Flying High and Riding Slow Posted by sasha on Nov 24, 2011 in Culture, Travel
After our day trip through Chiang Rai, our epic journey through Thailand was coming to an end. With just one more day to spend in Chiang Mai, we were unsure of what to do. We’d already toured the city, with its famous temples and night markets. We’d already gotten our adventure on with a three-day jungle trek through the countryside, and we’d already visited Chiang Rai. With a long trip ahead on the slow boat to Laos, you’d think we’d use our last day to relax, unwind, and take a breath before moving on. Well, then, you obviously don’t know us very well. I took two years of Latin in high school, and I don’t remember much; what I do remember, however, is the all important phrase “carpe diem” – seize the day. We aimed to do just that, by booking the Jungle Flight zip line experience.
Located just about an hour away from Chiang Mai city, this is a must-do for any adventurous traveler who prefers an adrenaline rush to a quiet afternoon with a book. High up in the trees of the Thai jungle, this course takes you all over the place, with 34 platforms, zip lines ranging in length from 30 to 300 meters, four abseils (or rappelling, like us Americans like to call it), and sky bridges. Guests can choose to do the entire course, or take on a shortened version with 24 platforms. Safety is important, of course, so we were fitted with the proper equipment and trained on how to use it before we headed out. Oh yeah, and we had to sign a waiver, because if you get hurt, well, you’re the crazy fool who decided zip-lining through the trees would be a good way to end a vacation. In addition to the harness, hairnet, and helmet we were given, we also got a small piece of wood to use as a brake. These would come in handy, and would also make for some hilarious moments throughout the course when people forgot to put on the brakes.
Our tour guide, who called himself Mr. Boston, was a hilarious guy who could give the safety instructions in nearly a dozen languages. He joked around with Chinese tourists in Chinese, busted out some French, rattled off a little German, and then went back to English. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. Throughout the course, he would also show-off his skills and his cahjones by speeding down the longest and fastest zip lines upside-down without being hooked on.
Surrounded by beautiful views of the Thai jungle, we hiked, climbed, rappelled, and zip-lined the day away. With a
group of about ten, plus a few guides, the course also provided a good social atmosphere, as we met fellow travelers and shared stories. The guides kept us laughing with a constant barrage of jokes and wisecracks, as they helped to lighten the mood for anyone who was scared of heights. The course ended with an abseil from a platform 40 meters off the ground. Our guides again showed off their skills, flipping and tumbling their way down without a care.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a picturesque sunset with a tasty meal and cold beers, served up by local villagers. Soon enough, it was time to head back into town, where we packed up our things and got a good night’s sleep.
The next day was our last day in Thailand, and we were up early to get in the van on the way up to catch the slow boat to Laos. On the drive, I stared out the window and reminisced on the absolutely incredible experience we had had thus far on our Thailand trip. One month went by way too fast, and I was already scheming up a way to get back sooner rather than later.
We stopped at a little guesthouse near the Mekong River for the night, where we took a dip in the pool and enjoyed dinner with other travelers. After the meal, we wandered down to the river, where we discovered what looked like a party. Always a fan of parties, I had to investigate further. There was a karaoke machine, food, beers, and lo and behold, my absolute favorite – boxed wine. We learned that the party was for a Thai woman’s birthday (who we also learned was the boss) and we were invited to join, on one condition – that we sing “Country Roads” at least three times. A bonfire was lit, and we had good fun with the locals and the language barrier, as I attempted to teach them how to slap the bag. For some reason, they were quite confused as to why I’d want to drink the bag of wine straight from the spigot, rather than fill up a glass. Cultural differences, I guess.
In the morning, it was time to bid farewell to Thailand. We crossed the mighty Mekong and arrived in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, or PDR for short. Throughout our short stay in Laos, we would come to realize why the nickname of the country is PDR – Please Don’t Rush, and this all started with the visa process, which was a complete shitshow, for lack of a better word.
Visas in hand, we boarded the slow boat that would take us down the famed river for two days, eventually arriving in the historic city of Luang Prabang. Unfortunately, the boat was a little too slow, and we didn’t make it to the planned pit stop on time, so we were forced to sleep on the boat. In an attempt to make lemonade out of lemons, we joined some other weary travelers in buying up all of the beer Laos on the boat – along with the chips and instant noodles – and we headed onto the shore to start a bonfire, where we sang songs, told stories, and tried to get drunk enough to sleep comfortably while sitting on a rocking boat.
And thus, our one month in Thailand came to an end. From the madness of the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha-Ngan, to the natural beauty of the Khao Sok National Park, to the scenic Phi Phi Islands, to the insanity of Bangkok, to the history of Ayutthaya, and all the way up to the adventure of Chiang Mai, it was the trip of a lifetime. If you haven’t been to Thailand yet, do yourself a favor and go. And if you’re like me, and one month in this fascinating country just wasn’t enough, well, let’s start planning our next trip.
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