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Welcome to Tak

Tak Province – Overview

Tak is a northern province, covering an area of 6,406 square kilometers. The provincial capital is located 426 kilometers north of Bangkok, and is situated on Ping’s river basin.

Tak is a wild and mountainous province. Its proximity to Myanmar has resulted in a complex history and unique cultural mixes.

In the 1970s, the mountains of western Tak were a hotbed of communist guerrilla activity. Since the 1980s, the former head of the local CPT movement has been involved in resort hotel development and Tak is very open to visitors, but the area still has an untamed feeling to it. This province boasts to have Thailand's largest population of domesticated elephants still used by Karen villagers in western Tak for transportation and agricultural tasks.

Western Tak has always presented a marked contrast to other parts of Thailand because of strong Karen and Burmese cultural influences. As Thailand and Myanmar border each other, districts in Mae Ramat, Tha Song Yang, and Mae Sot are dotted with refugee camps. This is a result of firefights between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Myanmar government which sent Karen civilians fleeing across the border. As this was written, it was estimated that there were 151,000 registered migrant workers from Burma in Tak province alone.

The most important source of income for the people living on both sides of the border is legal and illegal international trade. The main smuggling route on Thailand's side is at Tha Song Yang, Mae Sarit, Mae Tan, Wangkha, Mae Sot, and Waley. An important contraband product is teak, carved by Karen and Karenni (Kayah) and then brought to Thailand from Myanmar in large tractor-trailers at night. As much as 200.000 baht in bribes per truckload is distributed to local Thai authorities, who conveniently look the other way.

Most of Tak province is forested and mountainous, and is an excellent destination for those who want to trek. Organized trekking is found further north towards Chiang Mai, while in Tak province it is mainly locally organized. There are Hmong, Musoe (Lahu), Lisu, and White and Red Karen settlements throughout the West and North.

On traveling to Tak province, you can expect to discover a destination with a long history, where natural wonders are magnificently enhanced by ethnic diversity. Historians believe that the town of Tak was built before the Sukhothai era and later served as the western border of the kingdom. Tak were also associated with Thailand's former Great Kings, including King Ramkhamhaeng, King Naresuan, King Narai, and King Taksin, all of which are believed to have gathered their armies in Tak. Tak is believed to have been the first district liberated from the Burmese Kingdom and that is why the drawing on the province's coat of arms is King Naresuan the Great on the royal elephant, pouring holy water on the ground. This is a symbolic representation of the declaration of independence from the Kingdom of Ayutthaya during the war with Burma in 1584. Apart from Tak’s military and economic power, the province also as an environmental and cultural center with magnificent forests, spectacular waterfalls and caves, and fascinating hill tribes like Karen, Lisu, Musoe (Lahu), Akha, Yao, and Hmong.

Tak is a beautiful province almost entirely off the tourist map, so visitors looking for genuine Thai hospitality and a peek at the everyday life of the Thai culture, unspoiled by impacts of mass tourism, will get a really good experience.

Especially of interest are the large bodies of water, such as Bhumibol Dam, which was named after King Bhumibol Adulyadej. This artificial lake stops the Ping River, and covers an area of 300 km, and is the largest in Thailand. In the middle of the dam is Valentine Island where visitors can relax on the sandy beach and enjoy the sun.

Tak Province – Getting there

As an important hub for transportation in the region, Tak is easily reached directly by car or bus. But it is also possible to take a train or plane to nearby Sukhothai or Phitsanulok and then a bus to Tak. Once there, it may be easier to get around with your own car, but there are standard forms of local transport available for visitors: songtaews , motorcycle taxis, samlors, and tuk tuks.

By train

There are no trains that go directly to Tak. The nearest train station is in Phitsanulok. From here, tourists can take a local bus to Tak.

By car

From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road) and Highway No. 32 to Nakhon Sawan via Ayutthaya, Ang Thong , Sing Buri, and Chai Nat Provinces , then take Highway No. 1 again and proceed to Tak via Kamphaeng Phet province. The total distance is 426 km.

