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The Ping river (Mae Naam Ping or Lum Naam Ping) is 569 km long and of great importance to Chiangmai. It's one of the keys to really getting a feel for the northern Thai lifestyle. It is rarely explored by visitors. Most visitors to Chiangmai see very little of the Ping river : they may get a glimpse of it while crossing one of Chiangmai's numerous bridges, or spend some time in any one of the guesthouses, hotels or restaurants that line its banks; but few visitors seek out the river or even begin to imagine what insights into Chiangmai and its people the Ping has to offer.

A great way to see the river is to take a long-tail boat ride from the city to the north into the countryside. Visitors can also see the gracious teak residences located on the banks of the river. The Boat landing is at Wat Chai Mongkol, Charoenprathet Road opposite Alliance Francaise. Call Tel. 274822 now and the Mae Ping River Cruise for free transport. By the time you finish this article you can be boating on the river.

For over 600 years the Mae Naam Ping has been a major source of water for Chiangmai. Historically, the Ping river provided the people in and around Chiangmai with water for washing, bathing, irrigating their gardens and paddy land the river was also as source of food and was used to transport people and goods. At the turn of the century it was estimated that more than a thousand boats moved along its course between Chiangmai and Tak.

People are appreciating the beauty and peaceful atmosphere on the river more and more. Now the area of Charoenraj Road along the river has several really good restaurants and places that offer entertainment in the evenings.

Riverside Restaurant and Bar is a well known place since it has been serving visitors and residences for nearly 12 years. It started as a simple tea house in a two room wooden structure. Through the years it has been expanded several times but there's something that attracts nearly every visitor to Chiangmai so it seems that the more it expands, the more guests visit every evening. There are several bands and types of music performed throughout the evening until 1.30 am plus they also have their own parking lot which is a great convenience for guests. The food quality is always good plus the servings are generous at reasonable prices. Wine and ginger beer are the latest additions to the menu offering Thai, and western food. Save room for apple pie!

Located just nearby is the Gallery Restaurant & Bar, a unique setting that combines a gallery with unusual paintings and beautiful items made by local artists with the restaurant with two terraces sloping down to the river's edge. The teak building is over 100 years old. The Gallery has its own wine bar offering wines from all over the world to go with the delicious Thai food served there. Try the "Haw Moke Talay" or Seafood Mousse steamed Thai style for a real treat.

There are several other restaurants and bars offering entertainment every evening on this part of the river. The river is the place to be in November when the romantic moonlight festival called Loy Krathong is celebrated. Loy Krathong is the name known throughout the country of Thailand. In Chiangmai dialect it is known at Yee Peng. Since 1996 is the 700th year of Chiangmai, this year's celebrations will be more grand than ever with a parade through the city and lighted procession on the river. Plenty of fireworks and colorful pageantry for visitors.

Restaurants are not limited to Charoenraj Road area. In the Ban Pa Tun area only 1 km north of the bridge, the Sukhothai Restaurant offers Thai food with delightful variations. This is branch 2 of the famous Sukhothai Restaurant in Dortmund, Germany. The owner of the Sukhothai restaurant is proud that her Dortmund restaurant was selected third best of all Asian Restaurants in Germany. German food such as rolled pork stuffed with vegetables with delightful brown sauce is available along with imported wines. The Banjoman entertains guests with country and blue grass music at 9.30 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Traveling to the south of Chiangmai city, another restaurant on the river is Le Coq d'Or. For 25 years the Le Coq d'Or Restaurant has been one of southeast Asia's fine dining venues. It is unquestionably a Chiangmai landmark now because it has been written up in Time in the Best of Asia (1995 edition) Le Coq d'Or is 'full of coziness and warm hospitality" and the "expectation of good food, good wine and proper service is not disappointing." Recently unveiled is a stylish new facility in cool air condition comfort 'under the stars' and gazing across the flood lit gardens from the new all-glass 'Garden Room'. For the ultimate in personal service, this restaurant provides chauffeured transport in a classic antique London Taxi to and from your accommodation.

River Ping Palace is a collection of 100 year old teak houses and pavilions and managed by a trio of French expatriates. The food is prepared from Thai recipes found in a cookbook dating back 70 years old . In the evenings the entertainment is performed by village folk graceful dancing and singing accompanied by musicians playing musical instruments of this part of Thailand. A gentle Lanna Thai experience that visitors search for is found at the River Ping Palace on Charoenprathet Road near the Mengrai Bridge.

Whether one explores the Ping by bicycle, motorcycle, car or on a long-tail boat, the experience is worth it. You will encounter villages where the daily lifestyle follows the dictates of the seasons and age old traditions. Finding a place to eat and a cool refreshment is very easy by following our recommendations outlined above. All the restaurants are listed inside this magazine plus their locations are indicated on our colorful maps throughout this issue.

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