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The town at the most northern point of Thailand, a kind of Thai John OGroats, is 62 km from of Chiang Rai and 32 kilometres from the Golden Triangle. Chiang Rai has the nearest airport and it takes around one hour to drive.
The ethnic Chinese population have added their character and commercial skills to the town. A Chinese temple near the bridge is one of the landmarks.
All manner of goods ebb and flow from both sides of the border at this frontier town. They arrive stacked on the seats of heavily laden motorcycles, trolley's, hand carts, trucks and all manner of wheeled vehicles. Shopping is the main activity with a huge array of bargains from Thailand, Burma and China. Here you will find traditional Chinese medicine, an astonishing selection of dried mushrooms and fruit that is unavailable elsewhere in Thailand. Sports shoes are a bargain here with prices lower than other Thai cities. Burmese wall-hangings, lacquerware furniture and souvenirs are also good deals but bargaining is essential. Other products include figures, fishing gear and jewellery. The later should be chosen with care as there is a flourishing market in counterfeit gems. Rule of the thumb for most visitors is to buy something you like for its aesthetic value, not as an investment. Beware of illegal animal products as they are likely to be confiscated when you try to leave the country. Also give the poor creatures a chance to survive by boycotting shops that proffer such delights as ivory and tiger skins. Note that many companies offering tours of the area will also refuse to transport such objects.
Food here is nourishing, though plain and there are few places for international cuisine.
Nightlife in Mae Sai consists of food-stalls, traditional massage and Karaoke but it is a rather subdued affair in comparison with Chiang Rai.
Attractions around Mae Sai.
(See the Chiang Rai guide for Golden Triangle and other provincial places of interest.)
12 km south of Mae Sai lies two interesting caves including the tam pla fish caves where catfish swim freely. It is an important cave for Buddhists.