We cannot guarantee any uncharted rocks or icebergs on this cruise and the Nam Ou, Sangkar River, or even River Kok it is not, so don’t expect dramatic scenery; yet a cruise on the Ping River is a very pleasant way to while away a couple of hours.
At least a couple of companies now offer boat cruises in Chiang Mai up and down the Ping River but we travelled with the Mae Ping River Cruise and jolly good they were too. Their boats depart from Wat Chai Mongkol, just off Charoen Prathet Road, and their cruises take you through downtown Chiang Mai then out through the northern suburbs to a “farmer’s house”.
It may once have been a farmer’s house but it’s now a combination museum, restaurant and fruit and veg 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 there if you wish.
The leisurely trip takes around 45 minutes each way; 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.
Oh, 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; it’s not spectacular but pleasant enough.
The return trip will cost 450 baht per person or you can do a one way trip for 240 baht and then tuk tuk it back to town from the house. Boats leave whenever the staff decide there’s enough people to make it worthwhile so waiting time is going to vary considerably between low and high season though you do have the option of paying a bit more and taking a smaller private boat.
What the extra price is will depend on how busy they are… or how much of a hurry you are in. We shared a large (and comfortable) boat with a fun and friendly French bunch but obviously as with any join-in trip you could be unlucky.
By Mark Ord.