Apr 25-28, 2016
4 Days in Mae Sai, Thailand
Location: Maesai, Thailand
Clueless in Mae Sai
After my abrupt departure from Tachileik (Myanmar), I found myself back to the border town of Mae Sai (Thailand), with no place to stay and no plan on what to do next. I was on edge. Luckily, the hotel owner I talked to, approved of my proposal and agreed to give me 3 nights in his hotel. That was a tremendous sigh of relief to me - the first time since I crossed into Myanmar. I now have 3 days in Mae Sai to get my bearing, catch up on things and plan ahead.
Visa Run Refuge
Up until recently when the Thais cracked down on visa runs, this border town has been the favorite crossing by expats wanting to extend their stay in Thailand. The bombing in Bangkok in 2015 caused a stricter enforcement of the visa-run law by Thai Immigration. Now, you have to show proof of onward travel as they favor the formal tourist visa issued by the Thai Embassy (outside Thailand) rather than the transit visa-on-arrival. Until they cut a slack on the law (I don't think they will change the law. They just enforce or loosen it), visa-runs in Mae Sai is a thing of the past.
The big market is Mae Sai's biggest draw. Because of cross-border shopping, with Myanmar and Laos converging into what is called The Golden Triangle, Mae Sai sees a frenzy of shoppers given its expansive market. You get all kinds here from the typical colorful Thai clothing to jewelry, buddha figurines, gadgets, dried fruits, etc. Unlike Chatuchak Market in Bangkok where a big grid is allotted for the market, here in Mae Sai, the market is a labyrinth of alleys and streets densely filling up the inner west area of the border. It's like an intricate spider web - every which way you turn is an array of vendors usually specializing in a particular merchandise (eg. - umbrellas, slippers, etc.). The ambience shifts during the night time when the inner stores close and the night vendors occupy the side streets. Street eating is fabulous, delicious and cheap.
About 4 kms south, towards Chiang Rai, the city center of Mae Sai has a big Makro with an equally big Tesco across the street. There isn't too much city life in Mae Sai. The main action still happens in Chiang Rai, about an hour south.
Mae Sai was not even on the plan. I was to go to Chiang Rai after Myanmar. But it called out. With hardly any tourist and locals who don't speak English, I was mostly alone exploring the market scene. Except for its cross border ease (unless you're doing a visa run) and the big market, there isn't much happening in Mae Sai. But if you are in the area, it's worth a visit and dabble in what it has to offer. At this point, the frontier of Laos is also a short trip away or you can venture more within the Golden Triangle area of Northern Thailand - Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai and Sop Ruak.
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The following people like this:
Thai Plum Village
(Apr 28, 2016) Like a Rolling Stone...
(Apr 28, 2016) 250 baht pa rin ba charge nila sa foot massage?
(Apr 28, 2016) I love the contrast of the look on your face vs the lady rubbing your feet! LOL oh dear. Such is life eh!
Next stop: Exploring Chiang Saen, Thailand
Mae Sai, Thailand
Mae Sai FYI / Tips
- best to book your hotel near the border since that's where most of the action is
- there are cheaper lodging not listed in Agoda that go for as little as B150/night. Just coast the street along the river towards the west direction, towards Mae Sai Guesthouse
How to Get to Mae Sai
- from Chiang Rai - it's one straight bus ride from Chiang Rai at the bus station. Take the Green Bus and you get off at Mae Sai city center bus station. Take a waiting red taxi to the border, B15, 10 mins
- from Chiang Mai - there is a direct bus all the way to Mae Sai. Take the Green Bus at the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station, Terminal 3 (platform 20/21), B347 for VIP seats (B223 a/c seats) to Mae Sai city proper, 5 hours. Then take the short ride by red taxi to the border, B15, 10 mins
Things to do, Places to go in Mae Sai
- Mae Sai Market - the expansive market is really the main draw of Mae Sai apart from being a visa-run destination
- Fish Cave aka Monkey Temple at Wat Tham Pla - you can feed the monkeys and carp. Food can be purchased at the temple for B20
- Cross into Myanmar - tourists can pay B500 to cross into Myanmar and take a peak at their daily life. There is also a big market across the border, selling mostly fake stuff imported from China
- Tum Luang-Khun Naam Naang Norn Forest Park - water fall, rock pools, swimming
- Wat Phra That Doi Wao aka Skorpion Temple - panoramic view of Myanmar from the Golden Triangle
Mae Sai Cost Indexbackpacker places (US$1 = Thai Baht 35.15 = Php 46.74 = MYR Ryat 1168.80 as of Apr 25, 2016)
- B70 one big bottle Chang beer
- B5 bottled water
- B100 one hour street massage
- B40-60 noodle soup with meat
- B40-60 coffee
- B40-60 pad thai
- B75 muesli + yogurt + fruit breakfast
- B400 double bed in a fan room, shared toilet incl. breakfast
- B15 red taxi ride from bus terminal to border
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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