Monsoon rains herald the beginning of the rafting season
Rivers and streams will soon be in full flow once again, daring adventure travellers to come and tame the rapids
Monsoon rains are here filling rivers and streams after a long dry summer. Forests too are showing signs of vitality, daring adventure buffs to come and tame the rapids flowing in their midst.
With rains arrive the rafting season. It's that time of the year when nature lovers can travel to places not accessible at other times of the year _ by foot or motorised transport _ because they can only be reached by rafts or canoes.
Riding the rapids is an exhilarating experience. Paddling can be physically demanding and therefore it's good for health, and besides, it's a form of adventure that doesn't disturb or do any harm to the natural environment.
Here are a few places for rafters to bear in mind before they embark on their next expedition.
Pai, Mae Hong Son
Pai, in Mae Hong Son, is popular among youth travellers, local as well as foreign, who use it as a base to explore other tourist attractions in the northern region.
According to Alex of Pai Adventure, a tour operator, the season kicks off this month, and the company is offering rafting enthusiasts two routes _ a 70-km stretch on Pai River, and a 45-km strip on Khong River.
The Pai route involves overnight camping by the river, while the Khong stretch can be done in a day. All departures begin in Pai town. For more information, call 053-699-385.
Nam Wah, Nan
Nam Wah stream runs through Mae Jarim National Park. It can be broadly divided into three sections _ upper, mid and lower _ the mid-section being the most popular for rafting.
Eskimo Roll (02-219-2553, 01-985-0062) has devised a two-day package along an 80-km stretch starting from Nan. It takes rafters over 80 minor and 30 strong rapids, rated three to five on the difficulty scale, in the stream's mid-section. It makes for a testing ride laden with excitement and natural beauty.
At the height of the rainy season, this section of the Nam Wah stream is sometimes not negotiable. So you need to consult with Eskimo Roll before setting out. The front or upper section of Nam Wah, however, is extremely treacherous and regarded not fit for amateur rafters because it contains very fast rapids. Along a 40-km stretch it has 100 difficult rapids, and at two points the water drops steeply from a scary height.
But if you are still determined to tame it, you need to obtain special permission. It takes two days to cover the distance and the only time of the year considered safe for it is from late September to October. Mind you, not many people have negotiated this stretch of Nam Wah at the height of the rainy season.
Muanmuan Rafting Tour (054-773-598, 09-755-5820) in Mae Jarim district, meanwhile, offers four-day tours covering both the upper and mid-sections, apart from the popular two-day packages for mid-section rafting.
Rafting in the lower section will only appeal to beginners. The rapids are tame, rating two to three on the difficulty scale, and it can be completed in three hours.
Mae Klong stream, Tak
The three popular routes in Umphang district of Tak province are Mae Klong, Umphang Key and Thi Lo Lay.
The Mae Klong is navigational all year round. The pace is leisurely as rafters set off from Umphang and enjoy the scenery along the way. During rainy season, they get off at a point from where they trek 10 kilometres to get to the famous Thi Lo Su Waterfall, where they camp for the night. It's a two-night package.
The Umphang stream can be rafted from July onwards. Available are two- and three-night packages. On the first day you trek two hours to a Karen village where you spend the night. The next day requires another three-hour trek before you board a raft and travel downstream for five pleasant hours amidst picturesque natural settings.
The Thi Lo Lay is all about excitement of negotiating the rapids. However, the rapids don't attain their full form until October. This trekking and rafting package is available in two and three nights format.
Here is a list of tour operators:
F Too Ka Soo (01-825-8238, 01-819-0304, 055-561-295).
F Umphang Hill Resort (02-573-7942, 02-981-9991, 02-981-9992, or visit www.umphanghill.com).
F Phu Doi Campsite (055-561-049).
Meanwhile, the Mae Lamao stream in Mae Sot is another choice.
For names of more tour operators, call the Tourism Authority of Thailand office in Tak at 055-514-341 to 3.
Nam Khek, Wang Thong district, Phitsanulok
Nam Khek stream in Phitsanulok province is fed by rainwater from Khao Khor mountains and Thung Salaeng Luang National Park in neighbouring Petchabun.
From July to September, Wang Thong district, through which the Nam Khek runs, is packed with rafting enthusiasts who converge to pit their skills against the swollen stream.
This section of Nam Khek comprises 15 rapids, but only four are really exciting and they develop gradually on the difficulty scale, allowing rafters to master the tricks of the trade as they progress along the 10-km route down the winding stream. Usually, negotiating all the 15 rapids takes about two hours.
There are several raft tour operators on this route. Among them are:
F Camping Side Centre (02-433-2760, 02-435-3907).
F Sappraiwan Grand Hotel & Resort (055-293-293).
F The Wang Nam Yen Resort (055-293-411 to 4).
Khlong Pong Nam Ron, Pong Nam Ron district, Chanthaburi
Wang Khon Chalet (01-864-1805, 039-317-024, www.wangkonchalet.com) located by Khlong Pong Nam Ron stream runs rafting tours _ two-hour long _ along a 10-km stretch flanked by green vegetation.
Chanthaburi emerged as a rafting destination only five years ago and today it's grown to complement Chanthaburi's other tourist attractions, notably fruit orchards and precious and semi-precious stones that the province is famous for.
The action starts at Tha Dan Bridge and continues for three kilometres to the three-tiered Kaeng Sam Chan rapids that rate one to three on the difficulty scale. Apart from rafting, visitors can enjoy kayaking and canoeing.
For more information, contact the Rafting and Adventure Travel Club at 01-251-8317.
Hin Phoeng Rapids, Prachin Buri
Hin Phoeng rapids in Nadi district can be visited on a day-long trip from Bangkok. It's the focal point of adventure activities in Khao Yai National Park. From the starting point it takes about an hour to sail downstream via a series of small whirlpools such as Wang Bon, Look Sua, Wang Sai and Ngoo Hao.
For further information contact Sak Supha Resort (037-451-211, 01-454-0076, or www.saksupha.net), and Wang Taphap Resort (037-451-204, 01-663-2656).
Khlong Song Phraek, Phangnga
Khlong Song Phraek in southern Phangnga province can be rafted all year round. There are daily departures from Phuket, with travellers picked up from hotels early morning for half-day tours that include sight-seeing and rafting downstream.
For more information contact Phuket Sealand at 076-222-900-1, 076-232-900-3, or visit www.phuketsealand.com.
Fuji Tour (02-918-6067 to 8) arranges rafting trips to Hin Phoeng rapids in Prachin Buri; Pong Nam Ron in Chanthaburi; Nam Khek in Phitsanulok; Kaeng Phu Ko in Saraburi; and Thi Lo Su in Tak.
Bangkok Post June 2005