Author Archives: Stephen Cleary

10 (Big) Differences Between Thailand and England (Pt 2)

Respect for the Law

From the age of just two and half months, toddler Tui can enjoy the thrills and sprills of being sat on his father’s motorbike and admire the awesome way his father manages to fit the entire family on the back of his motorbike and do amazing left-handed u-turns at all the red lights, before instantly snatching out a crash helmet from the front basket and stick it on his head before arriving at a traffic police check point. Superb feats. No respect for the law whatsoever but toddler Tui is in awe. A lot of English folk on reading something like this may think “Absolutely disgraceful, such awfully terrible things would not happen in my country”.

Yeah, I doubt much of this does go on, but a lot of English folk, both expats and tourists in Thailand, can’t wait to Do as the Romans do and try and break every law under the sun here. Even though they bombard English language Thai related forums about the decadence of corruption in Thailand, John Smith here in the likes of Pattaya drives around intoxicated with no license and on being pulled over by the cops grabs out his wallet and sticks a 500baht note under the traffic cop’s hat; trying to get away with an offense which may have landed him in prison back in England. Later in the day, John can next be found wobbling around a shop and bar area carrying and swigging away at his big bottle of Singha and shouting saucy come-ons to a group of local ladies having dinner; again trying to pull off something he wouldn’t dare do in downtown Newcastle.

(Thais just love their uniforms)

Working Life

Getting out of bed on a cold wet Monday morning is one of the most tedious routines known in the Land of Fish & Chips & Mushy Peas. Then, on the way to work there is nothing to look at but droopy dour faces and baggy dull raincoats. For men however, and especially in Bangkok, they can get out of beds and look forward to admiring troupes of office and young student ladies also on their way to their destined places smiling away while wearing the hottest skimpiest uniforms east of an American based cheerleader team. Call the country what you wish, but this is certainly the Land of Uniforms & I love Mine. Unlike in England, uniforms are part and parcel of society here and most Thais not only like them, but feel very proud indeed wearing one.

Unlike in English towns, urban Thais here work far longer hours. Often to a ‘What the heck, a 10 hour shift, 6 days a week lark!” reply by an English woman when she finds out. Yet, rather different to back home, urban working ladies here can spend half their days in the office or department store outlets munching on different snacks and fruit, while applying their make-up and chatting away on their mobiles about their latest handsome work colleague.
As for dad on the construction site, he can spend half his day sitting around looking at the work to be done while enjoying the office ladies walking by outside. Generally speaking (unless you’re a farmer or factory slave) working life in Thailand is much more laid back.


Unlike back in England, gambling here is illegal (besides the government lottery and some boxing and horse racing venues). That doesn’t however, stop the local Thais betting more money on the last World Cup than the English – and I’m not joking! No bookies in Thailand, but no probs, if you wanna place a bet on Arsenal or Juventus, ask any young whippersnapper watching the footie too, and I’m sure he’ll have you on the phone placing a bet in no time.

(Monks being fined for playing cards for money)

If you are a lady and gambling on the footie ain’t your cup-of-tea, go Thai lady style and find a house playing the card game pok-daeng or dice game ‘hi-lo’. Houses gambling are usually quite easy to spot, look out for the dealer’s son stood outside who is ordered to run and bang the front door three times each time he sees two police on a motorbike patrolling nearby. If you are in the front room betting while the police are thudding on the door to be let in, again do it Thai-style and jump out the kitchen window and just leg it. If you are caught, then never mind, the maximum fine for gambling on cards is like 700Baht.

The Religious Order

Besides the odd glass of brandy and a flutter on the fruit machine, life for your average Mr Priesty in England isn’t supposed to be one of the most exciting ones. Yes, the same goes for in Thailand, but that is only on paper. According to one of Paknamweb’s founders our very own Panrit (Gor) a former town monk “Life as a monk isn’t very different to lay people, besides chanting, wearing robes and doing an alms round in morning, we still watch DVDs, listen to our headphones, read cartoon books and chat about girls”. Just when you may have thought that Thai monks don’t making a living then you are wrong, there a variety of ways; chant at some wedding, funeral or house-warming party or bless a new motorbike, car or shop. Rest-assured, pink envelopes with hundred baht notes in them are name of the day. Or as Gor put it “I got about 10,000Baht a month being a monk, not bad”.

