The Mae Ping River runs through Chiang Mai. It is a narrow, sleepy river that passes by Old Town. We signed up for a 2.5 hour river cruise/farmhouse lunch through Viator. Like most of the tours here in Chiang Mai, hotel pickup was included (as long as you are in the old city). Tours are offered hourly; we opted for a 10 am tour, so lunch would be around 11:30 am.
Our tour ended up being a little bit longer than planned; the van driver forgot to pick up a few passengers at their hotel. We boarded the boat, but went in circles and eventually ended up back at the dock. We were not told why, but found out when the passengers boarded. The first part of the trip took us through Chiang Mai; hostels, boarding houses, restaurants, and hotels lined the banks. As we continued, the scenery became more rural. Fishing is a popular pastime here. We saw many people sitting along the banks, trying their luck. We also passed a man using a net to fish. We were given a narration explaining the different places we passed, though it was very difficult to understand the tour guide.
Eventually, we reached the “farm” – actually, a tourist attraction, albeit a nice one. We didn’t really expect it to be an actual farm, given that boatloads of tourists are dropped off there hourly! We walked past many plants that were labeled with their traditional medicinal uses. We were seated in a covered area and lunch was brought to us – Khao Soi, which is a traditional northern Thai dish. It is a coconut based curry that is served over soft noodles, and topped with crispy noodles. Condiments are served on the side so you can doctor your curry to your own tastes – pickled radish, cilantro, shallots, brown sugar, and lime. After we finished the main course, we were served a fruit plate. My only wish was that we had longer to eat!
After lunch, we walked through the enclosed area; our guide pointed out some information about the pictures along the wall and demonstrated how rice is processed using traditional methods. Then, it was back to the boat and back to town. Because we had a late start, we got back to the dock late. The van picks up people hourly, so we had to wait a bit until the next van showed up. We were adjacent to a temple, so I took a few pictures to pass the time.
We very much enjoyed our river cruise; it was a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours and included a delicious lunch to boot!