The Friendship Bridge – crossing the Thai-Myanmar border

Receiving a Visa extension at the Friendship Bridge

I journeyed from Chiang Mai to the Thailand-Myanmar border for a Thai Visa extension in May 2018. This constituted an 8 hour-round trip, nevertheless, this was worthwhile as the experiences were so interesting. On departure from the bus station, I met a Burmese woman and Thai man travelling on my route. The bus weaved north through Chiang Rai province, encompassed by vast areas of dense rainforest. Reaching Mae Sai, I needed to take a Songthaew the few kilometres to the border. My new companions and I then had time to explore the sublime Wat Phra That Doi Wao. Afterwards we had lunch at a restaurant right on the river that divides the countries. We then crossed the adjacent ‘Friendship Bridge’ and entered Tachileik.

Making friendships at the Mae Sai-Tachileik land crossing.

Visa Details, Myanmar and Thailand

While waiting for approval on your Visa extension, non ASEAN citizens are Visa exempt for the local parameter of Tachileik. Though, the condition is made clear that you must return to Thailand by the end of the day. Completing this border run provides 30 additional days in Thailand, a convenient and cheap option if located in Chiang Mai. At the time of writing you can only do two of these per calendar year and they cost 500 baht.

Tachileik from Wat Phra That Doi Wao. The views from the temple were splendid.

Tachileik experiences and return to Chiang Mai

I took a Tuk Tuk ride from the bridge into Tachileik with the Burmese woman and Thai man. We visited her family home where I was invited to try Burmese dishes. Sadly I’d already had a Thai-Burmese lunch so politely declined. Later, a family member scooted me to the bridge so I could catch my return bus. A word of warning, Burmese time is 30 minutes behind Thai time so bear this in mind. I arrived back in Chiang Mai at 9pm – with planning the process is achievable in a day. In addition to the Visa, I viewed the trip as a chance to sample Burmese life, albeit briefly.