Mae Sot

Overview

Introduction

Just 4.5 mi/7 km from the Thai-Burmese border, Mae Sot is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Thailand. Known as "Little Burma" for good reason, thousands of Burmese migrants cross the border each day to sell their textiles, food and teak in the lively central market (along with the interesting ethnic crafts, other stalls see live turtles, eels and frogs). Gem and jade shops are ubiquitous, though buyers should be wary of fakes. A medical clinic on the outskirts of town treats Burmese refugees; as such, Mae Sot attracts an NGO crowd.

On the main road, WEAVE and Borderline are both good places to buy fair-trade Burmese handicrafts; the latter has a small art gallery and coffee shop. The goods are handmade by Burmese women living in Thai refugee camps. Day trips into the Burmese border town of Myawaddy are usually possible, but you must be back on the Thai side by 5 pm. If Burma is part of your plan, double-check the situation at the border, as the friendship bridge occasionally closes when relations between the two countries are tense.

Many travelers skip Mae Sot, even though its airport has regular flights to Chiang Mai and Bangkok, because there's not much in the way of sights here. Those who do visit will be rewarded by a frontier town that's (so far) escaped the tourist circuit, and may stay longer than planned. Mae Sot is 300 mi/485 km northwest of Bangkok.

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