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Published: March 22nd 2015
See the TWO (2) White Temple panoramas above
Look at the photos below. Click on any photo to enlarge.
Text is of limited interest. Another couple of months...another visa-run. March 13, 2015:
Rather than take the most common visa-run from Chiang Mai north to Mae Sai / Tachilek border, I thought it would be interesting to see a less used border crossing south-west at Mae Sot. Mae Sot is a little further away, 6 hour bus ride rather than 4 hours, but is less used. There is a refugee camp manned by many young volunteers and a small expat community. Many of the local workers in Mae Sot, Thailand are from Myanmar and speak no Thai or English. Precious stones from Myanmar are popular and there's a gem market on Saturdays with many shops (photo
) cutting the raw stones. The daily local market is also interesting (photos
Even though I qualify for a Retirement Visa and so would not have to leave the country, I know that I can easily suffer from inertia so I purposely take out Tourist Visas which force me to leave the country every couple of months. This time I only need
a 30-day non-visa entry which used to be quite easy to get by going in and out across a border. The new military government is changing the rules and making it more inconvenient. This border crossing was an unpleasant surprise. No in-out visa runs (photo
). The chief immigration officer offered me a Myanmar visa for 2,000 Baht (1,000 in Bangkok) and suggested I visit Yangon, go to the Thailand Embassy and get another visa. Bus ride to Yangon from the border is 15 hours. Otherwise, if I left I wouldn't be allowed to come back into Thailand. On retrospect, I think I could've spent one night in Myawaddy, Myanmar then returned the next day. My options seemed to be that I could go back to Chiang Mai and get ask for a 30 extension on Monday or try the Mai Sai border crossing. The internet forum for Thailand (thaivisa.com) had mentioned a clamp down there a few months ago but nothing recently.
Six hour bus ride back to Chiang Mai. It's getting hot and the locals are burning the fields and forest so the air quality is very poor. I arrived back in Chiang Mai at dusk and went
straight to the swimming pool to cool off and relax. My visa was to expire the next day, Sunday. I was up early Sunday so I decided to take a chance going to the Mae Sai border. The bus ride was comfortable for reading and I was a little disappointed at arriving so quickly. There's a number of sticky points that difficult border guards can catch you on. Technically, but rarely asked for, you need 10,000 Baht cash to exit/enter at this border. I had a copy of an airline ticket to leave the country. I was willing to spend the night in Myanmar if required. All for nought. There was myself and one other foreigner crossing the border. The immigration officer just stamped an exit in my passport with no problem. On the Myanmar side, you pay them $10 or as they often insist, 500 Baht ($16). The ten dollar bill must be without a blemish and even then they will often refuse it and insist on 500 ฿. This time no problem. He took the $10 bill threw it in the drawer and waved me on. The market in Myanmar has "Scotch Whiskey"? (made in Myanmar), Chinese goods
and pirated DVDs. The forbidden animal products are not readily displayed anymore. I tried to subsidize the cost of this trip by buying the cheap whiskey available.
I wasn't sure if I would be forced to stay a night in Tachilek or be going back to Chiang Mai that evening so I didn't book a return ticket. As a result when I got back to the bus station they were sold out. I took a local bus back to Chiang Rai and resigned to spend the night. There are many pleasant guest houses (photo
) and rather take the early bus back to Chiang Mai next day, I decided to do a little sight-seeing.
For years now I've passed through Chiang Rai but there were two places in particular that I wasn't familiar with until someone pointed out a list of "must see attractions" on FaceBook. One was The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the other was The Black Temple (Baan Si Dam).
The Black House is a short ride by the local green bus (see video insert
) north towards Mae Sai, then a short walk from the highway where they drop you off.
Thawan Duchanee (photo,
in video insert), a local artist is responsible for the Black House grounds. It's a surprisingly large area with many buildings and many incongruous and unexpected displays. I wasn't expecting the large number of houses spread about.
The White Temple which is more famous is about 15 km south of Chiang Rai by the local blue bus. The bus drops you off on the highway and it's a very short walk to the site. The glittering temple looks like it belongs in Disneyland. You almost need sunglasses because of the glass that is embedded in the paint. This is very popular with busloads of Chinese tourists. Definitely worthwhile to visit.
This blog contains 18 photos and 2 panoramic scenes.
Scroll down this page below video to see the photos.
See youtube addition: [