Like the rest of the world, I have suffered from cabin fever this past year. As lovely as it is living with my aged parents, whom I adore, and spending time with my beloved pug Ms. Tiggie-Winkle (and our new kitten Nudnik), my world has never felt so small. I live in Nimmanhaemin, and my view is basically the back of a four story hotel and a glimpse of some mango trees that thankfully covers up most of my neighbour’s house. During the lockdowns, when it rains, I don’t see lighting, when it shines, hardly enough sun gets to heat my pool – first world problems, but stifling nonetheless.
So, it was with great excitement two weeks ago that a small group of friends I had been hanging with over the lockdown and I decided that we needed to get out of the city. As we stood in the coolish shade under the canopy of a large tree not too far south of Chiang Dao with the Ping River flowing rapidly by, Aidan Schmer of Chiang Mai Kayaking gave us a thorough briefing before setting us into our kayaks for some practice sessions – “Eddie out,” “Peel out” he shouted, as he watched us traverse the river, pull into a stop and perform other basics needed to get us safely downstream.
Once securely strapped in and sufficiently proficient, we headed downstream towards Chiang Mai. What followed was one of the best days I had since the world locked me out.
As we meandered down the gentle Ping River, the occasional little rapid keeping us thrilled and on our toes, we passed by charming homes, we hunched over to avoid fecund foliage, we trailed our fingers in the muddy cool waters, we looked up at towering trees, strangled with vines and orchids and we felt as though we were a million miles away from the small world we had each been living in.
It was truly glorious. The entire trip of 12 kilometres took nearly five leisurely hours. It was tiring, it was relaxing, it was exciting, it was cathartic and most of all it was plain fun.
Aidan says that the waters are just about at peak perfect now, high enough not to be dangerously rocky and rapid enough for those wanting some adventure. But most of all, it is all about safety. Our half hour of safety tips and explanations by Aidan before even dipping out toes in water, the next twenty minutes of practice, and the fact that Aidan led the charge while his lovely assistant Danai made sure no one was left behind. Before each rapid, Aidan would go ahead, get out of his canoe, and thankfully being a rather sizable chap, managed to wade his way with his machete cutting dangerous branches and checking for any threats, before being on standby as we all giggled and gasped our way past him – grabbing our kayaks to steer us to safety when one or the other of us appeared to be on the verge of tipping over. Not that there was anything wrong with tipping over, in fact one friend who managed not to, ended up flopping himself into the cool waters for a frolic anyway.
Chiang Mai Kayaking offers day and multiple-day trips down the Ping as well as Mae Taeng rivers, with different levels offered for beginners such as myself as well as the more advanced.
Their Kayaking Academy aimed at children has been enthusiastically accepted by the Chiang Mai school community, with students as well as their teachers looking forward to a well-deserved break this coming
July at a well-rounded sports summer camp which should keep everyone busy, healthy, challenged, exhausted and entertained.
I can’t think of a better day out for the entire family, for a bunch of kids, for some mates, for a romantic couple, or just for you.
Apart from kayaking, Aidan also offers up a slew of other fun and adventurous outdoor activities which are socially distanced, and great for the body and the soul.
Can not recommend enough.
For more information visit their website www.mountainbikethailand.com.