By bus

From Bangkok aircon. buses from Bangkok Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2 ) depart to Tak from 5 AM to 10 PM every day. The journey takes 6 hours. Private bus companies, such as Thanchit Tour and Choet Chai Tour also have daily bus services to Tak.

By plane

Flights between Bangkok and Mae Sot are currently operated by Nok Air and Solar Air. The flight takes one and a half hour. Solar Air has three flights a week into and out of Mae Sot from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport.

Getting around in Tak

As in most rural Thai provinces there are typically songtaews that follow established routes around the provincial capital, and local buses and songtaews for trips between towns in the province. Songtaews, motorcycle taxis, and samlors (three-wheeled pedal powered cabs) are usually available for private use when you need to go from one place to another.

Tak Province – Weather

Weather in Tak has three seasons, it's pretty cool during winter and very hot in the hot season. The average maximum temperature is 36 to 40 degrees Celsius and the minimum temperature ranges from 9 to 13 degrees Celsius. The general humidity is 69-75%.

Tak Province – Attractions

There are not many tourist-oriented attractions in Tak province, but the province offers fantastic scenery and cultural experiences.

Thi Lo Su Waterfall. A popular destination in Tak.

Si Maharat City Pillar Shrine. A shrine was established in 1992 to celebrate the royal grace of the four great kings, and to be a public-spiritual center for the people of Tak.

King Taksin the Great Shrine. In 1947, the people in the town considered that the existing shrine did not receive appropriate honour, they, therefore, built a new shrine and commissioned the Fine Arts Department to sculpture an over life-size statue of King Taksin the Great in a sitting position with a sword across his lap.

Wat Khao Tham. Inside the temple, there is the Lord Buddha’s footprint, Phra Sangkatchai, and Kwan Yin (Goddess of Mercy). Luangpho Thanchai, the stucco Buddha image sculptured within one day, is housed in the Ubosot (ordination hall). There is a Chedi (pagoda) atop the hill overlooking Tak town.

Lan Sang National Park. It covers an area of 65,000 rai. Various types of forest, such as rain forest, coniferous forest, hill everygreen forest, deciduous dipterocarp forest, and mixed deciduous forest, are found in different geographical areas. Wild animals found are common wild pig, barking deer, Siamese big-headed turtle, serow, civet, Black-crested Bulbul, flying lizard, etc.. Interesting Places in the Lan Sang National Park:

  • Namtok Pha Lat. This waterfall flows through a split-level hill of rocks down a broad complex ground of rocks. The ground slopes a bit and is 25 m wide and 40 m long.
  • Namtok Lan Liang Ma (1st tier). It features a small rocky hill with a hole of around 6 m wide in the middle. The currents of Lam Huai Lan Sang pass through the hole against the water surface below. The waterfall is around 5 m high.
  • Namtok Lan Sang (2nd tier). The water gushes from a crevice of the mountain and cascades in three tiers before flowing into a pond and falling down to Namtok Lan Liang Ma.
  • Namtok Pha Ngoep (3rd tier). The waterfall is 19 m high and has water only in the rainy and cool seasons. Its beautiful feature is Pha Ngoep, a high steep cliff with angular crevices.
  • Namtok Pha Phueng (4th tier). The waterfall features a 30 m high-flat surface cliff with a slope of 70 degrees. The water of Huai Lan Sang overflows the top of this waterfall and spreads whitewater to flow along the cliff and lower small layers of rocks covering the broad area before falling down to the pond below.
  • Namtok Pha The. This one-tier waterfall features a steep cliff of 25 m high. The water of Huai Lan Sang runs quickly through a small narrow channel towards the cliff top where the ground is abruptly low. The powerful sound of splashing can be heard in the distance.
  • Namtok Pha Nam Yoi. This waterfall flows through a narrow channel in layers down to a broad and very deep pond.
  • Namtok Tha Le. This waterfall of 50 m high features a slope with water flowing in layers from a cliff.
  • Viewpoint. The Lan Sang National Park has a viewpoint on the top of Khao Noi overlooking nice vistas of Tak town.

