One of the most popular tours in Chiang Mai, Thailand for outdoor enthusiasts is the White Water Rafting tour. Several tour companies run these trips and offer several different rafting tours to choose from. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast and love the idea of experiencing the beauty of Thailand paddling down one of the country’s stunning rivers, then one of these white water rafting tours is just what you’re looking for.
Types of White Water Rafting Tours – Most Chiang Mai tour companies run three different white water rafting tours. The basic tour is 2-3 hours rafting on the Mae Teang River, about an hour and a half outside Chiang Mai, plus lunch and a trip to a hill tribe village on the way back into town. The second tour is the rafting plus an elephant ride and a 8-10 kilometer mountain bike ride, and the third consists of rafting and a 40 kilometer ATV ride through some of Chiang Mai’s jungle and mountain areas.
What is the Cost – Costs vary depending on the tour group running them and which tour you take. The basic white water rafting tour and hill tribe visit costs from 1,000-1,600 baht ($31-50). The second tour (rafting, elephant ride and mountain bike ride) runs from 1,600-2,200 baht ($50-69), with the combination rafting and ATV ride the most expensive at 1,900-2,500 baht ($60-78), depending on if you’re the driver of the ATV or the passenger.
What You Do on Each Tour – Times of pick up and drop off, plus other activities on the tours vary with each tour.
White Water Rafting/Hill Tribe Tour – On the basic tour, you’ll be picked up at your hotel around 9am and taken to the Mae Teang River. The drive is around an hour and a half long so, close to the river, most tour groups stop at a restaurant first for lunch. After lunch, tour participants are put into inflatable rafts and set off for a 2 hour raft. (Make sure you are given helmets and life jackets as, particularly if the water is running high, white water rafting can be a dangerous sport and you need to be protected. Don’t ever go with a tour that doesn’t offer both helmet and life jacket.)
At the end of the white water raft, you’ll be picked up down river by the bus and taken to a hill tribe village, where you can walk around, learn about Thai hill tribe cultures and will, of course, be given the opportunity to buy hill tribe crafts. Drop off back at your hotel is between 5-6pm.
White Water Rafting/Elephant Ride/Mountain Biking – Tour groups running this tour will take you to a local elephant camp, where you can feed the elephants, buy souvenirs, then get on the bike of an elephant and be whisked off into the jungle. An hour’s elephant ride culminates in a 10 kilometer mountain bike ride to an area where the tour group will have set up lunch (some tour groups pick you up by bus and take you to a local restaurant – others serve food at a camping spot – both ways are fun). The white water rafting trip ensues, followed by bus pick up and back to your hotel.
In high season, due to the number of tourists doing these trips, you may do the rafting first, then the mountain biking and elephant ride, as the tour groups rotate activities so they don’t get in each other’s way.
White Water Rafting and ATV Ride – This tour includes the usual white water rafting ride, lunch and a 40 kilometer ATV ride, which winds through Chiang Mai’s incredible jungle and mountainous areas. You’ll see exotic flora and fauna, teak forests, stunning views and still be back at your hotel in time for dinner. Depending on other tour groups, you’ll do the rafting in the morning followed by the ATV ride or vice versa.
All three of these tours are great ways to spend a day in Chiang Mai’s gorgeous outdoors. Be warned, it’s very hot so drink plenty of water (tours always provide this), sponge off with the iced towelettes they’ll also give you, and wear mosquito repellent and a hat. Fully prepared and knowing what to expect, you should have a wonderful day.
Photo copyright – White water rafting, Thailand – Neil Rickards, Creative Commons