You may have spent hours looking for the right air fare or the most feasible budget travel when planning a foreign trip. Fortunately, this is no longer a problem, especially if your holiday plan is to pack your bags and head to the magical plains and temples of Thailand, by road.
There is nothing more amazing in this world for a ‘road runner’ than the vast, empty stretch of sun-kissed highway road, a bike or a car and some good music. The destination comes second.
But what if the destination this time, took you to a land strewn with azure beaches, pristine pagodas and culture steeped in history?
That’s right, you can now pack your floral shirts and duffel bags, your sunglasses and cameras and head towards the beautiful country of Thailand, via Myanmar, all thanks to the Indian Government. The good news; there is a trilateral highway being built from Moreh in Manipur, India to Mae Sot in Thailand and is expected to be completed by 2016. Imagine the sheer joy you will feel whilst driving or riding past the jade plains and hills of Myanmar, the rich culture breezing by as you cross Mandalay and Myawaddy before you make your way to Thailand and her transcendent beauty!
Here are a few facts that would gear you up for the one week (approximately) drive to Thailand from India:
Where the highway begins: Known as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, this road trip will begin from Moreh in Manipur, India.
Distance from India to Thailand: Approximately 3,200KM
Where the highway ends: Mae Sot, Thailand
Best season to travel: November-February
Things to Carry:
For Visa on arrival: (Documents required for Non-Indians)
– Passport or travel document with validity not less than 6 months.
– Visa application form completely filled out.
– One recent photograph (4×6 cm).
– Myanmar Kyat for paying fines (if any), toll charges etc. 1 MMK is around 0.05 INR, so ensure you carry enough cash for the road ahead. There are ATMs in towns like Bagan and Yangon.
– For Thailand: Evidence of adequate finance (10,000 Baht per person and 20,000 Baht per family).
Documents for Indians to carry:
– Valid passport, with at least 6 months validity, from the date of arrival.
– One application form.
– Two colour photos (35mm x 45mm), not older than 3 months, taken against a white background.
– Photocopy of credit card with original credit card statements of last 6 months.
– Last 6 months bank statement with original bank seal & a minimum balance of INR 20,000/person.
– Original currency exchange slips of at least USD 500 (five hundred USD)/person/week with applicant’s name.
– For Myanmar, ensure you carry a Visa or a MasterCard debit card as the country now has a large collection of ATMs in certain towns, therefore you need not worry about carrying a lot of Myanmar Kyat in your wallet while crossing the borders.
– Before entering Myanmar, ensure you have applied for a visa on arrival by downloading the online form. A step by step guideline has been provided by the Myanmar Visa authorities and you can refer to the following link for further updates : www.myanmarvisaco.com
– You can register online and fill in the Travel and Health documents required for the trip by clicking on this link: www.iatatravelcentre.com
– There are 21 countries that can apply for visa on arrival, namely: Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Czech, Estonia, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Maldives, Mauritius, Poland, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Taiwan, and Ukraine.
– Passport holders of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and Palestinian States will need to file for an application at the Thai Embassy/Consulate-General where they have their permanent residence (home country).
Transportation documents: International Driving Permit
– An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recognized worldwide as a valuable and sometimes essential document identifying motorists as legally-licensed drivers, in the country they are travelling. The International driving Permit (IDP) is recognized in many countries, some of them being Myanmar and Thailand and IDP could facilitate convenience when renting a car in your country as well.
– If you are in Thailand on a holiday, you will not get a Thai driver’s license, so your Indian license will do, as long as it is valid. However, it is advisable to maintain an International Driver’s Permit with you in order to avoid any legal hassle with the cops in Thailand.
– For Myanmar, the highway does not call for an IDP from Indian citizens, however it is better that you carry your International permit in order to avoid any situation with the Myanmar authorities or political groups. Carry your Indian driver’s license as well, since the permit will not be held valid without a license.
– Refer to the website below to issue an International Driver’s Permit from India: www.wiaaindia.com
Other items to carry:
– Driver’s license: Always carry your driver’s license handy as you will need to show it to authorities at every check point.
– Vehicle Documents: For those who have rented a vehicle from India, ensure that you carry the rental agreement forms with you on your way as proof of ownership of vehicle. Carry photocopies of your driver’s license and passport along with originals of the vehicle’s papers including its registration and legal papers.
– Travel Insurance: Ensure that you have travel insurance with you while driving down from Myanmar to Thailand via India. There should be no stone left unturned on your trip, and travel insurance can help and protect you in unpredictable and unforeseen situations. Download or apply for travel insurance by referring to this website: www.worldnomads.com
– Prescribed medicines (if any): Make sure you have taken vaccinations to protect yourself from diseases like Malaria or Yellow Fever that are prevalent in certain forested regions of Thailand.
– Guidebooks for both countries: In order to converse with the locals or know the places that you would want to visit, it would be advisable to carry a guidebook that will help you around.
– Bottled water and snacks: Emergency food for the road ahead is always a must. Stock up well.
