Burmese Border Run
Mae Sai Travel Blog› entry 23 of 42 › view all entries
As British citizens, we are permitted 30 days in Thailand at a time, up to a total of 90 days in any 6 months. So 30 days into our current Thai stint we had to go on the legendary 'visa run'.
Our first port of call were 'Hot Springs'. That sounds quite lovely, maybe nestled in the mountains amongst trees and wildlife. In actual fact it should have been described as 'service station with a fountain in it'. Yes the fountain was warm, and probably did come originally from some idyllic location, but when you can seen the mechanism pumping out the 'magical burst of water', it takes away part of the 'magic'. The most exciting part of the stop was that we got to go to the toilet, and buy a bottle of water.
Our next stop was an ancient temple right in the North of Thailand (I don't actually know where, such was the level of information from our tour guide). It was nice to walk round, and pretty, but frequented by every minibus in N Thailand, which slightly detracted from the potentially tranquil setting. In order to stop the Thai government chopping down all the trees, Buddhists often bless them, and wrap orange material round their trunks. We have seen quite a bit of this in the last few weeks, and I like the idea of it, it also works! There is something quite nice about seeing a huge old tree with a dirty orange scarf round it, knowing that someone cared enough about it to bless it.
Shortly after, we stopped for lunch at a truly terrible Thai buffet place.
Our final stop before reaching the border town was the Golden Triange. This is the point at which the Mekong River separates the Thai/Burmese/Laos borders. It was quite cool to stand in Thailand on the banks of the river looking across at Burma on our left, and Laos on our right, slightly surreal. It was really just a photo stop, before heading a short distance further North to Mae Sai, Thailand's northernmost town.
We had an incredibly short amount of time from leaving the minibus, to meeting up again. Several people were doing the tour for it's own sake (they must have been disspointed) and stayed on the Thai side, but a couple of people like us were doing it as part of a visa run. We walked through the Thai office, officially leaving Thailand, and found ourselves on a bridge in no man's land.
So half an hour later we go back through the border, the 20min minumum time allowing the man from the office on the right hand side of the road to walk to the woman on the left hand side of the road to give her your passport and write your name on a spreadsheet.
On the way back the heat was intense, despite the a/c minibus, and the endless windy roads were really starting to take their toll. We stopped off briefly at a couple of tribal villages, but only actually got out of the bus for one of them, once we had said we didn't want to get out, everyone else said the same which was quite funny. There are many many hill tribes in Northern Thailand, and even more tours claiming to take you to see them. Yes, you see a hill tribe village, but it is set up for tour after tour to come through and stare. We have heard of a few reputable companies who have a guide that speaks the tribal language and the culture is not eroded.
Our final stop before returning to Chiang Mai was a modern temple in the process of being built by a wealthy business man.
ps. when did I get so opinionated??