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.