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A thrilling long weekend of adventure in Chiang Mai

A thrilling long weekend of adventure in Chiang Mai

In the mountainous region of Thailand is the country’s northern capital Chiang Mai. If you are not one for whirlwind cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a perfect place to escape to whether you want to relax or take advantage of the vast array of adventurous activities that it offers. If you take a short ride out of the city, you will find yourself in a peaceful country village with pristine rainforest reserves, stunning waterfalls or bubbling hot springs. With lush green countryside never far away, adventure in Chiang Mai is the ideal escape for a long weekend! 

Day 1: Arrival in Chiang Mai

10:45AM Arriving at Chiang Mai Airport

Since your time at Chiang Mai is limited, we suggest going for an organised multi-adventure tour to make the most of your time here. You can explore the whole of the Mae Sa Valley with Active Thailand on one day, while spending the first half of one of your days White Water Rafting. For the hiking and biking package (9 hours), the cost was 1900 THB ($75 SGD) per person as of 2016, with the White Water Rafting (7 hours) costing 2000 THB ($79 SGD) per person. Make sure to check out Active Thailand’s website for more up to date information on all of their packages and group discounts. From the airport, you can easily get an airport taxi to your hotel if you haven’t arranged for an airport pick up.

12:00PM Arriving at your Hotel/Hostel

As soon as you arrive in your hotel, if it’s too early to check in, most places will allow you to store your luggage while you go out to explore. We suggest coordinating your arrival time with your hotel so they can allow you to check in ahead of time. In order to see most of Chiang Mai, we recommend hiring a driver for the day. You can contact Mr. Nuy (081-998-8329), a local driver who we often use when in Chiang Mai. He can speak a good amount of English and is always very reasonable with his rates. For a half day tour around Chiang Mai expect to pay anything from 700-1000 THB ($39 SGD) For that rate, he can drive you around Chiang Mai towards lunch, the canyon, and other places by the river.

1:00PM Lunch

As the food options are not limited in Chiang Mai, you will never be far from a good place! Places such as Overstand Coffee Shop have a very good reputation, winning best breakfast in Chiang Mai for the past 2 years on the foodie Facebook group! Conveniently located in the Old Town, their open faced sandwiches and flat white coffee are a must try. An alternative option if you want to try the local cuisine is going for a pipping hot bowl of Khao Soi. Khao Soi is a yellow noodle curry dish and is one of the famous Northern Thai dishes that Chiang Mai is known for. We recommend going to Khao Soi Khun Yai’s (Grandmother’s Khao Soi), a local hole in the wall place known for this dish. Located between Wat Monthian and Wat Kuan Kama, Khao Soi Khyn Yai is a private house where you will find the best Khao Soi you will ever taste. They are open from 10:00-2:00pm so get there early before they run out.

3:00PM Grand Canyon

Although it takes 30 minutes to get there, the Grand Canyon in Chiang Mai is worth a visit. Spend some time there soaking up the sun, swimming in the canyon waters or cliff jumping at one of their various jump points if you dare. They also have a bar if you would just prefer to have a drink or two with amazing views and great weather. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards and as you go around the reservoir area.

8:00PM Dinner

Whether you are just peckish or starving, we would highly recommend street food. You will find it wherever you stay, with the best areas being Suthep Road, Chang Puak Gate (or North Gate) and the Sunday Market Wat Sam Phao. Definitely try the mango sticky rice, green papaya salad and of course, pad thai. For alternative options, check out SP Chicken. A hole in the wall chicken spot where you can enjoy a simple but flavourful stuffed roast chicken. A whole chicken stuffed with lemongrass and garlic would only cost you 150 THB ($4)!

Address: Samlan Rd Soi 1, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

If you don’t fancy chicken, sushi is popular in Chiang Mai and there are a variety of places to choose from. We recommend Fin Premium Sushi Bar. Located in Maya Shopping Mall, you get fresh sushi and all the mall has to offer! Expect to pay anything from 100 THB – 260 THB for each dish ($3-8).

If you want to have a sitdown meal and drinks, we recommend going to The Riverside Bar & Restaurant for a dinner river cruise down the Ping River. For a mere 150 THB ($4), you can have dinner and drinks on their boat. They usually run out of spots so it’s best to phone in advance to reserve 53243239.

