Riding the Mae Hong Son loop has been the highlight of the trip so far. The mountains are steep and long, the scenery stunning, the weather hot and the people friendly. It's taken a toll though, not just on my legs but on my time.
I knew that I would have a limited amount of time to complete the loop and make it to the Loas border, but after considering my options I decided on a 'visa run' and head north to the border with Myanmar instead. With so little time remaining on my Thai visa I needed to ensure that I didn't overstay it. Turning up at the border with an expired visa brings a fine of over 20 pounds for every day as well as the possiblility of not being allowed back again should they take a dislike to me. A visa run is one way to extend the time you have left. Many ex pats who have a yearly visa need not worry so much as they have time to plan their trip, even taking a holiday abroad so that re-entry automatically allows them another year.

For others the visa run can be a mad dash to the nearest border simply to exit and re-enter, all over in about 20 minutes. The embassy in Chaing Mai can extend visas for only 7 days for a fee. Alternatively crossing a border and re-entering Thailand gives you an extra 15 days and costs less, as long as you ignore travel costs. While in Pai I discussed the visa run with a couple of poeple that were old hands and was told in no uncertain terms that a 15 hour visa run round trip in a minibus was not a pleasant way to spend a day.
As I had six days left on my visa though I could get a lot closer to the border before I needed to worry about spending time in a minibus.
Leaving Pai the next morning I made the last of the climbs before dropping down into the plain north of Chiang Mai. I had been told that the minibuses run every day from Pai to the border and that they keep a tight convoy. At about 9 oclock the next morning I witnessed this convoy as six minibuses passed me in one move. Around the corner they all pulled over and parked with such precision herringbone style that you could tell the drivers had done this many times. Thirty minutes later they were passing me again.

As I write this I am just south of Fang, where I join some more back roads to make my way to the border. I have three days left on my visa but should do the distance comfortably in two.
 





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