Visa runs from Patong are provided by a few companies.
There was one company offering a big double decker bus, but that looked like too much hard work to figure out where the stops were. Also, my next visa run choice was nearly over the road from my accommodation.
I used the Yorkshire Inn visa run service from Soi Sansabai (Soi across the road from Bang La at the boxing stadium end). This cost me 1400 baht and was in a luxury minibus. The bus did turn out to be a nice new Toyota minibus, although I think it had sports suspension installed, or maybe no suspension? The 1400 baht includes your Myanmar visa fee, a boat ride from Ranong, Thailand to Kawthaung, Myanmar and a bottle of water with a meal when you get back to the van after being awarded your nice new Thailand visa immigration stamp. The bus leaves at 8am, but they ask you to arrive at 7:50am.
On the visa run bus ride, I was feeling a bit queasy. Not sure if this was due to something I ate, did not eat, the fast driving, the whisking past vehicles, or a combination of them. Coming to Thailand has given me a better appreciation of how my friends probably feel sometimes when I am driving.
After about 4 hours of driving, you arrive at Ranong immigration. Ranong itself isn't the most exciting looking town, but the surrounds and the road leading up to it I found quite pleasant. Ranong has one of the highest rainfalls in Thailand and there are some nice mountains covered in forest greenery to be seen. There are some glimpses of coastline and I even saw some elephants feeding nearby the road.
Fill out your Thailand departure card before you go in, line up and then be stamped out of the country. You then have to hand your passport over to some guy who later turns out to be with the boat company. You are separated from him and then bus takes you to the boat dock. Some strange cash transaction involving throwing money on the floor occurred... there was some initial discrepancy over the kind of tender. The ritual throwing on the floor and some sarcasm seemed to get past the monetary hurdle. So this is what I am paying the guide for ;)
Now it is time to jump onto the a smaller boat that takes you to a bigger boat (you might skip this step since the big boat docked here at the end). The big boat then takes you to the end of the first half of your visa run. Kawthaung is really pretty from the water. There are some islands on the way with temples and no lack of more temples on the mainland. On arrival, you can brave the shores of Myanmar, but there is only 10 minutes before departure back to Ranong. If you do decide to do some sight seeing on your visa run, then you have to be quick!
As with all places like this, you are set upon by the enterprising local folk. Cheap whiskey, viagra, ladies viagra and valium were offered to me as I was circled like a bleeding swimmer in a shark tank. While I tried to explain my amazing masculine powers did not require repeated calls for viagra, keep an eye on my stuff and fend off polite questions I made my way down the street. There was some scam happening with offering me some Myanmar small money as a gift of good luck (people being nice to me is always suspicious ;) ). I kept declining repeated attempts to give me this perfectly nice looking piece of apparently legal Myanmar currency. As I neared the end of the street, one guy told me I should head back. Walking back down the gauntlet with my entourage in tow I made it back to the dock. At the end they started talking about Thai Baht. I think the deal was they wanted me to give them some Baht and if I had taken the Myanmar money it would be a guilt thing.
Kawthaung seemed a pretty interesting place and I was quite pleased to find such a little unexpected gem on the visa run. It would have been great if I could have walked around for a few hours. Up close it was not quite the clean pretty picture it painted from the distance of the ocean, but it was a nice change to the sometimes depressing concrete Thailand towns I have grown used to. The Kawthaung buildings had some character and colour. It would have been nice to meet some more localised Myanmar people. Hopefully one day, the government of Myanmar will become more relaxed and people will get to explore the wonders of this country with a higher feeling of security.
When your whole 10 minutes in Myanmar (if you bothered to even get off the boat) is over, then it is back to Ranong immigration to get another arrival stamp in your passport. Then it's time to have your lunch before heading back to Patong.
There is a toilet stop / 7 Eleven break on the way there and back.
So, a successful visa run from Patong to Ranong to Kawthaung and back and a minibus trip that was not infuriating makes it all not really feel like a visa run!