Our adventurous over land border crossing – Thailand Kanchanaburi to Myanmar Htee Kee

by Kelly

Why did we decide to do a land border crossing in to Myanmar?

To enter Myanmar you can fly into the two main cities, Yangon or Mandalay. This is the easiest option, it’s the one I would honestly recommend…however we sometimes choose the hard way and that led us to doing our very, very unique land crossing in to Myanmar from Thailand. Why you ask? Well, we were in Laos and saw we could cross into Thailand and then on to Myanmar at Tee Khee, quite cheaply. It would save time, money and we LOVE Thailand! So we thought, we get a day in Thailand and have an adventure-let’s go for it! It definitely turned in to a full on experience though so it really is only a good option for the more adventurous and experienced travellers out there. If this is your first time backpacking then I wouldn’t recommend.

Getting to the Thailand and Myanmar border

We crossed the Laos and Thai border smoothly and arrived in Bangkok (read about that border crossing here). The whole experience was well organised and easy. We grabbed a cab and quickly transited from Bangkok main train station to Thonburi train station which has the line to Kanchanaburi. This train takes about 2.5-3 hours and is a really sweet trip. You can read all about it in this blog. Once in Kanchanaburi we explored the town for a day, we love Thailand and I’ll take any chance I have to see another part of it. This town is really interesting as it is home to the ‘Death Railway’ from World War Two. It is a sobering place to visit and an important piece of history. The following day we booked a mini bus to get to the border crossing at Phunaron / Htee Kee. It started out ok, a full mini bus but that is always expected. Unfortunately along the way the driver picked up so many more people that I was literally squatting at the feet of one lady and jammed in to the back of the seat in front of me. Mike was shoved against the door and had to swing out for more to get in and shove their way through. At one point the driver stopped to pick up more people and all the Thai people on the bus started yelling at him and refusing anymore people on. After about 1.5 hours we finally arrived. It was pretty difficult to work out where to get off the bus but some lovely Thai ladies kept gesturing and yelling at us each time we tried to get off so they could show us where they thought what we should be doing. Lucky for us they worked out where we were trying to go!

The Ban Phu Nam Ron Land Border Crossing

We arrived at the crossing and lined up to get our Thai Exit stamp. There wasn’t much written about this crossing as it is more remote and any tourists that come through here usually just border bounce back to Thailand to get their visa renewed. The Thai side of the border was pretty easy and standard. Line up, passport check, bag check and you are through. It was the Myanmar side that was a little confusing…

Between Thailand and Myanmar here there is about a 6km stretch of no mans land. It is simply a dusty road leading to the first small town in Myanmar across the border. We had read that there would be somewhere just on the Myanmar side of the crossing to book a bus to take us to Dawei, the first big town in Myanmar. There wasn’t. Whether we were too late or it was closed for some reason, we were left on the dusty road of no mans land and it looked like we had to walk it.  I saw a group of travellers from Germany, the only other tourists I had seen all day, pile in to a pre-organised tour truck and take off, it was then I realised that we would possibly have some trouble organising this!

I left Mike on the side of the road, getting strange looks from all the locals in their trucks and I ran back to the last Thai soldiers I could see. They were a little confused at my presence and didn’t speak any English. I tried to mime how do I get to Dawei…you can imagine how well that went? One of them grabbed their boss and he worked out I wanted to go into Myanmar and went and found a man who was driving that way. He mimed to us – get in his car and he would take us… we didn’t know where he was going or what we were doing but as it was the only option we took it. We kept saying Dawei, he kept nodding. His car was a nice truck and so off we and a group of men loaded on to the back of the tray top went! I was shoved in the back with all the luggage and Mike was up the front. The guys were all on the back.

Htee Kee border town and finding the immigration office.

