Where We Be
Favorite moment in Myanmar: when our guide showed us how to
"make merit" and honor Buddha following traditional customs
Day Trip into Myanmar (Burma)
This is the Thai border town of Mae Sai. Like most border towns it's not much to
look at, but it does have the distinction of being the most northerly point in Thailand.
We walked to the Myanmar border crossing, heading towards the big blue sign
announcing the "Republic of the Union of Myanmar." Normally, access to Myanmar
requires a visa, but you can enter Tachileik with no visa as long as you stay in town.
From the bridge we could see the Mae Sai River just below us. It looks
a little shallow this time of year (May), but just wait till rainy season.
This ad for a golf resort in Myanmar struck our fancy. Apparently it's the only one in
the region, so it's not uncommon to see groups of Thais crossing in carrying golf clubs.
The border crossing only took a minute then we were in Tachileik. It bills itself as the
"City of the Golden Triangle" (that's what the red sign says in the middle of the roundabout).
Our guide quickly tracked down local transport -- this colorful tuk-tuk complete with
friendly local driver. The cost for his services that morning was 300 baht total (~$10  US).
Before taking the tuk-tuk, we strolled through the local market. We asked about the pink eggs and
were told they're pickled eggs. Barely five minutes into a new country and already something new!
The spiky fruit up front are durians, renowned for their potent odor. We can't tell you
how many hotels we've visited in Southeast Asia with signs posted saying "No Durians."
Our guide told us you can identify people from Myanmar by
their use of a yellowish cosmetic sunscreen on their faces
The yellowish cosmetic paste, known as thanaka, is made from ground bark -- which is why
they're selling what looks like firewood at the marketplace, right next to the hair colour cream!
This young girl couldn't take her eyes off us as we approached. We're guessing they don't get
many western tourists in Myanmar yet. Note the mom's colorful umbrella, used to keep the sun off.
After visiting the market, we climbed into our tuk-tuk and headed to a huge Thai-style
Buddhist temple called Phra Jow La Keng. It's one of the largest temples in Tachileik.
Yup, it's big! Gotta love the polished floors and rows of gold pillars.
We thought this temple had a serene feel to it with its big cool hall.
Our guide, Dwen, was a Buddhist herself and paid her respects at each temple
we visited. We didn't mind at all -- in fact it added to the interest of our visit.
We reboarded our tuk-tuk and climbed the steep hill to Shwedagon Pagoda. We were
greeted by these hilarious monks who look like they're busting a move right out of
"Saturday Night Fever."  The smiles of the monks look a little crazed, don't you think?
At the center of Shwedagon is this big golden chedi -- a replica of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
It's smaller than the original but still plenty big. In terms of tourist attractions in Tachileik,
this is the most popular. Notice that we're barefoot -- typical at Buddhist temples.
Dwen (above left) helped us perform a little ceremony to honor Buddha. First she helped us look up our birth date
and discovered we were both born on a Wednesday, so we headed over to the Wednesday Buddha (above right).
Here we got to interact with some locals, buying incense and flowers to dedicate to the Buddha. We lit the incense
and added the flowers to a vase. Then we paid our respects for a few minutes, following Dwen's lead. It felt like a
real and meaningful ceremony to us because we had Dwen to guide us through the process from beginning to end.
As we were leaving, we spied this row of statues depicting monks waiting
in line to collect alms. The views of Tachileik are great from here.
We had time for one more temple -- and we really liked this one too. It's a smaller Myanmar-style
temple colored green and gold and is known as Dhammayon (Enrobed Elephant) Temple.
Once again we were greeted by very happy -- what? Temple guardians? All kidding aside, we enjoyed
the sense of happiness captured in these statues and now associate them with our brief time in Myanmar.
The interior of Dhammayon Temple has a simplicity we like,
and the walls tell the story of Buddha through colorful paintings
"The dream of Maha-Maya when she conceived the future Buddha"
"The Buddha preaching the sermon 'The Wheel of Law' to the band of five disciples"
That pretty much finished up our Myanmar visit. We left town
via this Chinese market selling some spectacularly sized fruits.
We booked our private full-day tour with J. Travel Service, just down the street from Le Patta Hotel.
The cost was 1800 baht (~$50 US) each. We also paid 500 baht (~$15) each for a Myanmar visa.
We booked a short trip into Myanmar combined
with seeing the Golden Triangle and a hill tribes
village with a local travel agency at a cost of
~$130 US total, and it's a day we'll never forget.
We were especially excited to be crossing the
border into a country as isolated as Myanmar
has been, at least up until recently. This page
covers our short excursion into Myanmar, the
next our Golden Triangle and hill tribes visit.

From our Chiang Rai hotel our guide drove us
an hour north to Mae Sai on the Thai border. We
were stamped out of Thailand and into Myanmar
and just like that we were in another country --  
specifically in the border town of Tachileik. We'll
admit we were "stamp collecting" to some
degree -- adding a stamp to our passport and
another country to our list -- but this was also a
chance to get a taste of life in Myanmar. To that
end we strolled through a local market, always a
good way to get a feel for local life. Then we
took a tuk-tuk up a steep hill to a replica of
Shwedagon Pagoda (shown left). It's a smaller
version of the original in Myanmar's largest city,
Yangon. Our guide helped us perform a small
ceremony in honor of Buddha following local
customs -- one of our most meaningful moments
in Myanmar. Then it was on to Dhammayon
Temple, built in the Burmese style, before
recrossing the border. In by 9 am, out by noon!
Many Thais cross the border into Myanmar to
shop, especially for bootlegged Chinese goods
At the border crossing, we got our passports stamped back into Thailand, even gaining a full
30 days on our visas by doing this one-time visa run. We had almost no wait at the border since
we visited so early in the day (sometimes the wait can be longer than an hour to get back in).