For some monks however, that kind of salary just isn’t enough to survive on and go on to make lots more money by telling fortunes, selling blessed amulets or even claiming that a temple tree brought great luck to a townsperson who recently won a fortune on the lottery after seeing the lucky jackpot number shining in the bark. For those interested in trying their luck too with the miracle tree, a 50baht donation to the tree’s monk upkeeper is more than appreciated.

(Beats a pic of Gordon Brown or Thaksin. Let’s post a pic of former ladyboy beauty queen Nong Poy instead)


Unlike the MPs back in England who are dumb enough to get caught claiming expenditures on porno movies, lawnmowers, spray-paint, salt & vinegar crisps and pillow cases before having their names and faces embarrassingly headlining every newspaper in town, Thai MPs are a lot smarter when in comes to money. One of the most-favored strategies is the 10% Commission Deal. It goes something like this – as soon as you win your place as MP, arrange that a couple of new roads need to be built (nearer a plot of your countryside land the better – as its value will soar on completion). Next, find a construction firm who is owned by a friend of a friend’s and advise him to over-charge 10% for the construction fee. Before he wins the deal however, ensure that that extra 10% charge be transferred to your housekeeper’s bank account. Or if you want to get even greedier than that, plan with party colleagues in Bangkok to loan out 4,000 over-priced buses and 1,500 fire engines at a total price of 3 Billion US dollars.

Should you as a voter, get pished off with such money-making enterprises, take to the streets, block off a few roads and if that is to no avail, take over the nearest international airport. After that succeeds however, a few months later you’ll be left feeling bewildered that the ‘moral’ folk you fought for were no different to the ones you helped kicked out. For the average politically disappointed voter in the Land of Wellington Boots and Susan Boyle though, he can brighten up his spirits by knocking on his former MP’s door and ask to borrow a copy of his Lusty Emmanuele in Paris DVD.

(Click here for part one)

Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand’s Third Gender

Quite a while back Maverick House Publishers contacted us here at and asked whether we were interested in reviewing one of their books about ladyboys. Since that isn’t exactly Richard’s cup-of-tea, the task was with me. Just looking at the stats at thai-blogs the interest shown in this third gender is truly amazing. Three of the top-ten most viewed blogs here are about layboys with more than a hundred thousands individual hits between them, most of which have come via Google.

Ladyboys, The Secret World of Thailand’s Third Gender researched and written by Susan Aldous and Pornchai Sereemongkonpol features a collection of stories of ladyboys from all walks of life. That is comparison to another book review I done Male Bodies, Women’s Soles
which only consisted of interviews with an assortment of university students. Not much of a variety altogether, and so, in comparison, this book wins hands down. What I’ve done below is give yous a brief summary of three of the ladyboys stories, with links to three more.

Mali, Go-Go Dancer

In the introduction, Susan & Pornchai write “You have our admiration, and with hearts full of love, we wish you all the best”. The first story however, may confuse some readers as Mali turns out (in my opinion anyway) to be a deceiving con artist.

Meaning jasmine, Mali, now 30 was brought up in poverty-stricken Isarn working as a buffalo herder. Fatherless and with a mother hundreds of miles away, Mali was raised by aunts and grandparents. Mali sensed her third gender ways very young and while at school hung around with ladyboy buddies and made cheerleader outfits from hay. Mali goes on to have her first sexual experience at the age of 15 and shortly after decides to quit the farm and catch a bus heading for the big city of Bangkok.

Mali got her first job working in the kitchen of a pub in Thonburi which put on ladyboy shows. Impressed, Mali would often sneak out and get a glimpse of their beauty. Mali soon hit it off with a waiter Mee who becomes the first person to satisfy her needs. Needing a bit more cash, Mali gets introduced to a Silom gay go-go bar and starts work there as a dancer. “When I began to become more female and grow my hair long, Mee lacked anymore interest. The clients too became less and less interested in this female-like gay” even though she still had a muscular build and manly face.

