Only a short stay of a couple of weeks in Northern Thailand’s Mae Sot, as travelling here mainly to volunteer with the same organisation as in Khao Lak.
Travel from Kanchanaburi to Mae Sot
At the time of writing, there isn’t a direct bus from Kanchanburi to Mae Sot.
You can take the Chiang Mai bus (or overnight bust at 19:00hrs), which drives through Kanchanaburi at around 09:00hrs and costs B365. This journey finishes at the Tak bus station only and takes around six hours.
After a wait of around half an hour in Tak, you take a minibus for about another ninety minutes to Mae Sot.
The problem is that the minibus arrives in Mae Sot at around 18:00hrs by which time, the Songthaews have already packed up and gone home. Only scooter taxis are available from 17:00hrs.
It so happened that when we arrived, the skies decided to open up and dump the full amount of the wet season’s torrential rain on Mae Sot for a few hours.
Walking back and forth from the bus station to the main road for over an hour trying to get a lift to the hotel, some three kilometres away, a local advised that everything stops at around 17:00hrs in Mae Sot. Only scooters operate after this hours. So, on 2 scooters we go, complete with about thirty kilos of backpacks balanced precariously on each bike, with drivers, and ourselves!
On this dark night and in the torrential rain, the drivers took the route ever so slowly but to their credit, we arrived at the hotel safely and in one piece.
As we are volunteering so working regular office hours during the stay, this doesn’t leave much time to explore any sights around Mae Sot. I know that there is a Gibbon Sanctuary about one and a half-hours away, a couple of waterfalls, temples, but not much else.
My experience in Mae Sot is that this is very much an NGO/INGO and expat clicky town.
Even to the point that if you sit in someone’s usual seat at the Bai Fern restaurant, the person will wait and keep watching you until you finish your meal or shift seats, to jump in your seat. Very strange behaviour but there’s always a positive and you can have a lot of fun with such a mind-set. In saying this, the locals are lovely and friendly, so you will feel at home in Mae Sot.
Having travelled to Myawaddy in 1989, I didn’t do this trip again and doubt the town has changed much since then, as it’s still one of the gateways to Burma…but I could be wrong.
I remember back then, if you stood on a corner long enough, someone would approach you with small cigarette foil full of different kinds of semi-precious gemstones, for you to purchase. Quite intriguing.
Mae Sot is only six kilometres from the Burmese border, so, in the centre of town is the lively Burmese Market, which signifies a great cultural mix.
You’ll find Indo-Burmese food, textiles, and teak, but also minority shops from Karen, Mon, and the Hmong. Fresh and also live produce is sold here among loads of delicious cheap treats cooked while you wait.
In the morning and evenings, a small indoor market is held at Baan Nua, which is where you can buy cooked cheap take-away meals as well as fresh vegetables, meats, and more treats.
Want to buy gems?
One particular street (Thananon Prasat Vithit) is a gem street, which offers numerous gem and jade shops. Many jewellery shops also grace this road.
If you get caught up in the town’s gem fever and you’re up for a cash splash, make sure you know the difference between real and fake gems before you buy, as you may be disappointed on returning home with cut glass.
Where to stay
Baan Kiang Chan – booked three nights, but stayed two weeks.
Apart from needing a stable abode as working volunteering, we also wanted to extend at this hotel after the three days as the staff are excellent and accommodating – they truly go out of their way to help you with anything you ask.
The hotel is about a couple of kilometres from town but an easy walk and quieter than being in the centre of town.
If you don’t fancy walking, the hotel provides a free Songthaew. Have to mention, we arrived at the hotel in the evening just before 8pm, but a staff member still drove us into town so that we could buy some dinner – very kind people.
The room is large, clean, serviced daily, and has wi-fi – a little slow albeit on weekends when the hotel is full.
The free buffet breakfast is very good with eggs, rice, a Thai dish, soup (or Congee depending on day), toast, tea, coffee, and more deliciousness.
Where to eat
Bai Fern Restaurant – Ate here a few times. The fruit shakes (B55) are delicious as are the Thai Green curry, multi-grain BBQ chicken and chips (B120), red wine (B80), and several other Thai dishes. The cappuccinos and the Pad Thai are disappointing.
Hazel Taste – arguably the best cappuccino in Mae Sot and probably a good part of Thailand, also providing great ambiance and service.
7-Eleven – this chain throughout Thailand is great for small items but also cheap good nibbles while you’re working. Pick up some sticky rice burgers, Gyoza, Espresso coffees, sandwiches, chocolate, and much more.
Leaving Mae Sot
I love Mae Sot for it’s laid back feel and sad to leave but with our brief volunteering stint completed, we are now pushing on to Laos, so heading to Chiang Rai on the next leg.
The Green Bus (B432) leaves from Mae Sot’s Station 2, at 08:00hrs and takes around 8 hours.
There is a new route on the Green Bus that runs six times per day between Mae Sai and Mae Sot, and then continues on to Chiang Rai.