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Mae Ngat Dam (and staying in their floating houses)

There are SO many things to do in Chiang Mai, when you’re in the North of Thailand. Mae Ngat Dam (and their floating houses) offer the most peaceful break imaginable, and it’s only an hour or so from Chiang Mai city center.

I had heard rumours of Mae Ngat Dam (or Mae Ngat Reservoir) more than 10 years ago when I first moved to Chiang Mai to teach English, but I had never made it out this way. I had no idea how it worked, how to organise it or if it was worth the hassle. This time, my mum is in Thailand, I recently got married, and it was time to destress so I made the effort and made it to Mae Ngat Dam floating houses for a night. And it was gorgeous!

mae ngat dam floating houses
Mae Ngat Dam Floating Houses

What is Mae Ngat Dam?

So what is all the fuss about? Ok, so 50km north of Chiang Mai is a man-made dam, Mae Ngat Dam. It’s in the mountains, the air is fresh, as is the water, and it’s quite simply beautiful.

Thailand is great at this stuff. Almost all large dams around the country do this. Rather than let it just sit there, beautiful. They build floating houses and floating hotels on the lake. And the domestic tourism market loves it. You pay your money, get a boat to the floating house, and stay there for 1 night or 2 nights. Food is normally included, and you bring your own snacks and drinks. Perfection.

And what are these floating houses?!

The floating houses are actually floating hotels. And normally they’re quite basic. A wooden hut with a basic bed. Floating on the reservoir. There is also staff who stay there semi-permanently. The staff sort out 3 meals a day for you. And the hotels normally provide free equipment to keep you entertained – stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, life jackets. And they normally have soft drinks and beers for sale too.

Some of the houses even have water slides built onto their set-ups. And now, some of the floating houses have gone a little more upmarket. WiFi, hot showers, air-conditioning. I stayed in the swankiest of the Mae Ngat Floating Houses – Velaloy Floating Hotel. Not cheap at 4kTHB for 2 people ($120), or 8k for a 2 bedroom suite ($240), but well worth it for the truly relaxing experience.

Mae Ngat dam has about 10 (or more?) different little floating hotels. Prices start about 800THB per night ($20-$25) if you want to save your money.

Velaloy floating house
Arriving at Velaloy floating house

Where is Mae Ngat Dam

Mae Ngat Reservoir and dam are a 1 hour drive north from Chiang Mai. It’s in a district called Mae Tang. Mae Tang is famous for Si Lanna National Park, within which Mae Ngat Dam is found. And it’s hugely popular with Thais to escape the heat of Bangkok (or Chiang Mai) and get into northern Thailand’s beautiful nature in the mountains.

How to get to Mae Ngat Dam (from Chiang Mai)

The easiest way is to rent a scooter and drive. Scooter rental in Chiang Mai is as little as 200THB per day ($6!). I drove my wife’s car, and the drive is beautiful.

You can also take a taxi from Chiang Mai, expect to pay around 1000THB ($30) one-way.

TOP-TIP:

Stop on the way at fleur cafe & eatery. It’s GORGEOUS! One of the best coffee shops in Chiang Mai for sure.

Fleur Cafe and Eatery
Fleur Cafe and Eatery

How do you organise your trip to Mae Ngat Dam?

As I mentioned Mae Ngat Dam is within Si Lanna National Park. Once you either drive, rent a scooter, or take a taxi to Mae Ngat Dam, you enter the national park and pay your 200THB national park fee. All good.

At this spot, they will direct you to the ‘shore’ of the reservoir. Here, there is a lineup of Thai-style longboats who can take you to your prebooked floating hotel.

If you book with Velaloy, the boat trip is included and they’ll be expecting you. So you don’t have to pay.

If you book with a cheaper place, just go and speak to the boat guys and tell them which floating hotel you’re in and they will quote you a price (normally around 300THB per person, $9 or so). And normally the boat rides take between 15 to 35 minutes depending on how far into the reservoir they go.

how to go to Mae Gnat floating houses
These boats live here, they’ll take you to your floating hotel

Things to do around Mae Ngat Dam

Once you’re in your floating hotel, you’re ‘stuck’ there for the 1 (or 2) nights that you booked. The hotel organises all your food, and they normally have snacks and drinks for sale too. BUT stop off at a 7/11 and bring more snacks too, because your choices will be limited on the floating house.

