After paying the u$d10 visa fee you have to specify how far you are going and then you surrender your passport to immigration and get issued a temporary travel document with photo (looks like a Myanmar passport) which gets stamped as you pass numerous checkpoints. You retrieve your passport as you exit the country thru the same border crossing.
After crossing the border and changing our watches back half an hour to Myanmar time, we presented our temporary travel documents to the bus ticket agent who then had to send them by moto back to immigration to log exactly where we were going. From this point on we never handled our documents since they were handed on to the next host recipient be it the bus driver, tuk tuk driver or guest house owner etc who was obligated to register our details with 'big brother'.
The bus from Talichek to Keng Tung took 5 hours but the scenery was fantastic with luscious green rice fields set into the mountains of jungle. They don't get too many tourists around here so when we arrived we were quite a novelty for the locals and got received with a mixture of curiosity and friendliness. Kids and adults will just stare and when you say hello they smile or just look away shyly.
Poverty is a serious problem here and you can see the life struggle some of these people have had just looking in their eyes but they are still very friendly. It's hard to believe this was once one of the wealthiest countries in SE Asia when the British colonized it. Even more disturbing is the continuing house arrest for Aung San Suu Kyi who faces fresh charges after an American activist recently entered her house apparently uninvited.
After a hot and muggy night with a power cut at Harry's Guest House and where the generator was shut off at midnight we explored the morning market where several hill tribes come to pedal there wares before we set off in a shared taxi with some locals back to the border.
At the border our driver surrendered our temporary travel documents to immigration and we retrieved our own passports before crossing back into Thailand. Being back in touristville was a mixture of relief and sadness. More photos below.
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