Category Archives: Everyday Life

Jungle Flight – twice in a lifetime adventure!

It was a year ago now that I first visited the tranquil little village of Baan Nam Khong and enjoyed gliding from tree to tree with the amazing Jungle Flight adventure. I got a chance to fly again last weekend and try out the longest, fastest and highest cables around Chiang Mai, a new adventure package amongst serene giant trees and bright green jungle.

The new section of Jungle Flight has northern Thailand’s longest zipline (at 300 metres), three more lines measuring 130 to 180 metres, one of them over 40 metres high, with a stunning view of the mountains. You can take it all in if you choose Package B. The weather was just right, sunny and clear, but not too hot, with brilliant lights for taking photos in the trees. Our group spent almost 4 hours on the platforms and ropes. Absolutely mindblowing and thrilling and …. I will need to get a dictionary to find more adjectives. Last year, I was left desperately wanting more, for the second time now, it was complete and well wrapped up. Just my idea of the perfect day.

Jungle Flight has made some welcome improvements. There is now a new “headquarters” in the village, a traditional wooden house, with adequate facilities for getting changed and lockers for storing backpacks. Locally grown coffee is available in the small restaurant. Otherwise, Baan Nam Khong still a simple sleepy village from the olden days, not spoilt by all the people coming and going.

We had four guides with us to take care of all the ropes, pulleys and carabiners, secure our take-offs and landings, point out interesting trees and wildlife, and tease us endlessly. It also meant that we all had plenty of opportunities for tandem flights with a guide, being able to assume some interesting acrobatic positions like the “superman”.

They are great at reading how scared or thrilled people are, engage in small talk to make guests more comfortable, and keep a careful eye on every little detail. They are also super crazy and love to glide around upside down, enjoying another day at work.

All the equipment used for the flights is imported and top grade. However, passengers rely on simple wooden twigs as brakes. I enjoyed watching the newbies’ faces when they learn about the technique for slowing down: listen to the guide yell BRAKE and pull down hard with the twig behind the pulley. If unsuccessful…. get ready to hit the treeee! On the longest zipline, I managed to accelerate to such blinding speed that no braking was strong enough and I smashed into the tree…. crushing the helpless guide (half my size) who was trying to slow me down. But experience helps, hardly any bruises this time.

Just joking. The trees where you are likely to have problems are padded.

Here are some of the highlights. A picture says a thousand words – sorry if it is sensory or technical overload for some of you.

The platforms and many of the ziplines offer a unique bird’s eye view perspective of the jungle. Sign up for Package B to get the most amazing vistas. Good news: you do NOT have to approach the first platform on one of these ladders you see! The villagers climb these to collect honey from the treetops.

The guides think it is hilarious to bounce up and down the skybridges while people are trying to cross from one tree to another.

This is a photo of the bridge taken from the treetop staircase.

Ancient trees – just the way they are. Don’t forget to look up and take in as much as you can absorb, with all your senses.

The abseils…. there are now 4 if you go for Package B. Luckily, you don’t absolutely need to go upside down…. but you can have the rope attached to your back and then ask for a fast descent. Get your vocal chords ready if you pick this option. As close as you will get to bungee jumping without actually doing it.

A couple is getting ready to fly the 130-metre cable, the longest if you pick Package A.

This one was my absolute favourite! Note the abseil down to the lower platform…. that’s the second highest abseil. Sigh.

The longest cable at the moment is 300 metres long, and it takes almost 25 seconds to glide it. Calculate the average speed for maximum jawdrop effect. There are some very nice views to the right, but you also get a different experience in the dense canopy.

This is the highest cable of all (also in package B). This one has the best views of half the province, probably. I took a video here, as a guide was alongside me and taking care of my flight and my landing so I could enjoy the view. I almost got a heart attack when I saw the movie for the first time. Check it out at the forum. The real thing was nowhere near that scary in that moment, your senses work differently, they don’t take all that space and depth in.

