Jan 2016 Update
I did my first trip to the border to activate the 2nd entry on my tourist visa. I have one of the last triple entry visa’s but the same should be the same for the new METV.
Booking the Ticket & Getting There
I used the Greenbus Company, good value, convenient, comfortable with a choice of a big VIP or a standard seat which is comparable to western coach seats. One trick I learnt is that there’s a super secret handle at the side and at the bottom of the aisle seat that will allow the seat to move about 2 inches away from the window seat into the aisle – great for my “wide-load.”
I would recommend using their website booking page, it gives live updates of seat availability and it saves a trip to the bus terminal to buy a ticket, I didn’t pay on-line but booked it and paid the fare at a local 7-11, who’ll give you a print-out ticket that you give directly to the driver, for a 25 baht booking fee.
One thing that threw me was that it wouldn’t let me go to the payment page until I had put my phone number into the remarks box, it would throw up a error dialogue box but in Thai language, once that was figured and inputted it goes all the way how to pay. After the Thai error box I thought paying by card online would have similar error messages so went for the 7-11 option, once complete they send an email and txt with the booking number for use at 7-11.
With ticket in hand I go to the station the next day, parked my bike for 10 baht in the secure section and headed to the terminal – obviously I got the wrong one but if you do it’s a quick trip over the road and when you see a Greenbus counter you’ve got the right terminal.
If your unsure of which platform there’s usually a helpful employee to question, plus the buses do display their number in the window and finally the driver/assistant will check you off their list as you board.
Another tip is take travel sickness pills – I’ve got a good constitution but the fast turns going up the mountain still made me a little queasy – plus they make drowsy and easier to sleep the 4-5 hour journey off.
At Mae Sai
I didn’t have a clue of what to do or where to go – not much in the way of research apart from there’s red songtaew’s that will take you to the border for 15 baht. With this scant knowledge and my travelers wits about me (if that’s such a thing?) I found the Songtaew – well the driver approached the bus asking everyone getting off with a sign saying border 15 baht – easy yes, well, I did see one of the other westerners from the bus wandering around the station looking for what I don’t know but they definitely went to the border later on.
Once it was full enough off they go for a 15 – 20 min run to the actual border. Follow the crowds and the signs for Passport Control out from Thailand, on the left hand side of the road, you’ll see other queues but they are for Thai’s and Burmese. Typical passport control, look at the camera, on you go, follow the yellow line and you’re on the bridge.
Myanmar drives on the right so you and all the cars have to cross over the road to go in. The contrast in passport control is stark, Thailand with it’s purpose built booths and technology compared to a grimly decorated room/office with old desks and cheap webcams taped to the top of a monitor in Myanmar. Pay your 500 Baht and they stamp you up with both in and out stamps and despite previous reports of cardboard vouchers they gave my passport back immediately.
I went in to the market briefly but didn’t stay long, it’s the usual tat and as quite often the case something a bit dodgy – I had cigarettes, Viagra, girls and marijuana offered in that order by three dodgy looking blokes within seconds of entering the market.
Back across is basically the same in reverse, the nice Thai Immigration officer took extra care to point out the difference between the enter before date and visa stamp date.
Then onto Chiang Rai
Most people go back to Chiang Mai on the same bus service, but I went to Chiang Rai. After some internet searches there wasn’t much in the way of info on buses etc.
Firstly get the same Songtaew service back to Mae Sai bus station, you’ll find them where they parked up to drop you off (my travelers wits about me again!) At the station nicely sign posted on platform 1 or 2 is usually a mini bus service to Chiang Rai and the helpful driver glad to assist foreigners with back packs- Fill it up and off the go usually every 20 mins or so and only 46 Baht.
If you haven’t been on one of these getting a leg room seat is desirable.
These will drop you at Chiang Rai bus station No 1 right in the heart of the city. Have a browse around the night market and the various temples.
The Greenbus back to Chiang Mai leaves from the No.2 bus station about 20 mins & 100 Baht tuk tuk ride outside the the city, weekdays the last bus is around 17:30 and weekends they run until 19:30 but check the website for details.
I remembered to get the travel sickness pills before setting off this time, and arrived with a few minutes to spare before the last bus left.