As one of my top 5 things to do in Chiang Mai, Chiang May Adventure Day was worth a post all of it’s own. This jam packed adventure tour was recommended by the staff at the hostel we stayed at, SKII House (review to come!), this summer just passed. My travel buddy Terri and I were looking to spend the day doing some activities after visiting Chiang Mai’s tourist hot spots. I was keen to try white water rafting, while Terri was after an elephant riding experience. This adventure day, called Exciting Chiang Mai, ticked all our boxes.
- The day began with a pick up at our hostel, where we drove in a minibus for over an hour to reach the Chiang Mai Adventure camp.
- We picked up our mountain bikes and rode through a jungle road to the elephant riding camp, followed by an RV.
- The next hour was spent elephant riding along the side of the river.
- We rode back to camp, and had a lunch, which was included in the price.
- After lunch and a little break, we drove in the RV up to the rafting base, where we were given a briefing before tackling the rapids themselves; 14 rapids up to grade 5 waters.
- The option to travel to a nearby hilltribe village is offered, or you can just take the minibus home.
The day begins…
We were picked up at 8am by our tour guide, Nun, who turned out to be absolutely hilarious. He had a very sarcastic sense of humour, and kept us laughing throughout the day. We picked up the rest of our group, 10 of us in total. Of all of us, only a few had been white water rafting before, which was reassuring to know as we were both total novices. The car journey was over an hour but it passed quickly as we spent the time getting to know the rest of our group.
Mountain biking challenge
If I’m honest, I was dreading mountain biking. I was 17 the last time I rode a bike which was 4 years ago at that point, and the thought getting back on a bicycle and trying to mountain bike in Thailand’s heat and bumpy jungle roads was daunting to me. I was up for giving it a go though, and strapped on my helmet with the best of intentions. The scenery was beautiful, but the roads were as rough as I first thought, and as I cycled up my second steep incline I admitted defeat. Thankfully, we were followed in the RV and, after a few more inclines, I was joined by a few other group members with a slight lack of cycling prowess. In our defence, it was incredibly humid!
Elephant riding by the river
This was my second elephant ride, and it was definitely the better of my two experiences. I’d love to say that actually riding an elephant is a graceful endeavour, but anyone who has done it knows it’s anything but! We had to go up one particularly steep, narrow path. It seemed way too narrow for an elephant. It was a hair raising moment as we lurched up the tiny path, but once we reached the top we had a stunning view over the river. After all, we did ask for an adventure!
The scenery on the trip was beautiful, and the elephants seemed happy, and stopped for a while to drink and play in the river. However, I’ve always been dubious about how well these elephants are really looked after, check out this article by Alex in Wanderland for more information on the care of elephants in Thailand if you’re curious. I saw the mahouts on the camp with bullhooks, which are definitely inhumane in my books, and although they weren’t used when we were there, this did make me question the experience.
Lunch and a bumpy ride
Lunch was a mix of egg, vegetable rice, chicken and pork sausage with a vegetarian option too. After lunch, we all piled into the RV for what turned out to be a really bumpy ride. If we thought cycling over those roads was bad, then going over then in a 4×4 was even worse. At one point, I swear we were knocked almost a foot off our seats! But, it was made better by the good company and soon we were laughing every time we hit a bump and one of us went flying. We stopped to pick up the rafts, and, crazily, strapped several to the top of the 4×4. As we drove, we saw people sat on top of three rafts… piled on top of a car. Safe to say we didn’t give that transport method a go!
A nervous briefing
Once we reached the rafting base, we got our safety gear on – a lifejacket and a helmet, and settled down for our safety briefing. I hadn’t been nervous at all, but as Nun started to go through the 6 commands I started to worry I wouldn’t remember them all. We were taught basic instructions, and most importantly – what to do if one of us fell out of the raft. We had a little practise of the commands, and before we knew it, we were stepping into our rafts. Terri and I decided to go with a couple of guys from the group who had rafted before, and they seemed to know what they were doing which put our doubts at ease. Our group was split between three rafts, with three to five people in each raft (including one instructor per raft.) Our instructor was lovely and spoke pretty good English too.
Photograph property of Chiang Mai Adventure
Risking the rapids
The river started off slowly, which lulled us into a false sense of security. We were enjoying the beautiful scenery, the lush jungle… but soon we were being thrown around by the turbulent waters. We learnt the commands quickly in practice and I shouldn’t have worried! It was an amazing experience! After we made it down each set of rapids, we high-fived our oars and paddled towards the next with even more anticipation. In some quieter spots, we jumped in the river and had a little swim, before climbing in for the next bumpy ride. It all felt like it was over way too quickly, and I loved the adrenaline rush. If I ever have the chance to go white water rafting again I won’t be able to resist taking it.
After changing into dry clothes and chatting about our adventure, we piled into the minivan to head home. We stopped at a hill tribe village, but it was deserted as it was too late in the day and the market was shut. None of our group were that gutted as we had already had an amazing day and we were exhausted! I might have had a well deserved nap on the way back to our hostel.
Would I recommend it?
At 1950 THB (about £36) for the day, Exciting Chiang Mai is quite an expensive day out by budget backpacker prices. But, in my opinion, it was completely worth it. I love days that are full of varied activities, and the fact that this package ticked off a few things from our ‘to do list’ in one go (and one splurge!) made it perfect for us. Our guide, Nun, was great too, and really helped make the day memorable for us. We also found some hilarious photos of us rafting online – a little bonus provided to each group for free. This was a lovely touch! I’ll definitely be printing a couple to show off my new found rafting skills.
Have you had an adventure day in Thailand? What did you do? I’d love to hear your suggestions – I’m planning my next Big Trip!