The Chiang Mai Grand Canyon has for many years been a not-so-secret watering hole jealously guarded by many of us here in Chiang Mai. This dramatic looking man-made canyon was created when land was quarried to extend the Chiang Mai International Airport runway. Sheer cliffs of up to fifteen metres, off which truanting kids used to enjoy heady afternoons jumping into the azure deep waters which now filled the old quarry. As it became better known and more popular, accidents and deaths have led to frequent headlines, just in the past few years alone, there have been six reported deaths. So, Citylife was highly sceptical when invited by the new Grand Canyon Water Park to review its new facilities.
By now, many of you will have likely heard of the flashy new Water Park, which opened to much fanfare in August. At this point we need to make it clear that the Water Park is in no way responsible for the recent death at the Grand Canyon, as it is set further down the road in its own area dotted with professionally trained lifeguards that hold awards from the Thai Life Saving Society — every square foot of water was covered. The cliff faces, popular with jumpers, and where most of the deaths and accidents have occurred, is in another zone managed by the local village chief.
So, to be fair, we thought we would simply review the Water Park itself, not the entire — and contentious — canyon.
A mascot greeted us on arrival and as we wandered down the paved concrete entrance, we saw the backdrop of inflatable fun floating in the watery distance, beckoning. The path led towards the locker rooms where you can change into your swim stuff and exchange a ticket for a life vest — something that all visitors are required to wear regardless of swimming ability or masculine bravado (I did try my best). After suiting up, we headed for the café, the home base for visitors with the entrance to the water jutting from its balcony.
The cliffs of the Grand Canyon merely serve as a backdrop to the bouncy and kaleidoscopic aqua fun, with all the entertainment being inflatable and manmade. The surface of the inflatables is wet, slippery, and unpredictable, but any fall would simply see you landing in the water just a foot away. Frankly, I was more in the water than on the inflatables, and with the sun heating up the plastic surface something rotten, a regular dive into the cooling waters was a welcome relief.
With adventure rope swings, gaps to jump across, climbing walls to scale and podiums to jump from, the inflatables give you a place to get personal with the water without any fear of rocky cliff faces or hidden boulders below the surface. The highlight of the park is the huge semi inflatable cushion that, after a lot of effort climbing onto the thing without slipping off, is great for shooting your friend high in the air by jumping onto the other side. When it was my turn, I shot up like a rocket and ungracefully landed splat, belly first into the water.
It is hard work climbing the slippery inflatables, and combine that with hysterical giggling from the slap-stick shenanigans, I spent most of my time in the water.
There is a kids’ zone with miniature water slides, balls, balloons, and water fountains which was also more fun — and certainly less exhausting — than the adults’ area, so we pretty much took over that when our energy depleted some.
A 300 baht ticket lasts the full day (free for kids under 90cm), but it was just three hours before we were so exhausted that we just had to go home. Cheeks numb with laughing so hard, sore body parts from topflalopping over the slippery plastic, and still damp from not bothering to change our shorts, we headed home.
So, for the time being at least, I would like to give a tentative nod towards the Grand Canyon Water Park and say that it’s not bad at all…in fact, it’s pretty damn fun, and I felt that the safety standards were rather good too.
As we go to press the army has announced that the Grand Canyon part of the quarry will be closed permanently, so if you want to go and have some fun at the quarry, it looks like the Water Park is your only option now too.
Open 10am – 7pm
Facebook: Grand Canyon Water Park