**Apologies (mostly to my mother) for not posting sooner. I was in Burma/Myanmar for a week and could not access my site. Apparently the junta thinks I am dangerous! Sweet! The next week will be pretty sporadic, as well, for posting, as I’ll be doing a silent meditation retreat on Koh Samui, so no Internet, phone, reading, writing, speaking, etc. AT ALL. Good grief, I might just lose it.
For part 1 of Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not A Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Guilty About It, see here.
And now without further ado, here is the long-awaited (yeah, yeah) part 2 of Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not A Do-Gooder and Feel Kind Of Guilty About It!
6. See Some Waterfalls.
Sarah arranged for a driver to take us around to some waterfalls in the area. He was Burmese, spoke pretty good English, had a 30-year-old car with no air conditioning, and also sold yogurt. We found about the yogurt because every now and then he would stop at a factory or a Karen-Thai village and say, “5 minutes!” Then he would take a cooler out of the trunk and sell some yogurt to people. It was…odd. But whatever, we were cool; we went with the flow.
So, anyway, William (our Burmese driver’s name was William, duh) drove us around to see some water falling down hills. How that ends up being so beautiful is beyond me, but it is.
I think this is purty.
7. Eat Lots of Burmese Food
Funnily enough, I was heading to Myanmar right after I was in Mae Sot, but from all accounts, the Burmese food in Mae Sot is better than the Burmese food in Burma. After having been in Burma, I can vouch for this truth.
For those of you who will be venturing up to Mae Sot and are looking for farang-friendly joints, Borderline has the most amazing potato curry, chickpeas, tealeaf salad, and basil lime juice.
Burmese ginger salad. My mom's favorite!
Burmese tealeaf salad. Yup, it's really tea!
SP Kitchen, it is generally agreed, has the best tofu salad and fish curry.
Lucky is the place to go in the morning for Burmese Muslim food, but you have to get there early; by 9 a.m. everything you want will have long been sold out. Sarah and I went one morning and had potato curry, chickpea curry, two roti, two naan, and two Burmese teas, and it cost us 54 baht. That’s less than $2 for all of that. As a bonus, you have kids (kids—not teenagers) who should really be in school yelling your tea order to the kitchen in the back and serving you food, so you can start out your morning alternately praising the heavens for the delicious food you are stuffing in your face and feeling horribly guilty because you probably shouldn’t be patronizing a place that employs kids instead of sending them to school.
What I find interesting about that, incidentally, is that this place is super popular with all the NGO workers in town, as well.
Just-made naan. GET IN MY FACE!
8. Go to the Markets.
Duh, it’s Thailand, it’s pretty much a law that you have to visit the markets in any given town. In Mae Sot proper, there is a very lively and large market that lasts all day. Part of it is the fresh market, with fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, and–of course–large fried insects for sale. The other part of it is daily needs, clothes, that kind of thing.
Here’s a tip: Buy packets of tealeaf salad ingredients at the stalls here. They’re vacuum-packed and you can take them back with you and impress all your friends by adding some stuff and making tealeaf salad. If you’re in the United States and you are a white person (as in “Stuff White People Like” white person), this will immediately up your social standing by about 15,000 points because the kind of tealeaf you need is difficult and expensive to buy back in the U.S.
You’re welcome. Again. I really am providing you with a wealth of information today!
Burmese Muslim vendor. The white stuff on her face is called tanaka, and is used widely in Burma as sunscreen!
The other market, Mae Rim, is out of town at the river on the border of Myanmar and Thailand. Lots of tourist crap, really, but some neat stuff, too.
The market is right next to the Burmese-Thai border.
9. Hang Out in the Wats
The other tourist law in Thailand is that you’re required to visit ALL the wats.
My first trip to Mae Sot I was followed by the cutest—and dirtiest–kids ever at one of the wats. We shared some fruit and candy, I let them take pictures with my camera, they fought over who got to monkey-grip my various limbs while I was walking, and I had to practice my teacher look (I still got it!). It was good times.
ARE YOU SERIOUS?! STOP BEING SO CUTE!*
*(This pic was taken by one of the other kids.)
My second trip to Mae Sot, I found a Burmese Buddhist wat with a bunch of people hanging out. I knew it was Burmese Buddhist because the Buddhas have LED lights behind them like—Hey, here’s Buddha! He’s enliiiiiightennnnnned! Good for you, Buddha! Par-taaaaaaay!
What a horrible photo. Still, you can kind of make out the party Buddhas in the background.
I hung out around the fringes watching people until I got myself invited to give alms to the monks, eat a huge lunch in honor of a family member becoming a monk for a week, roam around the temple, and do some chanting (during which I fell asleep).
So, when I reviewed this picture, I'm sorry to report that I said, 'Oh my god, I look huge!' The lady to my left (in the pink) then said, 'But my skin is so dark!' Women in any culture: Insecure about their looks for one reason or another. Gah.
10. Do Some Shopping
Mae Sot has some nice fair trade shops like WEAVE (Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment), which is a registered fair trade store and supports Karen (an ethnic—and Christian—Burmese group) women refugees living in the camps. They have some really beautiful items, and I know that the money actually helps people, not just the organization.
Borderline, mentioned above for their food, is another store that has beautiful fair trade items.
And that is my guide to Mae Sot. I really do recommend visiting, as it’s very different from any other part of Thailand I’ve seen.
Just remember if you go, though, to keep in mind the words of an extremely pretentious person on the Lonely Planet forum for Mae Sot: “Mae Sot is really for the traveler, not the tourist.”
And if you meet this person while traveling in Mae Sot, please punch him in the face for me.