 

King Taksin the Great National Park. There are many types of forest: hill evergreen forest, coniferous forest, rain forest, deciduous dipterocarp forest, and mixed deciduous forest. The weather is cool all year round with an average temperature of around 20°C. Places of Interest in the King Taksin the Great National Park:

  • Ton Krabak Yai. It is a large tree that grows in the valley of a rain forest. This is the highest Krabak tree in Thailand.
  • Natural Stone Bridge. It features a giant piece of stone linking two cliffs together, with 25 m in width and height.
  • Namtok Pang A Noi. This middle-sized waterfall flows all year round. It is around 20 m high, and around 2 km away from Ton Krabak Yai to the east.
  • Namtok Mae Ya Pa. This medium – sized waterfall originates from Lam Huai Mae Ya Pa in a dense forest. It flows in layers along the creek into Lam Huai Mae Tho.
  • Namtok Sam Muen Thung. This giant waterfall of 30 m high originates from Lam Huai Sam Muen Luang and has water flowing all year round.

 

Wat Mani Phraison. Within the compound, there is a unique building called ‘Chedi Wihan Samphutthe’ which contains 512,028 Buddha images and has 223 small pagodas on its outer surface. The ancient Ubosot (ordination hall) is more than 200 years old.

Wat Chumphon Khiri. It is an ancient temple of more than 200 years old. A newly built Chedi is an imitation of Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. The principal Buddha image in the Ubosot (ordination hall) is of the Mara-subduing attitude. An ancient drum of more than 200 years old is kept in the Wihan (image hall).

Namtok Mae Kasa. There is a path leading the way up to a high mountain. A cave in front of the waterfall has a 5 m wide stream of water which serves as an entrance to the waterfall.

Bo Nam Ron Mae Kasa. This hot well of 2 m wide is located in Tambon Mae Kasa, right in the village. Hot and cool streams flow to meet at this well.

Hill tribe Development and Assistance Centre and Tak Plant and Production Factor Service Centre (Doi Muser). In the centre, the ‘Ban Umyom Hilltribe Cultural Centre’ was established to give knowledge and advice to hill tribe leaders in tourism management. There is a display of clothes, jewellery, and household utensils, and an imitation of the Muser’s house. Outside the cultural centre, there is an imitation of a “Chakhue” dancing ground. (Chakhue is a dance of the Muser).

Doi Muser Horticultural Experiment Station. The station conducts experiments and research on coffee beans, tea, fruit, vegetables, and temperate flowers. During November to December, the area around the station is beautifully covered with Mexican sunflowers in full bloom.

Doi Muser Hill Tribe Market. Located on the roadside of the Tak – Mae Sot route (Highway No. 105) around km 29.

Chaopho Phawo Shrine. The story has it that Chaopho Phawo was a Karen warrior who was appointed by King Taksin the Great as chief of the Mae Lamao border pass to protect the land. Some told the sacredness of the shrine that if anyone went hunting on Phawo Mountain, they usually encountered irregularities, such as car trouble, sickness, or became lost.

Amazing Hill. Here, a car can be astonishingly seen going up the hill without switching on the engine. A scientist gave an explanation that it was an illusion.

Wat Phothikhun or Wat Huai Toei. The interesting feature is the Ubosot (ordination hall). The boat-like Ubosot has three storeys. The ground storey has no decoration. Decorations were made to the walls, ceiling, and heads of the posts on the second storey. On the third storey where religious ceremonies are performed, it was finely decorated on the walls, posts, and ceiling, with the arts of bas-relief, painting, glass inlaying, and gilding.

Wat Thai Watthanaram. This is a temple of the Mahayana Buddhism (Great Vehicle) of the Thai Yai people. Inside the temple, there is Phra Phutthamahamuni, an imitation image of the sacred Buddha image in Mandalay, Union of Myanmar, which gains great respect from the people of Tak.

Thai – Myanmar Friendship Bridge. The bridge is located in Tambon Tha Sai Luat, across the Moei River between Tak’s Mae Sot district and Myawadi in the Union of Myanmar.

