Over the Thai Border
While visiting northern Thailand we decided to venture over the border to Mynamar.
We crossed over with a guide and had no problems at all. From Chaing Rai the nearest physical border is also Thailand's most Northerly point, Mae Sai. Here Burma, Union of Myanmar, is separated from Thailand by the river Sai and are joined by a bridge.
We paid $5.00 at the border crossing at Mai Sai , showed our passports and were in. I think it is best to go with a guide, as the area and border crossing can change without much notice.
As soon as you cross into Myanmar you are in a big market area. I found the venders more aggressive than their Thai neighbors but it was an interesting market to wander around. They sold just about everything there , including food, clothing and very cheap pirated CD's. Our driver/guide was most interested in these. There were tons of rubies, as well. I would be leery of buying them, as it's hard to say if they were real. They were tempting though. Myanmar does not have any ATM's, nor are credit cards accepted (except at some upscale hotels) .So you need cash. We used US$ with no problems.
Myanmar is a union of 135 ethnic groups with their own languages and dialects. The major races are the Kachin, the Kayah, the Kayin, the Chin , the Mon, the Bamar, the Rakhine, and the Shan. The name Myanmar embraces all the ethnic groups. Dozens of ethnic groups live in this area and on any day one can easily run into 4 or 5 different exotic hats and faces. The Karen, Hmong, Yao, Lahu, Buddhist and Muslim Burmese all live together in this frontier town speaking different languages, wearing different clothes, eating different foods
We found the people to be friendly. However the poverty is very visible and heartbreaking. Even though the venders in the marketplace tried hard to sell their wares, we were treated with respect even if we didn't make a purchase.
In any case, the local people frequently cross the river to trade goods from teak to gems to Burmese banana leaf cigars. It’s a fascinating place to visit and our tourist dollars are so badly needed by these hardworking people who are striving to recover from many years of unrest. We plan to someday return if time permits.