Border Running – Snags and Surprises

On my second border run to Burmese/Myanmar for visa purposes, I hit a road bump. Fully booked buses from Chiang Mai meant I couldn’t leave until 10:30am, which set me a few hours behind schedule. I had intended to leave as early as 7am, but fatigue and getting lost got the better of me.

As a friend said, bordertowns almost uniformly suck.

My last border run between Thailand and Cambodia was insane compared to Mae Sai– Aranyaprathet to Poipet was lined with scammers trying to get you to buy their “visa”, gamblers/casino sharks, etc. I’ve learned since that anyone who is enthusiastic about expediting your visa is most definitely untrustworthy.

But the street food is delicious.

I ignored the scammers at Poipet, but what irked me the most was that the police station/official border crossing staff were literally a few paces away, doing nothing about it. While I’ve heard in the past it’s been worse and the police have cracked down on it, it sure didn’t look like it.

Mae Sai border crossing, on the other hand, was mostly monks, a scattering of saffron robes on the bridge to Myanmar. Besides some guys who did try to grab me and sell me imported cigarettes, I was unbothered. It was a cheaper crossing, and I cleared myself for the rest of the trip.

However, I didn’t know the last bus to Chiang Mai from Mae Sai left at 4:30. I got to the station at 5pm.

So, I got stuck in Chiang Rai with nothing but my backpack and several thousand baht. I asked a hotel close by how much it would cost to get a taxi back to Chiang Mai if I was hell bent on returning before midnight– they said upwards of 3,000 baht ($100 USD). GUH. Yeah, not happening.

So, I wandered the city aimlessly a bit, and then something caught my eye– a guesthouse. That looked like Terrace. As in, painted glow in the dark psychedelic walls, dark, wooden, only a few kilometers (aside: holy shit I’m using the metric system now) from the bus station.

Chook Dee Guesthouse. Featuring pictures of Bob Marley in every room like Jesus.

The owner, a Thai rastafarian with several strands of black dreads on his head and silver rings on his hands, welcomed me rather enthusiastically.He loved that I’m from California. He showed me a room. I thanked him and told him I’m going to buy my bus ticket home for the morning at 6am.

At the station, I met a girl (Hi Rebecca! Hope your 10-day Buddhist retreat goes well! Good luck!) who was in the same predicament as me. I told her where I was staying, warned her about the Rastafarian vibe– to which she said “oh no I love places like that!”– and we end up splitting a room for 100 baht each.

Dinner at the night bazaar, some shopping around, a mosquito-filled sleep (more like nap), wake up at 5:30am, and a long busride back– and I’ve returned to Chiang Mai safely!


Home sweet home. These are pictures of my host’s place in Chiang Mai.


About Vivienne Chen

Vivienne Chen is a freelance journalist, blogger, fiction/poetry writer, English and Gender studies major at Princeton University, and activist for sexual freedom and LGBT equality. She is also a member of the University Press Club, and blogs at

Posted on July 22, 2012, in Info. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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