Besides putting on make-up, Mali begins hormone therapy and starts ‘taking them like candy’. Her chest grows quick. And it is then that she starts work as a go-go dancer in Patpong. It is there where Mali begins to explain in great detail how she and her fellow ladyboys con customers (who believe she is a real woman) by using surgical tape to seal their manhood underneath and wearing tight-fitting bikini bottoms. The customers have no idea that the dancers are actually endowed. She goes on to say that her pubic hair is also shaved in such a way to deceive customers and clients even more (seen through her bikini bottoms). Then, if she gets ‘off’ and taken to a hotel by a client, she goes out of the way to deceive them even more. Mali goes into explicit content which I won’t repeat here.

Mali goes on to say that she would never have sexual reassignment treatment and says that those ‘real’ ladyboys don’t hang around the ones who still have their manhood. Finally, she admits that she isn’t interested in foreign men as boyfriends, she prefers Thai men as a relationship is more than just about the sex.

(And that’s a guy? Calypso Cabaret, Bangkok)

Mimi, Fashion Columnist

After Mali, Mimi was a breath of fresh air. Born a Thai-Chinese, Mimi found out she was a gonna-be ladyboy by the age of 12 when classmates around her gave her the title ‘katoey’. She relates that her parents didn’t give a darned and gave her their initial understanding, a rare thing in Chinese culture due to the amount of family face involved. They did of course think it was just a passing stage. Mimi explains that even though ladyboys aren’t allowed to wear blouse and skirt to school, they bend the rules by wearing girly stuff such as pink watches and sticking Hello Kitty stuff on their bags. This was all part of being in the Fairy Gang. Mimi says that due to the ladyboy gang, none of them were ever bullied at school; a thing that would probably never happen in the West.

When Mimi didn’t stop fooling around at playing ladyboy it was then that her parents began getting serious about her behaviour, possibly bringing shame to her clan. Nevertheless, Mimi did bring face to the family when she excelled at school and secured a place in the Faculty of Arts at one of the Kingdom’s top universities. Being in the arts department Mimi had a whole bunch of ladyboy and gay classmates.

Interesting bit about one of her ladyboy buddies Noon who came from a Muslim family. She had gone through full genital reassignment surgery but her father still didn’t have a clue. Getting the support from her mother though (who even paid for the operation!) she fooled her father into thinking his daughter was a hippy with long hair who preferred baggy shirts to tight spaghetti tops.

After graduation, Mimi gets a job as a translator at a woman’s mag and her working life begins there. She does however, explain that being a cross-dressing ladyboy the workplace is still full of prejudice against transgenders and they often find it hard getting employment. As for a relationship, Mimi says “Against all odds, I still hope to meet a man who shall overlook my birth gender and care more about mutual understanding. I want him to take me as an individual”. She also goes on about the different types of ladyboy such as gay king and gay queen etc… She is currently saving for full sexual reassignment surgery.

Pui, Caberet Girl

Straight away, Pui claims “I don’t think of myself as a katoey, or even gay. They are just words other people use to identify me” and how about this for stirring a bit of controversy “In my opinion, gay and katoey are the same in the sense they are both attracted to men. What differentiates us is how we dress and present ourselves in public, which to me is superficial and therefore of little importance. I find labeling ridiculous, but if I had to choose between gay and katoey, I would choose katoey”.
Even though, Pui would label herself a ladyboy she has done nothing to make her body more feminine, never taken any hormones and never undergone any surgery.

Pui’s story is one of huge success. Born into a poor Islamic family in the south of Thailand, she has never cross-dressed in her village due to social stigma. Arriving in Bangkok at the age of 21, Pui enrolled at Ramkhamhaeng open University and got a job as a female impersonator at a club on Silom Soi 4. At the time, it was The place for gays, fashion designers, models and well-known celebrities. Her club was also the first joint in Thailand to offer entertainment of ladyboys impersonating the likes of Diana Ross and Shirley Bassey. Pui was best known however, for her role as Tina Turner and went on to win as overall winner on a TV show.

