Ziplining over Chiang Mai
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.
Diaper-butt is in high fashion throughout the jungles of Chiang Mai
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.
This looks like a fantastic zipline adventure with more thrills than we had on Koh Tao and the one Mom and I did in Hawaii.
It definitely did have a lot of bells and whistles! So maybe that does justify the price…
I’ve been ziplining twice, once in Hawaii and once in Thailand, and this definitely looks like it is worth the price! I would definitely do it again; the Superman stint looks awesome!
You are a ziplining fanatic! 🙂 I really loved the one we did in Koh Tao, short and sweet and great scenery.
Also you should braid your hair more often. And you’re welcome for all the estute comments – love, Olivia
I can always count on you.
I am still bummed that we ran out of time for the ziplining when we were in Chiang Mai – really wanted to do the Flight of the Gibbon! Next time, I guess 🙂
I feel that way about pretty much anywhere in Southeast Asia… I know I’ll be back, so no rush to do everything!
Ok, I am sold. I am going to try it in Chiang Mai!
Glad to hear it! I love when I can add something to someone’s travel list 🙂
i’ve only ziplined back in the philippines. think it was 840 meters on prone position. hell of a good time. this looks fun, too. definitely doing this while i’m here.
You should definitely try it while you’re in the area, Paul!
Alex, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile. Never left a reply before. I’m about a quarter of the way through my 70th year on this planet living vicariously through your many wonderful adventures. You are the woman I wish I had been at your age. I love the ride you are taking me on. Thank you! Your spirit, your courage, your lust for life are thrilling to experience.
Margy, thank you so much for this comment…. you made my day. I will try to keep the ride going!
How much fun! I did this in Cuba and Mexico and had sooooo much fun!!! You look gorgeous as usual. Great pics!
Gahhh I want to go to Cuba SO BADLY!
While not in an exotic locale, the first and only time I’ve been ziplining (but want to do it again) was in Charlotte, NC at the National Whitewater Center. They’ve got some great courses! They combine their zips with other adventures you can partake in, but I think it was around $60 US for an ‘adventure pass’ that including the ziplining. I really liked it, but I mostly loved the “ropes courses” where you had to traverse across the forest on wire cables, etc. Loved being up that high! 🙂
See, that is definitely a price I would expect in the US. I guess my issue with this one was that it costs so much…. in a country that is known for affordability! The one you did sounds like great fun!
This actually looks really fun. We decided to do a trek instead of the zip-lining because of the high cost and while I don’t regret it for a second, I do remember hating life in general and myself in particular for my bad decision making as I struggled up a muddy hillside in the pouring rain while sweating out half my body weight. Once we got to our destination it was all worth it though.
Still, I can’t get over how much fun you guys are having in your pictures and how miserable we all look in mine.
Haha, I love this comment. I always have that moment when I’m hiking or trekking where I’m going “What the *&^* did I get myself into?!” And yet I never seem to learn 😉
Very cool! I have never been, but I’d like to go on my upcoming cruise in the Caribbean. I’m thinking the St. Lucia rainforest will be the perfect opportunity!
That sounds amazing! I used to have zero interest in the Caribbean but after working in Grand Cayman and visiting Mark working in the Bahamas I have a new-found appreciation for the diversity of that region of the world.