– Cameras and backpacks: Of course, there will be places, people and an amazing series of road trip wonders you want to capture, so make sure to pack your camera and charger. Also, ensure you carry weather proof sturdy backpacks that can take a lot of weight as well as endure harsh conditions if you decide to deviate and go trekking for a bit.
Moreh – Tamu – Mandalay – Myawwady – Mae Sot Tak
Alternative Route :
Asian Superhighway (AH1) route:
Clashing with Modi Government’s ‘Act East’ policy campaign, the AH1 road will be further linked with Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam by March 2016. Accessible for cities such as: Moreh, Kohima, Imphal. Dimapur, Nagaon, Jorabat (Guwahati), Shillong, Sylhet, Dhaka, Kolkata, Kanpur, and New Delhi
Asian Superhighway 2 (AH2) route:
Accessible for cities such as: Moreh, Imphal, Kohima, Dimapur, Nagaon, Shillong, Dawki, Kakarbhitta,and New Delhi.
Renting a bike/car from India:
For those who wish to ride bikes/drive cars from their starting point on their own vehicles or drive down from their place of stay need not worry about this. This is for those who prefer renting out cars or bikes from a city or town closest to the Asian Superhighway. Those taking flights and landing in the city of Guwahati (we recommend you do) can rent from the car or bike rentals that are well-known and well-established there. After research, Thrillophilia narrowed down a few rental places you could call in order to travel with comfort to Thailand:
Safety measures to consider while driving down:
Thailand and Myanmar are two extremely beautiful countries with breathtaking landscapes and culture that can fill volumes of your travel diaries. However, since this road trip is literally giving you that once in a lifetime opportunity to cross two countries, you will need to keep in mind the political, religious, and legal stances that the countries follow so that you are never at the mercy of authorities who could grapple you with unnecessary rule breaking claims. Ensure that you make note of the following few guidelines to have a smooth ride/drive to your destination:
– Cash: Ensure you have enough loose cash with you on your road trip, whether it is Myanmar Kyat, USD, Thai Baht or the Indian Rupee.
– Phone numbers: Write down phone numbers from your cell phone in case of battery dying out unexpectedly or no network. There will definitely be payphones that you can use in a nearby town and all you need to do is ask for help. The locals are friendly and most of them speak English.
– Route Map: Make sure you also have a route map which has highlighted the different places you can stop by for a day or two before you continue the journey ahead.
– Alert Authorities: Ensure that you alert Myanmar authorities a month in advance before your trip begins.
– Contact info: Make sure you have the phone numbers of travel authorities or travel agencies ready, in case you need to make a few calls in need of help.
– Minimum 4 people: While driving down to Myanmar from India via the Super highway, make sure you are travelling in a group of minimum four people, as this is the law in the country.
– Photocopies: It would be wise to keep a photocopy of your passport, your driver’s license, your credit card or PAN card to show officials at any check post.
– Political Situation: Make sure that you are aware of the political situation of Myanmar before you plan your trip there. The situation is pretty stable right now, but there are riots or strikes that take place pretty often and due to this, there will be heavy security in these places at those times.
– Safety in numbers: Do not frequent around in places that are deserted or seem a tad isolated for a tourist place. Stick to groups as much as possible.
– Food and Water: Keep yourself hydrated at all times and stock up well on road snacks or food staples.
– Valuables: Take care of your valuables and do not leave them unattended in your car or bike at any point of time.
Travel agencies in Myanmar and Thailand:
Every traveller’s helpline in times of a quick GPS need or hotel fare knowledge, here are a few names of agencies and travel authorities that you can keep for reference or save in your cell phones in case you have any query related to the route, the place, or the journey itself.
Why the highway is a blessing for Indian travellers:
Indians prefer travelling in style on a budget, or rather the most feasible ways possible. Opening the Asian Superhighway to travellers will promote young bikers and provide that extra nerve of adventure to fill their tanks and bags and head out! No more expensive air fare and the wide stretch of clear, non-potholed roads are nothing short of a dream come true for most of the on-road travel junkies. The scenic beauty of Myanmar and Thailand is worth taking in and this can be best experienced when you hit the road. The Indian government has tactfully done their homework and realized that opening this highway and constructing a trilateral roadway is the best manner in which India can enhance trade and business prospects between the different countries. It is only a matter of time before we see a boost in tourism and economy for all these countries.
Few sights you can see around Manipur
Since the highway begins from Moreh in Manipur, why not take in the beautiful sights around the place to begin your journey to Thailand on a wanderlust note! Here are few amazing places in Manipur you can visit during your road trip to Thailand:
This is a breathtaking place for those who love temples and archaic architecture. You can see and explore exotic temples such as Jorebangla Temple, Pancha Ratna Temple, Dal Madol, Radha Shyam Temple, and Shyamraj Temple among others.
Known as the gateway to Myanmar, this land is rich in flora and is a pure treat for the photographer in you! Close to Moreh, you can pay a visit to the Yangoupokpi-Lokchao Wildlife Sanctuary and discover many unique forms of wildlife while you are here.
