While visiting Chiang Mai, in the mountains of northern Thailand, we made arrangements for what we thought was going to be some eco touring; a forest canopy experience. The service picked us up at our hotel, then filled up with others going on today’s adventure.
It turns out that it was much more of an adventure that we bargained for; it was in the forest canopy all right, but hanging from zip lines, screaming, rather than any peaceful excursion in the tree tops. The name of the place, Jungle Flight, gives away the surprise. Not a quiet stroll through the tops of trees but rather a yelling flying slipping sliding down a series of cables through the tree tops, hanging by a pulley. Not the same at all. Thinking back on it, I am kind of surprised that we took this change in plans so easily. But we did. And it was fun! And not like our other overseas touring experiences.
Driving up into the hills. It was about an hour’s trip.
We were in a luxury van, with maybe 12 other people. There were all picked up at their hotels. We were first on, so got to see a number of other places. Some were nice. One was VERY posh.
From the van we could see majestic trees rising far above the hills below. I guess this is the kind of environment we will be in.
After the drive on winding mountain roads up into the hills, we arrived at our destination.
We were led into the “Office” area.
There was a map. Now I can see its significance. At the time it had little meaning.
This is the course we are going to ‘fly.’ It has eight ‘zips,’ then a short walk, and then seven more.
The surrounding hillside. We are pretty high up in these hills.
They start giving us our gear. We have to put on a harness.
They make sure all the straps are tight. They also asked about weight and if we had any medical conditions, like high blood pressure. Since my high BP is managed by the medications I take, I said “No.” I also said I was 100 kg (off by about 10 kg).
We had to put on plastic hair nets for under the helmets.
Here are Carol and I, dressed and ready to go. We look ridiculous. I am glad they didn’t have a mirror.
More of the group, ready to go.
One woman, Taiwanese, I think, had a good outgoing spirit. She poses with Carol, ready to take on the challenge that lies before them.
Here is the head guide for our party. He is a serious, safety-first, kind of guy. That is the right attitude here, I think.
We will walk down the hill into the trees. We can just barely see the group that is ahead of us, sitting among the trees.
Part of our group. There is a girl, maybe 11 years old, in the party today. She was great all day!
We sit and get our instructions.
Before we go, we get to watch the group ahead of us, to see what’s in store.
Our last instruction.
A guide goes over to the other end of this cable, to catch us as we come in.
Then each one of us has our first turn on the wire. The first ride is a short one.
Here goes Carol, ahead of me.
Now I have gone over. Pretty thrilling ride! The girl after me comes next.
Here is our serious guide, clowning around.
Carol, going on the next span. She got turned around and is flying backward.
The same scene as above, without the magnification.
We also have several ‘abseils’ on the route, used to lower us to the level below. We are clipped onto a line. It goes through a pulley, and then is in the control of a guide, who can regulate your speed, and brake (break?) your fall. Because they know they can get a scream, often they will just release a person to start with, who will then free fall for a bit. After the scream, they will slow them down to a controlled speed, and land them gently on the platform below.
Here goes Carol!
This is what it looks like from the bottom.
Sometimes there are two cables, so we go in tandem, holding on to each other.
Carol and Richard in tandem.
Close up. I think at the end of this ride, they told me to put on my brake (a piece of wood with a downward-facing notch that fits over the cable. Put it on the cable and pull down to slow the ride). I put my brake-stick onto the pulley by mistake, and did not slow us a bit. The guides at the end of the cable saw this, and tried to slow us by pulling the cable end up, but this was not enough. I crashed into the guide, banged my leg up a bit, and they were wary of me all the rest of the day.
We also had wooden foot bridges to cross some spans. These are what I imagined our eco-adventure through the forest canopy to be. Was I wrong!
Richard flying again.
A tandem ride. Look at the tall trees they are heading towards. We really are pretty high up in the trees.
Flying through the trees.
Now I can see the platform ahead. I think this was the longest ride of the day, 300 meters, almost 1000 feet.
Coming in. Raise your legs to get onto the platform.
Flying, high above the ground. By now this is almost commonplace.
Richard, coming in. The guides try to get the riders to take this opened up position during the ride. It is a kind of ‘thrill posture’ I think.
Getting onto the platform is not always easy. But you are strapped in, and locked onto the pulley, so everything is safe. If you look closely you might see a cable on the side of the tree. When you are unhooked from the line, they immediately hook you to the line on the platform.
Here comes Carol! Whee.
And onto the platform.
Here comes the Taiwanese woman. She is backward.
We are all safe on the platform.
Each platform has a number and a name.
Here is the young girl, about to be dropped to the platform below.
There is the platform, a long way down!
Here goes Carol.
Quickly, she is down.
I’m ready to go. You can see my Converses hanging down.
Almost to the bottom.
I am not sure a lady can always get her dignity here.
Shooting from below, watching someone come in.
After about half of the zip cables, we had to walk a bit.
There was a cache of cold drinking water waiting for us, and a place to sit and rest a few minutes.
Then up the hill, onwards!
And onto the next line. The girl starts off.
There she goes through the trees.
Carol is on the next platform.
We’ve another wooden bridge to walk over. To the right you can see a line across the bridge. We are hooked to this line crossing the bridge. Safety first.
Carol and I hamming it up a bit for the camera.
Onto one more cable.
We are high in the trees. If there were a calm moment, it might be nice to look around at the grandeur.
After it is all done, we go back to the center and have a good Thai meal. We can even get a beer.
One last look through the trees, I will never know them in the same way as before the zip line ride.
Drive down the hill back into town.
In Chiang Mai, ready for the evening.
To give you a bit of the experience of riding the zip line, here are two (of many) videos I found on the web. We could have spent all day looking at YouTube videos; these are such fun.
The outfit we went with was Jungle Flight. These two videos are from their place.
The first one shows several zip line runs, then has a first-person point of view flying through the forest.
This one shows a long ride, I think 1.5 km long. We did not go on this particular zip line, but the video gives a good sense of the experience
After the videos my still pictures seem so … still.
This was quite a day, and definitely worth doing. If you ever get the chance to go on a zip line tour, say “Yes,” and have a great time.
These posts show other parts of this same trip through Indochina.