Ten years ago when we were in Kanchanaburi we considered nipping over the border in to Myanmar. With most of the tourist infrastructure built by and benefiting a repressive military government there were some moral issues to be thought through first, but in the end the decision was made for us when we remembered our passports were back in Bangkok awaiting the addition of Vietnamese and Chinese visas. With the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the lifting of the tourism boycott, Myanmar is the new travel darling of the region and, wanting to go, we decided to dispense with the services of an agency and get our Burmese visa ourselves.
First off, you will want this road. The main entrance for the Myanmar Embassy is at 132 Thanon Sathorn Nua* (sometimes spelt Nuea) but the Visa Section is on Thanon Pan. If, like us, you are staying in the Silom area and going on foot from Thanon Silom the turning is beside the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. The nearest BTS stations are Chong Nonsi (on exiting the station walk south and follow the tracks along the north side of Thanon Sathorn Nua. Walk past the main entrance to the embassy and turn right to reach the door to the visa section) or Surasak (walk east and turn left just before the main entrance). On a different occasion we took a taxi from the Khao San Road to nearby (at 2am, in case it makes a difference) and the fare was around 80THB.
Before you go into the visa section get yourself an application form and a photocopy of your passport (8 THB) from a small shop down the road. Passport sized photos can be got here too. The shop is a short way down a side street on the same side of the road as the embassy visa section (to the left if coming from Thanon Silom). The shop has a basic yellow sign.
Opening hours are 9am to 12noon for visa application and 3.30pm to 4.30pm for visa collection. Some guides recommend getting there early, around 8.30am, but we arose late from our lazy beds and turned up around 11.20am. The whole process of applying took around 2 hours and 20 minutes, including wandering off for a spot of lunch. As long as you have your application in the embassy will remain open to process those in the queue beyond noon.
This is what we did (minus getting the form at counter 4). Under work history we kept quiet about writing for a living and instead fell back on some of the other job titles we can feasibly claim. In Myanmar I’ll be something in recruitment, while Deirdre works in admin.I wish I said I was an architect.
Once we filled in the form we joined…
…the queue for counter 4 where a smiley lady checked out our form and gave us our number. We hadn’t booked our ticket to Myanmar at the time but the issue never came up.
Right, they are on 220. Let’s go to the pub.
Seriously guys, why are you hanging around here? Queueing is for suckers. Let’s all grab a beer.
After a spot of lunch down the road we came back in time for our number to be called (okay, slightly late but no harm done) and paid for our visa. We were in no rush, chose the visa after tomorrow option and stumped up 810THB.
They gave us this receipt and told us to come back in two days.
We did. We showed up at 3.30pm and queued up again for 40-50 minutes…
… when they gave back our passports (British and Irish) with shiny new visas valid for 28 days. Woo hoo, we off to Myanmar.
* We found the address of the embassy and some good information on what to do in Johnny Ward’s useful How to Get a Burmese Visa in Bangkok.