The man drove us along the ‘no mans land’ and pulled up once he got to Htee Kee. He was gesturing us to get out and leave our bags…but we didn’t know what he was doing, where he was taking us or what would happen to our stuff. So we decided I would follow the man and Mike would stay with our stuff. Off I went on a quick stroll through the town trying to keep up with my guide. The town was like a shanty town in old western movies. There isn’t much there but dirt roads and wooden buildings that have seen better days. It seems to be a very small population and is mostly to service the people passing through. I was starting to get concerned about where I was being led, when my guide gestured for me to enter a dark hut…

It was completely dark inside and I couldn’t see anything but I could hear a murmuring of voices. I gingerly stepped inside and found the most unexpected sight. It was the immigration building and I was to get my entry stamp in to Myanmar! I stepped in and saw some Myanmar immigration officers in uniform sitting at makeshift card tables. Old computers were set up with printers and the staff were all lounging about just chilling. There were the German people that we had seen crossing the border earlier and I was relieved to see them, at least I could be sure I was in the right place. They looked as confused as me, we worked out what we were supposed to do and then finally Mike walked in at the end carrying ALL our bags, loaded up to the eye balls. He dropped everything and we burst out laughing. I think we were just both relieved to see each other! We got our stamps, said hi to the Germans who were shocked that we were just walking through the border crossing, not having organised a ride. Apparently they had found the only travel agent who spoke German and could organise them a ride across and through to Dawei the next town. Funnily enough we later met them in a restaurant and the girl said they had been discussing whether to ask us to join them in their tour truck and give us a ride but didn’t really want to as they had paid and organised it and some of the group didn’t think it was fair for us to get a ride with them. I wish they had offered, we could have paid our share and it would have made it so much easier! That is travelling though, sometimes it works out easily and sometimes it is hard…this was a hard day!

Finding a ride to Dawei.

We had our stamps and were ready to get into Dawei, unfortunately the guy that gave us the ride to the border town wouldn’t take us the rest of the way, even after we said we would pay him, and had left. We had heard there was a place to wait where mini buses come to pick up passengers so we found it and settled in to wait. There is a family next door and they organise the rides. We asked them how long and they said only an hour, just to wait and someone would come. After 2 hours we asked again, they called a man in a ute who said we could sit on the back. It was a 5 hour drive and we weren’t keen so said we would wait for the car or bus. Eventually someone came through in a car who would take us. We paid the family who paid him and we were off, Mike in the front and me in the back. It was honestly a beautiful drive but I think the front seat was more comfortable…I was sitting on the wheel hub and the road was very bumpy, I was constantly thrown around in the back as he raced along the rocky dirt roads. We stopped off and collected another lady who was going half the way to the town, her baskets filled up the back seat and we squished in for the rest of the drive.

The 5 hours passed and we finally saw the town lights, I was so grateful for that sight! We showed the man the address for the hostel..he drove around and around. Just as we realised he was lost he started asking people and calling people to find it. Taking us to 2 wrong places before finally finding the right one. We thanked him and he drove off desperately ready to be rid of us!

We were both exhausted and got into our hostel room, it was rickety but clean enough and we were just ready to find food and sleep. We had a couple days here exploring and it really set our time in Myanmar off in the best way.


We loved this little town, so friendly and cute. I would have opted to have a couple more days here to visit more beaches but our time didn’t allow it.

There really aren’t many tourists there and the local people loved meeting us and trying to communicate. We were dragged along to meet mothers, children raced along side us chatting and smiling and the sound the greeting, ‘mingalaba’, rang out everywhere we walked. We stayed at Best House Guesthouse. It is basic but good. Dawei is one of the only places that tourists can rent a scooter and we loved travelling down to the beaches on ours. When we went there it was a bit overcast but we made the most of it anyway. This is the gateway to the beach area of Myanmar, there is a beautiful archipelago in the south and we really wanted to get down there but just couldn’t get the time. We will definitely have to come back for this! 

What to do in Dawei

We loved walking the town, looking at the old buildings, meeting locals, visiting the markets and renting a scooter to visit the beaches. It was our first town in Myanmar so we really used it to gauge the country, the people and get a taste of the food…and for Mike a taste of the beer. We had heard that Myanmar had one of the best tasting draught beers and Mike really loved it. We had to go find a draught house in each town we stayed and it was pretty much the way we ended each afternoon.

Myanmar is one of my favourite travel experiences, read all about our time there in these blogs!

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