On arriving home in the south, Pui was terrified at the thought of confronting her dad whom she believed would be mad at her making a fool of the family on national TV. He was in fact pretty chuffed and was more interested in knowing how much prize money she had won. And it was in the hundreds of thousands. This she used to set up her very own cabaret team, and became even more famous.
To cut a long story, Pui finally joins Calypso Cabaret (presently located at the Asia Hotel in Bangkok) and goes into fine details about just how difficult and rigid it is to become a ladyboy cabaret dancer in Thailand. Very interesting indeed. 20 years later at the age of 49, Pui is still working at Calypso and is considered Calypso’s biggest sister. Besides performing, Pui is also judge of the auditions and trains successful candidates and explains that it often takes a year of training before an impersonator can finally get on the stage. Altogether, a very nice story.

(Super-friendly Nicky: The world’s first ladyboy air-hostess)

Sarah, Entrepreneur

No need to write her story, as I already have for thai-blogs. In fact, yours in name here was the first person to write her story in the English language. It’s here″>
What a huge disappointment though, Sarah’s story she gives in the book varies so much to the original she claimed in Thai language (as in my blog) and constantly contradicts herself throughout and makes many mistakes with yearly events etc… I even contacted Pornchai the author about her story (I also asked him whether he had pinched the idea of interviewing her from my original blog!) and he too had noticed the inconsistency but felt overall, Sarah had given her all.

Nicky, Air-hostess (world’s very first and perhaps only one)

Off the subject of the book for a moment. With head held a little high I can proudly boast that I was the very first person to write-up Nicky’s story in the English language. And a great one it is; one that has gone international. Ranked as the 5th most read blog on the whole of thai-blogs here’s the very first story about her successful career move″>

After interviewing Nicky once for an article that I was gonna submit for the Daily Xpress free newspaper, I was horrified a couple of days later to find an entire two page article about her in the Bangkok Post. That is an example of how popular her story had got. Yes, I gave up on the idea of submitting her story

Nong Toom, Beautiful Boxer

Nicky may be well-known but in terms of fame she is way behind Nong Toom, such a famous former Thai boxer that she even had a movie made about her life. Her story has been told a hundred times before so I’m not gonna tell it all over again here! Just Google for ‘Nong Toom Beautiful Boxer’.

Overall, Pornchai’s and Susan’s book is very decent. The only real disappointments I found were some of the ladyboys who sold their body; a lot of self-centered sensationalism, portraying themselves as the victim while bragging about how much money they made, and they often claimed a darned lot – more than what I earn (you don’t find out though, what they blow all their money on). Bad things they had done to customers and clients were excused by bad experiences they had once went through. Just too much self-pity.

Being bored of lady-of-the-night stories, I took much more pleasure in reading about ladyboys of proper decent professions. Altogether though, a book well-worth buying. Finally, apologies to Maverick for the delay in reviewing the book. My excuse there was that I knew it was gonna be a huge write-up!

10 (Big) Differences Between Thailand and England (Pt 1)

(The average size of a Thai ‘pub’)

If you are one of those folk who have Googled “What are the differences between the UK and Thailand?” and found this page, then welcome to Seriously though, it may seem totally obvious to most of us, but to some others, they got know idea about some of the basic differences between Thailand and Farangland. Well, since I was brought up in the UK, mostly England, here are some of the clearest differences between The Land of Noodle Soup & Nose Jobs and The Land of Warm Beer & Wellington boots.

1. Pubs

The only main thing pubs in England and Thailand have in common is that they both sell alcohol. Where they differ is enormous. Unfortunately (or fortunately, whichever way you wish to look at it) the Thais have been totally indifferent to the original meaning of pub as in ‘public house’ and instead think it means a huge discotheque lead by flesh revealing singers, gyrating coyote dancers, and not a fire escape in sight. Compare that to fruit machines, granny barmaids and the one and only meat draw. Unlike in England, the pub owners don’t think you’re so daft to want to stand at a bar and so lay on seats. On the subject of service – if you fancy some girl, an English barmaid would probably flip-out if you asked her “Excuse me dear, you see that chick over there. Could you go and chat her up for me? If she’s not interested, do know any technical college student here wanting to make some extra cash in exchange for a quick fling?”

