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  1. #1
    Northern Hermit
    friscofrankie's Avatar
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    Visa Run to MaeSod (taking the road less traveled)

    Visa time again, I really should head down to Penang and get a real visa but these monthly trips break up the months with some nice side trips. This Month I thoght it would be nice to head down to Mae Sod along the Burmese border. The "Wild West" border.
    When I first Broached the idea to my mate her eyes grew wide and she answered and emphatic "NO!"
    The area in the past has enjoyed a reputation as a place where border skirmishes, bandits and smugglers would be willing to rob, shoot or kidnap the odd farang. It was also known to harbor the odd communist rebel. Ancient history really. I explained that these types of things are in the past and the area is pacified and just a sleepy unexploered area and we'd have a nice peacful ride.
    I was right, she was wrong.
    We headed south out of Chiangmai taking the outer-ring (canal) road and came out onto the main hiway (108) south to Hod/Mae Sariang. The trip took us through the Southern tip of Mae Hong Son and through Tak. On arrival in Mae Sariang we took the Hiway to Sop Moei (hiway 105). The roads got a bit narrows and overgrown.


    This is a stretch of road just south of Mae Sariang. One of the nicer stretches, actually. The road was like this until Sop Moei. After that, it got interesting. With occasional dirt patches, fallen trees and landslides to maneuver around/through. But our litte beater Hyundai made it through with flying colors.
    Along the way we were offered fantastic views:


    The road was rough and twisted. In this 53 Km stretch we only saw one other vehicle, a few cows, a pink water buffalo and the odd village and rice field. Truly a beautiful ride. But with a destination a few hundred km away, and unknown adventures ahead of us, we stopped only for a picture a two. I took about 100 pics of panoramas and jungle enclosed roads. The rain was light to fierce at times, I won't bore you with all the shots of the views.
    After about 2 hours of twisted road we cam out onto a wider, smoother road, right on the Moei river, The river is the border between Myanmar and Thailand.


    Never saw a border patrol, or ANYTHING at all along this stretch. Again dramitic views and misty mountains in all directions. Thing about the drive, we never saw a gas station, roadside restaurant, store or anything approaching a modern settlement for hours.

    As we approached Mae Ramat signs of civilisation began to show. Still no restaurants (thankfully I'd made a huge salami sandwhich that kept us alive during our arduous journey). The first real settlement was this Karien village just north of Mae Ramat.


    The village was huge and stretched between the mountains behind, and the hiway in front for about a mile There's gotta be 30,000 folks living there.


    It was about 4:30 = 5:00 PM and the road was full of the Burmese Kariens returning home from working the rice fields (Or wherever it was they were working)


    We were about an hour out of Mae sod and quite another adventure.
    Last edited by friscofrankie; 03-07-2006 at 06:30 PM.
    When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty -- T. Jefferson


  2. #2
    Northern Hermit
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    We arrived in Mae Sod at about 6:00 PM (we left our place in Chiangmai at 9:30 AM). On arrival we turned off 105 towwars the city and "firendship bridge." Turning right towards town we wanted a place to rest our weary bones and grab a bite.
    Wwe searched for a decent hotel for about 2 hours up and down every soi, street and alley. There were a few guest houses but most were share bath type things. One place, Bai Thai was this beautifully preseved wood home with smallish rooms and single twin beds. all shared bath. The lady runs the place likes to talk she don;t listen to nobody just prattles away, we passed.
    We looked at the DK hotel and at 450 baht per it was a deal but they had no rooms with double/king size beds every room was a twin. Now by this time I'm getting grumpy, so we drove down to the bridge area looking for a guesthouse. Nope. We settle finally at a place called the "Porn Thep Hotel" "Dump" is the only word that comes to mind. I didn't care after 11 hours in the car I was ready to sleep anywhere.
    We checked in and decided to take walk look for some food (no way I was eating at the "Dump"). We found a nice place called the "Crocodile Tear." sorry folks, by this time bothe sets of batteries were dead, dead, dead; no pics but the food was very well prepared teh service prompt(ish) and they had street side dining. The main drag was very quiet by then (8:30 - 10:30)
    We had a couple large Heinies, fired shimp with garlic, Tom Yum goong, fired mushrooms, scrambled eggs with naam and a couple fo other dishes couple of sodas the price came to 695 baht. a bit pricey but the food was excellent.
    We were both whipped and decided to explore the town the next day.

