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Chiang Mai Outdoors

Elephant Keeper for a Day
Chiang Mai Outdoors
Northern Thailand's mountains and rivers mean that visitors to Chiang Mai can choose from a variety of outdoor adventures, from trekking through the jungle with elephants and hill tribes to game fishing and river rafting.
Photo by Daniel Nahabedian
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    Elephant Keeper for a Day
    Elephant Keeper for a Day
    Elephants have played an important role throughout Chiang Mai's history and are an enduring symbol of Thailand. They've been used in warfare, the logging industry, and even in the founding of temples such as Wat Doi Suthep. Thanks to a ban on logging instituted in 1986, most elephants today work only in tourism and entertainment. You can become a mahout (elephant keeper) for a day at the Patara Elephant Farm or visit the Elephant Nature Park to help feed or bathe the animals in a safe haven.
    Photo by Daniel Nahabedian
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    Whitewater Rafting
    Whitewater Rafting
    The mountainous regions around Chiang Mai are a natural venue for white-water rafting, especially when floodwaters fill the rivers after the May–October rainy season. The waterways are quite narrow with few boulders and the rapids tend to be fairly tame, and the routes have many twists and turns through the virgin forests. Most tour operators, such as Siam River Adventures or the Peak Adventure, will provide you with all equipment and allow you to combine your trip with other activities to complete your day. If the white-water action seems too intense, or you just don’t want to get wet, ask to go bamboo rafting along the quiet rivers to enjoy the scenery.
    Photo by Jane Sweeney/age fotostock
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    Trekking through the Mountains
    Trekking through the Mountains
    The north of Thailand—with its dense jungles and mountainous vistas—is a popular destination for adventure seekers. Head out to Doi Inthanon National Park, which is named for the tallest mountain in the country and contains numerous waterfalls, or drive up to Doi Luang Chiang Dao, the third-highest mountain in Thailand, to hike numerous trails with green peaks as a beautiful backdrop. Treks can be arranged over multiple days and can be combined with activities such as rock climbing, rafting, elephant riding, or staying overnight in hill-tribe villages and honing your survival skills. Ask at your hotel for their suggested guide or outfitter.
    Photo by Charles Mahaux/age fotostock
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    The Night Safari Nocturnal Zoo
    The Night Safari Nocturnal Zoo
    Established by the government to promote tourism, the Chiang Mai Night Safari is a nocturnal zoo hosting some 134 different species. Unlike in many traditional zoos, the natural day-night cycle of the animals is not affected, and they roam freely within natural enclosures that simulate their native habitats. Learn more about the residents during interactive exhibitions and hop on the evening bus to see giraffes and zebras in the Savanna Safari Zone and tigers and crocodiles in the Predator Prowl Zone. There are also day safaris available.
    Photo by Heinrich van den Berg/age fotostock
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    Cool Off in Chiang Mai's Waterfalls
    Cool Off in Chiang Mai's Waterfalls
    Because of its elevation and heavy rainfall, the region around Chiang Mai is rife with waterfalls. During weekends, locals often head out to picnic around popular spots such as Mae Sa Waterfall, about half an hour outside town in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The tiered cascades might not be very tall, but they are spaced out enough to offer swimming spots for cooling down during the hottest part of the day. For a unique experience, try walking up Bua Tong, known as "the sticky waterfall" thanks to its tiers of porous limestone that create traction with the skin and prevent sliding.
    Photo by Daniel Nahabedian
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    Fly through the Canopy
    Fly through the Canopy
    Discover a different view of the Thai rain forests by zip-lining through the canopy. A few companies (such as the popular Flight of the Gibbon) offer zip-line eco-adventures that also include such activities as abseiling, wildlife spotting, and crossing wobbly rope bridges. Along the way, guides share their knowledge of the local flora and fauna. Part of the fee goes toward protecting the native gibbons and supporting rain-forest conservation, which means tourists can have an enjoyable experience and contribute to a good cause at the same time.
    Photo by Greg Vaughn/age fotostock
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    Explore Chiang Mai on Two Wheels
    Explore Chiang Mai on Two Wheels
    If you’re looking for a more relaxed and urban outdoor adventure, check out the Old City and its surroundings from a bicycle. Many shops, hotels, and even restaurants here provide bike rentals by the hour or by the day, so you can meander past temples and along side streets at your leisure. Even though there are no bike lanes, getting around is fairly easy as there aren't many cars inside the Old City's walls. Alternatively, book a Segway tour with a specialized agency and enjoy a different perspective on town while learning about its history. You could also rent a scooter and explore the outskirts of Chiang Mai, away from the tourist trail.
    Photo by Angelo Cavali/age fotostock