Biking in Chiang Rai, Part 2:
Huay Mark Liam, the Kok River
and Ban Ruammit
By Alberto de la Paz
Last time, I took you through some interesting sites within the city of Chiang Rai. Today, I will take you to some interesting sites nearby, that are still accessible by bicycle that is, if you are the more adventurous type. Our ride today will be a moderate 65-kilometer bike ride along the Kok River.
First, let me tell you about the waters of Chiang Rai namely, the Kok and Mekong Rivers. The Kok River is one of the tributaries of the mighty Mekong River and originates from Burma. It flows down through Thaton in Chiangmai, cuts along the city of Chiang Rai to finally meet with the Mekong River at Chiang Saen. Tourists can take a longtail boat from Thaton, all the way to Chaing Rai. Stops to interesting hilltribe villages are made along the way.
The Mekong River, which has its headwaters from southern China, snakes through several countries including Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally Vietnam. It is one of the most important rivers of Southeast Asia and is home to countless species of tropical freshwater fish, some of which still have to be discovered.
The next leg of our trip will be about 15 kilometers of asphalt road on rolling terrain. You will see some interesting landscapes and the Kok River on the right hand-side of the road. Along the way, you will pass P.K. Hotspring, a privately owned resort. They have rooms available for visitors and you can soak in a tub of hot spring water. This could be a good way of easing tired muscles.
My favorite haunt, however, is located about one kilometer beyond the end of the asphalt road. This is the Royal Forestry Departments Huay Mark Liam hot spring located on the bank of the Kok River. The area is nicely landscaped and since it is managed by the forestry department, there are lots of trees that will shade you from the searing sun.
There is a soaking pool located adjacent to a main thermal spring. Hot spring water is mixed with cooler water to make the temperature more bearable for bathers. The area around the wading pool is a picnic ground. People interested in camping can do so if they bring their own tent. There are shops nearby selling cold beers and soft drinks.
After lunch, start your trip going further westwards about 5 kilometers on dirt road in hilly terrain to Ban Kwewadam. Needless to say, the road can get quite muddy during the rainy season. About 1 kilometer from the hot spring is an Elephant riding station. Go further westwards to the hanging bridge across the Kok River. Be advised to take precautions when going down this road.
Upon crossing the hanging bridge at Kwedadam, you will find yourself on the north-side of the Kok River. The next 5 kilometers will yet again be dirt road on hilly terrain. Heading eastwards now, make your way to Ban Karieng Ruammit, where many tourists visit to ride elephants. The last kilometer or so as you near Ban KSarieng Ruammit will be paved.
Ban Karieng Ruammit has about 50 elephants that were used for logging before logging in the Kingdom was banned. In order to find employment for the elephants, they started taking tourists for rides. It has gotten to be very popular among tourists and this town has become quite developed.
Ban Ruammit, as it is also known, is also a jump-off point for several trekking trails in this area. There are several souvenir shops in this area. If you have problems carrying your souvenirs on your bicycle, you do not need to worry because you will find similar merchandize being sold at Chiang Rais night bazaar.
The last leg of your bike ride is a leisurely 20-km ride on asphalt road. Head to Ban Sai Moon, and turn right back towards town. There is an intersection at Ban Nam Lad. The most direct way going back downtown would be to go straight towards the Mae Fah Luang bridge.
We hope you take this bike ride around Chiang Rai. If you need assistance, you may contact PDA Tour near the Hilltribe Museum and Education Center.
Where to rent bikes:
You can rent bicycles from several places around Chiang Rai. A map has been provided showing the location of places where you can rent bicycles. Bicycle rental rates are from 80 to 150 baht per day. Have a nice trip while in Chiang Rai.