The mighty Mae Ping River
Ninety-five km north of Chiang Mai, the river breathes to life as a small clear green water creek and winds and twists itself through undisturbed woods and quiet farm land. One can hear flocks of native and migrating birds, the water buffalo’s bell and other creatures, thirsty for the fresh and cool waters, linger along the shores. Here and there a blue pipe with a small motor grinning promises irrigation for the small farmer. And then the jungle swallows the river up again with a thick cover of trees brushing the precious liquid, and fallen and uprooted trees tell of pasts floods. Experience the undisturbed silence with the relentless current gurgling over the rocky bottom of the river seeking the path of least resistance. The presence of children, as the water nears the village, turns the river into twists of joy as the laughter of the youngsters echoes through the woods. More fallen trees with their monstrous root works pointing into the sky can only hint of the powerful surge that must have gone through this valley. The river widens now as it approaches the Chiang Dao Valley still acting unruly, with overgrown turns and spring like river tongs proudly presenting the wave trails as they lead our eyes to views of Chiang Dao Mountain. And it seems the river also wants to get a really good look of this incredible peak twisting and turning, so all 180 degrees of the mountain can be admired. The last tooth of the Himalayas they call it, with its jagged edges it cuts through the blue sky dwarfing the neighboring hills. Villagers are now more plentiful, as they extract nourishment from the belly of their flowing dinner table; the nets are thrown, and the fishing rod patiently aims toward the center, the snorkelers dive under the grass covering the shores and livestock takes a well deserved bath. The Chiang Dao valley’s narrow funnel speeds up the current and the Mae Ping River squeezes through to the Mae Ngat Valley.
Mae Ngat Valley
The greenest valley of them all lies west of the largest water reserve in the region, the Siri lanna Reservoir or Mae Ngat Dam releases its water regularly to feed the vast fields below and joins the Mae Ping River for a ride into the Mae Taeng Forest Reserve; with plenty of water large trees are flourishing in this uninhabited region. The swift waters being slowed down by the high head Mae Taeng Dam create an eerie calmness that surrounds us as we cross the forest reserve. Only monks in a floating hut, guarding this national resource breaks the awe. Finally, the Mae Teang Dam seems to separate the encroaching civilization in the south from the undisturbed river in the north.
It seems man has gone mad for the next 10 km; the precious sand must at all costs be extracted and used to support the ‘square world’ that we construct for ourselves and obviously so much admire.
And then all the enterprising subsides and the river shores breathe a healthy green again. The now wide river keeps the birds flying across long enough that the bird watchers find good climes for the native feathers. The river gets lazy as lots of smaller rivers join it including the Mae Taeng River. And so the mighty Mae Ping River with its full belly rolls itself towards Chiang Mai. Encroaching villages, some friendly respecting the purity of this fine river and some not, carve their stake, but even here the river rules with its powerful floodwaters and broken down bridges and caved in concrete banks tell the story. As the water nears the center of Chiang Mai, it restfully flows at minimal speed past the buildings and modern bridges. Slowly and patiently carrying dinner boats, small fishing canoes and kayakers training in the evening sun, the mighty Mae Ping heads south from here and becomes one of the largest rivers in Thailand as it joins the Chao Phraya River heading to the Gulf of Thailand.
As nature seekers and exploring kayakers, we can’t discriminate against nature’s path, as humans we have to except that our kind is part of that nature for better or for worse.
Your River Enthusiast
The Mae Ping Creek , join us as we step back in time and pace .