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Riding on the Mea Kok River, Thailand – Chiangmai and Chiangrai Thailand

Riding on the Mea Kok River, Thailand
Chiangmai and Chiangrai Thailand

Most travelers take the long-tail boat on the Mae Kok River from Thaton to Chiangrai, Thailand. The boats are crowded and very uncomfortable during the three-hour journey. If you start in Chiangrai, you will probably be the only one on the boat.

Lush Mountain Canyons
Lush Mountain Canyons
One of the most enjoyable things to do while visiting Northern Thailand, is to take a long-tail boat ride. The most popular ride is on the Mae Kok River from Thatorn, in the far north Chiangmai province, to Chiangrai. Most ride the local bus from the Chang Puak bus station departing at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., although those leaving at 9 a.m. might miss the boat, which departs at 12:30 p.m. from Thatorn, as the bus journey is 3 and a half hours.

This is because 95% of the people riding the boats start in Thatorn, leaving a lot of empty boats going in the opposite direction. The boats depart Chiangrai at 10:30 a.m., arriving in Thatorn at about 2 p.m. This way you miss the heat of the day and you will probably be the only one in the boat. This means you can stretch out and relax while enjoying the scenery along the river. Local hill tribe people who live along the river also take this boat, as it will stop for them if they wave it down.

Crowded Boats
Crowded Boats
Another possibility is you can charter a boat and spend the evening on the river at the hot springs, which are next to an Akha hill-tribe village, before going on to Thatorn. This is a great way to enjoy the river.

If you don’t speak Thai, it is best to arrange for a guide from one of the tour companies or your guest house in Chiangrai. They can also provide things like blankets or sleeping bags and food if you would rather eat by campfire.

You can sleep aboard the boat, which has plenty of room and is comfortable. The hot springs have toilets and showers along with a small store. The springs run into the river, a good place to take a refreshing bath as the water is not too hot. The Akha hill-tribe village next to the hot springs is very authentic with most villagers dressed in their traditional costumes and all living in bamboo houses. Not many tourists visit the village, as most go to Rhummit to do elephant riding and trekking, leaving this area peaceful and mostly unspoiled.

Rummit Elephant Camp
Rummit Elephant Camp
The last bus from Thatorn to Chiangmai leaves at 2:25 p.m. Don’t be in a hurry to leave as Thatorn has many things to see and do, along with accommodations that cost 60 to 2000 baht. The Tourist Police in Thatorn will help you with any information you may need. They are located along the river, not far from the boat landing.

Hundreds of people each day during the busy season ride to boats from Thatorn to Chiangrai. They all leave about the same time in a large convoy, one behind the other. For a better experience, be different and see the river in the opposite direction. When you see the boats full of people passing, just smile and wave from your empty boat, as they are sure to be envious.


For more information contact All Thailand Experiences.

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