Monday, February 1, 2010

Treading the jungle

Chiang Mai was fantastic.  Before leaving US last fall, I asked many people what they would recommend to see in Thailand and heard a unanimous rely: Chiang Mai.  The old city, shaped in a square, was located in the center of the new city.  It was small, quaint and full of restaurants, palm trees, shops, temples and cute hotels.  We quickly found lodging in a popular and colorful hostel with super friendly owners.  One of them was Stella.  She drank copious amount of wine, laughed at every joke she made and hugged every guest.  There was nothing pretentious about her.  She was larger than life and wanted to share her love with the world.  We quickly became friends.  The second owner was a down to earth but super knowledgeable lady named Nine.  She spoke quietly and weighted each word.  They called themselves Ying and Yang, Black and White.  Within a few hours, they remembered our names and from then on, treated us like family. 

There were a lot of things to do in Chiang Mai.  They had cooking lessons, trips to hot springs, snake farms, butterfly conservations, elephant camps and much more.  But the one that caught our eyes was Jungle Flight.  My sister Vira had previous told me about it.  It was an adrenal pumping, heart stopping, all day trip in the heart of the jungle.  What was so heart stopping about it?  We were to be zip-lining and abseiling 100 meters above the ground on a tight rope throughout the whole trip.  It was not something Olga and I wanted to miss and we signed up immediately. 

The van picked us up early in the morning.  We stopped by several more hotels and picked up three Canadian girls (1 from Ottawa and 2 from Vancouver) and two guys from Holland.  The drive to the jungle took us an hour and we spent it talking to our new friends about traveling and our countries.  Soon, we were standing in the Jungle Flight’s main office and young Thai boys were strapping us into gear.  There were at least 30 people around us.  I heard English, Dutch, Hebrew, German, French, Thai, Chinese, Hungarian and a few other languages from eastern Europe.  The guides divided the groups and we were off.

Our group had 13 people and 3 guides.  The main guide was a 22 year old handsome guy named Boy.  He was strong, funny and witty.  Half of the fun of the trip was due to Boy who continuously kept us on our toes and made funny jokes. 

From the main office, we walked for about 10 minutes to the first location of the journey.  It was a large tall tree with a wide plank nailed to its trunk and harnessed by strong metal ropes for safety.  About 30 meters away stood another tree, with a now familiar landing plank, and connected to our tree by a long zip-line.  Boy explained the gist of fun and safety and the next thing I knew, I was soaring above the jungle.  The adrenaline, the unknown, the height, the harness, all blurred into one and the only thing left was the wind. 

It was magnificent and exciting.  We treaded the canopies of the jungle; we abseiled 40 meter drops; we climbed narrow planks which hugged the trees in circular staircases; we walked across shaky wooden bridges which hang high above ground; we marveled at the beautiful green jungle spread underneath our feet; with each sail, we bonded stronger with our group.
 Our guide Boy, showing off

When it was over, we were happy and sad.  Happy to have done such an amazing adventure and sad because we had to part with our group and our guides. 

Here are few videos.  Olga abseilingMe zip-lining. Guides showing off.

Our next destination and final stop in the north was Chiang Rai.  We came all the way to Chiang Rai for only one reason: The White Temple...

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