By bus from Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai. Buses from Chiang Rai are very frequent (every 10-15 min), cost 40 baht (one way) and take about 1.5 hours, while buses from Chiang Mai take about 4 hours (210 baht one way). All public buses terminate at a bus station well south of Mae Sai, so you have to continue onward to the city proper with red songthaews waiting outside (20 baht per passenger fixed fare). The blue songthaews to/from the Golden Triangle and Chiang Saen, on the other hand, leave from a stand in the city centre a few hundred metres down the street from the border. The last blue songthaew that departs for Chiang Saen leaves at 14:00.
There are day-tours taking visitors to Mae Sai, the Golden Triangle, and a couple of other places to see on the way as well. Tourist minibuses are more expensive (around 800 baht for a day tour from Chiang Mai including lunch) and, if fully loaded (but this is not always the case), are much less comfortable. However, this is still an option worth considering, if you want to combine your visa run with a sightseeing tour through Chiang Rai Province.
Mae Sai is 61 km from Chiang Rai on Hwy 110.
Mae Sai is a one-street town and the centre is easily covered on foot.
MaeSai Scooters has rentals and tours at a great price to see the most of this ethnic border town.
There's really only one place to visit in Mae Sai, but many visitors breeze past it on their way to Myanmar.
- Wat Phra That Wai Dao (before Immigration, turn left and go through covered bazaar). Built on a small hill up a steep staircase, overlooking Mae Sai and Tachileik, this temple and its stupa are unremarkable, but there are a few interesting monuments around it. Next to the stupa is a small Burmese temple that gives a nice taste of what awaits on the other side. Towards the river is a multistoried monument to King Naresuan, a Lanna king famous for beating back several Burmese invasions and dispatching the Burmese crown prince in a duel, and just in case the message of this isn't clear enough, there's also a giant scorpion statue brandishing its claws towards Tachileik. Free.
- The gate marking the northernmost point of Thailand
- Cross the bridge into Tachileik, Myanmar (which the Thais call Tha Khi Lek ท่าขี้เหล็ก). An entry permit valid for up to 14 days costs 500 baht or USD17. Travellers using this option are given a paper entry permit and their passports are held at the immigration office until they return to Thailand. Stop at the entry point and talk with the Thai officials to organise this. It is easily done. In the Tachilek market just over the border, expect to be assaulted by any number of persons offering cheap cigarettes and Viagra/Cialis. From here, you can travel as far as Kengtung (Thai Chiang Tung), 160 km away, but to travel to the rest of Myanmar, a visa in advance is needed. Transit travellers can arrange for a visa and can have their passport sent to their port of exit. Some local NGOs are worth visiting to see some of their humanitarian work.
There are plenty of small shops lining both sides of the street leading to the border crossing that sell:
- Cheap jewels (rubies, emerald and jade) imported from Myanmar
- Cheap curio items, many of which are imported from China
- Fresh cut fruit
- Anantapura (On a hillside, on a road that runs parallel to, and is about 1 km west of, the main Pahonyothin Rd). This pleasant restaurant is probably the classiest in town. The views down the narrow valley are stunning with the Shwedegon chedi across the border in Myanmar lighted at night. The smoked duck curry is delicious. Service can be slow but this is not a restaurant for those in a hurry.
- Kik Kok (About 1 km up from the border on the right as you walk in that direction). Closes about 20:00.
There are several comfortable coffee shops on the main road leading to the immigration checkpoint.
- Piyaporn Place Hotel, 77/1 Moo1 Weiangphangkhun (On the main road about a 10 min walk from the border). Standard Thai hotel with clean well-presented rooms containing all the usual amenities of a hotel in this class. The loud maid phones on each floor which resonate down the corridor may put some off. Ask for a room at the opposite end of the corridor. 800+ baht.
- Thip Sukon House Hotel (On the same road as the old King Kobra Hotel). This hotel is probably the best of the lot. From the 3rd floor you have a view into Myanmar and the Sai River.
|Routes through Mae Sai|
|END ←||N S||→ Chiang Rai → Bangkok|