Buses and songthaew services
Local, orange-coloured fan buses ply the 107 between Chiang Mai, (Chang Puak bus station), Chiang Dao and Fang with occasional ones continuing as far as Mae Ai. Mae Taeng or Chiang Mai is forty baht and Fang or Mae Ai fifty baht.
In theory, southbound buses run every thirty minutes between 06:00 and 18:30. Northbound have a similar frequency though the first departure is at 07:00 with around one in every three or four scheduled to continue to Mae Ai and Tha Ton. (We said scheduled and more often than not you’ll have to change from the orange bus to yellow songthaew for the last stretch from Mae Ai Market to Tha Ton Town.)
These buses start and finish their journeys at Chiang Dao bus station but you can flag them down at any strategic point along Chiang Dao’s main drag and most seem to stop automatically outside or opposite the songthaew station.
Orange-coloured songthaews—operate as per the buses but offer a slower and less comfortable alternative to the larger vehicles. As fares and frequency are identical to their larger cousins we fail to see any advantage in taking them.
Yellow-coloured songthaews also depart from town every twenty minutes, pausing outside the hospital, offering rides to Arunothai and Muang Na due north on the Burmese border for fifty baht. If you’ve been paying attention you may ask why these aren’t orange as this is a relatively long distance route but that’s because distant Arunothai is actually still in Chiang Dao District while Fang or Mae Taeng are not. Note this route can drop you off outside Pha Daeng National Park and Sri Sangwan Waterfall.
For Chiang Dao to Pai take a Chiang Mai bound bus and change at Mae Malai.
Long distance buses
The 99 Transport Company offers three departures per day for Bangkok with air-conditioned coaches stopping in Chiang Dao en-route from Fang to Mor Chit bus terminal. Departures are scheduled for 18:00 and 18:30. The regular service is 540 baht while at 18:30 there is a VIP departure as well as regular for 830 baht. Advanced bookings should be made at reception in the Chiang Dao Inn, rather than bus station, and it’s outside the Inn where boarding takes place.
Air-con minibuses originating in Fang and terminating in Chiang Mai also stop in town approximately hourly between 06:20 and 18:20. If there is a seat available they ought to let you have it for seventy baht however if you book in advance, which is advisable it’s a hundred and fifty. Minibuses running from Chiang Mai to Wiang Haeng leave from just north of town by the hospital, also costing one-hundred and fifty baht either way though these also require advanced booking to assure a seat.
Orange fan bus or songthaew: Chiang Dao to Chiang Mai via Mae Taeng and Mae Rim, 40 baht. Every 30 minutes from 06:00-18:30
Orange fan bus or songthaew: Chiang Dao to Fang via Chai Prakarn, 50 baht. Every 30 minutes from 07:00-18:30
Yellow songthaews: Chiang Dao to Arunothai, 50 baht. Every 20 minutes from 07:00-18:30
Minibus: Chiang Dao to Chiang Mai via Mae Taeng and Mae Rim, 150 baht. Every hour from 08:20-18:20
Minibus: Chiang Dao to Fang via Chai Prakarn, 150 baht. Every hour from 08:20-18:20
Minibus: Chiang Dao to Wiang Haeng, 150 baht. Four times per day—book in advance.
Chiang Dao bus station
Chiang Mai—Fang road, just north of the town centre, Chiang Dao. T: (053) 456 480-1; (093) 251 0952. Enquiries: Mo–Su: 08:00-17:00
Just about any resort or guesthouse in Chiang Dao will organise transfers to and from the bus stops in town as well as to points of interest which is convenient since local public services are very limited and on the expensive side. From town your only choice is a songthaew station on the main road—directly opposite the Model Farm Restaurant—where yellow pick-up taxis will take you up to the caves, (or adjacent guesthouses), for 150 baht or return 300. Guesthouse transfers are the same price as dealing directly with a driver. If that seems a bit steep do note that prices are for the full vehicle not per person.
Longer trips can be negotiated with for example Doi Ang Khang going for around 1,800 or a reasonable 2,000 return in the same day.
Songthaew/taxi station Opposite the Model Farm Restaurant, outside Chiang Dao School, on the main Chiang Mai—Fang road. Open daily during daylight hours.
There are several motorbike rental options available in Chiang Dao but be warned it will be a bit more expensive than in Chiang Mai or Pai. Most guesthouses have bikes and bicycles on hand or can obtain them for you whilst Sompraew Coffee Shop and Star Cafe (same owners) have bikes on offer in Chiang Dao’s main street. Their bikes are 300 and 400 per day for newer or older ones respectively while they have bicycles for 100 per day. These are pretty standard rates with Malee’s, Chiang Dao Huts and The Cave all advertising 300 baht day rates. The latter has a decent looking selection of mountain bikes parked outside so is your best bet for pedal powered transport though bear in mind if you’re there before 17:00 you will have to telephone them.
Sompraew Coffee Shop: Main street, Chiang Mai–Fang road. just north of Tesco Lotus, Chiang Dao. T: (081) 952 9261 Mo–Su: 09:00–15:00
Star Cafe: Main street, Chiang Mai–Fang road, opposite Tesco Lotus, Chiang Dao. T: (081) 952 9261 Mo–Su: 17:00–00:00