Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not Being a Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Guilty About It: Part 1

When I leave Thailand and people ask me how my time here was, I’m going to sum it up in one sentence:

Saw a lot of cool wats, ate a lot of delicious food, hung out with a lot of amazing people, the end.

Seriously, this accurately describes all my time in Thailand (ok, not ALL my time in Thailand, but some things are private, people!).

My time in Mae Sot has fit the mold, though Mae Sot is different than any Thai town I’ve been to. It’s on the border of Burma and has an interesting mix of foreign NGO workers, Thai, Burmese, and other ethnic groups from Burma like the Karen. There are several refugee camps in the area, and there is a large population of Buddhists, Muslims and Christians, though I can’t comment on the harmony of those populations living together because I don’t really know enough about the situation.

This is my second visit to Mae Sot to visit my friend Sarah, and while she is working, I’m off exploring, eating lots of food, and sitting in coffee shops. Oh, and taking naps, of course. What am I, somebody with a job?

Here is part 1 of my Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not Being a Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Bad About It list. It is highly subjective and only reasonably informative.

1. Embrace Your Inner Dirty Hippy

Do you harbor a secret desire to wear fisherman pants without irony and not wash your hair on a regular basis? Mae Sot is the place for you!

The foreign population in Mae Sot, in my entirely informal poll of people I’ve seen and talked to in a couple of days, is mostly made up of NGO workers and volunteers. Many are those extremely beautiful, makeup-less, fresh-faced, eager, young people who wear baggy fisherman pants without irony and talk about changing the world in such an earnest way you want to give them a big hug and protect them from the inevitable disappointments of the world. In Bangkok, these people are usually confined to Khao San Road, where they can eat terrible pad thai, drink buckets of whiskey and Red Bull and talk about how awesome Thailand is.

In Bangkok, there is a largely-professional group of expats working in the city. Even (“even”!) English teachers dress up for work in business clothes. I generally try to dress like a normal human being in Bangkok and make an effort to put on make-up and wear heels occasionally. In general (GENERAL), Bangkokians may not dress up, but they don’t really dress down.

In Mae Sot, though…I’m totally embracing my 20-year-old inner dirty hippy. I’m wearing the same dirty pants (trousers, Brits, trousers!) every day I’m here, I’ve got my hair in a bun, no make-up, and I’m wearing those awesome head covering things that I usually only wear at the beach or for hiking. And you know what? I totally do not stand out and I am loving it.

I don’t even feel unattractive, whereas in Bangkok I would be the biggest slob on the block in these get-ups. Not that it would matter, but still.

Yay, inner hippy drinks tea from a Snoopy mug while listening to somebody talk (but looks introspective)!

p.s. I’m sure there are plenty of professional people here, and clearly not everyone is a hippy, but it’s funnier that way!

2. Take a Burmese Cooking Class

My mother’s favorite restaurant in the Washington, DC area is a Burmese one called Mandalay, and she adores their ginger salad. When I told her I was going to a Burmese cooking class in Mae Sot, she gasped, “Oh, be sure to make my salad.”

Well, Mother, never fear, I have made your salad, and it is stupid easy to put together. I’ll make it for you when I get home.

The class we attended was at Borderline, which has a cute shop and a tea garden/restaurant with scrumptious food. We started off the day by going to the market in town for supplies, then stopped off for breakfast at a Burmese tea shop, where we sat on teensy little stools and had some noodles and…tea. I know, that’s a shocker.

I like to keep you on your toes.

In the class, we made ginger salad, tealeaf salad, veggie pakoras with lime ginger dipping sauce, potato curry, and basil lime juice. And then we put it all in our faces and made a lot of obscene “mmmmmmm…ohmygodthatissogood” noises.

That's some potato curry getting ready to be cooked up and shoved into mouths. GET IN MY BELLY, POTATO CURRY!

It all costs 450B (about $14) per person, and we got a cookbook to keep, as well. Worth every freaking penny.

Foods. Delicious foods.

3. Go See Burma

Notice I didn’t say you could actually visit Burma from Mae Sot. You know how Sarah Tiny Fey Palin can see Russia from her house? Well, you can see Burma from Mae Sot! You used to be able to cross the bridge and go into Burma, but Burma closed the border in 2010. Mrwah.

Those buildings are in Burma, right across the river. Soooo close...

