Getting there & away
Buses to Fang (80B, 3½ hours) leave from the Chang Pheuak bus terminal in Chiang Mai every 30 minutes between 6am and 6pm. Air-con minivans make the trip to Fang (120B, 3½ hours) every 30 minutes between 8am and 5pm, leaving from behind the Chang Pheuak bus terminal on the corner of Soi Sanam Kila.
From Fang it’s about 23km to Tha Ton. Yellow sǎwngthǎew by the market do the 40-minute trip for 20B; the larger orange buses from Fang leave less frequently and cost 20B. Buses and sǎwngthǎew leave from near the market. Both operate from 5.30am to 5pm only.
The river isn’t the only way to get to points north of Tha Ton. Yellow sǎwngthǎew leave from the northern side of the river in Tha Ton to Mae Salong in Chiang Rai Province every 90 minutes between 8am and 12.30pm (60B, 1½ hours). From there you can get another bus to Chiang Rai for 40B.
If you’re heading west to Mae Hong Son Province, it’s not necessary to dip all the way south to Chiang Mai before continuing on. At Ban Mae Malai, the junction of Rte 107 (the Chiang Mai–Fang highway) and Rte 1095, you can pick up a bus to Pai for 55B; if you’re coming from Pai, be sure to get off at this junction to catch a bus north to Fang.
Motorcycle trekkers can travel between Tha Ton and Doi Mae Salong, 48km northeast, over a fully paved but sometimes treacherous mountain road. There are a couple of Lisu and Akha villages on the way. The 27km or so between Doi Mae Salong and the village of Muang Ngam are very steep and winding – take care, especially in the rainy season. When conditions are good, the trip can be done in 1½ hours.
You can take a motorcycle on most boats to Chiang Rai for an extra charge.