As anyone who visits Chiang Mai knows, the mountains surrounding the city are not to be missed. Whether it’s a trek in the jungle with some elephants or high in the sky in a hot air balloon, the mountains are just waiting to be explored and what better way to do that than by the river on a kayak!
From easy treks to week long adventures, Chiang Mai has it all. By traversing the mountains and jungles via the rivers, you get to see a unique side of Thailand’s lush nature that most miss. Surrounded by dense jungle leaves, the sound of an elephant toots in the distance as you navigate your way through almost unexplored territory.
Kayak in Chiang Dao
The Ping River runs through Chiang Mai and is the lifeline to the city, but further north this river gets smaller and disappears into the jungle back towards its origin. Take to the Ping River from Chiang Dao and you will see things you would never expect to see in northern Thailand.
Mangrove forests, rapids, smooth and sharp rocks — get lost in the deep wilderness of the dense Thai jungles before popping out into the open air as the river grows in size and momentum. If you are lucky you may even catch a glimpse at a river turtle basking in a slither of sun that reaches the forest floor or a cheeky humming bird darting along the riverbank.
This type of adventure is certainly for those looking for a real, challenging adventure. The Mae Taeng River is famed for having some of the best kayaking and white water rafting routes of all of Thailand, and for good reason. Depending on the season, the river can be a cruel mistress, which makes the journey even more exciting. Don’t settle with just one day however, why not make it two as you venture down the river, stopping at hill tribe village in the middle of nowhere for your night’s sleep.
This trip also partners the Kayak adventure with some elephants too, so feel free to save some time to play with and trek the jungle with a majestic giant at the end of the two days.
Mae Taeng River — The best of Chiang Mai
For those desperate to try out one of the country’s best river routes, but not up for a night in the jungle then why not go for just one day, and traverse roughly 20km of river through some of the most amazing parts of the local mountain range.
As you begin, the river is slow and calm so you can get your bearings before you stop at a local hill tribe village and have lunch. Once full of rice and a bit of energy, cast off into the unknown and meet fast rapids and tight turns that you will need to navigate well to keep up. If a day on the river hadn’t woken you up enough, then stop for some locally ground coffee on the way home.
Double up with Fishing and Kayaking over 2 days
Fishing is not everyone’s cup of tea, but here in Chiang Mai, there is a real crowd looking out for the best fishing spots in town. Sure, access the river by a road and you may be lucky to get there before everyone else has caught the fish, or why not grab a kayak and disappear into the jungle before pitching up somewhere untouchable by everyone apart from you.
While on your journey, explore a cave before visiting a local Karen hilltribe village for bed, board, fun and games before waking up the next morning and continuing your journey. Grab a pole and fish until content, as you dock your kayak at ideal fishing spots along the way.