Burma is supposedly opening to foreigner tourists and businesses. I call it Burma because of the Burmese I know tell me they never did like their country being called Myanmar. "The name of our country is Burma, it always will be," said one young man who shall remain nameless.
Whether the so-called changes make a difference for the average Burmese citizen remains to be seen. For now, what I see as a tourist is higher prices. Everything is priced 100-300% than it was five years ago. On one of my first trips to Burma, I stayed in The Traders Hotel. It's a four or five-star hotel depending who tells you, but my cost was a paltry $55 a night. For the money, it was a fantastic hotel with the best breakfast in Yangon. So things have changed in Burma.
They've also changed at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok.
It used to be that you would walk in, talk to the guard, and for 200-baht, he would take your passport, fill in your information, and tell you to come back the next day. Even though there were rarely more than four or five people applying for their visas at any time, for 200-baht, it was convenient.
Two trips ago, I talked to a Thai at the embassy who was clearly applying for multiple people. We walked down the street to a little shop and paid him the 810 application fee and 300 baht, maybe 400, and he delivered the passport to my home in Bangkapi. I went to the same shop this time, they wanted 2000 baht including the fee, and they weren't budging. So being cheap to pay 150% of the application fee and too stubborn to understand how their fee went up from 400 baht to 1200, I did it myself. I should have just paid them. As you'll see in the video below, the days of an empty embassy are long gone. Go early and be prepared to spend a couple hours to get your visa...unless you would rather take the easy way out and pay an agent.
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