Cruising on the Mae Ping River is a great way to experience a different side of Chiang Mai and to see the rural outskirts. I picked up a boat on the western side of the river by the Wat Chai Mong Kol temple. You actually walk through the temple grounds to reach the river jetty. This is a temple of some note so it is worth allowing time to wander around here.
Tickets can be bought in advance on the jetty and this entitles you to a seat on a small boat with a roof top covering for shade and open sides for welcoming cool breezes, an English speaking guide, a tour round a farm and complimentary fruit and soft drinks.
I learned a lot on the boat – there are many fishermen on the river banks catching fish either for themselves or to sell at local markets. Interestingly some people buy the fish at the market and then release them back into the river.
The river banks are where workers rest in the shade, children play, men fish and teenagers hang out.
The farm grows many herbs and each bedded area has a plaque informing guests what medicinal properties the herb has, there are small rice paddy’s and a few animals. An area where the guide tells you a lot about farming in the past and a few pictures of times on the river gone by. There is enough time to rest and use the bathroom.
Before boats had engines it would take three months to get by river to Bangkok whereas now it takes just an hour by plane and seven by bus. We saw plenty of boats full of animal feed and other goods being transported up and down the river, with roads full of mopeds this makes for a more leisurely way to get a day’s work done!
There is plastic waste but then this is a country that doesn’t necessarily have the refuse collection that we might enjoy in the UK. It might be easy to criticise but I didn’t let that spoil my enjoyment of the trip.