In terms of activities on any of the Mae Ngat floating houses, they all offer the same things to do:

  • Stand-up paddle board (only the posher places have these)
  • Kayaks
  • Ice and ice buckets for your alcohol!
  • Water slides (this is a feature of the cheaper floating houses believe it or not!)

Other than that, coming to Mae Gnat floating houses is all about chilling. Bring a book, enjoy a glass of wine. Breath the fresh, clean northern air deep into your lungs. Whether you live in Thailand, or you’re a tourist, this is just what the doctored ordered. It’s pure bliss.

Admittedly, I came with my mum and my wife, so we kicked back and did nothing. The floating hotels are also a great spot to come in groups, and Thais do so regularly. Plenty of booze, music, karaoke and drunken waterslides! So it can offer something to both sides of the coin.

floating house mae ngat
Some of the floating houses look like this!

Best time to visit Mae Ngat Dam

Much like the best time to visit Chiang Mai, is the western ‘winter’. So November to February. It’s actually chilly (by thai standards!), and the mist and fog coming off the mountains is spectacular. Also, generally no rain.

That being said, coming in hot season (February to June) is also pretty great. As you have direct access to the fresh water reservoir to constantly escape the hear, so all good then too.

The last season, July to October, is rainy season. If this is your only chance to visit Mae Ngat, I’d still do it to be honest. Generally speaking, it ‘should’ only rain for 1-2 hours per day.

Mae Ngat Dam; My personal experience with my Mrs and my Mum

I have been building my house in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the last year. And I got married in Chiang Mai in December 2021 (check our wedding video here!), so I found myself in the North of Thailand a lot. So much so that my mum flew over and get herself an apartment in Chiang Mai for 3 months!

Anyway, Jaa, my wide, and I bought my mum a really cool Christmas present. Paramotoring in the mountains of Chiang Mai!

Paramotor Chiang Mai thailand
That’s me and my mum, paramotoring in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

So we organised that for the Saturday morning for me and my mum, then after we finished the paramotor we drove the last 10 minutes to Mae Ngat reservoir. The paramotor is less than 10km from the dam. Perfect!

I had booked 1 night in the 2-bed suite at Velaloy Floating Resort (they don’t have a website – welcome to Thailand!), but you can organise it through their FaceBook page HERE. With the (kinda pricey) rates at Velaloy, the boat was included, so after we reached the Si Lanna national park gate, we were pointed down to the reservoir waterfront. You can park your scooters or car here, and then hop on the boat which takes you directly to your accommodation.

mae tang reservoir

Our boat ride was about 30 minutes. And it’s a lovely journey. Mountains on each side, longtail boat all to yourself. Passing over floating hotels en route. Really cool.

Once you arrive, the staff meet you at the dock. Most of the floating hotels only have2 or 3 rooms, so if you come in a small group, you’re normally booking out the whole place. We were the only people at ours, so it was paradise.

The rooms open directly onto the water. It’s spectacular. Floor to ceiling windows, with views, sunrises and sunsets, and sun loungers ready for book and wine.

velaloy floating resort
Our room at the velaloy floating resort
maura ward
My mum and me putting the world to rights

We booked 1 night, which was perfect for a low-key approach. If I come with a group, I’d probably do 2 nights. One night chill, then the morning of activities, then a few drinks on night 2, and home on day 3.

As I mentioned, all the food is included. We’re all vegetarian, so we told them in advance and they rustled us up a really tasty dinner and breakfast. When you arrive first, you tell them when you’d like to eat your meals.

Mae tang chiang mai

And with that, there’s not much else to say. We did very little but chat and relax. And it was heaven. This place will be my go-to place to recover after trips, ultra marathons, work stresses. You can’t fail to recharge here.

mae tan dam

Final thoughts

There are a few different options for places to stay. If you can afford it, go a little more upmarket and stay at the Velaloy. Hot showers, proper food, comfortable beds. That’s the ticket. The others are cheaper, but once you add your boat trip, your meals, and the relative discomfort, it’s better to pay a little more and have a much more comfortable experience. I’ve been on both sides of this coin in my life, and I know which I prefer!

Anyway, if you’re in Chiang Mai, mark this down. And let me know if you make it, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

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One thought on “Mae Ngat Dam (and staying in their floating houses)

  1. Love the blogs and I hope that I’d be able to go through all of them and I know that they’ve got good stuff! Thanks! It was great advice!! And the pics are very beautiful.

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