4. Rent a Bike and Ride It Around

While living in Japan, I had a bike I rode around the city, as many people did. I would zip around people and ring my bell at them with great glee. I miss it quite a lot, to be honest. And you might think I take my life in my hands when I ride a motorcycle taxi in Bangkok without a helmet, but I would truly be suicidal if I rode a bicycle around that city.

Enter Stage Left: Mae Sot!

Dang, people, riding a bike around this town is fun.

Positives:

  • It costs 30B (~$1) a day to rent a bike.
  • Traffic jams don’t exist here, so it’s fast getting around.
  • It’s flat flat flat.
  • It takes no time at all to bike outside of the town and find yourself in the middle of rice paddies and water buffaloes. I biked about 20 minutes from the center of town and was really in the sticks, with people staring at me and gasping, “Oh, farang!”

Negatives:

  • It sucks when it rains.
  • Not so easy in a dress/skirt.
  • It’s hot hot hot.

The goat stared at me until I said, "HELLO!" and then he smiled, muttered, "Farang," under his breath, and moved on with his life. Oh wait, that was ALL THE PEOPLE IN MAE SOT who did that.

5. Battle Some Soi Dogs

Thailand’s population of stray soi dogs is approximately 5 times the population of the actual country. Packs of mangy, poorly fed, pitiful dogs roam the streets and sometimes bother unsuspecting Canadians like my friend Sarah. I think she doesn’t normally wear her maple leaf flag badge so the soi dogs don’t know they’re supposed to leave her alone and pick on Americans, like the rest of the world. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

USA! USA! USA!

Anywho, Sarah has to routinely battle soi dogs who chase her on her bike and nip at her heels as she’s trying to ride home. She has tried various tactics including yelling, jabbing at them with an umbrella, and–her last resort–bribing them with dog treats.

So far, Sarah is winning the battle, but she is afraid it’s only a matter of time before she starts to lose.

But she's too pretty to attack, soi dogs!

All this is to say that if you’d like to get your adrenaline going and do some battles with stray dogs, you should make a trip to Mae Sot. You won’t regret it. 

***Part 2 of Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not Being a Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Bad About It will be coming here in a few days…

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18 Comments

Filed under Thailand, Trips

18 responses to “Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not Being a Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Guilty About It: Part 1

  1. I’m dying to visit Burma! Awesome post.

  2. Jess

    MMMMMCAKEANDCURRY! I love the photos, and to hear you have added more adventure to your list :)

  3. Oh, you are replete in culinary adventures!…from cupcakes in Bangkok to ginger salad in Mae Sot.
    We imagine you preparing dinner for your mother and her eclectic friends; you have honed your ginger salad & Burmese potato curry recipes. But what for dessert? Ah ha…your chocolate/cream cheese cupcakes both delight and surprise!
    I must say, though, that I don’t completely buy your role as a hippy tea-drinker [you seem unauthentic and much too clean]…now, as a bicycling explorer and goat-talking farang gal, yep, that’s you.
    (eagerly awaiting Part II)

  4. An amazing post! I’m only going to address my most favourite disliked topic…Soi Dogs. I have a solution, which I think will be highly marketable. Take one water pistol and load it with gooey, sticky meat paste and fire away.

    Draw back…you could attract unwanted attention from otherwise docile dogs and/or your handbag may become quite smelly after a few days.

    PS. I love dogs…usually.

  5. Very cool post, Megan. You rock that dirty hippy look. ;-)

  6. In a fit of me-too’ism, great post on Mae Sot (and almost Burma)! In 5 items (plus intro), you gave me a better picture of Mae Sot than a load of (well known) travel guide paragraphs.

    As far as I can determine, soi dogs (argh!!!) serve absolutely no function whatsoever, except to block you on steep steps, shop doorways, food stalls, crosswalks, under tables, and scare the crap out of you late at night when you venture past their filthy lair. There may be one function: provide brief entertainment when a pack disses one critter with a few threatening barks and bites.

    Looking forwrd to Part Deux!

  7. You are Fricken’ awesome, i love your blog! I found it after reading Tell Thai Heart.

    It’s a little bit of love at first blog site…

  8. Pingback: Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not A Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Guilty About It: Part 2 | Bangkok Reality Smackdown

  9. Pingback: four blog posts that have recently inspired my move to thailand

  10. Pingback: More Mae Sot « ottomania

  11. crupaul

    Without soi dogs, the population of laos (and I suspect Burma) may well starve! They are a noble creature that serves a purpose for sure.

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