The Chiang Mai to Mae Sai Loop
Part 2 - Arrival in Mae Sai
The border crossing is always busy with Thais, Burmese and Farang all going to and fro. Amazingly, we were the only foreigners who had made the trip on bikes! All the others had wussed out and taken a minibus or gone in the car! Are there any other bikers left who make journey's like this in Thailand, or have they traded them in for a place on the village farm?
Despite the immigration control center resembling a tower fortress the staff inside and out are very friendly. Compared with our travels down south this came as a welcome relief after the long journey.
The border crossing ritual works like this - you enter via the left-hand tower to get stamped out of Thailand. Once this is done you can enter Burma.
A sign of the old Thailand is evident even before you cross the border. The old tricycle samlors still ply their trade here...
Once you pass the 'out' sign you have to cross the road (mind the samlors and tuk tuks!) to get stamped into Burma. The Burmese military guys (they also tend to be friendly) will charge you a $10 fee (they can exchange Thai baht for you) and will ask you if you are going to do any shopping.
Being the roving traveller types that we are we said 'Yes' and took in the sights of this bustling settlement.
The first thing one of us saw was the Burmese girls tend to be very cute here. The attitude and mentality of them makes it easy to imagine what Thailand was like years and years ago.
As soon as you reach some stairs on your right (just down from the border crossing) and go down them you'll be assailed and hassled by some Burmese touts. They are not really aggressive though compared with Ranongs Victoria Point Crossing point. They sell various contraband like cigarettes, viagra and whisky. I bought some Molboro Lights which seemed genuine and a bargain at 300 baht for a 200 carton. Feeling pretty lofty and cheery we all had a good mooch around the place.
The prices overall are not too bad, the Thai people tend to shop here as well which may have something to do with it though.
It's good to take candid photo's like this, nobody is acting up for the camera and it is what it is. One unusual character right in the distance (central area, below the letter 'O' of the watermark) seemed to be staring daggers at me though. I guess I have that effect on certain people.
Quieter streets with a few skulking Burmese wondering what the white farang is up to...
The roads are desolate and extremely quiet compared with Thailands here.
The sign reads 'City of the Golden Triangle', I've seen a few places lay claim to that accolade though.
No matter what even the most jaded and cynical expat may say about Burma, things are beginning to pick up. Years ago I crossed into Burma and the place was decades behind Thailand. Now the gap is a lot closer than before. I think in about five or ten more years we might see big changes here.
As we left the Samlor man passed us again. I think it may be a while before he's superceeded though...
It was then back to the border crossing to pick up our passports and return to Thailand. A word of warning here. You are (currently) only permitted to bring back 200 cigarettes and they have an airport-grade baggage scanner (no body searches though) and every back-pack and bag gets scanned. This aside the process is as hassle free as coming in (except for filling in the immigration forms).
It was nearly 3 PM and a unanamous decision to stay overnight in Mae Sai was reached. Having ridden over 200 kilometers it seemed silly to just ride back again so soon. Besides we hadn't checked out the local nightlife and if the border town of Sungai Koluk was anything to go by, surely this place would have some spectacles worth seeing and partaking in.
This is the local Hotel, a steal at 250 baht per night. Rough as fck with leaking sinks and dodgy electric wiring etc. The dodgy english translation completes the picture!
That night off we went to check out the local talent. First off there was the local disco, but that wasn't open. When it was it was deserted! There are a few short-time hotels (complete with the car curtains!) but as we didn't exactly have mia noi's appearing out nowhere that was no good either!
The following morning it was a bright and early start to return to Chiang Mai.
To continue to Part 3, click here