Rim Moei Market. This is a community on the bank of the Moei River where you will also find a market of local products of Thailand and Myanmar, as well as a market of gemstones from the Union of Myanmar.

Phrathat Hin Kio. It is a miracle of nature that a gigantic rock can stay on such a cliff. The rock is so slim at some point that it seems to be parted into two pieces. A Mon-styled Chedi was built on the exact width of the rock.

The Moei River (aka Thaungyin in Myanmar). This river is the borderline between Myanmar and Thailand. It is 327 km long, flowing towards the north unlike a river in general.

Amphoe Mae Ramat is another district of Tak that borders Myanmar, 120 km from Tak town. Most of the areas are forests and mountains. It was presumed that the Mae Ramat district was a community of the Karen.

Wat Don Kaeo. One of the three marble Buddha images built at the same time in a Burmese style of sculpture was invited from Yangon to house in the Wihan (image hall) here.

Mae Tuen Wildlife Sanctuary. Most of the areas are a range of high steep and complex mountains where there are different types of forest: hill evergreen forest, dry everygreen forest, mixed deciduous forest, and deciduous dipterocarp forest. Places of interest in the Mae Tuen Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Doi Khun Mae Tuen: There is a wide rocky ground and a small cave with stalagmites and stalactites. Inside, where many wild animals, such as barking deer, serow, bat, etc. live.
  • Lam Nam Mae Tuen: This large tributary of the Ping River flows to merge with the main stream above the Bhumibol Dam. Whitewater rafting on a rubber dinghy is an activity on Lam Nam Mae Tuen.
  • Doi Soi Mala: It is the highest mountaintop in the Mae Tuen Wildlife Sanctuary, about 1,600 m above sea level. One interesting thing here is a salamander (or named as Chingchok Nam) which is a rarely-seen ancient species, similar to a lizard with a pink body.

Places of interest in the Khun Phawo National Park:

  • Namtok Khun Phawo: It is a large waterfall of around 100 m high and an origin of Huai Mae Charao (Mae Charao creek).
  • Huai Mae Lamao: This large creek is in an unspoiled forest, offering whitewater rafting on a rubber dinghy going throughout surrounding nature and a forested mountain.
  • Nature Trail: The walking path goes up and down the fairly steep hills, and passes along the river upstream and a small waterfall. During the period of change from the rainy to cool season, colourful wild flowers can be seen. The greenery is dotted with strikingly red Krathue (Boesenbergia prainiana) and yellow Mexican sunflowers.
  • Namtok Pha Thewa: It is on the nature trail and the most remarkable waterfall of the park. With its height of 150 m, the powerful flow falls against boulders and the pool below. In the woods, there is a pagoda containing cremated bones of a woman who hanged herself because she was heartbroken.
  • Tham Mae Usu: This cave is around 12 km from the Tha Song Yang District Office to the north. To the west, there is a gigantic hollow rock. In the afternoon, rays of sunlight beautify the cave inside.
  • Namtok Nang Khruan: It is a medium-size waterfall with small layers of flowing water amidst a shady forest. It receives water from a canal beside rice fields.
  • Namtok Pha Charoen National Park: Most of the areas are high complex mountains of 1,765 m above sea level and feature a mixed deciduous forest and a coniferous forest.

Places of Interest in the Namtok Pha Charoen National Park:

  • Namtok Pha Charoen: It is a limestone waterfall receiving water from a creek that flows into a pool of water. This ninety-seven-tiered waterfall has water flowing all year round.
  • Bo Nam Ron Huai Nam Nak: This natural hot well measures at 12 degrees on the Celsius scale. Nowadays, there are gazebos provided by the Phop Phra District Administration next to the well at its side on the Ro Pho Cho road.
  • Doi Kia Viewpoint: This is the highest point of the borderline between Myanmar and Thailand. It is around 512 m high and overlooks a forest in Myanmar.
  • Namtok Pa Wai: The waterfall originates from Pa Wai Creek where water flows all year round and many rattan plants grow.
  • Namtok Sai Fa and Namtok Sai Rung: These waterfalls have spray of water which looks like a rainbow when being seen in sunlight.

