Thailand BorderThai border
Although Burma is somewhat more tranquil than in recent years, it is thought (see articles on cntv.com, May 2013) that about 70% of Burma's side of the border is being dismantled, either by the Myanmar army or by one or the other anti-government faction, and more than 3,000 lives have recently been lost or wounded in landmine blastings.
The malaria and dengue fever are indigenous in many areas along Burma's border, from Mae Sai in the northern to Ranong in the southwest, where Burma and Thailand converge on the Andaman Sea. The first time I went to Thailand, the border with Malaysia was a comfortable and secure place for people. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case; since January 2004, the far southerly Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat counties have been suffering from Separist force, with periodic bombings and shots.
Most of these counties are populated by Muslims, with historic ties to Malaysia, and although many locals consider themselves Thai, others would favour Thailand's autonomy. A number of West German messages, the British included, have cautioned against all as important trips to these counties and the neighbouring Songkhla County. Although there were relatively few events in the Songkhla region, three bombings detonated in the area on 3 April 2005, one at Had Yai International Airport, one in a motel and one in a commercial centre.
Seven nukes detonated in Songkhla and Had Yai on August 2, 2008, injuring at least four more. From Had Yai Junction in the Songkhla region, an eastern line runs through the three crisis regions listed above, a western one only through the Songkhla region on its way to the border at Padang Besar.
Thailand's rail system links the Malaysian railways in Padang Besar in the province of Songkhla and Sungai Kholok in Narathiwat. It has always been the most favoured tour for the West, crossing the border at Padang Besar, leading to Penang and Kuala Lumpur and finally to Singapore.
Thai and Malay migration points are located at the corresponding ends of the Padang Besar stop, although nowadays it is necessary to switch to a Malayan rail to resume the trip. The majority of foreign citizens receive a 90-day visas upon arriving in Malaysia. You can also take the mini bus from Satun from Had Yai (about 100 Baht) to Thammalung Pier, Satun, and then take the boat to Langkawi.
The next ferry ride for highway travelers is to Had Yai in Sadao, about 1h from town. Had Yai's most beloved Malaysia tourist attraction is Penang Island, one of the ancient UK colonial villages with many colonial style houses and streets. The Penang is a favourite place for backpack tourists travelling to or from Thailand.
Border checkpoints to Cambodia are at Aranya Prathet at the end of the East Railway Line and at Khlong Yai at the far south-eastern tip of the Trad County. You can get a 1000 Baht official $20.00 at the border or at the Bangkok consulate. Aranya Prathet Cruise tends to be very preoccupied with Thais trying to go to casinos just across the border and aliens taking an easier way to get a new 30 days Thailand visas.
On both sides of the border, the immigrant area is under patrol by tugboats claiming to have a friendship with Cambodia's population. It is possible to rent a cab from the border with Cambodia to the capitol Phnom Penh or to Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat).
There' s also a Bangkok line (third grade only) that will soon be crossing the border at Aranya Phrathet. There' s already a line between the border and Battambang, and soon it will be possible to travel all the way to Phnom Penh by line, the last return journey on the great railroad from Phnom Penh via Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore.
A new border checkpoint was opened in 2005 at Laem Railway, just South of Aranya Phrathet. Mostly used by people in Thailand who cross the border to get an additional 30-day Thai passport, although there is also a small gambling room in the hotelier between the two border areas. Guests who arrive at the border are only permitted to remain for 15 or 30 nights at the airports.
There are several places where you can do daily excursions to Burma's border cities, including: Thailand's northernmost point: from Mae Sai you can cross a small viaduct to the Myanmar city of Tachilek, but as you can see in the picture, you could almost leap from one side of the riverbank to the other.
There' s a large open trade just across the border, where you can buy cheaper goods mainly from China. Bootlegs CD's and DVD's are a lot to see, although the Thai migration authorities have recently seized such goods and punished their owners. I' ve seen aliens in the Thai immigrant line throw away all their pirated copies, or just remove the disks and throw away the wrapping - someone obviously warned them.
It was not until December 2006 that an eruption of combat on the side of the border between the Burma and Shan State Armies near Tachilek resulted in the first closing of the border: it was not until 2001 that Mae Sai was shot at by the Burma military during the Shans wars.
If you want to know more about the border areas in the north and west, I suggest the following authors: Dr. Christian Goodden: The three pagoda passes and Around Lan-Na. where West Thailand encounters the Andaman Sea: ferryboats link up with the city of Khaothung (Victoria) in Burma. And Mae Sot: Sometimes it is possible to pass the border at the Three Pagodas Pass - but first make sure it is open.
In 2009, a new rail line was opened connecting the Thai rail network with the Thanaleng railroad across the Mekhong in Laos. Today there are busses from Nong Khai to Vientiane, about 20 km within Laos. Visa are readily available from the Lao side of the border for $30.
The touts (and tukeuk tuke drivers) will try to convince you to use your preferred agency to "facilitate" the visit - for an additional $20. Notice: Applying for a permit only needs a few moments at the border, which will save your valuable resources and work. You can also drive from Ubon Ratchathani to Pak Se in Laos; the border is in Chong Mek, and a Laos visas can be purchased there for 1500 BH.