Chiang Mai Adventures
In addition to possessing a full range of accommodation options and being Thailand's premier arts centre, Chiang Mai is, arguably along with Ao Nang in Krabi province, one of Thailand's two most exciting adventure sports destinations. There is at least something for everyone here, whether it be trekking to the top of Thailand highest peak, nearby Doi Inthanon, mountain biking, off-road motor-biking, mountain biking, waterfall and deep cave abseiling, off-road buggying, 4wd, rock-climbing, micro-lighting, white water or bamboo rafting, canopy zip wire riding, paint-balling, elephant trekking, go-karting, a night safari and bungee-jumping. If not in the mood for adventure, maybe take a relaxing river cruise instead.
Check out the 'X-Centre' for paintball, bungee jumping and go-karting and for off-road motor-biking and buggying. Those visitors rash enough to ask for a discount will be pleasantly surprised when the centre's irrepressibly facetious Kiwi owner Ian smiles hugely and immediately agrees, then with a completely straight face states that the amount of discount available depends on the amount of reduction in the safety standards you agree to: if you only want a small discount on the bungee price then the centre will use last year's retired rope, but a larger discount is available if you don't mind using the even older rope currently in occasional use as a rescue tow-rope. Ian has never had to explain that he is only joking.
When you have been roped up and are ready to ascend the bungee tower, don't be worried when the jump master says "hope see you again, maybe next life" - he knows your friends will find it funny, even if you don't.
The off-road buggying is particularly memorable and is a world away from the often dull experience offered by most of the many ATV outfits in the country. Visitors are recommended to skip ATV rides which consist of multiple circuits round a fixed track and to go instead for ATV rides on long routes through the jungle. The X-Centre's off-road biking and buggying tracks vary from very easy to extremely difficult, particularly in the rainy season, when the tracks become mud-slides. Caucasians after a quicker colour change than is available on the beach are advised to put their feet down 20 metres in advance of the muddy patches in order to ensure their maximum coverage in mud.
If you get particularly muddy after your extreme off-road session then why not wash off the extreme way, by bungee-ing head-first into the centre's lake?
For one of Thailand's most authentic adventures, ask Ian for a price on a 4wd, buggy or motorbike off-road trip up to Pai. Those visitors with more money than maturity can alternatively request one of the daftest of all days out, zooming around the mountains in off-road buggies while being attacked by flour-bomb-throwing micro-light pilots and defending themselves with paintball guns.
Anybody childish enough to want to do this is requested to please email us, here at 'Adrenaline', so that we can come out and play, too.
Or maybe you fancy a vertiginous zip-ride on steel cables through the jungle canopy. Chiang Mai's newest day-trip, the 'Flight of the Gibbon', is very well-equipped with all the most modern safety equipment: it's just a pity that the staff don't yet know how to use it. The day-trip starts with a stiff hike to the top of a seven-level waterfall, after which the visitor takes a rest in a little hut, where there are a free drink and towel on offer next to a large natural pool. Don't assume that these are bathing towels and jump in for a swim though, as you'll look a bit daft trying to dry yourself off with a herbal face towel afterwards.
The tour continues with a 2 kilometre ride on a series of eleven steel cables through the canopy. You put a harness on, to the front of which is attached, via a short length of stout cord, a steel pully. This will ride on top of the steel cables. Then a karabiner, again via a length of cord, is attached to your harness. This should be attached to a safety line whenever you are not attached to a zip-line cable via your pully. The safety drill should go like this: when you are about to transfer from a safety cable to a zip-line, the attendant first attaches the pully to the cable and then unclips the karabiner from the safety line.
Unfortunately, at one of the tree-top stations the attendant got confused and unclipped me from my safety line before clipping me on to the zip-line.
For a few seconds I was completely unprotected, 30 metres above the forest floor. This was bad enough, but there was worse to come. I am small and, when I zipped down the cable, I didn't build up enough momentum to take me to the platform at the far end of the zip-line. I stopped a few metres short of it and then ran backwards on the pully, until I was stranded under the middle of the zip-line, with no way forwards or backwards. I wasn't unduly worried, as I was sure the attendant would know what to do. Unfortunately he didn't. He grabbed a bag with a rope inside, attached himself to the cable and zipped down to where I hung. He then spent the next twenty minutes unsuccessfully attempting to rescue me. This wouldn't have been so bad, as I knew I wasn't in danger, but the harness started to really hurt after a while. They aren't designed to sit in for ages and I started getting worried about deep vein thrombosis or blood clots.
As I sat there in pain I comforted myself that at least it couldn't get any worse. Then it started to rain. Hard tropical rain that soaked me in moments - I felt like I was being bombarding with gravel. I had heard that in a storm zip-wires can become dangerous, as they attract lightning, so that at the first hint of an electrical storm parties must descend at once. Well, I plainly couldn't go anywhere, as my rescuer and I were now both stranded. He had made two mistakes. Firstly he had not attached an end of the rope to the tree before he left it. Secondly he had not checked the state of the rope: it turned out to be hopelessly knotted. After a while my failed rescuer and I were rescued by a real rescuer. The rest of the tour was great. I have never hung about in the treetops before and I found it to be an extremely beautiful place to spend time. The rain forest's bigger trees are especially beautiful when viewed from up there.
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