Mae Sot

Mae Sot Thailand.

Mae Sot is a small town in west Thailand at the Myanmar border which is beyond the "Friendship Bridge". On the other side of the bridge is Myawaddy and the attraction of this place is the border trade between the two countries.
Journey to Mae Sot
Substantial imports and a endless stream of consumer goods and machinery are moved to Myanmar the former Burma.  A  continuous stream of smuggled goods from Burma come in every day most are gemstones but also plenty of agriculture goods since those are much more expensive in Thailand.

Mae Sot Gemstone Market >.

Consumer goods from China and Thailand to Myanmar (Burma) online shopping >.

Flight and Road Map from Bangkok to Mae Sot >.

Rough ride from Tak City to Mae Sot>.

The agriculture trade is in the hand of Indian people since the British colonial forces left. Myanmar is a large country (size is about France and Great Britain combined) with an abundance of agriculture used land and goods.

A rather strange scene I watched on my last visit in Mae Sot was when I noticed cyclists on the new road to the blue mountains which form the border to Myanmar. I asked me what the cyclist do here? When I looked out from the bus window I saw them kicking into the pedals to move up the hills to Mae Sot what are they doing here? It was one women and a guy I pictured this is a real self imposed torture since already with a motorcycle it is difficult to navigate this mountain road and here are two people with an obvious masochistic impact or maybe they call it sport?

They crawl up the steep road and had an estimated 80 kg luggage on the bike hanging.Cycling is currently a kind of fashion in Thailand but the locals do it rather for fun to show they have some money to buy a bike and gear actually most prefered cycle route are flat ones. 
Along the Mae Sot City main road in the city center are several cheap hotels probably the best hotels are at the entrance to the city from Tak and at the northern bypass road. The Central Hotel at the bypass road has a very pretty restaurant just beside a pond the hotel is operated by one of the big Thai hotel chains also the Mae Sot Hill Resort has a pretty environment. Probably the best restaurant in terms of the setting and environs is the Khaomao Restaurant to get there just ask for a motorcycle taxi to guide you there you wont find it on your own. 

Down town hotels.

Down town hotels mostly are below Baht 800,- per night some such as the Pornthep Hotel rooms are available for Baht 400,- with "wifi" the others newer  are over Baht 1000,-. There are also guest houses which are cheaper than the hotel but be careful they usually are not up to a good hygienic standard and usually very noisy. Near the main road in the city center are several cheap hotels. Probably the best hotels are at the entrance to the city from Tak and at the northern bypass road. 

The Central Hotel at the bypass road has a very pretty restaurant just beside a pond, the hotel is operated by one of the big Thai hotel chains, also the Mae Sot Hill Resort is in a pretty environment. Jade shops with Burmese jadeite line the main road. below is some beautiful raw lavender jade which is a trade highlight of Mae Sot and mainly is brought in via the Myawaddy smuggle routes through the Moei River.

Monastery north of Mae Sottrucks bound for Yangon

Mae Sot and Environs.

Mae Sot and the development of this remote area has been one of the priorities of the current military administration and they have done a truly amazing job. not only that an almost new city on the northern edge of the hills was formed with some shopping temples wide streets of new houses and hotels the renewal of the road from Tak to Mae Sot through the mountains was probably a true Hercules performance and they still have some more development in mind such as to develop the area of Mae Sot and southwards as green outdoor destinations because there  are great waterfalls and dark jungle rivers made for rafting and boating.


Smuggling via Tak and Mae Sot. 

Myanmar JadeMae Sot Ruby Stone Shop


With the bicycle to Mao Sot

Myanmar people come in -via the border trade regulations- and offer their more or less cheap jade items right on the road or in a empty shop space they rent for a few baht. Lots of other Myanmar people work in all kind of services and nightlife places. Since this is very well known to the authorities they implemented 3 roadblock on the way out of the city towards Tak staffed by military to make sure there is no illegal crossing into the rest of Thailand. 

The gem photo above right show raw ruby stones from Myanmar which are sorted by a Burmese ladies with each sack has one kilo and cost $ 100,-. This are all genuine raw ruby directly from Mogok in Burma north of Mandalay.The ruby stones are not faceted or polished but are in demand for fashion and novelties. 


