Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flying High in Chiang Mai - A Ziplining Adventure


There is nothing more exhilarating than flying through the lush rainforests of northern Thailand on a zip line that will make you scream with joy. 


For years I’ve learned that when my old friend Glen says that something is amazing -- it probably is. Glen is an expert in more areas than most, but his true expertise is in all things north. Meaning Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Thailand. Although my Canadian friend lives in Phuket , it is obvious that he left a part of his heart in Chiang Rai, his former home from yonder Peace Corps years. Every time we swap stories about northern Thailand, his eyes light up and he get’s this Chiang Rai grin on his face, recalling his adventures up north with great delight.

So when my husband and I were making plans for Chiang Mai, of course I relied on Glen for good advice on what to do and see. I had already been to Chiang Mai numerous times before, but I had a strong feeling that Bullet Rash (Glen’s Hash House Harrier's nickname given to him shortly after his plane was hijacked whilst he was working for the United Nations) could recommend something new and exciting for our upcoming trip. 

“You should definitely try Flight of the Gibbon in Chiang Mai,” Bullet Rash offered. “It’s amazing!” 

I was surprised that I had never heard of the zip line adventure that Bullet Rash was enthusiastically describing. But I was ready to be amazed. 

Hearing the Great Call to Save Gibbons and the Rainforest


Aptly named, Flight of the Gibbon's zip lines are situated in the midst of a breathtaking and ancient 1,500 year old rainforest, located about an hour’s drive east of Chiang Mai. It's a perfect habitat for gibbons, where the gibbon’s great calls can often be heard in the early mornings and just before sunset. Aside from organizing spectacular treetop adventures for young and old alike, Flight of the Gibbon is also actively involved in rainforest restoration and primate rehabilitation projects in the area.

Flight of the Gibbon was founded by a group of nature-lovers who spent their weekends engaged in conservation projects throughout the mountains of northern Thailand. In 2004, they discovered a few gibbon remains while they were photographing the gibbons of Doi Intanon. According to their guide, the remains were most likely the result of poaching. Baby gibbons are a valuable commodity either as pets, or as a bar side attraction, but the only way to capture a baby gibbon, is to kill the mother. This was disturbing news and was followed by another sad event in 2007, when a pair of captive white-handed gibbons were discovered abandoned and near death on a roadside -- dumped by their previous owner of five years without any more regard than throwing away trash. Shockingly, the two gibbons were still locked in their cage without any food or water. 

Learning of Tong Dee and Tong Lord's sad fate, the group of conservationists vowed to find a way to rehabilitate and release the pair back into the wild and to keep them protected. Consequently, Flight of the Gibbon, was founded with "a very clear mission" to protect Asia’s endangered wildlife and rainforests.

Mae Kompong Village


We arrived at charming Mae Kompong village early in the morning, having signed up for the one day Flight of the Gibbon zip line tour. We were tempted to book the “Rock the Gibbon, Wet Gibbon and Curious Gibbon” tours as well, but our wallets were short on cash, so the rock climbing, river rafting and trekking tours were out of the question – at least for this visit. 

After a quick breakfast, we strolled through the small mountain village, taking pictures of the Thai wooden houses with their quaint flower boxes while our English speaking Thai guides; Cash and Mr. B, were busy securing helmets, harnesses and other equipment. Minutes later, kitted up in our helmets and harnesses we climbed up to our first platform where Cash conducted our safety briefing covering every aspect of zip lining, and emphasizing over and over that we should NEVER ever grab the zip line steel cable with our hands.

Safety First. Humor Second.


I could feel my heart racing a bit faster as we waited on the platform for the group in front of us to finish their zips. Obviously, zip lining can be dangerous, so I found it reassuring watching the guides carefully sticking to a safety protocol that had long been established. In total, there were eighteen treetop platform stations, skybridges and lowering stations connected by 2 kilometers of exciting zip lines. Cash clipped my harness to the zip line and then gently pushed me off the platform. Weeeeeeeeeee……..! The jungle whizzed by me in an exhilarating blur as I was flying from one treetop to another. On my next turn, Cash asked me if I wanted to go backwards. Absolutely! I was on an endorphin high and with each turn, I felt braver and braver and even managed a "no hands" zip and a "Buddha" zip! 

When we reached the last platform, Cash playfully said: “Ok now you both go upside down.” My husband and I thought that he was just kidding around but he really meant: upside down. Hmmm. We were perched on top off a 50 meters high treetop and the jungle floor was faaaaaaaaar down below. Cash gently belayed us off of the platform, while Mr. B took pictures of us with our camera. What VIP treatment! Hanging upside down wasn’t nearly as frightening as we had envisioned and the new perspective gave us a terrific view of the broad expanse of the jungle ceiling and sky above us. 

Bullet Rash was right. Flight of the Gibbon was truly amazing! There is nothing quite like two zippy zany Thai guides and an endless amount of thrilling zip lines to awaken your inner gibbon.

Seven Rivers

A Karen hill tribe legend warns that if you kill one gibbon, you leave seven lonely rivers, because the gibbon’s great call can be heard across seven rivers. Thanks to the conservation efforts of Flight of the Gibbon, which donates 10% of their profits to rainforest rehabilitation and to the protection of gibbons and other native primates in northern Thailand, several successful conservation programs like "Giving Back" have been launched in recent years, ensuring that the great calls will not be replaced with the sound of silence. 


Recommended Adventures

Flight of the Gibbon
Phone: 66 899 70 55 11 

Chaing Mai Mountain Bike and Kayaks
For reservation please call:

66-81-024-7046, 66-53-814-207, 0871823642

Where To Stay

Yesterday Hotel
24 Nimmanhaeminda Road, Chiang Mai

Sakulchai Place Hotel  
10 Soi Plubplung , Huay Kaew Road, A. Muang,
Huay Kaew, Chiang Mai

Excellent budget hotel with rates starting at $16 a night for air con room, cable, 24 hours guarded parking lot, quiet and central location.

Ping Phu Place
6/1 Soi JanSap, Huay Kaew Rd., Changpuek, Muang, Huay Kaew, Chiang Mai

Good Eats 

Smoothie Blues 

32/8 Nimmanhamin Soi 6 CornerRd, Chiang Mai

Great food stalls with excellent Thai and Burmese restaurants can be found next to the Hillside Condotel within 3 minute's walking distance of Yesterday Hotel. Price range is $1 to $3.
Check out this blog for more great tips on Where to eat in Chiang Mai:
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