Mae Sai is the northern-most city of Thailand. It is mainly a stepping stone for visits to Myanmar and has few attractions of its own.
How to get to Mae Sai?
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 2PM.
There are also 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
By car which can be rented in Chiang Mai (4 hours away) and other cities. Mae Sai is 61 km from Chiang Rai on Highway No. 110.
What to See?
Mae Sai is quite an underestimated town as many visitors just breeze past it on their way to a Myanmar borderrun. But if you would like to visit an authentic Thai border town there is much to see here for you.
- The Tam Pla caves, about 12 KM from Sae Sai are absolutely worth a visit. Take a torch (flashlight) as there is no artificial lighting in the caves.
- Visit the caves along the main road.
- 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.
- Take a picture with the gate marking the northern-most point of Thailand
What to do?
- 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 10 US$. Please note the officialt will either try to get the 500 baht (as it is worth more) or try to charge you more. The official price (as listed in the office) is $ 10. 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 (if you are older!) From here, you can travel as far as Kengtung (Thai Chiang Tung) provided you hire a tour guide, 160 km away, but to travel to the rest of Myanmar, a visa in advance is needed. Transit travelers 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
- Rent a scooter and drive through the mountains. Just the first left just before the border and just keep driving – it is one of the most scenic drives you will find in Thailand. Fuel up as you can expect a 100 KM ride if you ride the whole loop back to Mae Sai.
- Visit the fish cave about 10 KM from Mae Sai.
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
View Mae Sai, Chiang Rai in a larger map
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