The weather app on my phone read 96 degrees for Chiang Mai and in Thailand that inevitably comes with humidity. We couldn’t image walking around the city in the heat of the day, so that meant we needed to find a water activity of some sort. We had seen photos of people jumping off high platforms into green water surrounded by gorgeous landscapes at the Hang Dong Canyon, AKA the “Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai” and had to see if for ourselves.
We decided to take a Grab (Thailand’s equivalent of Uber). The price for a Grab was about the same price as renting scooters. In a car we could be in air-conditioning and have someone else drive so it seemed like a win. After about a 30-minute drive we showed up to the canyon. Although it may not compare to the true Grand Canyon in size or grandeur, it was still quite beautiful. The rust-colored walls contrasted with the blue-green water resulting in a picturesque landscape and I couldn’t wait to go play.
The area has numerous dirt walking paths above the water. These provided great views to see the canyon and the opportunity to take overview photos. We came across a group of people jumping into the water who were carefully watched by the lifeguard nearby. They took their time and finally coaxed themselves into jumping. Each person in the group jumped, resulting in a quick scream and a splash of water. After they had finished it was my turn and after looking down at the water I could see why it took them so long to jump. Without any time to think it over the lifeguard began giving me the countdown. I see why counting down works on children, it really adds pressure to whatever is happening. If he hit one and I hadn’t jumped that lifeguard would have thought me a coward, and I needed to show this random dude that I wasn’t scared. So, I jumped, froze in the air, and hit the water. Some people scream when they jump, I tend to watch the water rush towards me resulting in full paralysis until the water covers my body. Even with my body unable to move, I love every moment of the free fall.
After jumping in I was surprised to find that the water was not what I expected. It was not the relaxing escape from the heat that I was used to from the Pacific Ocean or the many freshwater lakes in California. It was more like bathtub water which was no longer hot enough to soothe the muscles or cool enough to be truly refreshing. The water was the ideal temperature for a nap. However, the amazing views made everything better and that's coming from someone who had to leave his glasses behind in the locker.
The park itself has been updated recently and was split up into two parts, one of which is a more natural park to swim around, relax by the tables at the restaurant, and jump off a few high cliffs (damn do I wish I could do something more exciting than just freeze with fear). The other half of the Canyon had been turned into a water park with inflatables, music, water cannons and other fun looking toys. We did not know they were separate so by the time we realized we had to pay more money to enter the water park, we were done with the bathtub water for the day. However, I think the more relaxed atmosphere of the natural side of the canyon is more our speed.
The canyon itself could not have been more scenic. The high walls with the bright green plants sticking out from the reddish-brown earth surround the wonderfully green tinted water. It was truly a sight to see and I’m already looking forward to returning to the Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai.