08 July 2016, Friday. And since my bike is still being repaired (yes, it’s been a week now), I thought I’d head to the famous Golden Triangle – where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet at the Mekong river. The weather today looked great! At the same time, since I was in the area, and if the weather permits, take a ride to the border town of Mae Sai, where the Thai-Myanmar Friendship bridge was.
Speaking of Malaysia, I was at a hilltop taking some photo shots of the Golden Triangle when I heard some people speaking english in a very familiar accent. Turns out that they were a Malaysian family who’ve just arrived a day ago.
The area around the Golden Triangle was once known for it’s opium production and was an area once controlled by drug lords. In fact, the name Golden Triangle is synonymous to opium. There is an Opium Museum here (which I didn’t pay to enter as it didn’t look too great), and a tourist attraction called Hall of Opium. Ooh, and the former sells poppy seed cookies too! I didn’t buy them.
Hall of Opium is featured in Trip Advisor as one of the top tourist attractions in the area. 200THB entry for foreigners. It’s a museum presenting the history of the opium trade, especially in the area. It also showcases the social and political impacts of opium and how it lead to the opium wars. A rather interesting history.
After the tour in the Hall of Opium, I rode the PCX to Mai Sai – the northernmost town of Thailand. Here, a Friendship Bridge resides and is one of the Thailand-Myanmar borders.
After a quick lunch in Mae Sai, I walked over to the Thai Immigration counter and enquired the possibility of me going into Tachileik, Myanmar. Now, while Singapore passport holders enjoy visa-free entries to many countries, Myanmar is not one of them. (Although this is set to change in Dec 2016.) I didn’t apply for a Myanmar visa prior, and so I was kinda half expecting the answer to be a straight no.
“Yes, you can. But you must pay 500THB at Myanmar border.”
“Really? But will I be able to return to Thailand? I don’t want to get stuck in Myanmar.”
The friendly Thai immigration officer laughed at me and nodded his head.
Yipee! I can get in to Myanmar after all! Or at least part of it. Here’s how it works:
- Exit Thailand at the Thai Immigration counter. Passport stamped for exit.
- Walk across the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge.
- Look for the “Foreigner Passport” office in Myanmar side.
- Tell the Myanmar immigration officer that you don’t have a Myanmar travel visa.
- He will collect 500THB from you. This appears to be an official fee and not a *ahem* bribe money.
- The Myanmar immigration officer will hold on to your passport.
- In exchange, you will get a Myanmar “Entry Permit” that’s good for 14 days.
- Welcome to Tachileik, Myanmar!
In Thailand, drivers drive on the left side of the road – the right side. Whereas in Myanmar, they drive on the right side of the road – the wrong side. Geddit? So vehicles crossing the border have to make that switch somehow and somewhere in the middle of the border bridge. It’s actually rather comical to watch them switch sides of the road.
And just outside the temple, there’re dozens of pigeons. This kinda reminds me of Trafalgar Square in London.
Heading back to Thailand was simple. Go to the “Thai and Foreigner Passports” office at the Myanmar border and returned the entry permit to the immigration officer. The immigration office will then return the passport to you.
Got back to Chiang Rai in the evening. Time to get some rest. I hope my repaired Pulsar will be ready by tomorrow.