On a few lines, you are offered the option to be attached to the cable using the carabiner on your back. Being Superman is actually not totally straight-forward, as you may start spinning around. Approaching a platform head first is also quite scary but of course
the guides help you and the rope rises sharply in the very last moment. Don’t miss it.

There is a 580-metre stretch of suspended walkway. It is steep uphill, and gives you yet another nice perspective of the forest without having to cut through dense foliage at ground level. It is manageable for reasonably fit people, and you don’t need climbing shoes.

Can you spot the crazy guide in this picture? This is the last platform – “happy ending“. I was one of the first to descend, and I loved collecting the soundbites from people once they had solid ground under their feet. “I will never do this again!” topped the list. That was when I remembered that this is exactly what I said the last time…. but my memory had deleted it, fortunately. You could try asking for a parachute, they didn’t give me one, so I guess this is the way down!

“I am scared of heights – should I go for it?”

I am definitely more of an armchair adventurer myself. You should have seen me the first time I was hanging on a rope. Even though I had been dreaming vividly about flying for decades, I thought cranes and heavy equipment will be needed to get me down the second tree. Then it got better. It is definitely acquired taste. Just relax and let it happen, spread your arms and fly, holding on the rope makes it worse. Screaming definitely does help. If it is only a yelp initially, then set your mind to it and scream intentionally. And, most importantly, don’t listen to the guides suggesting you need to look down to overcome the fear – that is a set-up :-) Look in the distance, admire the trees and the mountains and the amazing jungle.

Told you not to!!

Currently, Jungle Flight offers two flights:

Package A with 22 platforms, 14 flights, 3 abseils, 2 bridges, 1 staircase, longest line 130 metres. This is the original adventure as it was a year ago.

Package B with 33 platforms, 21 flights, 4 abseils, 3 bridges, 1 staircase, longest line 300 metres, suspended walkway, more views of the mountains, truly amazing.

There are promotional prices at the moment, which you can check out at the Jungle Flight website. Both packages include snack, drinking water, lunch, round-trip transport, a visit to the hot springs on the way back, and a visit to a small waterfall in the rainy season. It is possible to change your mind halfway through and switch to Package B – quite a few people do so.

Some practical advice:

You can take along your camera easily if you wear a small shoulder bag. Carrying it around in a hand or pocket is quite clumsy.

The adventure takes four hours or longer – especially if it is the rainy season and there is enough water in the waterfall to deserve a little side trip from the ziplines. A snack and plenty of drinking water is provided at rest stops, and guides take good care of anyone who needs help. However, make sure you eat and drink enough for breakfast because it is a long day before lunch, and it may not be a bad idea to carry a bar of chocolate or some glucose candies. I guess dehydration could be a real problem in the hot season if you don’t take care of yourself, even though the altitude helps and it does not get as fiercely hot in the real jungle as down in the concrete jungle.

I would like to thank the owner of Jungle Flight Mr Songsai Mangklad for inviting me again, and our guides for taking care of me (and all of us!) so considerately.

Jungle Flight – the best adventure in Chiang Mai

I enjoy getting lost. Taking a map, my camera, some water, and follow some deserted mountain road, looking down on valleys, looking over mountain ranges. This is how I found the beautiful little village of Baan Namkhong just a few weeks ago at the end of a winding road, in an area where my maps show absolutely nothing. They couldn’t be more wrong. At the altitude of 1050 metres, this little community is surrounded by ancient lush jungle, huge timeless rubber trees, amazing green scenery, and deep silence and serenity.

That is, until an adrenalin-fuelled scream breaks the silence.

This is the home of Jungle Flight, Chiang Mai’s ultimate jungle adventure: sliding from giant tree to giant tree on cables for over two kilometres, sometimes as high as 40 metres above ground. It is difficult to let go, to jump into thin air at first, but then, the flow carries you away quickly. If you are longing for some thrill, but bungee jumping is a bit steep for you, I think Jungle Flight is just what you have been looking for. However, you will find yourself at the end of a rope all the same, and I tell you that tree is coming real fast as well!

tree up close!