Day 2: A day of Hiking and Biking

8:30AM-9:00AM Pick up From your Hotel/Hostel

Your tour guide and driver will pick you up from your accommodation in the early morning. The drive takes approximately 1 hour and, during this time, your tour guide will introduce himself and give you a brief summary of what to expect from the day. You will also have time to take a nap or chat with the others in your group before you arrive at the starting point for the hike.

An important thing to note, which the guide does mention, is to make sure you have sprayed yourself with Mosquito repellent before you start the hike. There will be some available for you to use but I would suggest buying your own and spraying yourself beforehand as the mosquitos in the jungle are quite aggressive!

10:00AM Hiking through an Unspoiled Jungle

The guide will provide you with a bottle of water before promptly starting the hike. The first part of the hike is ascending the mountain so bring your leg strength and expect very steep terrain! As you walk along a bumpy clay path, the scenery quickly changes from hill villages to a thick, rugged jungle. Try to take in as much of your surrounding as possible. Look up at the towering trees, take in the smell of the muggy foliage and try to identify the sounds of the forest. Just make sure to be cautious and watch your step. The guide will also point out anything of interest as he shares his expert knowledge of the fauna and animals he sees along the way. If you’re lucky you may see tarantulas or snakes!  

Just over an hour through the hike, you will be provided with some much needed snacks such as a chocolate energy bar and some traditional pineapple jam biscuits. Just ask if you need more water to soldier on as the guide will be carrying extras.

The second part of the hike is completely different, starting off with some off-path hiking through the rest of the jungle. Again the scenery will quickly change to hill tribe villages, where you’ll walk past cabbage and chilli farms before the village itself. The path is now concrete, so you can now fully take in your surroundings as you descend the mountain, with stunning views of peaks and rice fields. As you make your way down country roads, you learn about the hill tribe customs and potentially see some of them going about their everyday lives. Soon, you will reach the end point of the 2.5 hour hike.

1:00PM Lunch!

The driver will pick you up at the end point and drive you 5 minutes away to a beautiful waterfall where you’ll be rewarded with lunch. By now you would have worked up quite the appetite. Active Thailand prepares a nice packed lunch while you can eat next to the nearby waterfall. When we did the hike, we devoured the food that we were given. They serve you a vegetarian or chicken meal with rice and vegetables. The highlight of lunch, however, apart from the stunning scenery, is the refreshingly cold beverage of your choice (soft drinks, juice or water) and the fresh mango to end with.

2:00PM Biking off-road

Although only an hour, the break is long enough before you’re off again to continue the rest of your adventure. After being provided with high quality cycling gear, the tour guide will give you a brief summary of how to use the equipment and what to expect from the route before setting off. Swapping the jungle trail for country roads, the first half of the cycling adventure is descending the mountain. Again bring that leg strength as the hills are quite steep! There are a few hills along the way, one especially steep one which you will need to muster up your energy for. If you really don’t like hills or need a rest at any point, there is a support vehicle following not far behind which you can hitch a ride in at any point.

The lush green scenery along the way is breathtaking, and that’s not just because you are riding fast with the wind whipping you in the face. About an hour through the cycling, you will stop for a quick break to take a swig of water and catch your breath. With the beautiful views of rice fields and the backdrop of mountains behind, this is also the perfect photo opportunity moment. Another hour of country road cycling together with some off-road cycling along dirt paths and through bumpy rice fields, you will soon find yourself at the end of your 2 hour biking journey. I would say the cycling is moderately difficult, with the first half being the most difficult, but doable to the physically fit.

4:00PM Finish and Drop off at your Accommodation

Once the bikes and helmets are packed up and you’ve refreshed yourself with another cold drink, the next hour and a half will involve the drive back and drop off. By this time, you would most likely have worn yourself out so a nap is well deserved.

7:00PM Dinner

After a much needed shower and some relaxation time, you may want to venture out for some traditional Thai food. As we previously mentioned, you can never go wrong with Thai street food. We recommend trying out We’s Restaurant by the Old Town. She serves some of the best Penang Curry we’ve tried.

If you don’t fancy street food, you could try restaurants such as Why Not? Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar or Beast Burger. If you really want to do something different, you could even book a table at the Riverside Bar & Restaurant. The place itself sits on the banks of the Ping River and is a great venue for live music. You can even opt for a boat trip, where you eat your dinner by candlelight while you glide along the river.

