Scenic boat trips on the Pai River start from Huai Deua, 7km southwest of town near the Mae Hong Son Resort. Any travel agent can fix up an organized tour, but the cheapest way to do it is to rent a motorbike and approach the owners at Huai Deua boat station yourself. Twenty minutes downriver from Huai Deua (B600) will get you to the “long-neck” village of Ban Nam Phiang Din, but you’re better off enjoying the river for its own sake, as it scythes its way between cliffs and forests towards the nearby Burmese border.
A small stretch of the Pai River to the northwest of Mae Hong Son is clear enough of rocks to allow safe clearance for bamboo rafts. The journey takes between one and one-and-a-half hours, as the rafts glide down the gentle river, partly hemmed in by steep wooded hills, and it can be combined with an hour-long elephant ride through the jungle and a relatively easy three- to four-hour trek. Rose Garden Travel can fix this combined trip up for you, including all transfers, for B1450 per person (cheaper if you have a big group).