Fight of the Gibbon

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ever since I first heard of a canopy tour, I have been trying to go on one. My first attempt was in Hawaii, but we were on our honeymoon which means we needed the full 12 days all for relaxing at the beach.  Next I tried in Costa Rica, but we ended up going to Peru instead.  Alaska?  Nope, everyone wanted to do a different excursion.  How about in Thailand?  Not enough time, we have to hurry to Laos.  Oh wait, we are not going to Laos anymore and the train back to Bangkok does not leave until 6pm.  There are two companies to choose from.  One is more expensive the other, but we are told that the more expensive one (Flight of the Gibbons) was on "American tv."  Usually that is enough to dissuade us, but looking further through the pamphlet, we see that it was on The Amazing Race.  This is one of our favorite shows, and although I don't remember The Amazing Race ever going to Chiang Mai, we decide to go with it (Amy feels as if we are paying more for safety).  The guy at the tour office tells us that we would have to go on the first pickup of the day to ensure we are back in time for the train.  This means a 6:35am pickup (the days just keep getting earlier).  Since this is before breakfast officially opens, the receptionist tells us the night before to be down at 6:15 and she will put together a fruit salad with yogurt (excellent).  Well, we get there at 6:15, ask for our breakfast, and our minibus immediately pulls up.  Not wanting to keep our tourmates waiting, we forgo breakfast and hop on the bus. 

We have one more group to pick up after us.  We get to their hotel, and no one is there.  We wait, still no one.  We wait a little longer and finally 20 minutes later a Canadian couple hops on, guess they had to finish their breakfast (I might have to redo my generalizations about people from certain countries).  The good news is, besides making us wait, the Canadians also need the bus to stop at an ATM, which allowed us to go to the 7-11 across the street to grab snacks (phew that was close, can’t miss breakfast).  We are now ready for our one hour drive out to the Flight of the Gibbon site.  The driver says he has a short video for us and pulls down a monitor.  I am rolling my eyes thinking that we have to watch some safety video, but instead we see the introduction to an Amazing Race epi.  None of the contestants look familiar and then the host is introduced, it is not Phil.  Turns out this was on Amazing Race Asia.  Oh well.  We continue to watch the 15 minute clip about the canopy tour we are about to take which makes me more energized and Amy more nervous (so nervous that she fell asleep when it was over for the rest of the drive).

We finally arrive, sign our lives away (for the third day in a row), and get suited up.  All of the workers tell us the same old jokes that they probably use every day:  “Don’t worry, this gear is made in China.” “Don’t worry, this is my second day.” “You are American?  Well 'Hey, how’s it hanging my man.’”  We get back in the minibus and travel another 5 minutes up the hill, disembark and walk to our first platform.  We’re in the middle of the jungle in northern Thailand and the trees and birds are amazing, nothing like we’ve seen before.    There’s a heavy morning mist among the tops of the trees giving a quiet but scary effect to the whole scene.  They definitely try to ease you into the first zipline as we are only 20 feet above the top of the trees (which if you fall you can grab onto before falling the other 150 feet) and the distance isn’t too far, perhaps one could jump it (if that one is Bob Beamon).  We of course are at the back of the line, so we get to watch the first 6 jump off as if they have been ziplining for years.  It is now our turn and I give Amy the option to go before or after me.  She decides she doesn’t want to be the last one, so off she goes.  She makes it across no problem, I am last so I jump off.  For most people, their first reaction is “how amazing that I am traveling across 2 trees via a wire with an amazing view.”  My first reaction was “man those straps really hurt the groin region on the first bounce after jumping off the platform.”

We go platform to platform (still in the tree tops) a few more times.  I even tell Amy to try one with her eyes open.  After three progressively longer lines, we climb back down and are on solid ground.  We have a 5 minute walk up hill to the start of a new set of platforms.  We are now at the longest, which at one point was the longest zipline in the world, but now is just the longest in Thailand.  It is 800 meters long and I don’t think Amy was ready for this one.  But like the trooper that she is she hurls off and after 10 to 15 seconds makes it across (all the while screaming bloody murder through the whole jungle).  I do the same, but took a video to remember (I was told by the guide to scream to hear the echoes in the rain forest).  This definitely surpassed all my expectations.  The next zipline was the second longest, but also the fastest (and my favorite of the day).  For another hour we continued to fly around the treetops as if we were, well gibbons.  There were 17 ziplines, 2 rappels, and 1 mini-bungee jump in all, and at the end I wish I could have gone again.  Even Amy was having fun by the end (except for the mini-bungee jump, no one liked that feeling of only being attached by a cord on your back harness and reaching for the net to crash).

After we finished and derobed from all of the straps and carabineers, we got back in the minibus to head to a waterfall.  Not sure how this relates to ziplining (except for the fact that they are trying to prolong the tour in order to justify the price), but the guides gave us 20 minutes to walk around.  Again it is the dry season, so the waterfall isn’t as massive as I assume it is in the rainy season, but cool nonetheless.    We finished the day with a group lunch of authentic Thai food.  During lunch we started talking to the Canadian couple and a kiwi couple (there were two other German guys, but they kept to themselves for the most part).  Everyone was telling us about how they got ripped off in Bangkok by the tuk tuk and taxi drivers.  I guess we are the lucky ones as this has not happened to us yet.  The kiwi couple also told us about what to see when we get to New Zealand (mostly to just skip Christchurch, where they are from, as there isn’t much to see, especially after the earthquake).  Once lunch was over we made the trek back to Chiang Mai and arrived around 1pm (with plenty of time to catch our 6pm train, guess we could have taken the later departure). 

Back in Chiang Mai, we no longer had our room, which was unfortunate since we were sweaty and dirty from playing in the rainforest.  The MD House provides guest with an open room, so we were still able to shower up.  Afterwards we spent some time on the internet solidifying plans for Australia.  We were also just trying to kill time until 4pm when the Sunday market opened.  We were told about the market from our tourmates, not having heard about it.  It is supposedly massive with the cheapest items in Thailand.  We only had an hour, which included grabbing a second lunch, so we were only able to skim the surface of the market.  If you are ever in Chiang Mai on a Sunday, it is worthwhile to check it out as it covers most of the old quarter selling anything you could think of.  At 5pm, we made it back to the hotel to grab our luggage and head to the train station.  We also wanted to get a jump on buying our train tickets from Bangkok to Chumphon to go to Koh Tao, perhaps we could finally get on board the first class sleeper train.  Much to our dismay, the only seats available for the day we wanted to go were actual seats (no beds), looks like we would have to call another audible.  Instead of taking the night train, we decided to try out the day train.  We didn’t know the ferry schedule from Chumphon to Koh Tao, so we got tickets on the first train out of Bangkok at 8am in hopes we could still make the last ferry, then boarded our night train to Bangkok.
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