Amphoe Umphang. It is a district bordering with the Union of Myanmar and the largest district of Thailand. Umphang was once a gateway town on the western border subject to Uthai Thani Province. It was also a checkpoint for the Burmese people who crossed the border to trade in Thai territory.

Ban Boran. The houses built on stilts have an open ground floor. There is a set of stairs in the front of the house. A bench is set in parallel to the portico.

Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary. It covers a total area of 1,619,280 rai and has been maintained as a conservation forest to preserve natural resources. This western woodland is also an origin of a World Heritage Site. Most trees are species of a rain forest and a deciduous forest. Wild animals found are clouded leopard, Malayan tapir serow, hawk, pelican, etc. Places of Interest in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Namtok Thi Lo Su: This large waterfall is on a limestone mountain, 900 m above sea level. It originates from Klo Tho Creek cascading along a steep cliff. It ranks among the world’s six most beautiful waterfalls.
  • Namtok Thi Lo Cho or Namtok Saifon: Its rapidly flowing stream against boulders causes sprays of water that look like falling rain from the sky, and a rainbow is therefore created.
  • Namtok Se Pla: This waterfall on a limestone mountain flows in tiers, and is 10 m wide and 50 m long. Its flowing stream against boulders looks like a beautiful white cloud.
  • Namtok Thi Lo Re: The main stream of water flows along the high steep cliff into the Mae Klong River from the height of 80 m amidst the beauty of nature.
  • Doi Hua Mot: There are no large trees on these mountains; only small grasses, such as cycad and Thian pa (Impatiens calcicola), grow in general. Wildflowers can be seen in full bloom during the rainy season.
  • Tham Takhobi: This large cave with a high ceiling has a wide path in tiers and many walking lines inside. Its stalagmites and stalactites are attractive.

Amazing Hill. This is the second amazing hill of Tak.

Amphoe Ban Tak. It was once a city of Tak and an important gateway to the west of the Kingdom of Sukhothai.

Wat Phra Borommathat. The Ubosot (ordination hall) has a beautifully carved-wooden door. The old Wihan (image hall) has a high ceiling with double tiers, and is well equipped with ventilation channels so that it is cool inside. A gilded stucco Buddha image is housed in the Wihan. This temple is among the ones of great archaeological value.

Chedi Yutthahatthi or the Chedi in Honour of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great. This Sukhothai – styled artwork stands on a cement square base of 12 m in width. There are traces of repair over the past time, but the pagoda still remains in its original form.

Petrified Forest Park. where some of the world largest fossil trees are preserved (the longest one is up to 72m or about 236 feet long). The exact age of the gravel, sand, and fossil wood deposits has not been determined. However, according to the study of geology of northern Thailand region, they must be more than 800,000 years old. This is the first and the largest petrified forest park of Thailand and of the Southeast Asia. This park is a very good place for both ecotourism and geotourism.

Mae Salit Stone Mortar and Production Site is the largest granite mortar in Thailand. The fact that the village of San Klang is where the famous stone mortar ‘Khrok Ang Sila’ is made as an OTOP handicraft, is known to a few.

Pha Sam Ngao. There, three deep holes were carved into the cliff at the mountain foot, and a gilded Buddha image is housed in each of the three niches.

Doi Soi Malai. An interesting thing here is a salamander or water lizard, a rarely seen ancient creature; its pink body is similar to the lizard’s. Most areas are covered with a pine forest.

Wat Chonprathan Rangsan. The temple was established to replace the eight temples which were flooded in 1959. Important items of each of the eight temples were moved to be maintained in this temple.

Wat Phrathat Kaeng Soi. It was presumed by the Fine Arts Department that this area was probably an important gateway town of the Hariphunchai Kingdom, named ‘Wiang Soi,’ over 800 years ago. Nowadays, the archaeological evidence of the town lays underwater, and it can be seen only when the water recedes just to a very low level.

