A trip to the northernmost part of Thailand gives you a chance to visit the borders of three countries in one day—Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (formerly called Burma).
Start your trip from Chiang Rai passing through scenic roads until you notice a dramatic change in the landscape. As you get closer, you end up in Mae Sai, the last town in Thailand at the border of Myanmar.
Across the bridge over Mae Sai River is Tachileik, the border town in the Shan State of eastern Myanmar.
The Mae Sai River serves as the border between Thailand and Myanmar. It’s fun to watch the nonstop flow of people and cars crossing the border, either entering or exiting from both Myanmar and Thailand. Numerous stalls and shops selling all kinds of goodies occupied all the spare space at the border. Name it and you’ll find it here- food, textile and clothing, jewelry, delicacies, precious stones, bags, electronics and everything you can possibly want or look for.
Visitor Center and Immigration Office at the Golden Triangle boundary to cross Laos. About an hour away from Mae Sai is the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. It’s where you cross the Mekong River, known to be the 12th longest river in the world to get to Laos.
If you go with a tour agency, they will ask you to leave your passports with the Thailand immigration office. This is to assure that you are going back to Thailand on the same day. The Thai Immigration office was nothing fancy, just a small flat structure you would easily mistake for a souvenir shop. I was not comfortable leaving my passport behind but there was no other choice. That or you can’t cross the border to Laos. You also pay a 30 Baht for the entrance fee to Laos.
It’s a thrilling experience crossing Mekong River and reach another country in a few minutes. Very soon, the boat docked at the floating pier of Don Sao Island. A lot of kids were milling around on the floating dock, begging people for money.
Our guide gave us about an hour to roam around the island, with strict instructions to be back at the pier at the given time. He told us that if we miss the boat, we would be stranded in Laos. That also means we will have a lot of (unpleasant) explaining to do to the Immigration in Thailand to get our passports back.
If you are travelling to Laos, that’s another story. You don’t have to leave your passport behind but instead apply for a visa on arrival.
Don Sao Island
Don Sao Island is a modern day tourist trap, with stalls and shops selling all kinds of things. There are tables set outside where tourists could eat and drink. The main attraction was the first stall from the jetty. Massage oil bottles and bottles of wine with snakes of all sizes and colors are marinated in assorted ingredients are sold.
When you travel solo and you want to capture as many photos as you can, book a tour with an agency. I know your time is limited and it’s more expensive but they take care of the whole trip. You can escape from the planning and stress of worrying if you took the right bus to the right destination, or if you can make it to wherever you’re going on time. The photos I captured told more of the details that I missed.
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