With only one road in and one road out Tha Ton’s bus services are limited.
Songthaews ply Route 1089 between Fang to the southwest and Mae Chan to the east, costing 23 baht for the former and 60 baht for the latter. They run throughout daylight hours and stop outside the 24-hour minimart in the town centre though they can, in theory, be flagged down anywhere along the main road. Mae Chan services are scheduled every 30 minutes and Fang ones every 10 minutes from around 07:00 until nightfall.
There are morning departures for Mae Salong at 08:00, 10:30 and 12:30 which cost 60 baht. The busy songthaew station full of bright yellow pick-ups is located around 500 metres east of the bridge.
Orange, fan-cooled local buses to Chiang Mai depart throughout the day stopping en route at Mae Ai, Fang, Chiang Dao and Mae Taeng before eventually arriving at Chiang Mai’s Chang Puak bus station. Tha Ton’s official bus station is just across the bridge to the east.
If you’re in a hurry or can’t cope without air-con, you’re better off taking the local bus or songthaew into Fang then hopping on a minibus. For destinations in Chiang Rai Province you’ll need to change at Mae Chan on Highway 1, while for Mae Hong Son take the Chiang Mai bus and change at Mae Malai/Mae Taeng.
A daily direct, air-con night sleeper bus service runs from Tha Ton to Mor Chit bus terminal in Bangkok. It is scheduled to depart at 17:00, costs 1,045 baht and takes 13 hours. This used to depart from an office on Highway 1089 though when we last passed through, it was leaving from the bus station, so it is best to check beforehand. Although few may board in Tha Ton, the bus will fill up in Fang, so booking a seat beforehand is prudent.
Daily public boats depart from Tha Ton for Chiang Rai for 400 baht per person at 12:30. There are various scheduled stops at villages downstream with approximate fares as follows: Ban Mai and Mae Salak 90 baht, Phathai 100 baht, Jakue 120 baht, Kok Noi 130 baht, Pha Kang 150 baht, Hat Wau Dam 150 baht, hot springs and Ruam Mit village 350 baht.
A private hire will set you back around 2,400 for the trip all the way to Chiang Rai including stops en-route. If you’re stopping before Chiang Rai then private rental costs (one-way) are as follows: Ban Mai 700 baht, Mae Salak 800 baht, Phathai 1,000 baht, Jakue 1,100 baht, Kok Noi 1,200 baht, Pha Kang 1,400 baht, Hat Wau Dam 1,500 baht, hot springs 1,600 baht and Ruam Mit 1,800 baht.
The boats seat six passengers and come with lifejackets. When the waters are low in dry season, boatmen may limit numbers to four foreign-sized passengers. In wet season boats may not run after heavy rain for safety reasons.
Tha Ton ticket office Next to the tourist police box, immediately to the right before the bridge as you arrive from Mae Ai. T: (053) 053 727.
Tha Ton is compact and even the hill-top temple is walkable if you start out early and take it gently, but to get the most out of the enticing surroundings you’re going to need to get yourself a pair of wheels.
Bicycles are a great way to explore the immediate environs of riverbank paths and valley countryside, while a motorbike allows you to get into the hills and villages to the east and west of town. Good news is that both bicycles and motorbikes are readily available in town. Just about every guesthouse and resort we checked out had them for hire with motorbikes going for between 200 and 400 baht depending upon condition and model and bicycles of varying quality from 80 to 100 or even free for guests at certain spots.
In addition to your lodgings, the Chanhkasem Restaurant also has an adjacent rental shop with scooters going for 300 to 400 baht while Sunshine Cafe has a bike rental poster on the wall though we didn’t check their rates. For anything larger than a Honda Wave or automatic scooter then you’re probably best organising it in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai beforehand.