Chiang Mai Rafting

by Guest

Chiang Mai is the capital of the north. The hills, forests and rivers surrounding Chiang Mai city if an adventure playground offering all manner of sports including climbing, hiking, quad biking, zip lining, mountain biking and white water rafting. This is a guide to the Chiang Mai rafting scene.

maekampong-chiang-mai-thailand-view

Brook in Chiang Mai.

There are many operators offering white water rafting opportunities from day trips to longer adventures where guests camp alongside the riverbank at night. Though it might be adrenaline-inducing, beginners don’t need any prior experience to go rafting on the lower rapids. It’s an unforgettable experience that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

There are several different rivers to raft on, but the Mae Taeng River is particularly popular. A typically tour begins with a pick up from your hotel of guesthouse. Transfer out of town to the starting point and have a safety briefing from your experienced guide. Afterwards, don helmets and life jackets and board the raft to begin the trip. Most rafts will be filled with six passengers and one main guide. The rafting begins gently to get everyone used to the paddling and to enjoy the scenery. As you raft down along the meandering river, you’ll pass spectacular forest scenery and wildlife. It’s also a cultural experience as you’ll pass the villages of the hill tribes offering a slice of authentic rural Thai life. Continue on past rice paddies, canyons and glorious mountain scenery. It’s an amazing experience.

Stop for a well needed rest and lunch on the banks of the Mae Taeng River. After having some time to relax, board the board again to hit the rapids. The river begins to flow faster and faster and depending on the season, can be high at times. The rapids are between 2 and 5, so you’re guaranteed to experience a wild ride and you tip over the cascades and rapids. Don’t worry, you’re guide will ensure that you all stay in the boat. The journey through the rapids takes around three hours, after which they begin to calm again and you can spend your time looking up at the waterfalls and forest scenery. Look out for the odd wild elephant that occasionally come to the river to drink. At the departure point, a shuttle bus will be waiting to take you back to your hotel in Chiang Mai city.

chiang-mai-thailand-grass-hut

Hill side hut in Chiang Mai.

There are options for overnight Chiang Mai rafting trips along the Mae Taeng River and beyond. The trip also mixes the calm and rapids to create an unforgettable journey. Before dark, you’ll disembark on the river bank and either overnight in tents on the edge, stay at a local village or in a jungle lodge. This will depend on your budget and tastes. Doing an overnight trip allows guests to see more of the beautiful mountainous scenery in Chiang Mai province. Some operators offer three-day tours on the Pai River. Spend three days exploring this beautiful part of Chiang Mai province and the Mae Hong Son. Depart Chiang Mai city early in the morning and take a three hour car ride along the mountain road to Pai where you will have plenty of time to explore the pretty town and the nearby hot spring and waterfall. Stay in a jungle lodge or local guest house. In the morning, have a safety briefing and a lesson in rafting before putting on your helmet and life jacket and set off into the wilderness. Today you will be spending up to four hours riding the rapids with the rest of the group. Along the way, pass waterfalls, hot springs and interesting geological spots. Arrive at the jungle camp before dark and enjoy a well needed drink and dinner. Relax in the evening and look up at the stars uninterrupted by light pollution. After breakfast the following morning, head off early and ride many rapids including the famous Red Cliff before reaching the Khlong River. Stop to spend time at the hot springs, mud baths and a swim in the river. Continue over more challenging rapids before disembarking in the afternoon and transferring to Mae Hong Son for the short half hour flight back to Chiang Mai.  

Many tour operators offer combined white water rafting trips with ATV quad bike tours. Start the morning meandering through the gorges and forests on the river, before disembarking to spend the afternoon racing along the mountainous trails on quad bikes.

White water rafting is available to everyone, other than pregnant women, those with heart conditions or children under 6. Be sure to bring some dry clothes (you will certainly be getting wet!) as well as comfortable shoes, sun cream, a water bottle, a waterproof day bag and flip flops.  Everything else will be provided. The cost of the trips vary between activity operators, but for a rough idea, a day trip on the rivers outside Chiang Mai cost around US $60 including transport, equipment, lunch and a guide. It will be at least double that for an overnight two-day tour on the Mae Taeng River. It’s always worth checking the reviews of an activity provider online before booking. It’s also worth looking at the equipment and checking that the guides are first aid certified before parting with your cash.

Cover image by ckmck .

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