The small town of Tha Ton lies very close to the Burmese border, just squeezed into the eastern limits of Chiang Mai province before it becomes Chiang Rai. It's most often visited as a stopover on the Chiang Dao-Fang-Mae Salong loop or as the departure point for the popular Kok River boat trip.
As with many of these out-of-the-way northern Thai towns, Tha Ton is scenic and interesting enough in its own right to warrant more than just passing through en route to somewhere else. There are some fine spots to stay, and bicycles and motorbikes are available to hire in town for exploring the surrounding hills and villages. The riverside is picturesque and the hill-top temple, Wat Tha Ton, spectacular. Locals are friendly and you’ll see plenty of Akha women in their regalia coming into town to sell their knick-knacks.
Tha Ton is worth a day or two, we reckon, before you head up the mountain to Mae Salong or down the river to Chiang Rai.
Most of the town is laid out along Route 1089 which arrives west from Fang and Mae Ai, and leads off east to Mae Chan. At around 30 kilometres east of town the splendidly named Route 1234 branches off to mountaintop Mae Salong. The Kok River splits the small town itself in two, as it emerges from Burma by way of a narrow forest-lined gorge before spreading out south of Tha Ton into a wide paddy-filled valley.
Most municipal facilities are in larger Mae Ai, just seven kilometres to the west, but the town does have a post office, small police post and tourist police box by the pier and a couple of cash machines on the main drag. A residential area lies south of the highway on the west bank of the river and has a couple of guesthouses while lanes line the east bank of the Kok running north and south from the bridge to some scenic riverside guesthouses and larger resorts. The north-running lane leads up to the Shan village of Kang Saimoon after which is the border.
By Mark Ord