My brother and I are biking from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai just realized our bike route takes us through a border crossing with no immigration office. Is this a problem? I know we can do 15 days visa exemption but does this still require crossing through an immigration office?
If this is the border crossing I'm looking at on Google Maps right now, it looks like it does indeed have an office. The town on the Lao side is Ban Pangmong while on the Thai side is Ban Huak on Route 1093. No visible signs in English would seem to suggest a negative but notice the photo is from January 2013:
But I finally found a recent-ish thread on a site for motorcyclists in Asia from February 2012. The earlier post states that indeed only locals (Laos and Thais) can cross here, seemingly only open twice per month for a local market. A post ater in the thread from February 2015 seems to suggest nothing has changed but doesn't actually say whether the person has check recently. Compare this with Sebrand's answer. The update here may well be an assumption.
You can ONLY enter Thailand at an international border crossing.
If you cross anywhere else you will be in Thailand illegally. When you try to depart you will likely be arrested, charged and deported, not the kind of thing you wanted noted in your passport.
The fact that you qualify for a 15 day visa waiver entry does not allow you to bypass entry formalities, Immigration still has to grant you permission to enter and stamp that entry in your passport.
And because at least one of the people involved in the recent Bangkok bombing crossed the border illegally, Thai Immigration and border control is currently much stricter than before with enforcement.
I would change your route and head for an open international border crossing such as Huay Xai - Chiang Khong or Muang Ngeun - Huay Kon.
Thanks guys. My question seems to have been fully significant. I was having a hard time loading the map to see the small border towns. However, I did find this more recent account from 15 May 2014:
The new Ban Huak / Phayao Border crossing (19.679285, 100.430435) - opened in 2013 as a trade border only; is now open to foreigners.
I could find no information regarding foreigners crossing this border online so I took a chance on my ride to Chiang Rai which paid off and crossed from Laos to Thailand this week.
It is a much more direct route from Luang Prabang, Laos than the Chiang Khong Friendship bridge and was a quick and easy crossing with not much traffic.
I crossed on a big bike with Carnet de passage and obtained my Thai visa on arrival. Visa on arrival facility is also available on the Laos side.
That said, this was just before the most recent coup I'm may 27th 2014. So who knows if that border crossing was closed again.