Chiang Rai and Mae Sai Travel Destinations

Mae Sai is a border town in Thailand, right smack dab in the middle of the infamous Golden Triangle. While that might sound quite adventurous to some, it should be remembered that the Golden Triangle only came into being during the Vietnam War, and that drug trafficking there, while still active, has definitely passed its peak and moved on to other hot spots such as Afghanistan.

In any case Mae Sai was one the loveliest, most relaxing spots I have ever visited. I'm tempted to say that it reminded me of the Ozarks, but that course would not be true. Chiang Mai is in the highlands though, and away from the many exotic varieties of bamboo you find growing there along some other tropical plants; it really does not have that tropical feel to it. The rolling hills are gorgous, the rivers tranquil and the quiet a treasure. The people of Chiang Mai themselves are not as animate as other Thais and although friendly they seemed to be shy. What they thought of living next to Burma (Myanmar), I never asked.

If there is a dark side to Mae Sai, it is of course that the town is split into its Thai side and Burmese side (Tachilek) right along the river. Unspoken but obvious was that the river itself is quite shallow and I'm sure people are crossing over back and forth nightly. My wife and in fact stayed at a lovely teak bungalow that had a front view of this river and Burma, and saw a gruesome morning ritual of young Burmese men shooting up heroin with the same needle. (It is not well known that tragically and inexplicably the Burmese government does almost nothing to discourage the spread of HIV in Myanmar.)

These days I hear you can cross the very bridge I looked down and go into Burma for day trips from Chiang Mai. I have a lot of mixed feelings about that. While I certainly want to meet the Burmese people and would love to the country, I do not feel right about putting money into the hands of government that makes life hell for millions of Burmese. On the other hand, I would not judge anyone for visiting Burma and as I say I may even go myself if I have the chance. The world is not always as easy and pleasant as Mae Sai appears to be.