– UPDATE APRIL 2017 – CHIANG MAI TUBING IS NO LONGER RUNNING –
Do you remember the madness of ‘In the Tubing’, Vang Vieng?
Experienced backpackers will likely remember the days (good old for some perhaps?) when the small mountainous village of Vang Vieng, Laos was overtaken by rowdy backpackers floating down the Nam Song River in rubber tubes stopping at bar after bar along the way. They also most likely know that while those days are not entirely over, things have certainly changed a bit!
So what happened? The party got a little too boisterous and the rope swinging a little too dangerous. Bars were closed and rumours started flying that Vang Vieng’s glory days were over. (Read our article to see what’s really happening in Vang Vieng).
The only problem is that backpackers still love tubing! What better way to relax than lying back in a tube, cooled by the water yet soaking in the sun, drinking a beer, and sharing laughs with friends? There’s a reason that Vang Vieng became popular among the backpacker circuit!
With so many people it’s a good thing that Vang Vieng has slowed down
A New Tubing Venue in Thailand?
That’s where Chiang Mai Tubing comes into the picture. A recently opened adventure company that offers tubing trips, just one-hour outside of the mountainous city of Chiang Mai.
English owner, Chris, and his Thai team, decided to get innovative and offer backpackers in Chiang Mai a whole new Tubing experience, one with a much bigger emphasis on relaxation, the environment (no glass bottles are used on the river), and an easy escape from the energetic city centre! Can you believe that there is even a beach in the mountains that these guys have created? But more on that later.
So lets take a look at a much different way to experience tubing while in South East Asia.
S.E.A Backpacker Spends a Day with Chiang Mai Tubing – A Very Different Experience!
Four tubes linked together filled with four giggling backpackers, one of us carried a paddle while the others carried bamboo sticks to help guide us down the river. We twist and turn through the bumpy river, holding on to each other and emitting squeals of glee as we traverse the bends up ahead. We snap photos, crack open a few beers, listen to music, let the sun wash over our faces, chat with other pods of tubers that we catch up with along the way, and take photos with the freely provided waterproof cameras in order to capture the events of the day!
Check out these amazing tubes with neck support and straps to keep you with your friends!
After the journey we relax at the beach club, which is the starting and end point of the trip. Sink our toes into the white sand and get a huge group game of volleyball going while we wait for our bbq food to cook.
We’re a competitive bunch and the game quickly picks up speed, spikes fly over the net, points are celebrated, and the rowdy participants break out into a healthy flushed glow of success.
Games on the volleyball court can become competitive fast!
A couple friends opt for the hammocks, swinging slowly underneath the straw huts they doze off exhausted from the rafting thrill of the afternoon.
Others play swingball challenging another group of travelers who we have met on the river (unfortunately our team lost, but no need to give away too many details).
The bbq food is ready and we make our way over to one of the huts set up in the sand.
Lunch is BBQ style, lounging on comfy pillows strewn out on the raised floor of the hut, a couple of us ordered burgers and hotdogs, the others munched on delicious kebabs, and for my personal vegetarian taste their was even a great veggie alternative to the meat fest, oh and we do also crack open a few more ice cold beers. Full, relaxed, and perfectly exhausted from the thrills of the day we head back to our hostel.
A beach in the mountains? Prepare to be impressed!
The craziest part all of all this is the fact that it took place in Thailand’s cultural capital, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Famous for elephant trekking, temples, monk chats, and impressive weekend markets, but beaches and tubing are not exactly the activities you would expect from this northern Thailand destination.
Located about an hour outside of the city, Chiang Mai Tubing has created a beach atmosphere (with real sand, that runs of 100% solar power!) right in the mountains on the banks of the Mae Ping River. The setting is pure genius combining two of the world’s most impressive landscapes into one space.
Obviously at Chiang Mai Tubing & Beach Club, the main event of the day is tubing, but what we loved is how much more is included in the price of your trip, (just 599 baht per person!) it’s easy to turn this experience into a whole day event beyond the two and a half hours of tubing.
Options at the Beach Club for indulging your competitive spirit include; tight rope walking, giant Jenga, giant Connect 4 (our personal favorite!), non-fire poi (much safer than the flaming alternative), Frisbee, volleyball, badminton, swingball, and swimming in the natural river. Plus, of course there is hammock ‘testing’ for all of you folks out there who have decided to embrace South East Asia’s slower pace of life.
A little swingball never hurt nobody!
A different way to get wet during Songkran!
The day trip is a brilliant way to relax outside of the city, especially with the upcoming water festival of Songkran only a couple of weeks away! When the city fills up mid April and becomes the must be spot in South East Asia you can enjoy four days of super soaker water gun action fun and then run for the hills for a day of relaxation and a lot less crowds!
You can BBQ right next to these huts, perfect for relaxing!
How to get there?
Transport picks up groups from the city center pick up points and then takes you the one-hour drive out of the city to the Chiang Mai Tubing & Beach Club (the prive drops to 200 baht for the day if you arrange your own transport to the beach club). Once here the options are endless, either jump right in the river and start the two and a half hour trip back to the beach or start with some games, whatever you fancy!