Mae Sot Market (1)
















The Myanmar’s can easily come into the city and the Thai border area but are prevented to move further east by this way. Myanmar or Burma is also a huge economical factor here-and other- areas since a lot of goods are bought here and moved into Myanmar via the “border trade”. The usual gem smuggle route is from Myanmar to Mae Sot, down to Tak and after to Bangkok and Chanthaburi. From Cambodia it usually comes in via Trat Province in Thailand and also to Chanthaburi.

From Bangkok only buses leaving from the Mo Chit bus terminal which is also close to the last station of the BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line. Sometimes they have flights from the Don Mueng Airport in any case when trying to take a flight to Mae Sot by Nok Air but be careful with this airline although the fly there but as usual in Thailand their whole website is littered with ad nonsense which has nothing to do with flying.

Mae Sot Down Town









Mae Sot

Here low priced gemstones from Myanmar especially jade and rubies are available and as usual in Thailand cheating and fake is rampant. 

The gem market in Mae Sot

The gem market (“Talaat ploi” in Thai) is located along Prasat Withi Road in down town. 

Gem market in Mae Sot with lavender jade

Here are two beautiful examples from the gem market of untreated lavender jade blended with green what the normality is. You often see jewelry pieces that have a total of lavender color mixed with red (purple) or light blue. 

However, these are almost only small pieces because pure lavender without impurities is almost not available and if a piece of lavender jade has larger surfaces without a contamination with a different color, these pieces are almost always artificially tanned more about the gemstone market in Mae Sot.

Mae Sot Nam Tok Pha Charoen Waterfall.


Now what to do in Mae Sot? 

Most people traveling to Mae Sot have some trading with Myanmar in mind since the road crossing over the Moei river is the primary border trade between Thailand and Myanmar  clearly visible by the dozens of heavy trucks which are crawling through the "blue mountains" towards west unloading their heavy freight at the border and reloading it onto a Myanmar truck usually bound for Yangon.

Mae Sot City is the main border exchange between the two country further north is Mae Hong Song feeding central Myanmar via Shan State and some more crossing are via the north of Thailand such as Tachilek via Chiang Rai below is the Mae Sot Thailand map.

The Mae sot border crossing to Myawady over the Moei River the is the main border trade exchange between both countries. In the past when both were kingdoms most attacks from the Burmese came through here and the three Pagoda Pass.

Mae Sot Nightlife.

If Mae Sot Nightlife is the idea just forget it this is a dead end although there are a few bars and cafe's its all just run down and rotten stuff you wont find pretty Burmese girls here similar to Yangon also the environment is not suitable its just rough and ugly. If you want to give it a try talk with the hotel guy he will get you a taxi they usually know what the current hotspot is. 

If you interested for Moe Sot massage girls.

If you interested for Moe Sot massage girls just exit the hotel and have a look outside there are always some taxi driver and other guys who know where to go. An alternative although a bit more expensive is to ask at the reception of your hotel the same they always have someone around who know the way. The positive side is they always will ask someone they know that means a certain security for you not to fall into wrong hands. Keep in mind here is border area with a lot of shady people.

Mae Sot Market.

Most market activities in Mae Sot have to do with gemstones and within this frame jade is the top and second are rubies. 


Mae Sot Market Deal

Since this is a "hit and run business" I suggest travel to Yangon if Jade is the target and for ruby and other gemstones better try Chanthaburi and Bangkok. When you choose Yangon Bogyoke Market is the best gemstone bazaar.  

Mae Sot Market  Guard

Actually security guides in Thailand are totally useless when anything happen they run away so the person want to protect the scooter they just do it with the dog since the dog is not accepting bribes and wont run away.

Here at the border to Myanmar plenty of cars and motorbikes are stolen every day.

Mae Sot to Chiang Mai.

The other day one of this guys tried to sell me a white jade stone egg which I found out was marble this thief was just smiling about it. What to do? If you intend seriously to buy jade in Mae Sot get this UV lamp first because this wavelength can penetrate jade a short distance which other stones won't allow. This light "halo" can easily be seen and it also works with other precious stones such as amber but not with marble and similar

Bangkok to Mae Sot
The stone dealers are always on high alert when they spot a "farang" they think they can "pull over the table" quickly. In the last two years (today 2018) this business moved into the hand of Indian type guys from Myanmar who came to the town in droves bringing small crime and beggars with them. 