Take a deep breath. Just let it happen to you. Once the first adrenaline rush is over, and those shaking legs support you firmly again, you will find yourself looking at the jungle from a completely different angle, surrounded by treetops, wild orchids – and the word “depth” gets a whole new meaning. There is something timeless and ancient about Jungle Flight, which in a way reminds me of snorkelling.



silent giants

Our guides Pang and Yud are great with people, they know how to make people relaxed, how and when to tease or encourage. We all received lots of personal attention. The guides showed us coffee beans, flowers, a bees’ nest, gave us plenty of time to stop and admire the view, there was time for joking and fun.

When I asked what happens if someone doesn’t have enough momentum and stops in the middle of the cable, they showed me – they left me hanging there in the air, like a giant bird stuck in the canopy. That was the most carefree moment of my past couple of months, in the middle of nowhere. It is amazing too how quickly strangers bond on top of a tree.

It is a crazy idea to slide between trees when you first look at it, but at second glance, it looks perfectly safe. The longest and highest ziplines have two cables running parallel, and you get secured to both during your flight. The three abseil sections also have double safety lines. You are always attached to a wire while standing on any of the 22 platforms or walking the two wobbly skybridges. The guides hook you to the right places all the time, you cannot make a mistake. All equipment was imported, complies with international safety standards, and so does the safety training received by all the guides.

down here?! – no way!

At the very end, to descend from the last platform, you have no choice but to leap into the abyss – an eight-storey gap in the middle of a platform. You can ask to be lowered slowly or to have it with more of a free-fall twist. All I can say about this bit is that screaming actually does help.

There is a little bit of steep jungle walk back to the village, where a tasty lunch awaits the returning members of the expedition. You may also buy locally made herbal tea, honey, herbal pillows, or a Jungle Flight t-shirt. The restaurant overlooks the jungle and more giant trees, where you may wind down and share your favourite moments.

my favourite trees

The tour price is 2,200 baht for the entire 7-hour adventure, and includes round trip transfer, water, insurance, and a short stop at the local hot springs on the way back. You need to pay extra for lunch. If you choose an early pick-up time (6 to 6:30 a.m.) or a late afternoon adventure (leaving at 1-1:30 p.m.), the discounted price is 1,980 baht. You need to be taller than 120 centimetres and weigh less than 150 kilos to sign up.

that’s me at the end of my rope

Seven additional platforms will be completed by the end of April, including the longest zipwire in Thailand – 260 metres. There are plans for a daily ticket with unlimited number of rides. Personally, I can hardly wait for that one!

the longest cable at the moment – 130 metres

I think it is great value for money. First, it may sound too much for a daytrip, but just compare it to what the normal price of a bungee jump is. Jungle Flight takes three hours, you get to ride the longest zipline in Thailand, marvel at the jungle up close and from a bird’s eye view, and actually feel like a bird. It is as close as you can get to flying, something we all dream about. It is an adventure of a lifetime. The only problem is, you may get addicted!

jungle staircase

Your money also helps the local community. This little Khamu hilltribe village of 30 families is too high in the mountains for rice farming, so, the coffee plantations provide the main income. Jungle Flight brings in much needed income and jobs to the village while respecting the community. Part of the profits go towards funding a school van and school lunches to all children in the village, as well as towards maintaining the narrow winding road and providing clean water. Socially responsible businesses like Jungle Flight benefit local people, give them alternatives to cutting down the precious jungle, and are worthy of your support.

Baan Namkhong village

Also, a homestay scheme will be up and running in the near future, which should attract people looking for peace and quiet away from the city, overlooking the mountain ranges. The climate is noticeably more pleasant at this altitude, the trees are still green, an ideal place to escape to in the upcoming hot season.

The price includes transfer but if you would like to “get lost” on your own, head out of Chiang Mai on the Chiang Rai highway for 27 kilometres. At the sign to the Sankamphaeng hot springs, turn right and go a further 4 kilometres. Then follow the Jungle Flight signs for another 13 kilometres up the hills. It takes one hour to get there. A 105 cc motorcycle can just about make it, but that is not something I would like to try again.

