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Bamboo River Rafting In Chiang Mai






With my GoPro at the front of our bamboo river raft during our Spicy Villa tour in Mae Wang.

Intro: After refueling with lunch at a local Mae Wang restaurant, we continued our tour with Spicy Villa on a bamboo river rafting excursion.

One of the most famous excursions that you really should try while you are in Northern Thailand is bamboo river rafting. It may sound strange when you hear about it (and I wasn’t totally convinced when my friend, Kim, explained it to me after her own trip to Thailand), but once you go it all makes perfect sense.

A close-up shot of the bamboo rafts on the river bank, with a local Thai man slowly gliding by.

We had left Chiang Mai that morning for an overnight tour with Spicy Villa, starting with a stop at a local market, followed by a bike tour around the rural surrounds of Mae Wang, and lunch at a local restaurant. With our stomachs full, we were now ready to embark on our very own bamboo river rafting adventure.

Our bamboo river rafting guides coming down the hillside with their poles in hand.

We had a bit of time to kill after lunch as we waited for our rafting guide to return from a previous trip and wandered around the river bank, checking out the rafts and playing with a stray dog. Eventually we saw a group of men coming down the hill with beaming smiles and bamboo sticks, and our guide, Ray, told us it was time to go!

A local Thai man on a bamboo raft in the shallow waters of a river in Mae Wang district.

My friend had told me that I would get very wet, so I was prepared with my swimsuit on and quick dry clothing. It was just myself and Henry on the raft, with our guide maneuvering us from the back, and while I caught some video action on my GoPro at the front of the raft, Henry had his DSLR photographing behind.

A local Thai man photographing us as we departed on our bamboo rafting excursion in Mae Wang.

Pretty soon after we departed downstream, we saw a local Thai man taking photographs in the water. We think he was probably going to sell them to tourists later, but we never saw them anywhere at the other end!

An elephant on the banks of the river being met by a group of tourists in Mae Wang.

It really was quite relaxing just soaking up the sunshine and views, with the water keeping us cool as it seeped through the cracks in the raft. There was quite a lot of action to take in along the river, including an elephant who was being met by a group of tourists, local families splashing in the water, and wooden shacks that teetered on the hillside above.

Local Thai men waving at us on a wooden suspension bridge during our Mae Wang bamboo river rafting excursion.

At one point we passed beneath a wooden suspension bridge where a group of local men were cheering us on. All of a sudden there was a big boom as a giant firecracker was set off, which made me jump as I wasn’t expecting it at all. The men all had a good laugh and it was then that I realized it was obviously their practical joke for tourists and entertainment for the afternoon!

A bamboo river rafter negotiates a rapid during our excursion with Mae Wang’s Spicy Villa.

While most of the bamboo river rafting was quite smooth, there were a few choppy sections as we negotiated some rapids. We saw a couple trying to do it themselves, but we were glad we had a professional maneuvering us around the big rocks! One section was a little too dangerous and our guide actually asked us to step off the raft and walk around, picking us up further down the river.

Capturing Henry at the back of our bamboo raft as we floated along a river in Mae Wang district.

I guess our bamboo river rafting trip only lasted around 10-15 minutes, but it was a really wonderful experience. Henry (who can’t swim) wasn’t even concerned about falling in because the water was actually quite shallow. Overall it was really enjoyable just soaking up the Mae Wang scenery and local comings and goings, and I think it is something everyone should try once while they are in Thailand.


  • 1: Make sure to wear quick dry type clothing for this excursion since you will get wet!
  • 2: Although very safe, be careful when deciding to bring your electronics on this rafting adventure. You should try to protect (waterproof) your gear.
  • 3: Don’t attempt to bamboo raft yourself unless your guide allows you to do so. You may end up getting stuck on the rocks.
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