2. Criminals

Excluding a former prime minister, Thailand is certainly not renowned for smart criminals – in fact, the complete opposite, a land full of the daftest nuts east of a London loony bin. Instead of fleeing abroad immediately after the incident, Thailand’s bank robbers have more of a tendency to simply go back home upcountry and hope that no-one recognizes their face on the video shot posted on the evening news. Then, if the cops do come for a quick chat, the loft upstairs is the place to hide. Another splendid example of thieving idiocity in the Land of Tuk-tuks & Traffic Jams, is that unlike in England where thieves play a low profile after committing the crime, here they celebrate their new-found fortune by splashing out on a brand-new BMW, wads of gold, girls galore and huge donations to local temples. Just a little suspect behaviour, especially when the geezer still works at a bank which has just had someone pinch a couple of million baht from the ATM.

3. Funerals

Unlike back in England, where a funeral is a solemn occasion where it’s more than a sin to bicker about the deceased owing you ten quid, an upcountry funeral in Thailand makes a superb excuse to put on a party, gamble on cards, sing tonnes of karaoke and get plastered on cheap imported Scotch whiskey; all at the expense of the deceased person. Then, to cheer him up while looking down from heaven, lay on a couple of half-naked coyote dancers.

(Schoolgirls enjoying themselves after swearing on oath to keep their virginity till the day of marriage)

4. School System

I can’t really remember what I learnt in sex education in England, but in Thailand sex education comprising of having all the junior high girls swear on oath in front of a Buddha image “I will keep my virginity till the day of my marriage” while being sprinkled with some holy water by a monk. Then, unlike in England, you can completely flunk in class, bunk off half the week, don’t bother doing the needed exams and still graduate from grade 12 before getting into some back-alley ‘university’. Amazing, but yes, the Education Ministry has made it compulsory that no student fails, all have got to pass regardless to how thick they are.

5. Police

Thai police may go down as one of the worlds most considerate bunch of law enforcers. The lovely chaps are so kind that even if they find you driving while half-drunk and no license on you, they simply wave you on and wish you a nice day. Of course however, a donation to the cops’ whiskey fund is much appreciated. Then if it’s a foreigner may be kinder yet, especially if the pulled-over foreigner driving offender doesn’t speak a word of Thai and blabbers away his own mystifying language. Not knowing a single word of what the white geezer is trying to say, the cop just waves him on, good-bye. Not bothering to take life too seriously, Thai cops love nothing more than getting drunk while on duty and showing-off their loaded gun to bewildered foreign tourists. Then, it’s doubtful that there are any other cops in the world so considerate of a stable society. Should a man use his leather belt to beat his wife in public, the cops simply see at as a ‘private family matter’.

Hi-so Thai Girls Selling Their Knickers on the Net

(The following blog is a brief/rough translation of a leading report published in the Thai language Daily News newspaper, May 3)

Unbelievable! Hi-so websites now online full of young women with gorgeous bodies, long hair, really fair-skin who boast they come from well-to-do hi-class families are now selling their knickers over the Net.

To hide their identities however, the lasses hide their faces from the camera. Normal hi-so women have turned around and vented their anger at what they see as immoral behavior bent on destroying society and culture. Doctors have said it is just an odd sexual fetish.

Our investigative team has found that pupils, students, other youth and even working folk have been happily forwarding mail to each other of adverts for used knickers for sale. One forwarded mail our team uncovered was of one lass with a nice body and fair-skin (face hidden) who was selling not only her personal knickers collection, but also an array of other naughty items such as stockings and boots. Prices ranged from 400-3,000 Baht per piece.

