While we laid low most of the time we were in Chiang Mai, (tiger wrangling being a notable exception) Wim, Dave and I did wake up early one morning to take part in an activity that combines two of my top interests: seeing the jungle and not hiking.
I am often startled to find that I have in fact enthusiastically signed up for hiking-like activities. Still, when thinking rationally I have to conclude that there are far more enjoyable (read: lazy person-friendly) ways to enjoy the great outdoors. For example, I find that I am quite fond of sailing above the trees, looking down and enjoyed the scenery with a bit of wind in my hair. Which is how I found myself at Flight of the Gibbons in Chiang Mai.
Our day started at 9am with a long drive and a touch of car sickness. During the ride we were entertained by an episode of The Amazing Race Thailand episode in which Flight of the Gibbons was featured. I was mainly just entertained by being in a mini-van with a TV in it. I’m easily impressed.
As soon as we arrived we were liability waived up and kitted out. At this point I was super grateful to be wearing what my sister refers to as my Heinously Embarrassing Old Lady Shoes (but in reality are 5 year-old Sketchers slip-ons) because anyone wearing flip-flops had to have them tied on to their feet. So basically we all looked equally ridiculous.
Finally we were ready to fly. I’ve been ziplining before in Honduras and in Southern Thailand, but it never hurts to get a little practice in skills such as braking-in-time-to-not-slam-into-boulders-or-tree-trunks.
Wim and Dave are super adventurers and last year went ziplining in Costa Rica. Between the three of us we are pretty much experts now, methinks.
I mean, check out Dave with the no-hand action!
Of course all my jokes about hiking aside there is a fair bit of walking between zips. Luckily the witty guides kept everyone laughing loud enough to drown out my wheezing and heavy breathing.
It was during one of those short little walks that we actually saw two gibbons! I have to admit I’m suspicious of whether or not they were actually wild… the guides warned us not to get too close because “they are dangerous” but I think it might have to do more with “they are tied to those trees so we can guarantee sightings.”
Monkey sightings aside, I appreciated Flight of the Gibbons’ attempts to educate about the forest and the forces that are threatening it. One sign along the way shared the scary statistics about rainforest loss; every minute we lose the equivalent of 20 football fields, every week the equivalent of the size of Luxembourg and every year the equivalent of the size of Ireland.
What set this apart from any ziplining I have done in the past was the absolute massive size and variety of the course. In addition to straight zipping we did tandem zips, superman jumps and even a bit of abseiling.
While safety was definitely a top priority, guides encouraged a bit of fun and were happy to let us go hands-free on the lines or even play-fight on the tandem zips. I think both those things would be no-nos in a lot of places but it contributed to the fun nature of the day.
The biggest adrenaline rush by far was the superman jump. Somehow I had moved my way to the front of the line, where the guide clipped a harness to my back and told me to jump off the wooden platform we were standing on, so high I couldn’t see the ground through the treetops below me. I grasped at the air, not sure what to do with my hands. I froze. “I can’t go first!” I pleaded. The guide laughed, gave me a little push, and laughed harder as I went swooping into the forest, screaming like the gibbons the ziplining course was named for.
Can I just interrupt this post to ask: how cute is this couple? This meet-up in Chiang Mai was part of their three country honeymoon through Southeast Asia.
But back to business. Like I said, pretty ideal way to explore the natural beauty surrounding Chiang Mai, no?
A few times during the course we did a bit of abseiling to move from platform to platform. It was a surprisingly different sensation considering you are simply moving vertically rather than horizontally.
But it is a bit intimidating to look down and see this, then jump through the hole!
This final abseil, which brought us back to earth after hours of zipping from platforms to treehouses, was by far the most impressive. Check out that drop!
Once we were back on flat ground we were served a delicious but late lunch. If you come ziplining be sure to eat a massive breakfast, we were almost fainting on the final few zips! After lunch we were taken to a somewhat dinky waterfall, where we sat with our feet in the cool water for 20 minutes before heading back into the van and towards Chiang Mai.
What were my overall impressions? It was an extensive adventure course through a beautiful rainforest, and the guides were young and lively. We didn’t have the time or energy for a trek (the most famous way to see the jungles surrounding Chiang Mai), so this was a relatively short and easy alternative.
However, the price is pretty astronomical. Travel agencies in town quote 3,300 baht ($105usd) as the standard price, but one group on our tour managed to bargain down to 2,850 baht ($90usd) with some master negotiation skills. Booking online gets you the standard 3,300 baht price but also throws in free admission to the Chiang Mai zoo. [Note: At the moment there is a pretty awesome promotion that gets you a free night in a swank-looking hotel. That promotion in particular might make it worth it.] Overall though, this is still one of the most expensive one-day activities you can do in Thailand. I have mixed feelings on the pricing as both ziplines I’ve done in the past cost less than $40usd… but were a fraction of the size. So, if you’ve been ziplining before you might not find this a worthwhile value, however for first timers I can’t imagine a better introduction.
Also, if you don’t want to bring your own camera, budget for photos: prints cost 300-400 baht or you can pay 1,000 baht for a memory stick of all the photos. GoPro cameras can be rented for 1,500 baht each.
And I’ll leave you with a little video clip that I love, shot by one of the guides when we did a tandem zip.
For best quality, click on gear image in bottom right corner and change quality to HD
Have you been ziplining? Where? Do you think this is a fairly-priced activity?
Thanks to Flight of the Gibbons for hosting us on this trip. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own. A full set of photos can be viewed here.