Flight of the Gibbon

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 15 › view all entries
Up early, almost still dark, we shower and ready ourselves for an exciting morning. No time for breakfast as we're meeting the tour bus at the Thae Phea Gates at 6.45am! Nothing is open before 7.00am, anyway.
We're off to the Flight of the Gibbon in the little Mae Kompong village of just 400 people and an hour South east of Chang Mai. The Flight of the Gibbon is a unique and ingenious system of platforms, treehouses, cables and sky bridges of over 2kms in length. We will explore the rainforest from the canopy high above the forest floor while traversing it via flying fox-like cableways and repals.
www.treetopasia.com

We're waiting at the Thae Phae Gates on time, and begin to wonder whether the bus has missed or forgotten us after waiting for half an hour. Eventually it arrives and we're off for the hours drive up into the mountains. Damn! We could have at least had coffee while we waited - OPPOSITE a coffee shop that was open by the time the bus arrived!

After a very pretty drive, well the last half of it once out of town, we arrive in the Mae Kampong village and are given a briefing and fitted with our harnesses and allocated our group of 9, including Kiara. We jump back on the bus and are driven a few kilometres to the very pretty spot where some of us will face a few fears.  At the start of the first section we're given another briefing on the use of harness and cables and taught when to use 'the brake'. The brake is like a divining stick 'V' made from bamboo, we carry it by string around our wrists, and it is used over the cable to slow progress - when told to, as we're approaching a platform for landing, at speed. Takes a bit of practice to remember, let alone use!.
And then we're off.
It is a huge adrenalin rush - just watching and thinking about it. And then, before you know it, it's your turn to DO it!! Feel the fear, and just do it, is my motto, and do it I do.....and Kiara does, and Leanne does, and everyone else does it.....with much giggling, yelling and relief.
The first two runs were short ones, but on the first long run, Kiara and I went tandem - to allay her fears. The first few runs were a bit scarey for Kiara, but once she realised she was safe, that Mummy and Leanne were OK with it, and there really was no going back, she was great. In fact, getting to the point in the middle,  of insisting on being first, and completing her run with a huge smile.
We completed about 5 flying fox...err...gibbon runs, before we did our first rapel. The first was only about 10 metres from the ground, the second about 50, and the last was a bit more the 80 metres. On the last rapel Kiara and I went down together on parallel ropes, occassionally being level enough to hold hands.
All in all, there were 10 cable runs, 3 rapels and 2 swing bridges to complete. What an awesome experience.
We were then treated to a Hilltribe lunch by the Mae Kampong people, and enjoyed coffee made with their own homegrown coffee beans. The Mae Kampong people grow the local coffee & tea which grows naturally here. We actually 'flew' over coffee shrubs on our Flight.
After lunch we were taken to the MaeKampong Waterfall, where we walked up many naga steps to the top, following the waterfall's downward trend as we went up.
Back on the bus we return to Chang Mai, Kiara sleeping all the way, and Leanne and I cat-napping between heavy brakings and horn-tootings at motorbikes and pedestrians, from the bus driver.
We arrive back to find Chang Mai hot and humid, and heavy with rain, in contrast to the coolness of the mountains. Back to our room with the intention of resting, perchance to sleep, but no such thing happens as we catch up on emails and diarise our amazing morning.
This evening we went to the Walking Road Markets, which begin just at the end of our street. Apparently there are at least 3 kms of markets. Our feet attest to that by the end of the night!
We snacked on street stall food until we were full. Steamed pork buns we ate sitting on the steps of the first temple we ever visited. Then we bought steamed cold spring rolls & chicken liver skewers, which we ate off a tray as we wandered along and between the stalls. Then for dessert we had banana balls which are a bit like banana flavoured donut dough and about the size of large macadamias. We passed on the stall of fried bugs .. Yes Anthony Bordain, I'm hearing you and we should have tried them!

Without much warning the sky opened up and down came the tropical rain, scattering everyone for shelter, and increasing sales of raincoats 1000-fold - trust me the hawkers were cashing in! As we had forgotten ours for the first time, and rather than buy more, we sought shelter in a little bar, playing live blues music, that just happend to be where we were. We sat and enjoyed a Tiger beer and music until the rain eased, as it does in these tropical places, and we could resume our meanderings.
After spending a few 100baht on bits and pieces, like some tops, beautiful photgraphs, beaded jewellery, silk wine gift boxes and other trinkets, we wandered home and went to bed feeling quite satisfied.
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Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes