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Whitewater / Blackwater Kayaking in the Northern Hills

Pai Travel Blog

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kickin my feet up

Whitewater kayaking means kayaking downriver when the water is low enough so that rocks make rapids. Blackwater kayaking is kayaking through caves. So really, whitewater/blackwater kayaking is a fancy way of saying kayaking over rocks, and under rocks.  In any case, it was maybe the part of my trip I was most looking forward to.

Our little mini tour group left from the lodge with inflatable open kayaks in tow. There was an Australian couple, 2 Australian dudes, and me. The Thai guide looked us up and down and pointed the couple into one kayak. He then directed the two dudes into their own kayaks. He pointed at me and directed me into his kayak.

But... but.... Extreme Mimi wants to kayak by herself... Extreme Mimi wants to battle the river.

crocodile rock!
.. .Oh hell, fine. I get in the kayak and kick my feet up. It's the most relaxing whitewater kayaking trip anyone's ever had. The dude won't even let me out of the kayak when we get stuck on the rocks. At least I get to take some cool pictures since I don't have to paddle.

The kayak trip is still pretty cool despite by inability to help. It would have been awesome if I had been in the mood to relax. We floated down the river by the lodge until the water got rough and rocky. We'd paddle around through the rough sections, often getting stuck and turned around, before reaching stretches of cool, shady waters where we could just enjoy the scenery of gorgeous limestone mountains covered in lush green vines, bamboo and twisting trees. Soon, we kayaked straight into Tham Lod cave, past bamboo rafters and under bat colonies, jagged stalagmites and pillars stretching around us.

our guide, poking the coffin

We got picked up down the river and driven back to the lodge. Mike and Lawrence, two of the Australians, wanted to go to back to the cave, and I decided to go with as I had gone too late the day before to take the tour. We walked down to the cave later in the evening and bought a trip into it on one of the bamboo rafts.

The cave tour included a guide that led us through several chambers of the cave, including the "coffin room" with hundreds-year old coffins from some long departed tribe. There was also a cave painting, which unfortunately was very faded. Of course, there were lots of beautiful limestone formations -- draping chandeliers of white rock, Lovecraft-esque walls of ghostly twists and turns, pillars melting into the ground, and lots of formations named after animals -- the frog, the elephant, the crocodile.

... Cave formations are a lot like clouds and constellations -- What they look like is often in the eye of the beholder. The crocodile really looked like a crocodile, though. We took turns manhandling it like the Crocodile Hunter.

We raft to the cave exit and climb up into the cave walls while throngs of swallows circle the cave to find a nook for the night. There's hundreds of them, swarming, calling out, and swooping into their limestone shelters for the night. As the sun sets, we walk back to the lodge for cold beers and warm food with new friends.

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kickin my feet up
kickin my feet up
crocodile rock!
crocodile rock!
our guide, poking the coffin
our guide, poking the coffin
rafting through the cave
rafting through the cave
bamboo raft
bamboo raft
cave exit
cave exit
bamboo rafters in wait
bamboo rafters in wait
kayaking out the cave
kayaking out the cave
me and my special needs helmet
me and my special needs helmet
elephant
"elephant"
faded cave painting
faded cave painting
remains of a coffin
remains of a coffin
human bone fragments
human bone fragments
Pai
photo by: Stevie_Wes