Towards Thailand’s furthest north western corner three countries border each other at one single point called the golden triangle. Here you can almost put one foot in Thailand, one in Myanmar (Burma) while at the same time enjoying the views over in Laos. The landscape in this region is dramatic, beautiful and captivating with rolling green hills and untouched jungle. This area is also home to Chiang Rai, an area frequented by tourists who appreciated nature’s beauty, Thai hospitality and serene tranquility. It lies north-west of Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai and can be reached either by road or with a short domestic flight. The area is rich in culture, ancient history and fabulous scenery. A five hour drive from Chiang Rai brings you to the town of Mae Sot. If an experience in traditional lifestyle where mass tourism has not made its mark gets you excited, head for Mae Sot. Visiting a lessor know location such as this, or at least including it in your itinerary as a two day stop over can often lead to more interesting discoveries and unique cultural experiences than just visiting the typical tourist hot spots.
Mae Sot is located right on the border with Myanmar, separated by the Moei river. You can in fact stand in Mae Sot and look across into Myanmar or use this as an entry point into Myanmar. Yes, Myanmar is becoming popular with tourists nowadays. This enchanting location with its friendly and hospitable people has a totally relaxed atmosphere, nobody is in a hurry because there is always more time tomorrow. The way to do your sightseeing here is to hop on a bicycle and hit the road.
One of the first things you will discover in Mae Sot is the privilege to experience both Thai and Burmese culture and history all in one place and the town even has a Chinese community. The town is home to a large number of Burmese people and feature several Burmese style temples to visit. This include wat Manee Phraison (a wat is a temple compound) which is home to 500 000 Burmese style Buddha images.
Mae Sot is also home to Thailand’s famous hill tribes. The hill tribes are people who have over hundreds of years migrated from countries like Burma, China and Laos and are found all along the northern Thai border and places like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The hill tribes still live like they have for hundreds of years, wear their traditional, colourful clothing and traditional jewelry. In Mae Sot, visiting the Karen, Hmong and Lahu hill tribes will be an experience bar none and a window into an ancient way of life.
As you might know, Myanmar is known for its precious stones and Mae Sot has become a trading post for these gems and teak items imported from Burma, so make sure you bring enough cash. An array of shops and markets which include Mae Sot’s Walking Street with its 300 stalls sell Thai and Burmese hand-craft, clothes, leather accessories, souvenirs and local food and drinks.
If you are adventurous as far as food go you need to try the ready-to-eat Burmese style dishes at the town’s markets and in the evenings you can let your self be entertained by Burmese music at a selection of pubs. Here you will find your self much more in the company of Burmese than Thais.
Nature lovers will have a fab time hiking the national parks of Tak, the province in which Mae Sot is located. These include The Lan Sang National Park and Taksin Maharat National Park showcasing fascinating scenery like verdant forest, rivers and waterfalls. The Lan Sang national park features at least four waterfalls, one of which is 40 meters high. In the Taksin Maharat park you can sleep over in bungalow style accommodation.
Mae Sot itself has at least 15 hotels and resorts offering high standard accommodation should you want to stay over a few nights. The most recommended of these include the Centara Hill Resort, Queen Palace hotel and Irawadee Resort. The Mok Fah Sai Resort is highly recommended since its design and surroundings fits perfectly with the location.
Phuket is the area in Thailand which draws the most visitors and with its sparkling beaches, luxury hotels and family friendly beach resort accommodation it is only to be expected. However, if you want to experience authentic culture and a rural way of life amid amazing natural scenery, you should consider including Mae Sot in your itinerary.
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Author: George Conradie