The Mae Kok River is a 177 mile (285 km) tributary of the Mekong that flows through northern Thailand. The city of Chiang Rai is located on the bank of the Mae Kok and the river serves an important role in transportation and tourism.
Traditional long-tail boats make daily trips along the Mae Kok between Chiang Rai and Thathon, a small town near the border with Myanmar. The ride is more about the journey than the destination – the spectacular mountain scenery and opportunity to visit hill-tribe villages along the way make this one of the most enjoyable river trips in Thailand.
For those who don't want to go all the way to Thathon, long-tail boats can be chartered for short sight-seeing trips along the river. Chiang Rai hotels and travel agencies also organize day trips along the river that include visits to villages, temples, and elephant riding.
The Mae Kok River flows through Chiang Rai just north of the city center. Long-tail boats can be found at the boat dock northwest of the city near the Mae Fah Luang Bridge. Boats bound for Thathon depart in the morning and the current schedule and prices are posted at the dock. The ride takes three to four hours each way, depending on water levels.
Sight-seeing boats can be chartered anytime and the price will depend on how far you want to go. Tell the boat driver in advance if you would like to stop at any of the villages along the river.