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Driving To Mae Sai... Easy?


plumski

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Hi - not sure whether to post here or to visa section - but thought it would be better to try and get some local knowledge.

I am living in Chiang Mai and need to do my first 3 monthly visa run to Mae Sai. Hitch is that I have 3 kids and don't fancy going on a bus with them.. We have a car, so could drive - but how easy is the drive? (we just have a regular car). I've had various info on how long it might take and what the road is like...

Can anyone give me an idea of what to expect? I've found out all about what to do once you get to Mae Sai - so don't need advice about actual border bit - just about the drive itself.

I expect you can also hire private cars/minivans and drivers - anyone done this recently and has idea of cost involved?

THANKS

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Might take you longer if you stop along the way.

There are some great places to stop for a pee and a coffee!

First one i would recommend the new hot springs... you wont miss it.. huge great big thai temple style buildings... once you are in the mountains.

I think it might take you more than 3 or 4 hours if you drive at a nice pace.

You will have maniacs driving behind you very fast, just let them overtake (on the blind bends).

Stop and see the white Wat... maybe someone can give you a name! Its near Chiang Rai.

Nice coffee place called Doi Chang coffee, i think just before or after Chiang Rai

not much else, plane sailing, just watch out for the minibuses full of farang/tourists hurtling along to a schedule. (I wonder do the farang realise that the drivers of those minibuses are clearly INSANE?!).

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Done the drive dozens of times and its no problem at all.

It used to be a very dangerous drive but they've added extra lanes and separated the two directions of traffic through the mountains and the rest of the drive is mostly highway.

Used to be a terrifying drive as it seemed every corner or blind hill you went through you had to swerve to avoid two pick uptrucks coming towards you on both sides of the road!

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Can anyone give me an idea of what to expect?

I did my first run three weeks ago with no problems except perhaps when you reach Mae Sai finding a place to park. I had to park about 10 minutes walk away from the border. Don't know whether its always like that. Probably mostly Thais going across the Border to shop. The town itself was packed.

On a previous thread someone mentioned THE CHARIN RESORT as a place to stop for either a coffee and a huge selection of the most delicious cakes and pastries or a meal.If you don't stop you'll be missing a real treat. Its not a posh exclusive place but very pleasant surroundings. Its about half way on the journey. Should be on your map.

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I do this visa run already for several years, every 3 months, in my little Hiyundai (spelling??). No problems.

Untill now, also no problems with parking in Mae Sai. Just drive untill the very end, just before the big port, then take a right (not a U-turn). Drive straight on (about 100-200 meters???) till the road/soi ends on a large parking lot. Costs for parking are 40 baht.

The Charin Resort definitely recommended.

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Ah.. Pong Pa Fuang must be the new Kitsch hot springs place? Good place for a coffee and a pee if you are in a hurry

Whats the name of the White wat near Chiang rai though? AWESOME place.

Beautiful map, might have to buy one of those.

edit: white wat google search:

http://images.google.com/images?q=white%20...sa=N&tab=wi

img-9969.jpg

white-temple-Chapel-of-Wat-Rong-Khun-close-to-chiang-rai.jpg

Edited by whiterussian
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Ah.. Whats the name of the White wat near Chiang rai though? AWESOME place.

Beautiful map, might have to buy one of those.

The "white temple" Wat Rong Khun

451720642_Ftxkd-M.jpg

The map" the GT Rider Golden Triangle Loop guide map.

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About the "white temple" (Wat Rong Khun) - it truly is a remarkable place. As the photo of the reaching hands suggests, it has some amazing art - as well as the overall effect effect of all that white and silver mirror mosaic pieces. The wall paintings inside are astonishing - including very imaginative and stunningly modern representations of 9-11 etc. I was fortunate enough to be there over a year ago when the artists were still at work on them.

I've wondered where the money comes from to pay for all this - and who was boldly imaginative enough to commission the design and art. In any event, it has become a major attraction and (from what I hear since) always seem to be busy with visitors. A "must see".

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Would love to get some of these maps. George, do you have them?

