How to get to Burma

1.      When in the southwestern Chinese town of Ruili, decide that you will try to enter Burma overland, even though you have been told it’s impossible, as the visa you got in Thailand says you can enter by air only.

2.      Take a bus to the border. Tell the Chinese border guard you want to go to Burma. Listen hopefully when he tells you China has no problem letting you out but that Burma may not let you in. Agree when he says you can go talk to the Burmese authorities but that you have to leave your backpack behind.

3.      Get into the ancient, hulking car the guard procures for you. Travel several miles into Burma. Get out at a small building. Go inside, where a man in a military uniform sits.

4.      Tell him straight up you want to enter Burma. Be undeterred when he says it’s impossible. After asking several times, attempt to bribe him. Take U.S. dollars out of your pocket and wave them in front of his face. Act incredulous when he says no.

5.      Leave the office, get back into the car, cross back into China and retrieve your backpack.

6.      Decide to go to Laos instead, spend a month there, and then go to Bangkok.

7.      Buy a plane ticket to Burma for $125 return on Biman Bangledesh Airlines. When Biman flight doesn’t show up, take Thai Airlines instead, which gets you safely to Rangoon.

How to leave Burma

1.      Upon hearing rumours of a strike of airport workers one day before your flight leaves, cycle furiously to the Biman Bangledesh Airlines office, only to find out it really is just a rumour.

2.      On the day of your flight, show up on time, only to be told there will be a delay. As instructed, go to the airport restaurant, which serves you a free plate of fried rice.

3.      Make friends with one French and one Israeli traveller.

4.      After a wait of four – four! – hours, board your flight. Sit wherever you want, as directed by the flight attendants. Accept that seatbelts also seem to be optional. Eat a “meal” of half a sandwich (crusts cut off) and half a plastic cup of red fruity drink.

5.      Arrive in Bangkok, which, after spending a month in Burma, seems like the most modern, technologically advanced, first-world, fully industrialized, fastest-paced city in the whole world.

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