The crossing between Phu Nam Ron, near Kanchanaburi and Htee Khee for onward travel to Dawei, Myanmar only opened up properly to tourists in August last year. It has a rather remote location, with pretty much nothing on the immediate side of each border. This makes the crossing somewhat of an adventure and tourist sightings are few and far between. In fact, we where the only foreigners other than Thai’s crossing so far that day (we saw this in their official notebook that records all visitors)! The only other western people were 3 old men who were purely crossing to immediately turn back around into Thailand with a fresh new stamp.
getting to Phu Nam Ron
To get to Phu Nam Ron, you should think about staying in Kanchanaburi the might before. In fact, no need to think you will need to stay there (unless you have your own car of course). A 3 hour train ride or similar in a bus from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi makes for a nice trip regardless of your onward plans. After enjoying the town and learning your history, wake up nice and early and head to the local bus station. Ask for the. Us to Phu Nam Ron (pronounced Foo Nam Ron) and be sure that it’s the blue bus you use. The first bus leaves Kanchanaburi at 10.30am, and I believe they then go every hour on the half, for the next 2 hours. I would suggest getting the earliest bus as once you cross the border, you still have another 6 or so hours driving to Dawei. The road to Dawei is mountainous and in some areas in quite a state of disrepair, going through after sunlight may not make for the most enjoyable (mentally) of rides.
The local bus to Phu Nam Ron takes between 1-2 hours and costs 70 baht (under £2).
Once you’ve been dropped off, wander down the road and you will see a rather basic border crossing. Fill in your Thai departure form and hand your passport (complete with your brand new Myanmar visa inside) and get stamped out. Welcome to No Man’s Land! Now, you can walk to the Myanmar side of the crossing, but I do not recommend it unless you fancy sweating your soul out while you trek 6km with your heavy bags, gazing longingly at any passing vehicle. Instead, pay someone to take you across in their car. We waited for around 30 minutes before we were bundled into the back of a pick-up truck and whisked across. Once on the Myanmar side, you go into the little immigration office and wait to be seen. You may get asked where you are going; I told the chap Dawei and onwards to Yangon and this was all he wanted to hear. You get your photo taken and then have to wait patiently for them to handwrite your details down onto their big notepad. Then, a stamp later and you are good to go!
Getting to Dawei
Next you will need to get to Dawei (I am sure this was the only location vehicles were heading). Make your way down from the immigration office to the ‘bus station’ and say you want to get to Dawei. A driver will magically appear from nowhere and you’ll get quoted a price. We had read previous reports stating that the cost varied from $15-30 – the lowest price achieved only with hard bargaining. We were asked for $25 per person, and being the only 3 people (hot, sweaty people) in the rather comfortable mini van, we didn’t bother haggling. Though we could have likely shaved a few dollars off the price, we were more keen to get moving.
The journey to Dawei is beautiful. The entire journey passes through jungles, mountains, lakes and tiny villages. It’s a windy road and a slow journey, but we felt perfectly safe. Our mini van driver drove well and we arrived in one piece though only after a mountain-side pit stop to change a tyre!
If you are thinking about travelling to Myanmar overland from Thailand, this is a great way to go, and so far, very unseen by tourists. It may sound like hard work, but in actual fact it was stress free, simple,easy and even enjoyable!