They're great. I have the GT-Rider "Mae Hong Son - The Loop" version - think I got it from either Surewongse Books or the bookstore/stationery place on Rachawithi. Need to get the "Golden Triangle" version next time I'm near a bookstore.

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Sawasdee Khrup, Khun Plumski,

I'm not trying to talk you out of driving, but thought you might enjoy recent news on what the bus trip is like :

The VIP bus from Chiang Mai's Arcade bus station is so very comfortable. Last Friday (January 9) I took the 8AM bus which was a very new monster-sized "Golden Dragon" (joint venture of Chinese and western companies in Xiamen, China) 32 seat bus with many of the seats in the back now "first-class." We arrived about noon in Mae Sai.

330 baht each way to Mae Sai and back.

The VIP seats are enormous, and the first-class seats looked roomy enough for me. The ride was so smooth I was actually able to read the whole way up !

They now have a VIP bus back from Mae Sai to Chiang Mai at 2:30PM (I used to take the 3:30PM bus back). This one was also a Golden Dragon behemoth.

Of course, driving you will have the pleasure of stopping, as so many have recommended here, at the hot springs, at Charin Resort which, for me, has the best coconut pie in the world. And seeing Wat Rong Khun is truly wonderful.

best, ~o:37;

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Sawasdee Khrup, Khun Plumski,

I'm not trying to talk you out of driving, but thought you might enjoy recent news on what the bus trip is like :

The VIP bus from Chiang Mai's Arcade bus station is so very comfortable. Last Friday (January 9) I took the 8AM bus which was a very new monster-sized "Golden Dragon" (joint venture of Chinese and western companies in Xiamen, China) 32 seat bus with many of the seats in the back now "first-class." We arrived about noon in Mae Sai.

330 baht each way to Mae Sai and back.

The VIP seats are enormous, and the first-class seats looked roomy enough for me. The ride was so smooth I was actually able to read the whole way up !

They now have a VIP bus back from Mae Sai to Chiang Mai at 2:30PM (I used to take the 3:30PM bus back). This one was also a Golden Dragon behemoth.

Of course, driving you will have the pleasure of stopping, as so many have recommended here, at the hot springs, at Charin Resort which, for me, has the best coconut pie in the world. And seeing Wat Rong Khun is truly wonderful.

best, ~o:37;

They do have the best pies in Thailand, in my opinion charin.jpg

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I'm not trying to talk you out of driving, but thought you might enjoy recent news on what the bus trip is like :

The VIP bus from Chiang Mai's Arcade bus station is so very comfortable. Last Friday (January 9) I took the 8AM bus which was a very new monster-sized "Golden Dragon" (joint venture of Chinese and western companies in Xiamen, China) 32 seat bus with many of the seats in the back now "first-class." We arrived about noon in Mae Sai.

330 baht each way to Mae Sai and back.

The VIP seats are enormous, and the first-class seats looked roomy enough for me. The ride was so smooth I was actually able to read the whole way up !

They now have a VIP bus back from Mae Sai to Chiang Mai at 2:30PM (I used to take the 3:30PM bus back). This one was also a Golden Dragon behemoth.

------------------------------------

Does this bus service continue on to Chiang Rai or terminate at Mae Sai? made the trip with a tour very talkative guide last year cost big bucks, this service sounds pretty good, also are forward reservations needed? or just purchase a ticket on the day? any scheduled stops? FangsMuchly :o

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About the "white temple" (Wat Rong Khun) - it truly is a remarkable place. As the photo of the reaching hands suggests, it has some amazing art - as well as the overall effect effect of all that white and silver mirror mosaic pieces. The wall paintings inside are astonishing - including very imaginative and stunningly modern representations of 9-11 etc. I was fortunate enough to be there over a year ago when the artists were still at work on them.

I've wondered where the money comes from to pay for all this - and who was boldly imaginative enough to commission the design and art. In any event, it has become a major attraction and (from what I hear since) always seem to be busy with visitors. A "must see".

