The Mae Nam Pai or the Pai River is the longest river in Mae Hong Son & originates at Thanon Tongchai at the Danlao mountain range within the province. The river flows south through Pai & passes close to Amphur Muang, Mae Hong Son to eventually join the Salawin river in Kaya, Myanmar. The total length of the river being around 180km.
Throughout most of the year the river is relatively shallow except during the wet when incessant rain can turn this mild & gentle tributary into a raging unforgiving wall of water as flash floods cause extensive damage across the low lying valley plains.
When I first came to Thailand 18 years ago, I worked for Santana Diving & Canoeing in Phuket. I remember the owner, Horst Heinrich, being featured in a German magazine as he took his inflatable north American J-stroke kayak’s onto the Pai river to explore the stretch all the way up to the canyon, a part of the river that once you enter there’s no turning back because the walls are so steep, you can’t climb out.
In those days it was difficult to imagine travelling to Chiang Mai, let alone Pai. What was even more surprising was that when I finally arrived in Pai in 2005, I found out that the owner of Thai Adventure Rafting, Guy Gorias, had discovered & rafted & mapped the river 6 years before Horst in 1993. He effectively created white water rafting in Thailand & is still its premier operator 24 years later!