There are many options for getting from Chiang Mai to the border but because of our large family we chose to go in a hired van complete with a driver. We had wanted to rent our own car and make the drive ourselves but every single car was either booked for the day or exorbitantly priced. We paid 4000 baht, or roughly $120. That was split with another family and so the cost was $60. This was far less then even taking the public bus at $20 a person. That remains the best option for those travelling alone or even for a couple. Renting your own car or scooter is also an option and would be less expensive then the van with driver but reserve well in advance especially if travelling during the high season.
|Hot springs fountain|
During the beautiful 4 hour ride to the border we encountered perfect roads, beautiful mountain vistas and hairpin curves. I would recommend Dramamine or at least some type of bag if you are prone to motion sickness at all. After living in Costa Rica, not much can scare us on the road, but the curves may be a bit frightening to some! The car itself was comfortable with ample leg room. There were 8 of us and we had the whole thing to ourselves. It was more than enough room.
We slowly approached an area lined with vans, buses and every conceivable product being peddled. We knew we had made it and that the real work would now begin. Out of the van we all shuffled, happy to be out of the car for a while. The driver dropped us right in front of the huge blue gates around the border, gave us his cell and told us to give him a call when we were ready to head back.
We walked over to the left side and followed the only English signs there...passport control! The exit forms were already in our passport, had we known this it could have been all filled out already. We didn't realize so we stepped aside to quickly fill out the forms. Back in line and in about 5 mins we were through and onto the other side. At this point you cross over the bridge to the Burma side. An easy 2 minute walk. You can see the obvious differences between Thailand and Burma immediately.
As soon as you get on the bridge hang on to your belongings. Children and vendors come out and start grabbing on your arms, begging for money or for you to follow them to a tour of some sort. We went over to the right side of the bridge and were directed into the Burma office of immigration. We were told to bring $10 for each passport but the officials there, who were smoking in the office and spoke good English, would have none of the US money. 500 Thai baht per person and then when you tell them it is just for an hour or so they take your photo and hand you a copy of that then take and keep your passport. You get it back but man what an unsettling feeling to leave them with these guys. I spend my travel time constantly counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...OK they are all here. So having him walk away with these was distressing but I knew about it ahead of time so I accepted it and walked on.
|Markets on the Burma/Myanmar side|
We knew we were there to do a job but for me it felt awful to see so little of a new country. I know we will be back and the hagglers were really haggling us but still.
|Very odd placement on this one|
Overall this was a super easy border run. We coupled it with an overnight in Chiang Dao to visit the caves but we could have returned after spending a leisurely time at the border and have been home before dark. Now if only we could get 30 days so as not to do this every 2 weeks...
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