Shhhh… Keep it to yourself: It’s still a bit of a secret that some of Thailand’s most charming towns are on the border with Myanmar.
Border-area connoisseurs may sing the merits of tranquil, hilly Mae Hong Son in the north and lush Umphang much farther south.
But fans of Sanghklaburi near Three Pagodas Pass tend to brook no argument: this place is the most magical of all.
Sangkhla’s modest, traditional-style buildings and understated atmosphere born of the mix
of people who live here—Thais, Mon, Kayin, Lao, people from Dawei and a smattering of others including Chinese, Rakhine and Bangladeshis—give the town much of its unique flavor.
But it’s the wooden bridge over the Vajiralongkorn dam built by the Mon community to link their section of the town with the rest, that perhaps most captures the imagination of visitors.
The longest wooden bridge in Thailand broke up under severe storms in July of last year. It’s still in the process of being fixed, but meanwhile the intrepid local community lost no time in building a temporary replacement made of bamboo, which is currently still in use.
Sanghklaburi’s mountainous location beside a large dam and vast forests makes for many spectacular sunsets. Mornings can be equally dramatic, being cool and often draped in wispy mists.
This article first appeared in the June 2014 print issue of The Irrawaddy magazine.