Bhumibol Dam or Yanhi Dam. It is the first multipurpose dam in Thailand. This large curve-shaped concrete dam is the highest one in Thailand. The dam is used for electricity production and irrigation. The area around the dam is used for recreational purposes and as a breeding site of freshwater creatures. Places of Interest at Bhumibol Dam:

  • Phra Phutthabat Doi Khao Nam: This Lord Buddha’s footprint is enshrined in Wat Phra Phutthabat at the top of a hill on an island.
  • Ko Valentine: This small island has a sandy beach.
  • Sericulture Experimental Station: This place is where the growing of mulberries and the raising of silkworms are done on a large scale.

Tak Province – Shopping

As in most provincial capitals, Tak has a central market where locals can buy everything from groceries to household appliances and visitors can buy clothes and other necessary supplies. In addition to the shopping venues listed below, there are often locally produced handicrafts available at central markets, the occasional night market, and from village workshops in smaller towns throughout the province.

Municipal Market. Mae Sot municipal market is among the largest and most vibrant you will find. In addition to the usual Thai market with wet and dry goods, there are lots of exotic things from Myanmar, including Burmese bookstores, twigs of thanaka (the source of the yellow powder you see on most faces), and bags of pickled tea leaves, bizarre cosmetics from across the border, and velvet thongs slippers from Mandalay. It is also a great place to sample authentic Burmese food.

Fair Trade Shop. As one of three branches in northern Thailand, this shop specializes in bright handmade cloth items crafted by displaced women from Burma.

Borderline Shop. Sale of arts and crafts from refugee women where the profits from the store go to a women's collective and an orphanage foundation. Upstairs is a gallery selling paintings, and a cooking course and an outdoor 'tea garden' are here too.

Tak Province – Restaurants

Most restaurants in Tak province serve a variety of dishes, including Thai and international dishes. Most guest houses and resorts have restaurants that serve both. The following are some of the restaurants that can be found in Tak province.

Khao Mao Khao Fang, Mae Sot. This place will give you the feeling of dining in a wild jungle. A Thai botanist has made the design, complete with chandeliers with hanging vines, orchids, and lots of running water.

Khrua Canadian, Mae Sot. This is the place you must visit if you want to forget you are in Asia. Dave, the Canadian owner, brews his own coffee and also offers homemade bagels, deli meats and cheeses, as well as a large breakfast menu. The portions are huge, the menu is varied, and when you finally remember that you are in Thailand, local information is also available.

Lucky Tea Garden, Mae Sot. To experience the authentic Burmese tea without crossing over to Myawadi, visit this friendly cafe equipped with sweet tea, delicious snacks, and, of course, bad Burmese pop music. Or arrive with an empty stomach and try one of the best biryani in town.

Bai Fern, Mae Sot. The cozy, wood-furnished Bai Fern has a pleasant atmosphere and is popular all day long.

Casa Mia, Mae Sot. Tucked down a side street, this simple restaurant offers the cheapest homemade pasta dishes you can find. And better yet, they are equally tasty. They also serve Thai and Burmese food, and some special desserts, including a vicious banoffee pie.

Pa Ni, Um Phang & around. Has a short, English menu with a few vegetarian options (Thai menu is much more expansive). It is generally regarded as the best cuisine in town. The restaurant is just across the bridge on the road leading out to Ban Palatha.

Hazel Taste, Mae Sot. This modern, air-conditioned café offers a great selection of fantastic coffee drinks, tasty sweets, and internet.

Phudoi Restaurant, Um Phang & around. When open, this restaurant makes some decent food. There is a bilingual menu, and it is often the only place that opens earlier than 9 AM.

Phat Thai, Mae Sot. This cosy place serves pàt tai with a local twist: toppings of pork rind and barbecued pork. It's a bit tricky to find, so look for the wooden house with the old-school advertisements.

Khrua Ton Makham, Um Phang & around. This rustic place has a short menu in English, although the Thai menu is much more expansive. The restaurant is located under a lot of tamarind trees (“Ton Makham”), next to an internet cafe.

Bankrusun, Um Phang & around. Owned by a Thai musician, this souvenir shop/café offers good coffee, drinks, and basic breakfast.

Aiya, Mae Sot. Unlike Bai Fern Guesthouse, Aiya is a simple place that serves good Burmese food and is particularly strong on vegetarian options.

