Took a 11:30 am bus ride from Chiang Mai to Thaton. The road was very curvy as we went through the mountain ranges. We saw many rice fields and local Thai homes along our journey, at times the smoke haze was so bad you couldn’t see much of the mountains at all. A lot of palm tree plantations lined the roadside. It was a very nice ride in a mediocre bus, no air conditioning only a small fan that worked part of the time and filled with all locals with the exception of us and another white ’farang’ couple....just the way we like it.
We are taking “The Back Door to Chiang Rai”, few tourists can resist the river-trip that goes from the little town of Thaton, situated in the northern corner of Chiang Mai province. The relaxing ride down the ‘Mae Nam Kok’ river takes three to five hours depending on the river’s water levels.
We arrived in Thaton just a little after 3:30pm. Bus dropped us off at what appeared to be an abandoned piece of dirt land beside a few small local restaurant stalls. We asked a local woman sitting down for a drink if she knew where the Thaton Garden Riverside hotel was located (lonely planet recommended) and headed out across the bridge to our destination. We spotted a place sporting a sign stating they had ‘guest house’ accommodations. We went in and asked to see a room, cute little room with the very basics (cold shower, fan and double bed) for a whopping $200 baht per night, $6.60 Canadian. Settled in and took a little rest for a few hours. It’s very disappointing to say the least, we didn’t venture out too far from our room because the haze and smell from the smoke was so bad outside - our room provided us with a little reprieve from the air quality. We will only be staying one night in Thaton, check out is 12noon and the boat ride to Chiang Rai is at 12:30pm.
Went for a walk, Thaton is a beautiful little sleepy riverside town, if it wasn’t for the smoke haze we may venture to say this little jem would be amazing. What we could see from the main bridge were little houses lining the bank of the river and on the mountain side, long tail boats lined up by the port on the Mae Nam Kok, a beautiful Buddhist temple on top of the mountain with a huge statue looking down on the town. This place has charm and is very quiet and relaxing. We ventured out of our room at 8pm, found a restaurant located at the end of our street. I ordered a bowl of pork noodle soup and Jason ordered pad Thai with seafood.......of all the places to try seafood he chooses here?! Sure enough his dish arrived with a lot of shrimp and squid, it tasted “off” so I ended up dropping the fishy morsels off the balcony into the dirt below for the local cat or dog that was rummaging around to eat. LOL - we were so stealthy.....Jason would pass over the bits and I would pick them up, make sure no one was looking (we were the only patrons in the restaurant) and gently lop them through the balcony rungs into the dark. What a team! We felt extremely bad doing this but Jason couldn’t take the risk of getting food poisoning again. Grab an ice cream from an internet cafe and called it a night......it appears that most businesses shut down at 9pm here.