It's not a real temple (in the true sense of the word)

Built by some guy with money burning a hole in his pockets. (probably provides some return from donations received)

That said, it is quite a nice place to visit.

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Report on the Visa Run....

Well we did the journey today and I thought I'd add a short report to the end of the thread for the benefit of anyone looking for similar info...

Actually I have to confess I didn't actually drive myself - in the end my husband was able to change his plans and come with us so we could be on the same visa run cycle... So he drove, though I did offer!

We left at 7.30am (friends told us 6.30am is the best time for a good head start, but we just couldn't face it!). We joined the 118 Doi Saket /Chiang Rai road from Ring Road 1 and had a smooth journey out of CM.

Kids took loads of activities to do in the car with advance warning about the trip - so they were well happy all day "This is a good trip" - is a good sign when your 6 year old has been in the car for 3 hours!

I must admit once we got into the first set of windy/twisty roads just past Doi Saket I did wonder how we'd do with 3 more hours of that!.. But thankfully after about 30 minutes of really winding roads, you come out on more of a plateau along a river valley and get wider roads, with longer curves and only a few other really curvey sections along the whole route.

Before the trip (having not looked at a decent map) I thought the most twisty roads would be towards the end of the trip - but it was the other way round - the end section on Highway 1 through Chiang Rai and up to Mae Sai is really the fastest/straightest bit.

First stop was Black Canyon coffee at the Shell station coming out of the town of Mae Kachan for latte and loos. That was about 1hr 15 into the journey.

We stopped at Charin Resort both going and coming back! (Too much choice with the pies to only make 1 stop). Just as attested to above, it is a lovely place with great tasting pies! (We managed to try 4 between us between 2 stops! My favourite was the Orange Cheesecake). I bought a Golden Triange Loop - GT Rider map at Charin Resort for 150bt which rectified the lack of decent map situation... and I thought was great value as you can see above it's a great map.

Every thing else about the trip and getting our visas etc. went smoothly. There is beautiful scenery - particularly as you are approaching Mae Sai - I really want to go back and explore the area up there as it looks lovely - mountains are particularly pretty. Sorry no pics as it was a bit misty, so didn't get the camera out.

In Mae Sai we went right to the end of the road, almost to the Immigration building and then turned right - under an arch that says Wang Thong Hotel - parked in carpark down there for 40baht.

Visa process is fairly straight forward, it is described elsewhere, but briefly:

Go through Thai immigration to get stamped out

Go to the Myanmar immigration office to temporarily exchange your passport for a permit to visit for 1 day - this costs 500baht or $10 per person (so using $ was a good saving). YOU DO HAVE TO PAY FOR CHILDREN!!! Please note this - we'd read elsewhere that you don't, but today at least you did!

Have a short wander around Tachilek!

On the way out go back to the Myanmar immigration on the other side of the street and they will have your passport waiting and will show you your in and out stamp before directing you back to Thailand!

Go to Thai immigration further down and get your departure card - fill that in - there is a desk area provided.

Queue up to go through passport control and get a new permit to enter stamp in your passport! (For a family according to the notice you are supposed to show you have 40,000 baht in funds (20,000 for individual), but we weren't asked for this and don't know anyone who has been).

That was it, job done!

We headed back early afternoon and after our second Charin stop made pretty good time - the whole trip took 9 1/2 hours.

Thanks again for the tips!

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Just to add we didn't stop at the White Wat because we thought it would be a bit too much in the journey for the kids - but definitely would like to go back and check it out on a more leisurely trip as looks amazing from pics and what we could see from the road!

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Sorry B. Bill,

OMG do I sound stupid! Only been there once, had the most talkative guide in the business and can’t remember sh*t. Dug up a map when I went off line “Oh embarrassment embarrassment”. Blame lack of concentration on the avid thought of further travel at a much reduced price. Agent here (Ballarat) got everything signed, sealed and paid for before we left Oz, now finding out about the better ways to get more bang……

Sadly I’ll probably do the foot & mouth thing again, but am finding these threads a real learning tool, have to try harder not to drive you old hands crazy. Thanx BJ

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