  3. #3
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    Next mornign was raing hard and by this time we're thinking this may be the worst trip ever. WE just headed for the border.
    If you're going with a thai mate/friend you'll need to stop about 3 KM before the border to get a border pass.


    This place is on the left about 3 KM after you leave the city area and about 3 Km before the border. of course we went to the immigration office next to the border station to find this out...


    The border pass was 30 baht.
    Ok now we can get out of Thailand for a few minutes. The passport control windows serves both arriving and departing folks.


    As with my last trip to Mae Sod there was a Burmese fella waiting to give me all the low down and escort me across the bridge ignoring him doesn't help but him telling me I can't take pictures of myanmar when I get into town was listented to.

    The burmese folks wishing to come across the border to work have a water taxi service but I decided against trying it out.


    I especially liked the custom made life-jacket made for this one little feller. Couldn't help thinking how surprised he'd be when those water bottles kept him face-down in the water (about 6 feet below the surface).

    The walk across the bridge is just over 400 meters, it was raining, out unofficial "guide" was prattling on in a barely decipherable slurred Thai. and I snapped this pic of hte border.


    The "Guide" went a bit paranoid. Seems pictures are no-no in Mywaddy. Whenever o took out my camera I got some freakish stares so I didn't snap any shots.


    Like someone's gonna take drugs INTO Burma!

  4. #4
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    Entering Burma there cost me 505 baht. A big jump from the $5.00/250 baht entrance fee at Tachilek. Not sure about the current situation but before you could get a two-week permit to stay for 500 baht in Mywaddy you would be restricted to the province. To be honest I was nursing a low-grade fever at the time and really wasn;t 100%.
    We spent as little amount of time as possible in Mywaddy. Although town is slightly more propsperous sinc my last visit 2- 1/2 years ago. it is still a poor, dirty backwater. The streets are littered with betel vendors and we developed a following of Samlor drivers throgh the town. I found a couple of coffee shops, and one restaurant I would have liked to try but the ol' lady wanted OUT OF BURMA NOW! There is no "shopping" or any points of interest other than the temple with some huge red spinels "Rubies" in umbrella at the top. Thing is they want you to take your shoes off at the gate and wade in the mud barefoot. Nope, ain't goin' fo it. We headed out

    In Mae Sod on the North side of he bridge there is a huge market with all the same stuff you can find in Mae Sai /Tachilek only a bit cheaper.
    A ton of Burmese-made furniture.


    This piece was availabe for 8500 THB. It's about 7 ft. long and very well put together.
    I questioned the shop-owner and she absolutely gauranteed that the teak was air-dried prior to the making of hte piece, but then, we all know how them shop-owners lie.



    This piece was 65,000. The foot baord and side rails are one piece of teak. THe head board is made up of two pieces. The young girl helping me quoted me 16,500 damn near bought it right then and there until the owner came out gave the girl a tounge lashing and quoted the "right" price.
    There is a soi behind the market where teak furniture made in burma is finished and sold they had some impressive pieces including a..
    TeakDoor or two..


    These two pices were easily over eight feet tall and four feet wide each. The set had an askig price of 35,000. This was first, blush so figure maybe 20 - 28,000. There were maybe 30 furniture shops there on a few sois selling everthng from massively caved sets with monstes asking prices to finely crafted modern pieces. Man y of the shops had signs promising prompt delevery to all except the three southern-most provinces (most of the vendors were muslim ).
    The market held electronics, gems, clothing, preserved fruits, knives, optics and cameras. Nice thing about this place is they have alot less traffic than Mae Sai and the price are thus a tad more negotiable.

    Maesod proper siffers from a lack of decent hotels or even guest houses. on leaving town we found a few places on the hiway between Tak and Mae Sod. They are out of twon and of the "resort" type. The DK was nice and if you don;t mind twin beds an excellent deal. After checkin into our hotel we found one other hotel that I would like to have tried. It doesn;t have an english name out front but the name is "Rongram First." Ornate with teak carving and a showpiece lobby the rooms were 250 fan - 450 air. I will stay there on the next trip.

