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Khun Samak shows us some of the veggies in his farm

A Scorpion-Tailed river cruise is guaranteed to take you back to the history of Chiang Mai and of the Ping River. Scorpion-Tailed boats are traditional-style crafts initially built in the 18th century by a local shipbuilder who got inspired by the shape of a shell that was floating in the river. This shell had a scorpion inside who had his barbed tail holding up, and shipbuilder came up with the first version of the boat by copying this image.

Scorpion-Tailed boats were mainly used as cargo boats at the time, so once the northern railway route connected Chiang Mai with Bangkok, almost a century ago, Scorpion-Tailed boats quickly disappeared. This icon of the past has been revived thanks to the efforts of tourism industry master graduate of Chiang Mai University, Khun Songsri and knowledgeable tour guide Khun Samak. They have achieved to bring back to life the Scorpion-Tailed boat, that can today serve tourists who are interested in knowing some of the history of this great river, or who simply want to take in the atmosphere of times past.


Khun Samak farm

Khun Samak’s concept for the modern Scorpion-Tailed boat took into account several factors, but the most amazing achievement was to make them environmentally-friendly. They have been redesigned to include a benzene engine (the diesel version causes great pollution to the river), they have no toilet on board (to avoid waste going to the waters – you have been warned!), and are much much quieter than other boats. Also, they are super-safe, with the buoyancy compartments in the front keeping Scorpion-Tailed boats nicely afloat.

Khun Samak’s Scorpion-Tailed boat fleet today cruises the Ping River exploring the charm of Chiang Mai along its banks. The heart-centered cruises succeed in getting tourists to experience the atmosphere of the past while learning the river and the town recent history. Khun Samak himself is the tour guide on board, a sweet, knowledgable and funny one! He is a playful gentleman who adds a real educational experience to the cruise, and makes the trip entertaining armed with good jokes, century-old pictures and cute stories related to them.


Scorpion-Tailed river cruise

The cherry on the cake was a half-hour stop at the Scorpion-Tailed boat village. Set in tropical fruits garden by riverside, this little secret garden from Khun Samak is a botanical heaven where I learned so much about local plants and herbs. He also has different qualities of rice planted in small paddies! They then had us all seated and we were served fresh pineapple juice and a delicious dessert of sticky rice with mango, while Khun Samak showed us snakes and eels’ traps from the old times, and challenged us to drink a whisky aging with a scorpion and a snake inside the bottle. We all skipped that!

The entire Scorpion-Tailed boat cruise was a lovely and relaxing experience (a great thanks to the driver too!); I saw Chiang Mai in a very different way, while comfortably sitting and relaxing on a traditional-style vessel. Not to be missed.


–   historical background of the boat

–   fishing techniques from local fishermen

–   Khun Tok View Nam chedi

–   American Embassy

–   a girdered footbridge between the oldest trading community of Wat Gate and Warorot Market

–   Chiang Mai ‘s oldest shopping center

–   Chang pier, where hundreds of elephants would haul logs from the river in the old days

–   the site of the first city

–   the first bridge

–   the first Christian church

–   the first post office


Scorpion-Tailed boat landing is at Wat Sri Khong pier, 200m north to Nakorn Ping Bridge near Rim Ping Condo, on Charoenrat Road, Chiang Mai.

Winner of the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2013.

Pick up from different areas of town available.

Cruises last between one and a half-hour to two hours.

5 cruises daily: 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm.

Price per person is 500thb. Minimum booking 2 people. Call 081 9609398.

If you make your way there, beware of imitations and make sure you get to the right landing. Watch out for the Scorpion-Tailed River Cruise banner.

For further information about cruises on the scorpion-tailed boat, click on

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more than fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on

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