Tak Province – Article

The importance of doing nothing

In Mae Sot

Blog: The Road Forks - May 2, 2010

We went to Mae Sot with grand plans: we would stay in this border town for one night and then head to Umphang, an unspoiled wilderness area with numerous hill tribes.  We planned to hike to the highest waterfall in Thailand and find wild elephants.

It was when we sank down into the cushions at Borderline Tea Shop that we realized how tired we were.  I mean, we sat at the tea shop for three hours, refreshing ourselves with a deep green basil lime juice, a Burmese tea leaf salad that was so good we scraped up every last speck off the plate, and roti with channa masala.  We couldn’t figure out why we just kept sitting there, why we didn’t get up to go see the border, why we had no interest in finding the next temple, or crossing over to Burma.

And, then, it finally hit us.  We had been traveling for four weeks straight without a break.  We had visited my family in India, seen temples while battling sickness, trained elephants, cooked a Thai feast, and found untouristed ruins.  We had walked through humble and cavernous Thai markets and eaten noodles, satays, and mango with sticky rice on so many street corners.  We had packed and repacked our bags every three days and maneuvered our way by buses, trains, planes, and boats.  We were exhausted.

As it turns out, Mae Sot is a pretty good place to do nothing because there is nothing much to do.  The town, situated at the Burmese-Thai border, is a town on the brink of hesitation, not quite Burmese or Thai or Western, but filled with NGO workers, missionaries, Burmese refugees, and Thai citizens.  There are four tourist attractions and none present much charm after a stay in Chiang Mai or Lampang: the bridge that crosses over the border, a lively vegetable market, an uninspiring border market, and a giant reclining Buddha.

We needed those days spent underneath a magic box that spurts out frigid air, what others like to call air conditioning, and we refer to as bliss in the form of metal.  We went to our Burmese tea shop every day, meeting missionaries and NGO workers who were trying to make a difference, while we lazed about on the cushions and ate delicious salads for 30 baht ($1 USD) per meal.  We let a bit of guilt seep into us while we drank our basil lime juice and listened to the breathing of the stray dog who followed us around the city, eager to receive treats from Patrick’s generous hands. 

One morning, we rode to Taiksin Maharat National Park, twenty kilometers outside town, to see the nine-tiered waterfall Nam Tok Mae Ya Pa.  We couldn’t even find the impetus to walk up to the top of the waterfall and contented ourselves with lounging in the shade with our Coca-Colas and watching the Thai children splash in the small bathtubs carved by rocks.

Three days was enough.  Mae Sot recharged us and we were ready to face the chaos, bustle, and gorgeousness of Bangkok.  It is a point that I think every long-term traveler reaches --- a breaking point of sorts where you just feel worn down and need to distance yourself from constant movement, people, and new things.  You have to know when you are burnt out, to stop and take a vacation from your journey, to let yourself watch movies, bask in cool air, play on the Internet, read books, and do all of those things that we do when we need to relax.

Sure, we regret not being able to hike in Umphang.  But, if we hadn’t taken that break, we would have turned our journey into a chore rather than the fun and exciting adventure it otherwise is.    

Details

We recommend avoiding the Bai Fern Guesthouse, where the bedsprings must have been trying to commit suicide by jumping out of the mattress because metal coils pierced my back all night long.  Instead, opt for the beautiful bungalows at the very popular Ban Thai Guesthouse or modern large rooms with air conditioning and free Wi-Fi at Phannu House for 500 baht/night ($18 USD).  We highly recommend making reservations before you get into town because missionaries and NGO workers fill the good guesthouses in town very quickly.  We had to visit four hotels before we found a spot at Bai Fern and then went to two hotels the next morning before we got our room at Phannu House. 

If you make it to Mae Sot, then you must eat at the Borderline Tea Shop, a store and restaurant that assists women from hill-tribe villages.  Every single thing we ate, from their tea leaf salad to their juices, was delicious and cheap and it was one of our favorite restaurants in Thailand.  The restaurant also has cooking classes for those with energy.