    If you'd like to go from Bangkok take Hiway 1 to Tak turn left at hiway 105 to Mae Sod There is decent signage and you shouldn't get lost.
    The route we took down is an adventure and Don't recommend it unless yo've time and patience. There aqre no amentites along the way NONE. but if you've a mind, I think you could rustle up a homestay in one of the local villages. It would be a bit rough though. I will be taking the route again. Want to get more pics of the folks and habitats along the way. At a more leisurely pace, this would be one of the best untamed trips I could think of in Thailand. if you want to make this ride I recommend heading south to Mae Sariang and spending the night there. There is no signage to Hiway 105 or Sop Moei but head south out of town at the interection where the "aluminum temple" is. if you get an early start from Mae Sariang you'll have time for photography stops along they way it is definetly a phtotgenic drive. I wouldn;t recommend a car but a motorcycle or truck will be fine. The road get's rough and is full of surprises, but this the Thailand of 30 - 50 years ago for a ways, and worth the effort. I'd like to take a truck and some camping gear long this stretch make a few days out of it. the village in the pics up above was huge, surrounded by short barbed wire fences it had powere cable runnig through it but none of the villagers had a wire running to there homes. Still, I'd like to linger there I think these are the remenants of the Karien refugees that fled the fighting a few years ago. The area is full of recent history and well worht a closer look. Bandits? Border Skirmishes? Didn;t witness any, but I would gaurantee that they don't happen. There were no checkpoints, along the border and I did not see one Humvee. (can't say that about Mae Ai in the north of Chiangmai)

    If you are making a quick visa run from Chiangmai Take the "Supa Hiway" (hiway 11) out of town turn rigth at hiway 1 towards Tak. Once in Tak turn right on Hiway 105 follow it west until you reach Mae Sod. the hiways are broad roads with nice sweepign truns ideal for a comforatable car or motorcycle ride. t's doab;e in a day and would take about 2 hours longer than the trip to Mae Sai, total drive time. But if you;'re in CM and just weant a run across the border Mae sai is cheaper, closer and has more amenties. If you;re in the market for teak furnishings though; go to Mae Sod.

    Good luck finding a decent room.

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat
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    Nice report Frankie. It makes me want to get a bit 'rural' gain before too long.

  6. #6
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    Nice photos:i will do my visa run this week for have my 3 months on my multientry Non Immigrant O.Does anyone can tell me if stamps are like the one they put in Myanmar border in Ranong?Thank's

  7. #7
    I am in Jail
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    Nice pics and report.

    I have lived in Mae Sot for the past year, nice for a visit but gets a bit boring being here full time.

    The picture of the houses looks like it is from Mae La Refugee Camp.

  8. #8
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    Has anyone been through the Mae Sot crossing for a visa run lately? Ive got mine to do by the 16th and usually got to Nong Khai. Might be a bit closer/quicker/cheaoer there.

  9. #9
    I am in Jail

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    ^ agreed I'm in the same situation yet my visa expired today, I need to go tomorrow or the next at the latest.

    Where are you MelvBot? are you in Bangkok?

  10. #10
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    I do my visa runs from Phetchabun. A friend told me about Mae Sot as he drives from Kanchanaburi to there for his. Im sort of in the middle of the two, usually Nong Khai for me.

  11. #11
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    Its visa run time again within the next 10 days so if anyne has any reports on Mae Sot crossing I'd love to hear them. I might try and do it all in one day, there and back to Petch if the transport allows. If it doesnt and I end up staying any hotel recommendations would be handy.
    The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth

  12. #12
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    I used to make this run when I was residing in Sukhothai years ago. Always a treat. Mae Sod had always, this undertone of 'spookdom' about it. With all the blackmarketeers, undercover coppers, intel folk, and varied 'shady characters' at every turn - makes for interesting mingling. The atmosphere always reminds me of Vientiane of the late 60's and early 70's.....mysterious everywhere. And the local girls? Stunning mix of Karen, Burmese, Bangal, Himalayan, Thai, and distant Mynamar northern mix. Incredible natural beauty

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