Jungle Flight has an office opposite Thapae Gate (47/2 Moon Muang Road). You can also book your flight online at http://www.jungle-flight.com/index.html . The website has some stunning photos and videos of the trip – check it out.

I posted some more photos and a map at our Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand forum.

I would like to thank the owner of Jungle Flight, Mr Songsai Mangklad (Sonny) for inviting me for a site inspection. Sonny gave me the grand tour personally and took care of me all along the way.

If anyone reading this runs a tourist attraction or guesthouse and would like to invite any of the Paknam Web team of bloggers for a site inspection, then please contact us through the www.PaknamWeb.com website. We will then promote the location on www.thai-blogs.com and other related websites in our network.

Brief history of Thai-blogs

This month we celebrate the second anniversary of our Thai-blog community. What better occasion to recall the past and pay a brief visit the story of how it all started. We have to go back quite a while ago… please follow me.

Where it all began

Once upon a time there was a forum as part of a website called thailandguidebook.com. On this forum, some members started to write regularly about their Thai experiences. It was a diverse bunch even back then: temporary teachers, backpackers, and some expats like yours truly. Even Richard found some spare time and shared language study tips he gained while teaching his students at Srinai.

Shortly thereafter, these stories were moved outside the forum, so as to not look like posts. This was the first time they started to resemble today’s blogs – but they were very, very basic. Just plain text paragraphs, that’s it. Things like the calendar, RSS, blog-search – basically all the bells and whistles that we take for granted in today’s blogs, were nonexistent at that time. Writer profiles were those of the forum; comments were also collected as forum posts. I remember, each of us writers had their separate subforum for blog comments, and we responded there.

The lonely blogger

This highlighted an obvious problem: readers had to be forum members in order to interact with the bloggers. Since at that time the forums had yet to gain their own entity to be the popular ThailandQA we know now, the interest for our blogs was sparse. Most writers became disillusioned about this and have left. There was a period of time when I was the sole blogger on the site!

Thai-blogs to the rescue

Around that time, Richard got this brilliant idea to get a proper blog engine and run the blogs on a unique site. This became Thai-blogs that you are reading now. I remember, we had a problem with the name. Richard wanted thaiblogs.com at first, but it was (and still is) reserved by a cybersquatter. And then we vacillated whether having a hypenated URL will cause confusion amongst readers in the future… apparently it didn’t. :-)

Content transplant

So, we had a site, we had a name, we had an enigne. But if it started empty from scratch, we would have lost valuable time waiting for content and readership to build up. Thus all of Richard’s and my previously written material has been painstakingly moved to the this new place. The timestamp has also been tinkered with, in order to make the intial posts appear as if they had been written for this site gradually over time. While that was a good idea back then, now it’s simply impossible to find our very first blog entry. Oh well… :-)

With time readers and writers started to come. Another important milestone in the history of Thai-blogs was when Richard started to construct the Big Thailand Quiz and Steve helped out with that project. It was through their discussions about devising the questions that got Steve started out here at Thai-blogs, giving another enormous boost to this community. :-)

Plans for the future
In this ever-changing cyberworld one has to keep up with the latest innovations to maintain a quality content presentation. The improvements to our blogs did’t just stop here. Richard told me about future plans to further improve Thai-blogs, and without dwelling on them much, let me just tell you that they can take the community to exciting new directions! :-)

I’m glad to see that during these years, Thai-blogs succeeded to preserve its friendly and informative nature, making it an isle of peace in the sea of thai-related sites gone bad. Couldn’t have gone this far without writers giving quality content, and readers giving inspiration to the writers. Here is hope that we’re going to see Thai-blogs doing great for many years coming. Thanks to you all! :-)

Your Wonderful Thailand

Asking expats why they chose Thailand, you’ll often get enthusiastic replies like “Oh, Thailand is such a wonderful place”; “everything is so cheap”; “people are friendly”; “I just love the Thai way of life”.

