Photo: Wat Tham Pla Chom, Mae Sai.


Our rating:

It can seem as if all of downtown Mae Sai is really just one large market, with a few hotels and cafes attached.

Photo of Markets

The market here was traditionally known for gemstones and as a place where Thai traders picked up products (legal and illegal) from Burma and where Burmese stocked up on items not easily found, or more expensive, across the border. These days the incoming products are overwhelmingly Chinese mass-produced goods: clothes, electrical items and housewares.

The market does go on and on, but many stalls sell identical stuff. Some of the products are just regular Chinese manufactured goods – cheap but hit and miss as to whether they work or not -- while others are copies of Western items. Authorities do have occasional clampdowns on more obvious pirated goods and on items that are illegal in Thailand. (We’re talking X-rated DVDs and sex toys here, not opium!) Burmese vendors will frequently accost you with a ‘psst psst’ proffering ‘duty-free’ booze, cigarettes and generic Viagra but these are also invariably fakes -- that is, authentic-looking Marlboro packs or Johnnie Walker bottles containing bogus contents. There is a genuine duty-free in the middle of the bridge if you’re crossing over.

The market on the Burmese side sells identical goods though some items may be a bit cheaper and Burmese police a bit less fussy about what is being sold. Vendors can also be more persistent. Note when you enter Thailand your bag will be X-rayed and possibly searched.

On the Thai side, the market extends from under the bridge along Sailomjoy Road and then through covered alleys leading up the hill. Many permanent shops along the main street sell identical goods.

Also on the hillside to the west of the main street, though slightly further back from the bridge and perhaps of more interest if you’re just browsing, is the Doi Wao Market. This covered market is much more local style with fruit and veg as well as household goods and caters more to locals and villagers than wholesale traders. The Chinese markets run daily from morning until into the evening, though the Doi Wao one closes down late afternoon.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Mae Sai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Mae Sai.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Mae Sai.
 Read up on how to get to Mae Sai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Mae Sai? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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Where are you planning on heading to after Mae Sai? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Thailand.

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