Currently the Thai Military government is pushing through bold ideas the corrupt politicians were never able to handle because they were not able to agree on the corruption shares. 
The guys in uniform are much more trustworthy and country minded having this problem on a much lower scale 

Check the Mae Sot hotel situation (link above) before you leave since there are not so many and they are difficult to find. The best is have someone write the name and address down in Thai because most people here won't understand you. 
Phwawo Shrine when coming to Mae Sot from Tak
The PM declared the Mae Sot area as a "special economic zone" and since then the "business tigers" are loose. They double sized the highway through the "blue mountains" and now a continuous stream of huge trucks bring in supply for the border region for both side Thailand and Myanmar Burma. It is amazing what a few correct political decisions can set loose. They bring prosperity to whole country regions. 

They were even able now to eliminate the one-way traffic through the mountains beyond Myawaddy to reach the former Myanmar Burmese capital Yangon that alone was a decade-long Sisyphus work and it's done now.

It's real great stuff they have never been able since decades to do this. I would say the Thai Military PM deserves a medal for that because he really does something for Thailand and Myanmar. The people who never did anything useful for the countries especially NGO's plus Western and local politicians continuously blame the military of all kind of nonsense and never did anything to help the normal people just blah-blah and hot air. The military is currently a blessing for Thailand indeed. I am not affiliated with the current government by any means just reflecting what I see in the real world without ideological blindness.

Along the main road are some Mae Sot hotels and restaurants to be honest there are no real restaurants in the city center rather flimsy eateries with restrictions such as can't buy a beer or can't this and can't that and strangely just now they are not open etc. Want to eat something? The food is not a real highlight but the location is if you ever come into this remote Thailand / Myanmar border place the place to go for dinner or lunch either use a restaurant at the Tesco Lotus or Robinson mall it needs Baht 60,- for the taxi to get there. 

In downtown are hotels below Baht 500,- per night the others are over Baht 1200,-. There are also guest houses which are cheaper than the hotel but be careful, they usually are not up to a good hygienic standard and usually very noisy. Just use the booking link above to be on the safe side.

Myanmar people come in -via the border trade regulations- and offer their more or less cheap jade items right on the road or in an empty shop space they rent for a few baht. But be careful many jade on sale is fake also in the bigger shops (e.g. white jade is always treated marble) and with other gemstones, it's the same. Just the usual "Thai Cheat" here mixed with Myanmar Indians which is a dangerous combination.

Myanmar people work in Thailand.

They are busy with all kind of services and at Thailand nightlife places. Since this is very well known to the authorities they implemented 3 roadblocks on the way out of the city towards Tak, staffed by the military to make sure there is no illegal crossing into the rest of Thailand.

The Myanmar’s can easily come into the city and the Thai border area but are prevented from moving further east by this way. Myanmar or Burma is also a huge economic factor - here and at other- areas since a lot of goods are bought here and moved into Myanmar via the “border trade”. The usual gem smugglers route is from Myanmar to Mae Sot, down to Tak and after to Bangkok and Chanthaburi. From Cambodia, it usually comes in via Trat Province in Thailand and also to Chanthaburi.

From Bangkok only buses leaving from the Mo Chit bus terminal which is also close to the last station of the BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line. There are flights by Nok Air but unnatural expensive because of a monopoly.

jade market in Mae Sot

Mae Sot is for jade and ruby trading.

A short trip to Myanmar over the "Friendship Bridge" across the Moei River could be made. 

But keep in mind that officially you will exit Thailand and come back on a new entry stamp. On the Myanmar side you are allowed only in the area around Myawaddy no way to go further. If you want to go further into Myanmar an official visa from an Embassy is needed about e-visa read this. Interesting to not getting cheated when buying some jade.

Raw Jade Traders at main street. 

In the gem shops to inspect gems either with the naked eye or by means of pencil-light torch or lens -like the specialist- pictured right- who make a living as an expert to estimate the value of the precious stones -here some jade pearls- smuggled into Thailand from neighboring Myanmar or Burma. There are plenty of Mae Sot people from Myanmar.

There is a brisk trading with gem's, Myanmar jade, ruby and other precious stones going on along the main street.  Many traders inspect gems either with the naked eye, by means of pencil-light torch or lens -picture right-  who make a living as an expert to estimate the value of the precious stones -here some jade pearls-. The Burmese can easily come into the Thai border area and are prevented from moving further.

Myanmar is also an important economic factor in this -and other areas such as Mae Hong Son- since a lot of goods are bought here and moved into Myanmar via the “border trade”. Border trade is also an another expression for smuggling. On the Myanmar side towards Yangon are again plenty of roadblocks where the guys in the uniform milk the truck driver like cows.
Myanmar-Thailand border trade is also a another expression for smuggling.The whole area on this western border is only minimal developed for any kind of tourism which is rather strange since the places are really attractive by any means, but the people who should promote this are sitting in Bangkok called TAT and their focus is Thailand beach almost all other is ignored, it's not a good idea considering this potential.

