A great experience

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What we say: 4 stars

Bamboo Rafting
A relaxing way to see the river and local countryside, bamboo rafting takes you at a slow pace downriver on rafts made of bamboo poles lashed together. Between two and four passengers travel with a guide who propels the raft along with a long pole. Guides can be cheeky, splashing water on their passengers and generally making fun. Even without splashing, it's highly likely that you will get wet up to the ankles at the very least. Luggage should be left behind, and any valuables should be securely sealed up in plastic bags. Bamboo rafting is often offered as an extra in combination with elephant riding on a trek or day tour. The cost varies from place to place, and depends on the size of the rafts, how many passengers and how long the journey lasts, among other factors. Generally you can expect to pay between 400 and 800B for a raft for an hour or two, or about 200B per person as an extra option on a trekking trip. Ask in any travel or trekking agency, otherwise most guesthouses can organise a trip for you.

White Water Rafting
White water rafting between Pai and Mae Hong Son has become very popular, and there are two alternative routes that are run by a number of specialist travel agents around town. Lasting either one full day or two days and one night, the trips go down the Khong and Pai Rivers, or the Pai River only.

The Pai River trip takes two days, and has class five rapids during the rainy season from June to the end of January. Some companies don't have appropriate equipment to handle the low water levels during the dry season, and do not run.

The Khong and Pai River trip is shorter, and can be done as either a one- or two-day journey. From mid-May to the end of February the water level is lower and the rapids are flatter. The experience involves rafting on large inflatable rubber rafts, some paddling, and a number of white water rapids of differing levels.

The trips have a guide, and start with a safety demonstration of paddling techniques and how to manage the rapids. The paddling is broken up by picnics on the side of the river, and visits to hot springs and waterfalls. The scenery is gorgeous, and takes you through the stunning Pai Gorges. Overnight accommodation varies from company to company, but will usually be either camping in private tents or a bamboo hut where everyone sleeps dormitory style on the floor with foam mattresses, sleeping bags and mosquito nets. Food is cooked by the guides, usually a couple of dishes to choose from including barbecued meat, stir-fried vegetables or a mild curry dish. Vegetarian food is available by prior request.

Both trips start in Pai and finish 15 minutes from Mae Hong Son, where transport delivers you to your place of choice, whether than be in Mae Hong Son or if you would like to return to Pai.

Back-Trax, opposite Aya, have a good reputation and offer one- or two-day trips with a night's camping. Pai Adventure is also very close to Aya. Both are run by Westerners so no language problems either! February to May water levels can get pretty low, so don't expect much white water excitement during the dry season. On the other hand, in full-on rainy season across August and September things can get a bit hairy and it has been known for rafting trips to be put on hold if there's too much water.

Back-Trax: (053) 699 739, (081) 035 2253. backtraxinpai @ yahoo.com
Pai Adventure: (053) 699 385, (089) 953 4848. www.thailandpai.net. pairafting @ hotmail.com.

Last updated: 13th August, 2009

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