Once you take a closer look at these enthusiastic folks, however, many times you will find that the “thai” life they are so enthralled about, bears very little resemblance to how the majority of local Thais live. Which in itself is no problem, of course; heck, if I made 5-10 times the local wages, I would also sneak in some more “Farang magic” to spice up my all-Thai life over there. 😉

Stuck in the Farang bubble

What I don’t really get is when, instead of adding that Farang magic, people start substituting some aspects of Thai life with Farang equivalents. What do I mean by that? Consider this old farang guy over at ThailandQA, who summarily rejects all kinds of Thai food, proclaiming that only Farang food is worth eating. Some other expats are stuck in the Farang bubble, afraid to integrate, because that means leaving the old, safe environment behind.

Can you imagine living in Thailand for decades and not eating a single dish of Thai food? Or hiding out during Songkran with the rest of the candybutt Farang in the safety of air-con flats and malls, while the Thai population crowds the klongs and waterways, having “unsanitary” fun in the April heat? 😀

Wonderful Illusion

The “wonderful Thailand” such people talk about is in fact a tiny world of Westernized illusion squeezed into very narrow limits of persistent Farang habits that they are unable or unwilling to break out of. Their professed love for Thailand is only as deep as their wallet goes, because Farang lifestyle is expensive. Would they still be so enthusiastic about living in Thailand, if they were to switch lifestyles with an average Thai worker for a few months? Would they be able to find happiness here on a salary of 4000-6000Bt a month? Doubtful.

Integration = more happiness

No one can love it all. Surely everyone has their own limits to what Wonderful Thailand is about; what’s beyond likeable is personal. Basically, the more you integrate into Thai society, the wider this likeable range is, and the easier Thailand can make you happy.

For instance, I’m equally happy munching on sai ua kao nieow (northern sausage with sticky rice) sitting near the klong with a group of Thai friends who don’t speak English, as I am while chewing on a juicy steak at Sizzler with a Farang visitor.

The boundaries of your Wonderful Thailand
I know where the boundaries of my Wonderful Thailand lie. Politics, corruption, domestic abuse and sex-tourism are some of the few things beyond my boundaries of happy life in Thailand. What about yours? How wide is your range of things that make you happy in Thailand? How many of those could you retain, if you were to live the life of an average Thai worker?

Thai life: a European interlude

Long-time readers might still remember the time I started posting about my Thai life on Paknamweb back in 2004, even before the existence of this Thai-blogs community. You have been with me through many ups and downs of my life here, so I want to share with you the recent events that will bring about some of the greatest changes in my life. :-)

European interlude
My girlfriend Cherry and I are about to leave Thailand. Only temporarily though. 😉 Cherry is going to France for a few days, where she will present her research work on an international science conference in Paris. Afterwards, she’ll spend the next six months doing research at a London university, as the final part of her PhD program.

I will use this time to go back to Hungary for a long-overdue family reunion. I haven’t seen them for the last seven years! After the five years in the US at the uni, and now the two years here in Thailand, I really want to see my family again. :)

We’ll leave sometime in June. As you can imagine, we’re quite excited, and very busy with preparation. We cleared most obstacles already, but some necessities are yet to be done. This evening we’ll leave Chiang Mai on a Bangkok-bound bus (trains don’t leave CM because of the flood). In Bangkok, we’ll apply for the French and UK visas for Cherry. It took a while to get all the evidence together, and we had it checked with the local consulate to be sure, but you never know… so let’s just keep our fingers crossed! :-)

I will keep writing to Thai-blogs and Thaiwonders even from Europe. I have more than two years worth of Thailand memories; that should easily last for six months, lol.

Reflections
To move to Thailand was the best decision of my life. I learned much, not only about the wonderful local lifestyle, culture and values, but also about myself. I believe that my life turned out to be better than what I could’ve ever have in the US, had I stayed there for the additional five-six years necessary for the PhD.

The next six months will be a great time to test and contrast the values I adopted here, with the one I left behind such a long time ago. At the same time, I want to come back to Thailand at the end, nice as it may be to be with family. To me, Europe is only a visit to the past. My home, my life, is here now.

Thanks for everyone who kept reading my life stories through these years. :-)

SiamJai