The vicinity of Mae Sot.

The landscape around is tropical mountain jungle with small rivers, waterfalls, and caves. The ideal surroundings for hikes, trekking, rafting, kayaking or simply walk through the national parks. The entrance fee for a foreigner visiting national parks is Baht 200,- , Thai pay officially only Baht 50,- normally, however, nothing at all. 
Along the road to the south to Umphang and to the north to Mae Hong Song are some so-called Mae Sot Karen refugee camp. 

But this actually are villages which just look the same like any other normal Thai village in the area. The fact is that most "Karen Refugee" in this area live somehow better than the Thai population since they are taken care of by several welfare groups from the European Union, some NGO etc. they have modern minibusses to carry the refugees to a clinic if there is any problem. The only difference in the living of the refugees to the normal Thai in this area is, the refugees are not allowed to work and also not to leave the village, except they have a special permission. 

The EU & several NGO's supplies all necessary items and services they need to live. The Karen refugees live much better here than in Myanmar and this is the main reason why they left Myanmar, it's not the Myanmar military. The military story was already over several years ago but is kept boiling by certain Karen groups to keep the overseas money flowing. I mean I really wish that the refugees have a better life, but about 80% what we hear from the media concerning this conflict is propaganda from certain groups who make money out of this situation. 

Close to the road to the south is the Kaomao restaurant in a beautiful setting with a lake and some big birds, see picture below. a real beautiful one, it's almost a must to do the trip to Umphang in the south to experience a real Thailand adventure travel with lush tropical mountain jungle, river rafting, and great waterfalls (see below). Actually at Umphang is the biggest waterfall in Thailand and probably whole Asia.

The Khaomao Restaurant in Mae Sot.

Located in a very pretty spot with a private lake is worth a visit there is hardly a more beautiful environment to be found anywhere, a real pleasure dome. 

Private Lake of the Khaomao Restaurant in Mao Sot Thailand

The Mae Sot Central Hotel also has a very beautiful located restaurant beside a pond. In order to really enjoy the area one should have a vehicle at least a motorbike however due to the driving manner of the people here and elsewhere in Thailand it is a very dangerous  issue that very often finishes in the hospital or in the grave since most of the people don't care about rules on the road.

A trip to the south around Umphang is highly recommended this area at the border with Myanmar is really amazing on the way down south is another waterfalls the Namtok Pha Charoen Waterfall, picture right. The biggest waterfall in Thailand and probably Asia, in general, is shown left.

Making the trip down south to Umphang you will see some Karen refugee camps or rather villages since there is almost no difference to the Thai Karen villages. Now in 2017, the Thai government is talking to send the refugees home which makes some sense because the civil war on the Burmese side ended about ten years ago. But the fact is when they are moved back to Myanmar they have nowhere to go it needs some planning. Karen Refugee Camp or rather  Village at the road to Umphang. These villages are no much different to any remote Thai village in this area means this are not camps. Karen people fled Myanmar years ago on the advice of their headman and live there mixed with Thai Karen.

It is very difficult to look through since Karen are around in this area since ages, they move more or less freely in the border area. Karen in Thailand is defined as hill tribes living in the hilly terrains of North-West Thailand

Thailand Myanmar border area

Karen inhabits the today Thailand and Myanmar border area since ages, actually, these borders were brought up by the British during colonial times. There are approximately 300,000 Karen living in the hills of Thailand, that includes the Karen refugees from Myanmar. The Karen mainly live in bamboo and wooden houses raised on stilts, with pigs, cow and chickens as the main livestock. Agriculture if any because the terrain Karen live is not supporting agriculture due to the steep hills they are growing rice.


Most Karen people are Christians and Animists. 

They perform rituals to nat's, the spirits of land, water, and the house. They also believe that spirits live in rocks, tree, and mountains. They believe that this guardian spirits help them in leading a harmonious life.

erawan waterfall
Rafting at Umphang













On the tour to Umphang are a couple of real beautiful spots around plus good Mae Sot hotels and restaurants as you can see the pictures here, it's a pleasant environment within a tropical vegetation, the elevation is about 200m but it needs to cross through the hilly region when coming from Tak and Bangkok with some hills of up to around 800 meters.

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