Rich in natural beauty, this place is located amongst hillocks and valleys and has some breathtaking waterfalls and caves you can visit. Visit the Ngaloi Falls, Tuibuong Tribal Museum, Tonglon Cave, Khuga Dam, and Tipaimukh on your way here.
A visual delight, Ukhrul is a land strewn with heavenly valleys, waterfalls, and streams. A dream made true by Mother Nature, you can visit the Khayang Peak, Shirui Kashung Peak, Kachouphung Lake, Khangkhui Cave, Hundung Mangva Cave, Nillai Tea Estate, and Ango Ching on your road trip pit stop here.
During your long road trip, you will be spending most of your time driving past the rich foliage and serene streets of Myanmar. Steeped in culture and heritage that boasts of a touch of the almighty himself, Myanmar is home to some of the world’s most untouched and beautiful temples. While on your road trip, ensure that you visit the famous and breathtaking ruins of Bagan, which is located near Mandalay. Stroll through the aromatic streets of Nyaung U Market. Take a peek into the largest book in the world when you visit the Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay. The golden temples, the emerald plains and the azure skies make for a series of colours that make you feel like royalty.
Places to see around Myanmar during your drive:
– Thante Hotel
– Myanmar Treasure Resort
– Amazing Bagan Resort
– Razagyo Hotel
– Floral Breeze Hotel
Duration of stay: 1 Day
– Taw Win garden hotel
– New Aye yar hotel
– Millenium Hotel
– Hotel Grand United
– MK Hotel
Duration of stay: Half a day (leave by night), if you are travelling during the festival seasons, it would be advisable to stay back a day or two to enjoy the festivities.
– Shwe Ye Mon Hotel
– 79 Living Hotels
– Sein sein Hotel
– Gold Yadanar Hotel
– Royal City Hotels
Duration of Stay: 1 Day deviation from normal route to explore the rich monasteries and the beautiful places around Mandalay that are known for its amazing history.
– Pindaya Inle Inn
– Conqueror Resort Hotel
– Global Grace
– Golden Cave Hotel
– Thahara Pindaya
Duration of Stay: Half a Day
The third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Burma after the Shwedagon Pagoda, the place is a must see for anyone who visits the country. Located in Mon state, perched on the highest mountain of the Paunglaung mountain range, the ‘Golden Rock’ is breathtaking, beautiful, and sacred to the people of Myanmar. This is a one stop destination that you can explore for around 5 hours before heading back on your journey.
Located in Rakhine State, this beach stretches along the Bay of Bengal and is said to be one of the best beaches in Myanmar. The beach stretches for almost 3 km with soft white sand and tall coconut trees all around the place. This is a perfect stopover for you to stretch your legs and breathe in the saline air to rejuvenate your senses. You can refresh at the nearby Strand Beach Hotel before you head back out on your road trip.
If you love ruins, this is the place you need to see. This 15th century ancient city of Rakhine Kingdom is situated at the North-West of Myanmar and is a slight deviation from the route to reach Thailand, but it is worth it. Spend a few hours exploring the almost dilapidated temples and relics of ancient wonders in the area.
The one place on every travellers bucket list, Thailand is the country you need to head to for an affordable yet luxury induced holiday. A region brewing with good street life, ancient awe-inspiring relics of the past and beaches that have hypnotized travellers into a trance where they never wanted to leave. On your arrival at Mae Sot, you can visit the exciting bazaar life and make your way to the more interesting places like Bangkok, Phi Phi Islands or Pattaya. Visit the Wat Phra Kaew, The Grand Palace, Railay Beach, and Sanctuary of Truth among many others to make your once-in-a-lifetime road trip worth remembering. Visit the pure white, dazzling temple of Wat Rong Khun and explore the unique wildlife in and around different zoos and reserves as well.
Places to see around Myanmar during your drive:
Mae Khasa Hot Springs
These are really, really hot and picturesque springs that will mesmerize you. These springs have been told to be hot enough to boil eggs!
Phra Charoen Waterfall
Located around 40 km from Mae Sot, this beautiful place is accessible by car or motorbike. There is a well-beaten trail alongside its 97 steps, providing a beautiful stroll through the jungles of the place around.
Pha Wo Shrine
This shrine is 15 km from Maesot on the Asian Highway while driving towards Tak and a few kilometers after the Magic Hill. This shrine is easy to notice and is a must visit for those who love beautiful places of worship.
Cambodia and Vietnam
While the Asian Superhighway is restricted to Thailand for now, the authorities are discussing to extend the highway from Thailand to Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The two countries are well known for their extremely beautiful sunsets, landscapes, and buildings of historic relevance. If you plan to visit these countries, you will cherish every second spent there! Cambodia is home to the world famous temple of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. You will get a chance to see the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam and visit the buildings that boast of being survivors during the terrible World War.
The vast road ahead makes you want to throw away any map and just start your engines! So why wait any longer? Keep your televisions tuned in for the news of the highway opening, and get your travelling boots ready! Your cameras are charged, your bags are barely zipped to the full, your passport is dusted and your wanderlust is ready to go explore the road to Thailand from your very own dear home, India.