Flight of the Gibbon

by David on November 28, 2009

Note: additional pictures can be seen on my flickr stream here.

Also Note: Post edited on 09 December 2009 to correct information on Archie Ezekiel. There was no exaggeration of his level of awesomeness, but the awesomeness was incorrectly distributed geographically. Details in comments.

Environmental tourism is hugely popular in Thailand, and one of the early entrants into the field was Flight of the Gibbon, a zipline canopy tour operation that now has branches in Pattaya, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. My day with them started at 6:50 in the morning when I was picked up outside my guest house by an air conditioned van. I was the last stop and joined seven other, mostly very sleepy, people who would make up my group for the day. It was an unusual experience to be in a group with that many English speakers, although they hailed from all over the world. We had two Americans, one Canadian, an Aussie, two English girls who currently live in Australia when not on vacation, and two Danes (their English was better than mine).


The Group

It was a great group of people and I found myself spending a lot of time with two in particular. The first was John Kemp, a tour guide from Australia who drives large four wheel drive trucks full of people on 5,000 km circuits through the Kimberly in northern Australia.

John Kemp

He wears a helmet with style.

The second was Archie Ezekiel, a Canadian world traveler who has been to 45 U.S. states, lived and worked in Mexico for two and a half years and travelled across Canada 20 times.  When we met he had just finished a seven week volunteer stint at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, and was about to go to China to teach English for a year.

Archie Ezekiel

This is the most serious face he made all day.

When we arrived in Mae Kampong we were met by our guide Chit and his colleague whose name I can’t recall but who kept assuring us that even though it was his first day, he was pretty sure that no one would die.  After filling out some paperwork we were shuttled to the starting point of the course, where we zipped out across the valley to the first of many platforms high in the trees.



As exciting as the ziplines were, I think that I enjoyed the sky bridges even more.  It was nice to be able to pause and look around, as well pose for pictures.

David on Bridge

The view of this bridge from the next platform over (seen in the background above) was especially stunning, really illustrating how high up we were.  I was amazed to learn that the entire course was built in only four months.

Sky Bridge

Speaking of construction, our guide pointed out a bamboo ladder that ascended past one of the zipline platforms. They are made by driving wooden stakes through pieces of bamboo and into the trees.  The villagers have been using them for a very long time to harvest honey, and they were also used in the building of the zipline course: the villagers would ascend into the canopy using the ladders, and then rig ropes for the engineers to ascend for construction.

Bamboo Ladder

The platform on which I was standing while taking this photo was 100 feet (33 meters) above the forest floor, and the ladder just keeps on going.  These are some brave people who have definitely earned their honey.

The last stop on the tour was a platform in an absolutely enormous banyan tree, from which we were lowered to the ground.

Banyan Descent

David Descending

After returning to earth, we made a trip to a nearby waterfall, actually a series of waterfalls, where we had the opportunity to hike up a trail through the lush and surprisingly cool jungle.

Waterfall 1

Waterfall 2

After that it was time for lunch before returning tired and happy to Chiang Mai.


Nell November 30, 2009 at 11:15

That is a wicked cool ladder and you look like you’re having a ball!

David November 30, 2009 at 23:33

I am absolutely having a ball! However, the longest that I could stay on a tourist visa would be until late February. As it is I’m thinking of moving on around mid-January depending on how my Thai language classes are going. If I find that I’m really picking it up quickly, I may stay a little longer.

Juri Lounsberry December 1, 2009 at 09:45

What? No helmet cam???

Looks like things are off to a great start! Thanks for the blog, it keeps Grandma from worrying that you are dead in a gutter somewhere :)


David December 2, 2009 at 01:33

No, the helmet cam worked out so poorly when skiing that I didn’t even bring it along. I am glad that grandma doesn’t worry too much, but I really wish that people would worry less about me dying in a gutter and more about me being in political exile because a foreign government decided that my level of awesome was a threat to the status quo. So use the power of positive thinking here people: less muggings and diseases, more cognac, fast cars and women in cocktail dresses.

Anonymous December 3, 2009 at 11:05

WOW That Archie is a liar. He has never been to any European countries and this is his first trip outside North America.

Adriana December 5, 2009 at 17:29

Looks like you are enjoying yourself and I glad to see that you are seeing the sites. But….damn boy – that is really really high. You and I both know that I would have to live in the trees, cause I could never be let down from that height. NEVER!!!

David December 10, 2009 at 01:03

Correction: Archie has not traveled to Europe and has been to “only” 45 states in the U.S. but lived and worked in Mexico for 2 1/2 years and has traveled across Canada 20 TIMES!

Class, let’s all throw Archie the metal sign and repeat after me: “Whoooooooo!!!”

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