Some days are just perfect. Today we took a tour with Chiang Mai Mountain Bike & Kayaking. As those who follow my blog will know, I rarely recommend any commercial enterprise in my posts. But today is an exception because our kayaking trip was brilliant and made possible by the tour company. While we had first hoped to do the Chiang Dao Jungle kayak adventure, the region is currently quite dry so the only trip the company could run was the Mid Valley Kayak Expedition down the Mae Ping River in the Mae Ngat Valley. It didn’t matter because the trip we took was still amazing and gives us a reason to come back to Chiang Mai to try some of the other tours.
The trip started with a half hour river flow lesson. Don’t worry, this time doesn’t come off your allowance of fun. I have been paddling for years but this was the first time anyone has ever taken the time to explain eddies and flow patterns to me. We learned some basic techniques like eddie-out, pull-out, crossing the river and how to stop from tipping out if we got caught against a rock or log. It showed that the company is serious about safety and paddler enjoyment, rather than just dropping us in the water and hoping we enjoyed it with whatever skills we already had (if any).
Once the instructions were over we loaded into the back of a songtow-style vehicle to drive an hour to the entry point. The bikes on the roof were for two guests who were doing a bike-kayak combination trip. While it looks uncomfortable, the vehicle is not too bad and the seating arrangement allowed us to get to know the other two guests on the kayaking trip a little better before we spent the day on the water together.
The put-in for the kayaking trip was under a bridge in the middle of a tobacco field. We were each allocated a sit-in touring boat. The company has different types of boats that they use depending on conditions. They have sit-on boats, sit-in touring boats and sit-in white-water play boats. We were going to experience a Class 1 river with shallow water and some obstacles like logs. The sit-in boats were perfect being easy to manoeuvre and good for sun protection. The guide gave a briefing …
And then we were off. Before we paddled downstream, the guide had us paddle about 50m upstream, cross the river and eddy-out before pulling-out and making a 360′ turn. I think he just wanted to check how much guidance he would need to give us before getting too far downstream.
And so we spent the day paddling in Thailand.
We passed farms and small Thai row boats tied up on the river’s edge.
Saw fishermen casting nets for small fish.
And generally enjoyed the river’s serenity.
About half way down the river we stopped for a short rest on a rocky bank of the river while we waited for the two cyclists to join our group. The rest was relaxing as we talked and watched the wind blow the grasses on the other side of the river.
Our guide also turned his hand to fishing for these strange shellfish that live in the river bed. They are very small and are eaten whole in omelette. But you’d need a lot of them to get enough protein or flavour to make it worthwhile and he was only catching one or two with every scoop of the net.
Once the two cyclists joined us we left the farmland behind and entered a particularly peaceful part of the river where trees grew on either side and mountains rose ahead of us. I sat on the back of my boat with my feet dragging through the cool water, only pulling them in when we had to navigate obstacles.
The trip was about 20km of downstream paddle. It was not terribly difficult but not so easy as to be dull. The guide was relaxed and knowledgeable, the group social and fun, and the paddling perfect.