Ever since I saw the brochure on our first day in Chiang Mai I’d wanted to do it. There were a few options, one of which had been voted the best tourist attraction in Asia, but I went with another group –Dragon Flight. So the day before I wanted to do it, I booked a ticket to go zip lining in Thailand, after all, who doesn’t want to fly through the Northern Thailand jungles like Superman?
I was so excited, 40 platforms, 26 zip-lines (one of which is 300m long, the longest in the world apparently), 3 abseils and plenty of jungle setting to give me my nature fix for a while. I went with these guys because their price was the best, offered just as much, if not more than the other groups, and their brochure was better. Marketing makes a big difference when deciding between companies and in my experience South-East Asian companies could do a lot better in this area.
If you want to pay cash, head to the main office
I wanted to buy my ticket through the tourist operator located in our building at CM Apartments, but they only accept cash and I wanted to pay by credit card. She did tell me she could give me a discount on the already discounted price, so the price dropped from the original 2400THB ($AU80), to the special brochure price of 2100THB ($AU70), to the special tourist operator price of 1800THB ($AU60). I went to a few other tourist centres and they all said the same thing, cash only. So I checked out where Dragon Flight Head Office was, and to my good fortune it was only several hundred metres from my apartment. I spoke to the sales staff who tried to charge me 2100THB, but I used the info I’d been given by the tour operator and I was in for 1800THB. I was more than happy with that price. Unfortunately they couldn’t take me at the early time I wanted, so I was booked on the 9.30am tour group the next morning. Yippee!!!
I was on time, pity the next group weren’t!
The luxury minibus picked me up and I was first aboard. We then went to pick the next group up. We got there at around 9.40am, but after knocking on their door and making a few phone calls, they didn’t seem to be around. We waited…and waited…and waited. I was happy to leave them behind, and was wondering why at 10am we hadn’t. At 10.15am they finally arrived, a group of six girls from London made their way to the bus. After a bit of a chat it was revealed the bus driver had got the address mixed up and we were about 50 metres from their hotel. They’d been waiting since 9.30am as instructed, and the driver had been waiting because these guys were the only other people on the tour. So despite the slight delay we were on our way.
The girls turned out to be great value. Five of them were of Somalian decent, while the other was from Mauritius. They were all at university together, three studying pharmacology and the other three biochemistry, and were on holidays together between semesters. The Somalian girls were dressed in long flowing clothing, covering their whole bodies as is tradition, with scarves to cover their heads. I was wondering how they were going to put harnesses on over their clothing, then trek through the jungle zip lining and abseiling from tree to tree for three hours. As it turned out they did it quite easily, but they must have been hot underneath all of that clothing!
The location is worth the price alone
We arrived at the site in the mountains of Doi Saket after our 50 minute drive through the beautiful Thai countryside, got our gear on, signed the waivers and had our debrief. It took all of 15 minutes before we were at our first platform ready to go. We weren’t particularly high at this stage, maybe 20 metres off the ground, but it was enough to scare the bejesus out of the girls. I was first cab off the rank and I couldn’t wait to get going. Once I was clipped on the line I ran and jumped I was so excited. The others took a little more coaxing to get them going, but after the first 2-3 jumps they were well into it as well.
Our guides Monkey, Ice, Yo-Yo and Handsome (self-given nicknames as it turns out) were great value, full of energy and enthusiasm and made sure everyone was comfortable and having a great time. In fact I think Handsome had undiagnosed ADHD, but they clearly loved their jobs and why wouldn’t they. Their day consists of having a blast zip lining in Thailand through amazingly beautiful countryside while getting paid for it. I want a job like that!
Zip lining 300m…I felt like Superman
We arrived at the 300m zip-line and this particular jump was easily the highlight. Normally you zip-line alone, but on this occasion Yo-Yo said he was coming with me. I didn’t know why and I thought for a second it might detract from my experience. But just after take off he grabbed my legs and lifted them up behind me so I was in full-on Superman pose. It was awesome, and it was the closest thing to flying you could possibly do without breaking the laws of physics and actually flying like the Man Of Steel himself!
You might as well go the whole hog right?
Just after the halfway mark I was separated from the girls as I’d bought the full package while they’d bought the shorter circuit package. So it was just me and two guides, Yo-Yo and Handsome, for the next eight zip-lines and an abseil. It was like I was being given my own personal experience, like a proper A-Lister, and I guess in a way I was (except without the A-List part). When it’s just you and a couple of guides, with no-one else holding you up, you really (forgive the pun) zip through the course in quick time. The girls went on a 25 minute jungle trek, bypassing our zip-lines, rejoining the course further down the trek for the final 5-6 jumps and two abseils. Normally the shorter group finishes well before the full course groups, but because it was only me we caught up with them on their first platform after rejoining the course. And that was after we stopped for 15 minutes to eat some fruit picked straight from the trees in the jungle. I didn’t like the fruit so much, it wasn’t sweet enough for me, but because Handsome couldn’t stop raving about it I didn’t have the heart to tell him it wasn’t that good.
We all arrived back at base and agreed what an awesome time we’d just had. As part of the deal you get a Dragon Flight t-shirt to take home. I was clearly never going to wear it again, so I got an XS for Jack, although he still won’t be able to fit into it for a couple of years yet!
Lunch fit for a king
It was about 2.00pm by this stage and we were all starving. Thankfully lunch was waiting for us and what a spread it was. We walked to the deck by the river and there were three tables set up, two tables set for three, and one table set for one…me. They all had the same amount of food on them, so I was in for a feast. There was fried noodles, stir-fry vegetables, green chicken curry with rice, and watermelon and pineapple. I’m a pretty good eater, especially when I’ve been active like this for a few hours, but I couldn’t get through it all. The vegetables remained untouched, and there were still a few pieces of fruit left when it was time to board the bus and head back into town.
To be honest I can’t fault the day. The transportation was comfortable and modern, the guides were first class, the scenery was magical and zip lining in Thailand itself is just great fun. I encourage everyone to go and do it if you visit Chiang Mai. Do your research, pick the best company for you and book yourself in. And don’t forget, ask about any special unadvertised discounts the tour operators or company can do for you, you may save a little cash like I did. Have fun…