There are lots of rivers to paddle around Chiang Mai. I don't care much for the city of CM I would stay in the hills near Doi Saket. Anyway! Info from January 2014:
Spent my time paddling the Mae Wang river (see post) very fun and scenic class II-III or more depending on water levels. My favorite.
Ping river is OK for floats. Try the section north of CM just south of Chiang Dao. I went on a decent/fair stretch above the diversion dam off of Liap Klong Alley North of 1001 road NE of CM 1 hour drive. LAunch from bridge at Muang Kham 12 kms by road NE of diversion dam. Maybe 20kms of river from bridge to bridge. Past diversion dam you can hike over and continue down river to next bridge.
I wish I had time to do these 2 sections while in CM: The Mae Chaem river looks great. Look at Google maps just west of Doi Inthanon National Park there is a 30-40kms section with no roads and another 30 km section further south. A local guide told be it was a long class I-II paddle in a hard shell but great camping for the self sufficient.
Pai river from Pai to Mae Hong Son
Class III water on the Mae Taeng river NNW of CM. Most rafting trips from CM run this. It's pretty straight forward.
Lots of open water possibilities on the reservoirs/lakes NW of CM
Thailand, Cambodia, India... the Khumbu.
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