Jungle Flight

A trend has emerged the last few days. I seem to be getting double the days per 24 hour period. Its partly due to me rising earlier than the day should reasonably be started, and partly due to me ending the day, tomorrow after it began. If I were in spain this would be called a siesta and be perfectly acceptable. Yesterday evening had in fact finished early today, a mix of alcohol, talcum powder and persuasive Thai ladies to blame. So starting today, after this mornings yesterday was hard work.

This morning I’d agreed yesterday, while sober and looking forward to a relaxed evening of food and beer, to go on a Jungle Flight. A high ropes course in the mountains. This not what Chiang Mai is most famous among backpackers for. The most popular thing to do in Chiang Mai is to have your photo taken in various states of undress with an elephant. Don’t ask me why it’s a thing, but apparently elephants need washing regularly by high paying westerners. And the only way to wash an elephant is to get in the bath with it. Being an elephant, you’ve little choice in the matter, as it has to be a very large bath indeed. I’m surprised this requirement isn’t featured in any of David Attenborough’s films, and that elephants have managed to survive so long in the wild without this need being fulfilled. I’m not sure I want to be a part of this fashionable photo craze, surely elephants should be left to bathe themselves. Rich westerners in tie-dye baggy pants haven’t been around that long, when did the elephants become such divas anyway…?

This was all running through my mind as the bus trundled up the mountain pass. It swayed back and forth endlessly as we climbed higher and higher. With a foggy head from today’s portion of yesterday, I was very close to vomiting as the van reached our treetop destination. It was all I could do to focus on the elephant prima donnas in an attempt to take my mind off the impending vomit. I was grateful to reach the end before I reached critical mass. For about 20 mins the extraordinary view from this altitude was lost on me.

When it did finally return, I was many thousand of millimeters up in the trees clipping into a kilometer long zipwire across a jungle valley. It was an incredible view and blasted the last of the hangover away. The ziplines went from tree to tree varying in length and speed. A few of them required the application of a stick of bamboo to slow down your approach. Again, the lack of health and safety ludicrousness was refreshing. If your going fast, slow yourself down. If your legs might hit a platform, lift them up. If you might swing into a tree, don’t swing like an idiot. It’s simple really and would do well in England to help thin out the gene pool from those who lack this common sense. Natural selection at its best.

The main attraction for me was the view over the jungle, I can’t think of anywhere else that gets you this high above the treetops without learning to fly. The best feature of this company was a kilometer long personal roller coaster. Basically a long length of curved pipe, suspended by cables from the trees, it snaked around the canopy and gave you the feeling of flying like a bird. All be it a rusty mechanical bird that hasn’t been lubricated in a century. Guaranteed to be unsafe, once you have committed to stepping off the launch platform, you are just a passenger and will reach The End… of the track or your life depending on your luck. It’s great fun!

The end of the jungle fun was a controlled freefall to earth from the top of a huge tree. I’ve never seen the contraption that was used to lower us down before. I can only assume it has some sort of governed clutch inside to control the rate of descent because there was no human element. I would much preferred to have my own figure eight like the guides. One of whome practically fell out of the sky, upside down, nearly kissing the deck before rope stretch bounced him back up like a huge spider doing a bungee jump. It was a dramatic end to a morning of dramatic scenery and adrenalin.

After we had given back the equipment we were treated to lunch in a bamboo hall overlooking the spectacular view. Now I was not double checking the links, knots and connection points to the equipment (cautious climber at heart) I could relax and fully appreciate it. This progressed into relaxing on the bus and when I reached my hostel went directly to bed for some more relaxing.

Waking deliberately, before the day had disappeared, I desperately needed to buy a train ticket. I flagged a TukTuk down and jumped in the back of his three wheeled menace. This thing crosses between motorbike, pickup truck and golf caddy are one of the types of taxi you can get around most Thai cities. The drivers of proper cars seem to be happy to sit in traffic queues all day but these guys jump the lights, weave and dodge through traffic to get you where you are going asap. For your benefit obviously, nothing to do with picking up the next fair. I found out from my exceptionally skilful driver they are actually powered by LPG 360cc Daihatsu engines. This makes them slightly less noxious than the mopeds and trucks and much cheaper to run.

Mission accomplished, the tuk-taxi-trike driver waited and then took me to his recommended place to eat; on the northern gate entrance to Chiang Mai, a huge food market. The city was built with a huge fortified wall and moat in a big square. It was called Chiang Mai “New City” because it became the new capital of the kingdom in which it sits. Much of the wall has been destroyed or dismantled but its corners and major gates still remain. The moat still circles the old town showing the size the city used to be now it has expanded on all sides.

I was eating and people watching at the northgate, enjoying just being immersed in the smells and sounds of the busy market. Unlike some markets I’ve been to, this one had few westerners. Lots of Thais were queuing to eat here so I must be in the right place. A German lad came up and asked about the food. He ended up joining me for dinner and then we walked around the city walls drinking beer. A nice relaxed end to my second part of today.