After further investigation, our team found out that this young woman in particular was named Wan, 23 years of age, a graduate of a prestigious university in Chiang Mai province and currently worked as a secretary. Wan claimed she was from a well-to-do hi-so family who was only using the profits made from her used knickers trade to save up for a car. Wan was adamant that she only sold pieces of her clothing and not her body. Her email address is

Like Wan, most of the vendors post their phone numbers for a quick sales deal or chat with potential customers on MSN. You can’t see any of their faces, but all the lasses reckon they are clean and good-looking – what you can see however, is that all the women have fit bodies. On top of just receiving the well-worn ‘nice-smelling’ knickers, customers also receive the added bonus of a free video clip of the garments actually being worn.

Dr Prithat, a psychologist in Chiang Mai, explained that this kind of fetish, originating in Japan, was new to Thailand. He said that “Even though the customers have a kind of mental disorder, they do not suffer from anything serious which needs treatment”.

Well-known hi-so lass, Miss Nuanphan, told us that she had also received the email forwards and admitted to being totally shocked and asked herself “Are these vendors really Thai people?” She went on to explain that women like this were an embarrassment to the hi-so establishment and that they weren’t right in the head.

Thai Visa Border Run (Burma)

(Victoria Point)

Well, since the area is full of foreigners getting stamps back into the Land of Noodle Soup & Nose-jobs, Aranya Prathet and it’s neighboring cross-border town of Cambodia’s Poipet happily secured most of the first of this two part blog. Now, if Cambodia’s sombrero carrying urchin beggars (or actually cheap holey brolleys), Macau style casinos and one of the sleaziest border towns to the east of Tijuana, isn’t your cup-of-tea, then head somewhere else instead; take your choice: Burma, Laos or Malaysia. Contemplating where you are actually are at the time of deciding on your border destination however, will hopefully comes up in yer decision making too! Let’s do Burma this time around.

Ranong / Victoria Point (Kawthaung)

Coming from Phuket (especially) or even Krabi or even Surat Thani or even Bangkok, this border-crossing can be ideal for spending an extra stint actually hanging around the place before getting back. Getting stamped outta Thailand at the border (short songthaew ride from Ranong Town) you’ll have to take a long-tail boat to Victoria Point on the Burmese side. Be warned, if the sun is out, then by the time you get back your face could resemble an extremely fresh home-grown beetroot. Ask your boatsman for a parasol or splash on the sunblock. The journey there and back isn’t that much of an epic journey, but it’s long enough.

Don’t get suckered (unless ya wanna flash that is) on chartering your own boat. Sod that and adamantly explain to the touts or actual boatsmen at the pier that you had been robbed by some dodgy ladyboy the night before on Patong Beach and you are left with only a couple of hundred baht to share a boat with other passengers. In fact, two hundred baht return is still paying a bit more than the locals.

Arriving at the Burmese crossing, you will have to fork over 500 baht for the privilege of helping to finance the leading Junta’s golfing vacation fund before getting a stamp in. Actually, the real charge is $10 but if the US note has even the slightest fold or wrinkle, your smiling official will explain that shoddy looking banknotes are not accepted by the glorious National Bank of Burma. Walking out of the office just five foot away, there is a decent enough chance that you may be accosted by a bunch of delinquent looking lads wanting to sell you the likes of Viagra, ganja, dirty movies, bootleg cigarettes and perhaps even a rubber sex doll.

Most visa-runners (including everyone who comes with visa-run tours from Phuket) sadly miss out on Victoria Point as it is a lovely place to hang around for a short while. Instead, they just get their stamps and do a complete u-turn. Do what’s best (since you come all that way anyway) and spend a short time in Victoria Point. The small town isn’t that great but it does have that Burmese feel too it. Then, for those who fancy some cheap booze and cigs it’s all there in the market (buy yourself and not from some shabby hawk).

Some beautiful views of the surrounding Andaman Sea can be had from at least a couple of restaurants (left to the pier). So, what better can be had than having a drink, sitting back and enjoying the hills of Thailand over the Andaman in the background? Well worth a short visit for the afternoon. And don’t forget Ranong province itself which is renowned for some lush unspoiled off-the-beaten-track islands (not forgetting, Ranong town is worth spending a night in too)
Ranong Town is a 5 hours bus trip from Phuket or if you are coming from Bangkok, 9 hour over-night buses can be found in the evening leaving from the Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai)

(Get over that bridge into Burma)

Mae Sot / Myawadi (Burma)

If you are in the lower northern region of the country and in search of a new visa stamp, Mae Sot in Tak province could certainly be your best option. This may also be your favored destination if you are hoping to enjoy a wee bit of mother nature. Not too far from Mae Sot is undoubtedly Thailand’s most beautiful and famed waterfall, Tilosoo.

