Thaton is between Mae Ai and Mae Chan in northern Chiang Mai Province. It is a town on the banks of the Kok River. It has a relaxed atmosphere, and some people hang out for a few days or weeks. There are a small number expats as permanent residents. There are a number of guesthouses along the banks of the river and more in the town itself. The picturesque views from Thaton hill and the banks of the river, and a small town feel combine to make this a nice place to hang out.
Thaton is on Rte 1089 between Fang and Mae Chan. The distance to Chiang Mai is about 214 km by road and takes about 4 hours, but with some excellent scenery along the way. Chiang Rai is 108 km distant, Fang 25 km, and Mae Ai, 10 km. Thaton is so small it does not appear on many road maps.
You can take the boat from Thaton to Chiang Rai, which takes about 3 hours. There is a government boat at 12:30 that costs 350 baht each for a minimum 4 people. You can also charter private boats.
From Chiang Rai to Thaton is an upriver trip, and takes about 5 hours.
The bus station is near the bridge. Buses depart from/to Chang Phuak Bus Station in Chiang Mai several times a day with the journey taking 3-4 hours (prices are around 90 baht). The buses are usually easily identifiable with English information on them. Buses to Chiang Rai and Bangkok also run, albeit less frequently, a journey to Chiang Rai takes a couple of hours and to Bangkok about 12 hours (890 km). In May 2012 there was only one bus to Chang Rai that left at 15:00 and you had to change in Mae Chan.
Thaton can easily be explored on foot and bicycle. A songthaew can easily be hired if you need to travel out of the village.
- Wat Thaton (วัดท่าตอน), ☎ +66 53 053609. A large monastery bordering the village, it occupies an area of more than 160 acres on a number of hills. There are nine stations to visit for Buddhist pilgrims. Each station has something on it to visit, such a big Buddha image or a stupa. Level 4 has a meditation centre, where they teach Vipassana meditation. Support for English is not supported though foreigners are welcome if they can speak and understand Thai, or come with people who can translate. Also, Nov-Jan is when there are few people at the temple and meditaters are discouraged from attending at this time. Level 8 is a very large chedi and several statues. Level 9 is two kilometres from level 8, on a paved footpath the forest with a large standing Buddha at the end of the path. The temple complex is on the bank of the Mae Nam Kok (Kok River) and offers beautiful scenery. The temple also houses a school for monks, novices, and youths as well as a drug rehabilitation centre and a hill tribe support unit.
Thaton is the launching point for river trips to Chiang Rai, as well as hill tribe villages in the surrounding hills. You can make a half-day longtail boat trip to Chiang Rai from here. Within 20 km of Thaton you can visit local villages, inhabited by Pauang, Black Lahu, Akha, and Yunnanes. Treks and raft trips can be arranged through guesthouses and hotels in town.
On the grounds of Wat Thaton (level 2) there is the occasional open-air market where the hill tribes hawk trinkets and snacks.
There are a number of small roadside restaurants, stalls and bars serving Thai and some Western food. There are also several restaurants along the river. These have tasty Thai food, especially seafood (some from the river, other from local fish farms). Drinks are the standard Thai beer choices and various Thai whisky options. Some places also have Wi-Fi.
For packaged foods, there is a 7-Eleven one block west of the bridge. The local morning market is a prime spot for fresh produce.
Additional restaurant options abound in nearby Mae Ai.
The cheapest beers are from the shops, 40 baht for a big bottle.
Crossing over the bridge, towards Chiang Mai, take the second road on the right (with the sign for the mosque). There are at least four guesthouses strung along this road. They are of varying standards from extremely basic, and so presumably cheap, to rather grand.
- Apple Resort (Opposite the boat launch. Go over the bridge towards Chiang Rai and turn right.), ☎ +66 53 373144, +66 89 2027290, e-mail: email@example.com. Has a range of bungalows, bigger ones with balconies and air-con overlooking the river. Smaller ones at the back with a fan and small verandas overlooking a pleasant garden. All extremely well-maintained and very clean. Overall Apple has 19 rooms and is the largest guesthouse in Thaton. Very good choices and a great river location. The attached restaurant serves decent quality Thai food and reasonable farang food. Wi-Fi is available in some rooms, though coverage is inconsistent. AIS 3G worked fine in the area. 350 baht in the low season for some rooms. 1,000 baht for modern rooms overlooking the river with air-con.
- Old Tree's House, 323 Ban Rumthai, Moo 14 (Just outside Thaton, on a hill with a great view over the Mae Nam Kok), ☎ +66 85 7229002 (French-English), +66 85 8671348 (Thai), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Wonderful website with many photos. Bungalows include TV, DVD, stereo, stocked minibar. Hosts are the Franco-Thai couple, Paulo and Nid (and their little daughter). Your stay includes breakfast, free Wi-Fi, swimming pool. Dinner at the lodging by reservation for 240 baht. Garden bungalow, 1,200 baht; pool bungalow, 1,400 baht.
There is a tourist police station near the bridge, although there is no crime problem in Thaton.
- Doi Ang Khang - mountain resort
- Doi Mae Salong - village known for former Kuomintang soldiers and tea cultivation