Day 3: White Water Rafting

7:30AM Breakfast

We would recommend grabbing a quick bite to eat before you get picked up as the Maetang River is located an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai and you will be diving straight into the activity. If your hotel doesn’t have breakfast, wherever your hotel is, there will always be a coffee shop close by to buy a coffee and a muffin. Just to remember to locate any coffee shops and their opening times the day before so you can make a quick trip there in the morning.

8:00AM-8:30AM Pick-up and Transfer

Upon arrival at the Maetang River Camp at approximately 9:30AM, there will be a quick safety briefing and demonstration of paddling skills before your life jacket and helmet are fitted. Before you set off, the guides will check again that everyone feels they have a good level of fitness and are competent swimmers.

10:00AM Drive to Start Point

A 10km bumpy ride later and you will disembark from the pick-up truck and onto your water raft. The next three hours will then be spent paddling fiercely down the river rapids while getting sprayed from head to toe, all the while with the beautiful backdrop of rich tropical forests. The rafting experience starts off with a descent which gives you time to get used to the paddling. The guides also do an amazing job at teaching you the best technique to use and coach you throughout the experience. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro who just needs tips, they will give you whatever level of support you need.

The second half of the experience involves paddling through a series of medium sized rapids that gradually become more and more thrilling and get the adrenaline pumping. Enjoy the excitement of the fast paced activity and take a few moments, whenever you don’t need to paddle, to take in the beautiful countryside around you as well as a lungfull of fresh mountainous air. With countless intense rapids navigated perfectly by you and your team mates, the journey will come to an end back at the camp where you’ll feel a big sense of accomplishment.

1:00PM Lunch!

You made it! Your reward? A set lunch of delicious Thai cuisine and fresh fruits to finish. Typically, the meal will be a vegetarian or chicken dish with rice and a mixture of vegetables. You will be able to state your preference for food and note any allergies you have when you book onto the activity.

2:00PM Drop Off at Accommodation  

You should arrive at your hotel at approximately 3:00PM. Here, you can have a quick shower, pack your bags and check out before making your way to the airport. Make sure you check with your hotel regarding check out times. You can always check out in the morning and just store your luggage behind the front desk.

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand


We recommend staying at the Chiang Mai hostel for a budget stay. Only a 20 minute drive from the airport and just outside of the city, the rooms are really clean and modern with WI-FI and A/C. In an ideal location, you can stay here for $11SGD per dorm bed. Book here now!


Located near the Night Bazaar, the Raming Lodge Hotel & Spa is a modern mid-range hotel right in the centre of the city. A relatively new establishment, this stylish boutique hotel is the perfect place to stay if you enjoy a variety of night entertainment close by. For twin rooms, prices start at $55SGD.


For a luxurious nights stay, the Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai would be our first choice. A resort built to replicate a Lanna Kingdom complete with a temple, two swimming pools and a relaxing spa, a stay here is guaranteed to be both relaxing and lavish.  

Getting to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Singapore Airlines and Tiger fly directly to Chiang Mai almost daily and at numerous times, with a flight duration of approximately 3 hours. Prices normally range from $400 to $700 SGD depending on the fare type and time of travel. Departures from Singapore are at 8:50 AM, arriving in Chiang Mai at 10:45 AM. Similarly, they have flights leaving Chiang Mai at 6:00 PM, arriving back in Singapore at 10:05pm.

Getting around Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tuk-tuks tend to be more expensive in Chiang Mai as they work on a charter basis. We would recommend opting to get around by Rót daangs (red trucks), which work like hop on hop off shared taxis. Journeys start from 20B for a short trip. Renting motorbikes or scooters is also an extremely popular way of exploring Chiang Mai and can be easily rented from agencies and most hostels. Taxis are readily available.

What to pack for Chiang Mai, Thailand

A small carry-on suitcase or backpack would be sufficient for this weekend away. Apart from the basic clothes and toiletries needed for a weekend away, don’t forget your trainers and sports kit for the hike and bike day and your swimming kit for the canyon. All equipment is provided for the White Water Rafting activity. Also always check the weather forecast before you travel. The weather in Chiang Mai can be very unpredictable so be prepared.

'adventure in Chiang mai'

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