To get to the border, instead of taking the pricey advice of a tuk-tuk or motorbike-taxi geezer in town, simply pop on a songthaew in Mae Sot’s market area. So full of Burmese folk, you could imagine that you’d already arrived in Burma. After getting a stamp out of Thailand, you’ll have to walk over the seemingly never-ending border bridge before getting to the Burmese town of Myawadi. Take my word for it, it is a bit of a hike; up and over. Like at the Ranong/Burmese border point, the very much hassle free officers will much appreciate an old 500baht note to a crisp-fresh 10 US dollar one.

Myawadi isn’t too exciting but it’s worth having a nosey around. Under the actual bridge are a couple of nice restaurants where, again like in Victoria Point, you can enjoy a dish of Burmese curry or/and a glass of Myannmar Special Brew. In fact, you’ll probably be crying out for one of the latter after you think of the long stint back. Ok..ok… I suppose it isn’t that long; just that living in Thailand so long your legs get as lazy as a locals.

Mae Sot, like its Burmese counterpart, maybe not be a riveting place but its certainly worth staying the night. You may not get much of the opportunity to experience the eye-boggling sight of too many scadly-dressed Coyote singers in a local disco, but you may instead be enjoying the company of local acoustic music. There is some great Burmese munchies in town too, so don’t miss out on the opportunity. The DK (Duangkamol) Hotel probably offers, without a doubt, the best budget lodgings in town. If you were recognizing the name Duangkamol or DK, then yes, it’s the same family which runs DK Books, Thailand’s original English language book publishers. There is a nice lobby and a branch of DK Books downstairs.

Oh yes, just across from the entrance of DK Hotel is the lovely Café Corner run by Dan a journalist specializing on Burma and the plight of the Karen people there. Not just coffee of course, Dan and his wife dish out pizzas, lasagna, pate and even relishes and chutney. The last time I was there I had the homemade Burmese curry which went down real well with the statutory beer. Dan’s just the person to catch up with if you need any info on travelling around the area, and even into Burma.

Buses to Mae Sot leave from Bangkok in the evening from the Northern Bus Station (Morchid) and arrive in Mae Sot in the early hours. From Nakhorn Sawan, the Gateway to the North, there are buses going via Tak provincial town (Chiang Mai bus); the first one leaves extremely in the morning. Ask at the station in advance. From Tak bus station there are rusty old passenger vans which do the trip to Mae Sot in about an hour.

Mai Sai / Tachilek

Poor old Mae Sai, when I was first there 18 years ago the place was packed out with backpackers. It was in those days that just to get over the border into Burma on your one day visa there, was like ‘Wow… I’m in Burma!’ Nowadays, however, since the country has more than open to foreigners, very few folk actually bother staying in Mae Sai anymore – sad sight seeing decrepit guesthouses which have been left to rot. In fact, there are hardly any places left for backpackers to stay anymore, but you will find a couple of cost-effective places – just to the left under the bridge and along that road. As for nightlife, Mae Sot is virtually dead.

This border run though, is absolutely the quickest. Stamped out of Thailand, it’s then a two minute walk over the bridge to the Burmese check-point. Again, they too will be preferring a 500baht note to a ten buck one. Tachilek is one huge market knocking out a plethora of counterfeit Chinese goods. If that takes yer fancy, then go for it, otherwise after a quick look around you’ll be wanting to get back into Thailand.

This border-crossing is ideal however, for those in the north-north of Thailand. From Chiang Mai it’s about 5 hours by bus; there are also agents specializing in a passenger van visa run service; there and back in half a day. From Bangkok, buses leave in the early evening from the Northern Bus Terminal and take around 13-14 hours; yes, Mae Sai is quite a distance from the capital.

Happy visa run!

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