Rolling down the river
The wet season is here and that means it's once again time to raft over the rapidsThe daily downpours may not be much fun for folk stuck in the urban sprawl but the arrival of the heavy monsoon rain spells good news for adrenaline junkies adventurers as the rafting season kicks off across the country.
From July to November, Thailand offers everything from epic journeys along the "Wild Wa" in Nan for the experienced enthusiast to gentle raft cruises trips along Tee Lor Su in Tak for beginners. Here's our guide to the country's very best rafting routes.
Nam Khek, Phitsanulok Province
Best Time: July to October
Thailand's Wa River is known for its crystal clear waters while the Tee Lor Su offers glorious mountain scenery along its banks. If slick rocks and whitewater could talk, they'd tell you that the Khek River is one of the country's fastest-flowing rivers, and it's now open for adventure. Fed by the rainfall runoff from the high ranges in Phetchabun, the Khek is recognised for its red foaming water. The trip combines a series of 20 rapids (Class III and IV) and spectacular wilderness. You'll face challenging rapids with such innocent names as Nang Khoi (Waiting Lady) and experience plenty of wild shake-ups over the course of three hours.
For more information, call Tourist Information Centre at (055) 252 743.
Wa River, Nan Province
Best time: September to November
Rising near the border with Laos, the Wa River is one of the country's most popular whitewater courses with everything to offer the keen rafter - rapids up to Class IV and thick walls of evergreen forest and mountain scenery as it flows through one of Thailand's largest road-less wilderness areas. The rafting on middle section usually involves two to three nights of sleeping out in camps, where fireflies dance shimmering arabesques through the forest canopy. The final stretch takes you through dense tropical jungle where monkeys chatter and laugh at soaking rafters from the treetops.
For more information, call Tourism Authority of Thailand (Phrae Office) at (054) 521 118.
Mae Klong River, Tak Province
Best time: September to October
Rafters of all skill levels can enjoy superb mountain scenery as this river, which forms a border with Thong Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, a Unesco's World Heritage site. Starting in the remote town of Umphang on the far western fringe of Tak province, you embark on a journey where the pace varies from gentle rapids to tumultuous rides. All around is rain forest, where butterflies flit from tree to tree. You'll occasionally glimpse the palm-thatched villages of the local Karen people and may even stop to visit. The journey takes about four hours before you stop to pitch your tents by the huge Tee Lor Su waterfall or take a car to your resort in town. Fans of the great outdoors will love Tee Lor Su, as the series of limestone cascades create jade-coloured pools.
For more information, call (055) 514 341.
Mae Taeng River, Chiang Mai Province
Best Time: July to November
The Sob Kai Rapids, where the Mae Taeng River boils and churns its ways over 10 kilometres of cascades, offers Chiang Mai's most thrilling rafting experience through the rain forest. The tricky turns and Class III and IV rapids demand fast action by rafters and thrill-seekers alike. Fast as it's furious, rafting down Mae Taeng River, from Baan Sob Koi to Elephant Camp, takes about three hours. Baan Anatta Resort (www.BaanAnattaResort.com) offers rustic, riverside cottages on the river and arranges the rafting trips.
Hin Ploeng Rapids, Prachin Buri
Best time: July to October
Plunging down from Khao Yai's high ranges, the crystal-clear water of Hin Ploeng offers superb rafting and glorious mountain scenery. Stretches of easy rafting are suitable for beginners, but there are also Class IV rapids that will challenge even the most expert rafters. For more information, call the Tourism Authority of Thailand Nakhon Nayok Office at (037) 312 282 or (037) 312 284.