Decided to volunteer in Mae Sot with the same organisation as in Khao Lak, so, stayed at this border town for only a short couple of weeks.
Travelling to Mae Sot from Kanchanaburi
The Chiang Mai bus drives through Kanchanaburi at around 09:00 (or take the 19:00 over-nighter) and costs B365 for the journey to the Tak bus station only. This part of the trip takes around 6 hours. At the time of writing, there wasn’t a direct bus from Kanchanburi to Mae Sot. So, at Tak after a wait of around half an hour, you take a minibus for about another 90 minutes to Mae Sot. The problem is that the minibus arrives in Mae Sot at around 18:00 by which time, the Songthaews have already packed up and gone home (at 17:00) – only scooter taxis are available.
It so happened that when we arrived, the skies decided to open up and dump the wet season’s torrential rain on Mae Sot for a few hours. We walked back and forth from the bus station to the main road for over an hour trying to get a lift to the hotel, some 3 kilometres away. A local advised that everything stops at around 17:00hrs in Mae Sot with only scooters operating thereafter. So, on 2 scooters we went, complete with about 30 kilos of backpacks balanced precariously on each bike, 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 volunteered and worked regular office hours during the stay, this didn’t leave much time to explore any sights around Mae Sot. I know that there is a Gibbon Sanctuary about 1.5 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 that mind-set! In saying this, the locals are lovely and friendly so you will feel at home here.
Having travelled to Myawaddy in 1989, I didn’t do this trip again and doubt this 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.
Mae Sot is only 6 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.
One particular street (Thananon Prasat Vithit) is a gem street, which offers numerous gem and jade shops; also many jewellery shops along 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.
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.
Baan Kiang Chan
Booked 3 nights, stayed 2 weeks! We had volunteering work in Mae Sot but wanted to extend at this hotel after the 3 days as the staff are excellent; 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 one of the staff member still drove us into town so that we could buy some dinner – very kind people.
The room is large, clean, serviced daily, wi-fi (a little slow 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.
Bai Fern Restaurant – Ate here a few times. The fruit shakes (B55) are delicious as is 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 were disappointing.
Hazel Taste – arguably the best cappuccino in Mae Sot and probably a good part of Thailand; great ambiance and service.
7-Eleven – this chain throughout Thailand is great for small items but also cheap good nibbles while you’re working, such as sticky rice burgers, Gyozas, Espresso coffees, sandwiches, chocolate, and much more.
Mae Sot to Chiang Rai
The Green Bus (B432) leaves from Mae Sot’s ‘Station 2’, at 08:00 and takes about 8 hours. There’s a new route on the Green Bus that runs 6 times per day between Mae Sai and Mae Sot, then going onto Chiang Rai.