Chiang Mai / Wat Tha Ton Town and Temple
The town of Tha Ton is a humble, simple town in the northern part of Chiang Mai Province. Sitting on Kok riverbanks, the town is located some 180 km north of the city of Chiang Mai, very close to the border with Myanmar. In most of the long tours which proceed to Chiang Rai, Tha ton serves as a transfer spot; a point where travelers pause for a short break along their route, and often visit Tha Ton temple (Wat Tha Ton) – the main attraction in the area.
♦ Click the pictures to enlarge
The area is populated by various mountain tribes: Lisu, Akha, Yao, Karen, Lahu. Thailand’s border with Myanmar, which was marked by the Kok river, has somewhat altered its exact location, so that those Hill Tribes found themselves from other sides of the borders in different times. In the early 20th century, the border has shifted some 3 km to the north; since then, the northern riverbank is under Thailand’s rule, along with the villages of those tribes.
For those of you who intend to stay in the humble, small town – you can rent a bicycle or mini bike and explore the area, including the nearby villages of the Hill Tribes I’ve mentioned above, or take a longtail boat for a cruise on the river. From Tha Ton pier you can take a 3-hours cruise down the stream and get to Chiang Rai – though personally, I haven’t tried it and so I cannot recommend it; just the thought of spending 3 hours in a noisy longtail boat bothers and alarms me. The most famous local attraction is Tha Ton temple, which is located on a hill top, overlooking the beautiful view of Tha Ton Town and kok river.
Wat Tha Ton Temple – is a large complex with Chinese elements, located on different levels of the hill. Every level consists of different sites and structures, including a meditation center, for one. At the hill top. You’ll find the most famous structure in Wat Tha Ton – the Chedi Kaew or Crysal Pagoda. This relatively new structure is colorful and spectacular; it towers to a 4 levels’ height and you can see it from afar, standing tall and proud, overlooking the beautiful local landscape.
The entire hill top stretches over a large surface, and some 250 meters from the pagoda, you’ll find 22 giant dragon statues. Actually, I have a personal story which relates to a specific dragon, and evokes a special memory for me. In 2010, I visited the place and the silver dragon was in the early stages of construction; visitors could contribute to its completion by giving a donation, and I was happy to do so. In return, my name was engraved on one of the silver dragon’s fish scales – as you can see in the bottom picture. Those who visit the place are welcome to try and find it – David, in Thai of course.
In conclusion: The town and certainly the temple of Tha Ton provide a lovely, interesting experience, that you can enjoy by stopping in the area for a short visit and observation of the surrounding landscape. You can also stay in one of the local guesthouses and enjoy a serene, quite atmosphere, while exploring the area by foot/bicycle/minibike.
My opinion: I’m not a big Temple enthusiast, and I’ve seen more impressive temples in Thailand – but if Wat Tha Ton happens to be along your travel route – keep in mind that it is beautiful and worth your while – both in itself and for the lovely scenery around.
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♣ Check out the attached clip of Tha Ton temple which I took on site…Enjoy!