It's a great base to explore the entire Golden Triangle region. It's very easy to reach Laos from Mae Sai and even easier to cross into Myanmar from this point.
Fondest memory: Riding out in the countryside and seeing the geographical Golden Triangle spread out in front of me. I had always heard of the place and imagined it totally different than what I had seen. None the less I was still impressed. Pictured here is the actual border crossing between Myanmar and Thailand. On the left side of the photo Thailand is pictured and on the right is Myanmar.
I'm not sure if this hill top monument at one of the Buddhist temples in Mae Sai is in honor of the Hollywood film "Scorpion King" or if its been erected for another, more noble reason. I wasn't able to learn the history of this monument but from what I saw it may have something to do with the Thailand-Myanmar border. The Scorpion faces north into Myanmar so could it be their first line of symbolic defense?
Fondest memory: This hill top monument is also a wonderful place to come for a beautiful vista of north east Mae Sai and Tachilek, Myanmar. It's a great place for photographing the landscape.
Favorite thing: To get around Mae Sai, you can take the local transport in the form of a truck as shown in the photo where you are supposed to sit behind. If full, you will have to stand on the extension behind the truck which is exciting but risky.
Favorite thing: While in Mae Sai it's easy enough to cross the international border for a walk around the town of Tachilek, Myanmar. We went up to the golden pagoda, which is easily visible from the Thai side of the border, & from the top we were able to see the entire Mae Sai region. From this vantage point (note the picture) you can see the southern edge of Tachilek, Myanmar in the foreground. Where the blue & gold pagoda stands is where the Sai river divides Thailand and Myanmar. Just past the blue pagoda is the city of Mae Sai, Thailand. In the distance you can see taller mountains....that is where the Mekong River flows and those mountains actually lay in Laos.
There are several significant temples in Mae Sai that are open to the public and visitors are welcome. I didn't note the name of these temples but they are all easily found around the Sai river and the surrounding hills.
Fondest memory: My friends and I rode our motorbikes up a steep paved road near our guesthouse and came upon a temple complex that also offered a beautiful viewpoint into Myanmar. If you drive up at night, as we did, you may encounter Thai lovers enjoying the city lights far below. The temple is lit up brightly and makes for a nice walk around the complex. It is said that some of Buddha's hair or other remains are entombed in the temple.
As of April 2009, an entry permit into Myanmar, valid for up to 14 days, costs 500 baht/US$10 (be sure to bring clean US notes, without any marks, stamps, etc. on it - otherwise customs officers will refuse it and, if you don't have another one, happily receive significantly higher payment in baht instead). Travellers using this option are given a paper entry permit and their passports are held at the immigration office until they return to Thailand. From here, you can travel as far as Kengtung (Thai Chiang Tung), 160 km away, but to travel to the rest of Myanmar, a visa in advance is needed.
I only travelled into Myanmar for an hour or so in order to look around the market and to get another stamp in my passport. You have to leave your passport at the Inward office and collect it about 20 minutes later (minimum) from the Outward office on the opposite side of the road. Remember that a land crossing back into Thailand now only gets you a 15-day stay.
...and the statue that the Thai Governemt chose to adore the hill top facing Takchilek, Burma from Mae Sai ???
A huge scorpion.... Not exactly a symbol of brotherhood and peace. Or course the Thai's and Burmese kinda have that life long rival thing going on between them... (not unlike Japan-Korea, Greece-Turkey, or India-Pakistan.....)
You are not likely to see one of these across the border in Takchilek, or elsewhere in Burma: an internet cafe sign....
Its funny walking across the bridge back into Thailand after spending a week on the other side, suddently the toilets flush, the electricity comes on when you throw the switch and there are internet signs all about.... Kinda like jumping back to the future from 50 years in the past...
Favorite thing: If your so inclined to do go and have your picture taken at the official "most northern point" of Thailand which is on the right side of the border crossing bridge near a strip of Thai stores.
Fondest memory: At the hill top temple we came across this staue representing Mother Earth in Thai mythology. It is just one of several statues on the hill top near the Myanmar border.