We are 180 km from Chiang Mai and 90 km from Chiang Rai, but do not be put off by the time it takes to get here. The scenery is lovely and the journeys interesting, but there are also a number of ways of getting here (and departing) which can make the journey a part of your Northern Thai experience.
Select the city you are travelling from:
- Public buses leave Chang Phuak bus station regularly and take about 4 hours. They are cheap (Baht 120), but rather cramped and no AC. However if you want a real ‘local’ experience, then this is one way to do so.
- Minibuses (more comfortable and with AC) also leave from Chang Phuak Station but finish the journey in Fang, a town about 25 km south of Thaton. From there, you would need to get a local Song Taoew (yellow taxi) to Thaton. The total cost of both would be around Baht 300.
For either of these arrivals, please call the resort (+66 (0) 53 053 628) and we can arrange a vehicle to collect you from the bus terminal.
- These are available at the airport or your hotel can book for you. The cost would be around Baht 1800. Although taxis will have 4 seats, space is limited, and with luggage, we would suggest no more than two adults.
- We can arrange a private minibus. They are spacious, and with luggage, are suitable for up to 8 people. You can opt for a direct transfer, taking about 3 hours, but we recommend that if you are in no hurry, you should stop at one or several of the places en route which are worth visiting (see Driving your own car) Prices start at Baht 3000 for a direct transfer and will vary upwards depending on what you would like to do on the way here. We can also arrange a tour guide to accompany you to add more to the experience with their local knowledge.
Driving your own car?
- It is a very straightforward journey from Chiang Mai (and Chiang Rai). The roads are in good condition and relatively traffic free. There are sections through mountains, so ‘travel sickness’ precautions are advised.
Options on the way from Chiang Mai
- Mae Sa Valley. This contains probably the best elephant camp in the area, but there are plenty of other attractions including waterfalls, orchid farms, the Queen Sirikit botanical gardens, and the usual monkey and snake shows…
(If you prefer not to take this diversion, Chiang Dao Elephant Training Centre is next to the main road and about 1 hour’s drive north of Chiang Mai.)
- Chiang Dao Caves. These ancient caves carved from 300 million year old limestone under Thailand’s third highest peak, are worth a visit. They are just a few km off the main road and make for a nice break. You can enter the main caves for a nominal fee, and walk several hundred meters along a concrete (and safe) pathway. For the more adventurous, a short distance inside the main cave you can hire a guide with a lantern who will take you through a more demanding route. Some of the passages are very narrow so claustrophobics beware! The main chambers are huge with fantastic stalactites and stalagmites. The area also houses a temple complex with some ancient stupas, as well as a market selling a whole range of strange medicinal plants.
- Huay Luak Lake. About 30 minutes north of Chiang Dao is a nice restaurant and coffee shop overlooking this picturesque lake. It is not well signposted, so look out for an open space and car park on your right. You will see the lake as well…there is a market just around the corner, so if you miss the turning, it is easy to do a quick U – turn. Good place to have lunch if timing is suitable.
- Fang Hot Springs. As you go around the by-pass around Fang, turn left at the only set of traffic lights and then almost immediately right. At the end of this road, you will come across the entrance to the Doi Fha Hom Phok National Park (entry fee of Baht 200 for adults). Here you will see natural hot springs on the left, but first drive to end. Here there is bridge across the river, and you can walk around an agricultural project. You can swim in the river, but also near the entrance of the are hot baths and saunas. Don’t forget your swimming costumes! Walk through the hot springs…you may be lucky to see a geyser erupt, but be careful with children as the water in the pools can be over 70C.
There is no direct public transport so the only road options are taxi (Baht 1500) or private minibus (starting at Baht 2500 for a direct transfer). Self-drive cars can be rented and most rental companies are represented at the airport.
Choosing to visit various places on the way here is worth considering, such as Doi Tung Royal Gardens (www.doitung.org) and Mae Salong. Both of these are not directly en route though and would add at least a few hours to the journey.
Directly en-route are some hot springs, various villages of interest and also the three hilltribes village of Ban Yapa. The hilltribes represented are Akha and Lahu but Yapa is known mainly for the Long-necked Karen women.
Why not take a boat?
Alternatively, we can arrange a long-tailed boat to collect you from (or take you to) riverside hotels such as Le Meridien, The Legend, Dusit Island, or from/to Mae Fah Luang Pier from where the boatman can organize a taxi for you. The lovely journey through the mountains takes about 3.5 to 4 hours. You can even combine this with a stop at Ban Ruam Mit elephant camp.
The downstream journey is shorter (about 3 hours) and many guests choose to leave for Chiang Rai from here. You can be dropped off at your riverside hotel, or at Mae Fah Luang pier where the boatman can arrange a taxi to take you to your hotel or to the airport.
The cost of a private boat is Baht 2600 (for up to 6 people, but 4 people if a lot of luggage!).
Alternatively, there is a public boat which leaves Thaton at 12.30. We can arrange for the boat to pick you up at our own pier. (Please note, the boat will only depart if there is minimum number of passengers and in the low season in particular, departures cannot be guaranteed)
The Maekok River Village Resort is at Huay Nam Yen, Thaton, Mae Ai, PO Box 3 50280, Chiang Mai