We arrive at Mae Sai and the Burmese border well after dark.Lane decides not to leave the bus, so I join the rest of the group for a peek at the border. The Thai end of the bridge that connects the two countries is marked by a large arch. Chris tells us not to go beyond this point, so we take turns taking pictures of each other with the arch.
In the background, the Burmese town of Thakhilek is dark and nearly featureless.
I’ve been looking forward to coming here in hopes of finding hill tribe silver and Burmese amber, but I know there is not time now for me to search these things out. I decide instead to wander through the night market and just take pictures of whatever interesting things I may find. Joe follows after me to ensure I am not wandering about on my own. I appreciate the company. I’m sure it is safe here, but for some reason I find it a little unnerving.
Soon we join the others along the storefronts that line the street behind the market. There I find a stall with beads that I actually think might be amber (I don’t buy them) and a jewelry store with beads exactly like the one Karen brought back from Bhutan for me. Chris tells me these beads have no significance in Thailand – they are just jewelry here, but in Bhutan they are an important good-luck symbol.
Back in the market we wander through the odd assortment of people, strange foods, cheap clothing, the standard cheerful handicrafts, some uniquely Thai clocks, and a large assortment of junk.
It is late when we leave the market, but back on the bus Mekhong whisky awaits us (served either straight or with pineapple juice), so we are all in good spirits as we roll through the immigration checkpoints separating us from our hotel in Chiang Rai.
Luckily, the guards are searching for illegal Burmese immigrants, not tired, whisky-drinking tourists.