Photo: It gets more scenic as you get further out of town.

Mae Ping River Cruise

Our rating:

Laos’s Nam Ou, Cambodia’s Sangkar, or even Chiang Rai’s Kok River this is not, so don’t expect dramatic scenery and an untamed river, but a cruise on the Ping River is a very pleasant way to while away a few hours.

Mae Ping River Cruise seem to have pretty much cornered the market but deservedly so. Their boats depart from Wat Chai Mongkol (or Mongkon), just off Charoen Prathet Road, and their cruise takes you by downtown Chiang Mai then out through the northern suburbs to what they claim is a “farmer’s house”. It may once have been a farmer’s house but it’s now a combination museum, restaurant and fruit and vegetable garden, where you are given a juice and huge fruit platter and have the option to buy coffees or other drinks as well as souvenirs. A restaurant on site means you can have a lunch of say khao soi or fried rice if you wish.

Urban river scenes. Photo taken in or around Mae Ping River Cruise, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Urban river scenes. Photo: Mark Ord

The leisurely trip takes around 45 minutes each way plus break time at the farm. The first part takes you past central Chiang Mai, under the various bridges, past the numerous riverside cafes and Worarot market on the left before heading into the town’s ritzy northern suburbs, where the lawns of the huge and flashy villas and mansions sweep down to the river and then ... well that’s about it really, you go back.

You may get a running commentary from the boatman, which in our case was so bad it was good but since he clearly realised that, we tipped him anyway. Majestic trees grow along the banks and if you’re lucky you may spot some bird life.

You may spy a resort or two... Photo taken in or around Mae Ping River Cruise, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

You may spy a resort or two... Photo: Mark Ord

The return trip costs 550 baht per person. Boat departures are scheduled hourly but we’re not sure how strict their schedule is and there’s going to be flexibility depending upon the number of passengers. There are small, longtail-style boats—what they call rice-barge style—and large craft for busy days.

In the evenings the latter are also employed as floating restaurants for dinner cruises. These are simple affairs so don’t expect any fancy Bangkok-style Chao Phraya cruises, with a single roofed deck and wooden chairs and tables. We didn’t test the food quality but it needs to be pretty good to justify the 650 baht per person price tag. They leave daily at 19:00, returning around 20:30.

Some lovely riverside homes too. Photo taken in or around Mae Ping River Cruise, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Some lovely riverside homes too. Photo: Mark Ord

A third option on offer is a trip downstream to Wiang Khum Kham ancient city. At 800 baht per person this also seemed to us very steep, even if it does include the pony and trap for touring the ruined temples. The boat journey is a mere 15 minutes each way and, if you hire one on site, a cart goes for 300 baht for two persons. They advertise departures at 09:00, 11:30, 14:00 and 16:00. Allow two hours maximum.

We’d probably stick to the standard river cruise which isn’t exactly spectacular, but is a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.

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Mae Ping River Cruise
Mo–Su: 08:30–17:00
T: (053) 274 822, (081) 884 4621

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