of toolboxes and cables in there and our backpacks lie somewhat on top. We get into the backseat of the pickup. We drive off in direction Kawthaung. I can’t believe our time in Myanmar is coming to an end already.

The three guys also work in telecom. They’re contracted by all the phone companies in Myanmar to safeguard their cables. They’re here on a mission to prevent some locals from destroying the cable in another construction project. Simultaneously, they check the overground telephone cables along the route AH-112.

We drive past Bokpyin Airport (VBP). It appears there are only flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays to Myeik and/or Yangon for exorbitant prices with Myanmar National Airlines. There’s also a golf course at the south end of the runway, though it looked more like minigolf and not well-maintained. The town directly after the airport is South Dagon (တောင်ဒဂုံ) and it has a very decent supermarket and many schools. It also has a large crude palm oil mill.

Everyone seems to be employed by the palm oil industry in this region, from plant nurseries to harvesting the fruits. Only broken up by villages every now and then, the entire land surrounding the road is basically one large plantation. I’d recommend taking a look at Google Satellite imagery to just see how vast the area of destructed forest is. Of course, many of the palm oil companies are foreign-owned.

We make a quick stop at a cable. We all get out of the car and our drivers advice some people with a bulldozer on what not to bulldoze. I take the opportunity to push my backpack a little deeper into the cargo bed, but it seems that the bumpy driving itself already lowered my backpack significantly.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 15

A few kilometers later, we make another stop. Our drivers are constantly monitoring the cables and discussing potential threats. Then we make a third stop, which happened to be the target area for our drivers. Some locals with a small digging machine made a hole in the ground. Our guys make sure all activities are stopped immediately. The main driver says he’ll drive us a bit further to the Karathuri post office town where we can sit in a restaurant. If we’re still there after two hours, they’ll pick us up again and bring us to Kawthaung. Without us knowing, they paid for the sodas we drank at the establishment. It’s 9:00.

day 2 Hitchhiking from Bokpyin to Kawthaung

We spend some time relaxing in the restaurant. There are some cute cats around and everyone who drops by the restaurant/convenience store is surprised by our presence. We discuss the progress we’ve made so far. I’m very sure we will arrive in Kawthaung today, so we should pre-extend our booking at Hotel Penguin by one night. Jonas agrees and sets up his phone so he just has to push one button to book it on Agoda. We use the toilet, try to pay, and then cross the road to the other side to find the next ride. We started waiting at 9:45 and only have a little patch of semi-shadow.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 16

The Last Ride in Myanmar to Kawthaung

We observe the little traffic there is. Just a few motorbikes and the occasional car pass us by. Most vehicles are full. So far, we haven’t seen any public transport options. We’re mostly worried about the mom dog with her puppies that occupies part of the street a few hundred meters behind us. One guy on foot makes a little chat with us and looks at our Kawthaung sign.

After about 25 minutes, a car stops. They seem hesitant, as the car is almost 200 meters away. Then they back up confidently. We go to the window with our stuff and talk to the drivers. We see it’s rather full: two men in the front, two women with very trendy and washable facemasks in the back. There’s still space in the trunk for all our luggage, but these are the first people in Myanmar we’ve seen that actually carry a significant amount of luggage on a trip. We make it work and squeeze ourselves in the back seat.

Our final ride in Myanmar flew by. Though it is bouncy, one of the ladies confidently uses a box cutter to slice off pieces of an apple-like fruit. She offers me some, but I decline. The bouncy road improved in quality in patches; a little bit here, a little bit there, sometimes with advanced tarring machines, and sometimes tarred by hand. The names of the young women next to me are Kyi and Phyu. The guy’s names are Nyan and Zeyar Win.

Everyone is a bit sleepy and even the driver is fighting. Fighting the drowsiness with betelnut, of course. They also drove from Myeik, but unlike us, they did it in one go. They must have started driving at night. I gather that they’re colleagues and they’re going to Kawthaung for work. Jonas joins in with the sleeping while I do my best to stay awake.

Toward Maliwan, the car awakens a bit. There’s this excitement about arriving, which we all feel. The palm oil forests give way for hamlets, small towns, and bigger towns. There’s a police check before Kawthaung Airport (KAW), but the cars coming from our direction aren’t checked. I think this is the police check for the foreigners that do a visa run to Kawthaung. They can’t travel the AH-112 road more than 36 miles or something like that.

We arrive at the Andaman Sea coast once again and see some of the islands. The sign “Welcome to Myeik” appears and we don’t make a stop. Our drivers ask where we’re going, so we give them the address of Hotel Penguin. They use Google Maps navigation with Satellite View to approach as closely as possible. But our hotel is apparently in a very small street, so we tell our drivers we can walk. We stop the car, get our backpacks from the trunk, and thank the drivers for the ride. We arrived in Kawthaung at 13:15 and walked to Hotel Penguin for early check-in.

That was that. Hitchhiking in Myanmar.

Myeik Bokpyin Kawthaung hitchhiking Myanmar 17

Hitchhiking Route Map: Myeik→ Bokpyin→ Kawthaung

Comparison of Hitchhiking and Taking Public Transport

Our expenses of time and money were as following:

Day 1: We started our journey at 8:00 and arrived at 15:30. That’s a total travel time of 7 hours and 30 minutes for 216 kilometers. We paid 6.000 MMK for the tuk-tuk ride out of Myeik, 300 MMK for two instant coffees, 20.000 MMK for the hotel in Bokpyin, 3.000 MMK for Jonas’ food, 800 for snacks, and 15.600 MMK for the Thai food. That’s a total of 45.700 MMK (€29 or US$31.50).

Day 2: Started hiking to the road at 6:50 and arrived in Kawthaung at 13:15. That’s a total travel time of 7 hours and 25 minutes for 201 kilometers. We paid 2.800 MMK (€1.80 or US$1.90) for our morning coffee and then nothing else until our arrival in Kawthaung.

 

Unfortunately, the boats between Myeik and Kawthaung ceased to exist in 2016. I would have seriously considered boating to Kawthaung instead of hitchhiking had there been a boat. I’m hoping that if tourism increases in Myanmar, the demand for this ferry will return. But perhaps it will more be like a cruise.

The bus journey is at least 14 hours from Myeik to Kawthaung, probably without stops. You have the choice between big buses with fans, big buses with aircon, and minivans with aircon. Prices seem to start at 15.000 MMK per person.

From Myeik Airport (MGZ), there are direct flights to Yangon, Bokpyin, and Kawthaung. There’s not really a reliable schedule I could find for the days they leave on. Prices start from €90 or US$98.

Informative? Please comment and share!

At the end of our Myanma e-visa, we had to hurry a bit to get from Myeik to Kawthaung. The Asian Highway 112 is quite a challenge to hitchhike, so we divided the distance over two days and spent one night in Bokpyin. #hitchhiking #hitchhiker #travel #Myanmar #myanma #Myeik #Mergui #Bokpyin #Kawthaung #Kawthoung #Tanintharyi #Thailand #southernthailand #Ranong #Yangon #southeastasia #asia #andamansea #Burma #Burmese

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