Tha Ton (or Thaton) is a small village of Mae Ai District in the extreme north of Chiang Mai and is famous for its breathtaking scenery. The Mae Kok River flows through the town and the border with Myanmar is just a few kilometres away as the crow flies. Tha Ton nestles in a valley surrounded by mountains and provides great views in almost every direction. Tha Ton is a popular stopover on the tourist loop between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and is the boarding point for boat cruises to the latter.
Tha Ton’s chilled atmosphere and variety of things to do and see has enticed more than the occasional tourist to extend their overnight stays to several days. A landmark Buddhist temple, nature at its finest, hilltribe villages, rafting, trekking and even bird watching await those who decide to linger in Tha Ton. There are a number of homely accommodation choices too.
Last Updated: 10-02-2018
WHAT TO DO
Trekking in the jungles and mountains around Tha Ton is a rejuvenating experience. The treks are one to three days long and include a few hours walking, visits to hill tribe villages and learning how to cook in bamboo. Meals are eaten picnic style and overnight stays are in traditional village houses built out of bamboo and timber. Villages on the trek itineraries are mainly those belonging to Long-necked Padaung, Karen, Lahu and Lisu.
Boat Trip to Chiang Rai
Boat trips along the Mae Kok River to Chiang Rai begin at the dock across from the Saranya River House. The vessels are the standard longtail boat used throughout Thailand and are fitted with rear engines and propeller shafts. Public boats leave a little after midday although it is possible to get a private charter. The boat journey takes voyagers through green landscapes and past traditional villages. Total journey time to Chiang Rai averages four hours, but this might be a little longer during the dry season.
Floating along the Mae Kok River on a bamboo raft is a peaceful and less noisy alternative to the standard longtail boat trip from Tha Ton to Chiang Rai. Agents such as Renato Bamboo House operate trips using rafts covered with awnings. Travellers sleep on the rafts. Several guesthouses and travel agents in town have shorter rafting trips.
Doi Lang and the eastern fields and forests leading to it from Tha Ton plus Pha Hom Pok to the south are good bird watching spots. Possible sightings include dusky warblers, Horsfield’s bush larks, black-collared starlings and Jerdon’s bush chats. North Thailand Birding maintains fairly up to date listings on which birds have been seen recently.
WHAT TO SEE
Wat Tha Ton
Tha Ton Temple enjoys a lofty position on a hill above the town and the Mae Kok River Bridge. The highlights of a temple visit are the huge Chedi Kaew structure and views almost to Myanmar. A sitting Buddha statue, a statue of the Chinese deity Guanyin, naga dragon effigies and various halls and buildings with sweeping roofs round off the attractions at Wat Tha Ton.
Doi Pu Muen Hill Tribe Village
Doi Pu Muen is a Lahu Village located in the Doi Pha Hom Pok mountains. There are around 50 traditional tribal houses in the village plus a church. Visitors get the opportunity of buying hill tribe clothing, picking tea, learning how to cook Lahu dishes and joining treks to the 2,285-metre-high Pha Hom Pok Mountain. There are some bamboo bungalows in the village for overnight guests who wish to enjoy authentic experiences.
WHERE TO STAY
Old Tree’s House
Despite the quirky name, Old Tree’s House is a top accommodation choice when visiting Tha Ton. It has just seven bungalows and these are spread around nicely kept tropical gardens for privacy. Two swimming pools and a restaurant add to the creature comforts for guests. The homely bungalows are equipped with king-size beds, cable TV, media players and mini-bars. Old Tree’s House is on a hill above Tha Ton and offers pleasing views of the locality…more info & booking
Areeya Phuree Resort
The range of accommodation available at the Areeya Phuree will suit all budgets. It covers all the options from hostel style dorms with shared bathrooms to superior rooms and villas fitted with four-poster beds. Onsite amenities are a swimming pool, a children’s pool, spacious gardens and a restaurant. The latter serves fine Thai dishes and is right beside the Mae Kok River. The resort is only a few minutes on foot from the centre of Tha Ton…more info & booking
Saranya River House
Close to the departure point for boats to Chiang Rai, Saranya is an easy accommodation choice and comes with the bonus of great hospitality and full amenities. Large rooms feature en suite bathrooms and complimentary toiletries, TVs, WiFi, comfortable beds and stylish furnishings. The principal guest amenities are a swimming pool, a restaurant and bar, tour reservations services, luggage storage and an ATM…more info & booking
Khun Mai Baan Suan Resort
The Khun Mai Baan Suan is on the north bank of the Mae Kok River and around 10 minutes walk from Tha Ton Bridge. The resort has both bungalows and rooms which are economically priced and come with TVs and all the necessities needed for an enjoyable stay. Room rates include complimentary breakfasts and this is served at the ambient onsite restaurant…more info & booking
Maekok River Village
The Maekok River Village is just over one kilometre from Tha Ton and is an upmarket resort. Superior and deluxe rooms plus family suites offer bonuses such as premium bedding, patios with seating and WiFi. The resort’s activity centre is the flagship of the amenities and offers the chance of trying your hand at everything from abseiling to archery. A swimming pool, attractive gardens, a cooking school, Aod’s Bar and a restaurant serving Thai, Northern Thai, Shan and even some Western dishes round off the draws of the Maekok River Village Resort…more info & booking
HOW TO GET THERE
Getting to Tha Ton is straightforward. Direct buses depart from Chiang Mai’s northern Chang Phuak Bus Station seven times a day. These buses are fan-cooled and take around four hours to do the 180km trip. A marginally quicker and cooler option is to take an air-conditioned passenger van to Fang and then switch to a local songthaew shared taxi.
Driving yourself and joining guided tours are other options for travelling to Tha Ton. Car and motorcycle rental shops are plentiful in Chiang Mai. Highway 107 leads north from Chiang Mai to Fang. On the other side of the Fang bypass, it becomes Highway 1089 and goes straight to Tha Ton. The same 1089 is the road to Mae Chan, 60kms away from Tha Ton.
Songthaews also run on routes from Tha Ton to Doi Mae Salong and Mae Chan. Mae Chan is on Highway 1 and midway between Mae Sai and Chiang Rai. The final choice for travelling to Tha Ton is to make the boat cruise from Chiang Rai in the reverse direction. As this trip is upstream it is likely to take five hours or more.