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Home Myanmar Tachilek ⇒ The Sai Valley

Tachilek: Gateway to Myanmar

2The Sai Valley

The twin cities of Tachilek-Maesai have grown up on the banks of the river Sai just 40 km from its confluence with the Mekong River. Here, the river Sai leaves the mountains of the Shan Plateau and enters the Mekong valley. The road from Thailand to China follows the eastern edge of the plateau from Chiang Rai and crosses the river at this point where it is only 10 feet or so across, shallow and slow enough most of the year to ford: a feature that today is made good use of by local children who dart back and forth across the rather scummy river on their mysterious errands.

Tachilek-Maesai over the River Sai
Myanmar to the left: Thailand to the right

In the not so distant past it would have been a common sight to see caravans of ox carts crossing here with their heavy loads of valuable produce harvested from the high, forest-covered mountains that stretch ever higher into Yunnan and beyond. Forest products would have included sapan and aloe wood, ivory, lac, civet musk and a variety of furs and wild animal skins-all sort after and valuable commodities. In more recent times opium was an important commodity, while today Tachilek is a major centre for the trafficking of methamphetamines, people and pirated goods. Today, Tachilek has a population of over 100,000.

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