With one road in and one road out of town this bus section is going to be brief. Things do get slightly more complicated by a T-Junction south of town called Kiew Sathai and a second to the east of town going by the name of Sam Yaek Iko, but from town itself there’s just the yellow pick-up buses (songthaews) which officially depart four times per day to Tha Ton, and five green ones scheduled daily for Mae Chan. There may be more on busy days.
The designated songthaew station in Mae Salong is the small carpark area between Shin Sane and Little Home (though this can vary) and they will also pick up and drop off anywhere along their routes through town. Note, despite certain guesthouse timetables erroneously describing them as minibuses, there are only songthaews available.
Blue trucks also run between Mae Chan and Thoed Thai, departing from the main market at the former and morning market at the latter, so you can pick these up at the Sam Yaek junction while yellow Tha Ton to Mae Chan pick-ups, running along Highway 1089, stop at Kiew Sathai.
For Chiang Rai or Mae Sai you will have to board the Mae Chan bound bus and change at Mae Chan for the former or alight at the junction with Highway 1 for Chiang Rai, while for Fang and other Chiang Mai provincial destinations you’ll have to take a second bus from Tha Ton. Chiang Saen is best reached via Mae Sai while for Chiang Khong you’d be better off returning to Chiang Rai bus terminal number 1 first.
There are no taxis or unscheduled songthaews in Mae Salong, so if you are after a private vehicle our suggestion would be to ask a bus driver or clued-up receptionist to call the busy songthaew station down at Kiew Sathai.
Note also that the terminus for Mae Chan buses is the municipal market not the bus station and at Tha Ton is the songthaew station just east of the town centre.
Mae Salong to Kiew Sathai to Tha Ton: yellow songthaew, daily 08:30, 10:30, 12:30 & 14:30. 30 baht for Kiew Sathai and 60 baht for Tha Ton. Allow around 1 hour.
Mae Salong to Sam Yaek to Mae Chan: green songthaews, daily 07:30, 09:30, 11:30, 13:30, 15:30. 30 baht for Sam Yaek and 60 baht for Mae Chan. Allow at least 1 hour.
Thoed Thai to Sam Yaek to Mae Chan: blue songthaews, hourly from around 07:00-16:00 but depends on the number of passengers so check first. 30 baht for Sam Yaek and 60 for Mae Chan. Allow around 1 hour.
Another option for travelling to Chiang Rai is the Kok River boats from Tha Ton and with the daily public boat scheduled for 12:30 then in theory either the 08:30 or 10:30 songthaews from Mae Salong would get you there on time. See our Tha Ton transport section for details, including a phone number, as it may be worth checking beforehand.
Sealed roads in this rugged terrain are few and far between although onward travel by motorbike does provide slightly more leeway than by public transport.
Heading south, it’s the steep but well-surfaced road down to Kiew Sathai and the junction with 1089. To the right from here is Ban Lorcha, followed by some 12 kilometres of relatively flat road into Tha Ton while to the left and east 1089 also connects to Highway 1 near Mae Chan—very approximately the halfway point between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai.
East from Mae Salong does offer a few more options by bike. Around 13 to 14 kilometres from town will see you at the junction with route 3051, known as Sam Yaek Iko, from where Thoed Thai is another 12 clicks north on a good road. Otherwise, continuing east, the 1234 runs out when it reaches another T-Junction; this time with rural highway number 1130. A poorly indicated right turn makes for a steep climb on a far from ideal surface down to the 1089 at the halfway point between Mae Chan and Kiew Sathai.
Next up, and this time on the left at around the 25 kilometre from Mae Salong point, you’ll find the 1138 heading north to Doi Tung and the Mae Fah Luang Gardens. This is now a well-maintained road and provides a scenic and well sign-posted access route directly to Doi Tung and the Botanical Gardens without needing to descend to busy Highway 1. There are a couple of coffee shops on the way and splendid views to the east particularly. (The actual turn-off from the Mae Chan road is not so well indicated but is a sharp left situated between a police box and temple.)
Alternatively, proceeding on the 1130 will roll down the mountain to meet Highway 1 at a junction and bus stop named Pasang/Mae Salong. Right from here takes you into Mae Chan town or on to Chiang Rai while left leads up to Mae Sai. Before reaching Mae Sai a highway on the right takes you to Sob Ruak (the Golden Triangle) and Chiang Saen.
A final route option which may look tempting on the map but is still in serious need of an upgrade is road number 1334 which cuts across the mountains from just short of Thoed Thai to meet the 1138 south of Doi Tung. We were warned off this steep and pot-holed route by locals on more than one occasion.
Please remember that all of the above routes—with the exception of the 1089—involve very steep and windy roads and none are to be taken lightly. Furthermore these are remote areas with minimal traffic so firstly; the little traffic that there is often takes even more risks than usual on corners or while overtaking and secondly, villages with petrol stations and mechanics are few and far between.
Finally also note that rural highway numbering does change and is somewhat arbitrary at the best of times while distances on both road signs and maps (and this description) are only approximate. (You can look on three different maps and see three different route numbers and many thanks to GT Riders for helping us clarify the situation as best they could.)
Mae Salong is strung out along a ridge-top road but with plenty of views between the buildings on both sides it’s not an unpleasant walk and one end of the village—say the T-junction and police box—to Mae Salong Villa (after which things begin to thin out) isn’t much more than 20 minutes or so.
If you do need to go further afield then you’re a bit stuck as public transport in town consists of a few motorbike taxis sitting around next to the 7-eleven. They could take you down to Hloyo or along to Flower Hills for example otherwise you’ll need to try and find one of the songthaews which head south to Kiew Sathai or east to Sam Yaek and which can drop you at any point along their respective routes. (We were quoted an 80 baht motorbike ride to Flower Hill but rates are highly variable.)
We didn’t come across any bicycles in town—it is a bit hilly—but Little Home and Shin Sane both had motorbikes for rent as does the tiny Yang Ming Cafe. These were of varying models and condition but all went for between 200 and 250 per day.