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Bangkok Travelbug July 2017 Exploring the Mae La River Singburi
July 06, 2017

Exploring the Mae La River, Singburi

Welcome back, dear friends and readers. In my early years in Bangkok, a friend invited me to a restaurant called Mae La Pla Pow or Mae La Barbecued Fish. The tasty barbecued fish was memorable. Back then, I thought Mae La was the name of the restaurant owner.

Last December when we were visiting Bang Rachan District in Singburi, we saw the Mae La fish restaurant signs along the way. On further exploration, we found out that Mae La is actually the name of a river in Singburi and it’s also famous for its Snakehead fish or pla chon Mae La.

Let’s take a tour of this river and sample the fish for which it’s famous.

Mae La River

Contents (click on the link to go directly to the topic)

The Mae La River Singburi

The Mae La River is formed from the merging of several waterways starting in the northern region of Singburi. The river flows south parallel to the Chao Phraya River before it joins the Noi River which flows through Singburi, Ang Thong before it re-joins the Chao Phraya in Ayutthaya.

The Mae La in contrast to the Noi is relatively short, from the headwaters in the north to the point where it joins the Noi River, it’s about 15 km.

Calm and peaceful

It’s scenic river, clean, unspoiled and teeming with fish. During our drive along the bank, we didn’t encounter very many cars as we passed verdant rice fields.

Rice fields along the banks of the Mae La

There were hardly any boats in the river except for the lone fisherman casting his nets.

Fisherman on the Mae La


The Snakehead fish of Mae La

The clean waters of the Mae La are ideal breeding grounds for various types of fresh water fish. The most popular fish from this river is the pla chon or Snakehead fish (Channidae) , a tasty and nutritious fish.

Snakehead fish

These are fresh water fish native to East Asia, characterized by their long dorsal fins and these fish can grow to between 30 – 90 cm or 12 – 35 inches.

Owing to the freshness, these fish are very popular and a number of fish restaurants have sprouted up on the banks of the Mae La. We visited the Ban Suan Mae La Ka Rong near Wat Laem Kang and the bridge spanning the Mae La.

Can you find the restaurant?

Ban Suan Mae La is very well hidden among the trees, we almost missed it if not for the sign board and the cars parked along the road. It’s a beautiful restaurant with the dining areas dispersed among the trees. The food was delicious, of course we ordered the barbecued Snakehead fish and a hot and spicy curry fish (kaang pa).

Our lunch under the foliage


Breeding program for the Snakehead fish

With the strong demand for the Snakehead, it can go extinct if no efforts are taken to increase the stocks. The same would apply to the other fish. This required a comprehensive program to restore and conserve the Mae La River.

The river was dredged and cleaned up to improve the breeding grounds for the fish. To breed the Snakehead, a royal park Mae La Maha Rachanusorn Park was constructed to commemorate the 60th birthday of HM King Rama IX.

Mae La Maha Rachanusorn Park

Furthermore, from 16 May – 15 September every year, fishing in the Mae La is prohibited. This is the season crucial for reproduction when the female fish are laying their eggs in the water to be fertilised by the males.

The annual "No Fishing" season

In addition, special efforts are also taken to breed these fish in the park and then release them into the river periodically.

This program has been going on for the last 20 or more years. The clean water in the Mae La and continued supply of the Snakehead fish is testimony to its success. The park provides accommodation to visitors as well.

Accommodation in the park

Along the way on the east bank of the Mae La, we came across some more huts for those who would like a taste of country life. The area is very peaceful and scenic and it’s an ideal weekend getaway.

Huts for country living

View from the east bank


Our thanks

Our thanks to the residents of Tambon Mae La, Amphur Bang Rachan who were very friendly and helpful during our visit to the area.


Map to Mae La attractions, Singburi

If the map doesn’t appear, click on this link

How to get there

By car

Drive up north along highway 32 from Ayutthaya, turn left to route 3026 then left again into route 3030 till you get to the Mae La. There are roads running along both banks of the river so take your pick.

If you intend to visit Mae La Maha Rachanusorn Park first, then take the road on the east bank. If you want to have lunch first, take the west bank, that’s where the restaurants are.


Mae La Maha Rachanusorn Park
Tambon Mae La
Amphur Bang Rachan

Tel no: 03-650-1416

Opening hours and admission fees

Opening hours every day from 0800 – 1800 hours
Admission is free


Next month

Pa Mok Cultural Centre, Ang Thong

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Till next month then.

Eric Lim
Tour Bangkok Legacies
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