We’ve been a bit reluctant to try this popular Chiang Mai attraction out to be honest since swinging through tree tops didn’t really sit well with our vertigo. But as it came recommended by several mates and, apart from anything else, its ads are plastered over every other tuk tuk and outside every tour agent’s office in town, we thought we’d better give the Flight of the Gibbon a go.
First mistake: we drove up there ourselves from Chiang Mai. The tiny village of Mae Kompong is not easy to find and we noticed later that their website specifically asks you not to drive yourself there to avoid parking problems and congestion in the village (and to avoid getting lost); their standard package includes pick up and return to your hotel. Having said that the drive through the scenic Mae Kompong valley and through the village itself is stunning if best appreciated from the comfort of their minibus. (It’s around an hour’s drive in all.)
In fact, at the risk of getting side tracked, the valley was so spectacular we’d go up there anyway even without any zip-lines at the end. The wooden houses clinging to the steep sides of the tiny and narrow valley made for one of the most picturesque villages we’ve seen in the area and the pristine, lush forest along the valley was simply beautiful. There were some great looking resorts and tempting coffee shops in the lower, slightly wider part of the valley but we’ll save that for a later post… so back to the Gibbons.
So, having smoked half a pack of cigarettes (in a no smoking zone), fingered the emergency Xanax secreted in my pocket and dallied as long as possible over choosing a helmet and harness, (and starting to feel distinctly like Mr Bean in the judo class sketch), we realised it was now or never.
At this point I’d have to say the staff were awesome — professional, fun and reassuring (they didn’t even snigger too much) — so not wanting to be shown up by my wife, who’s into these things and whose idea of a birthday treat is a bungy jump — we went for it.
Needless to say it was brilliant and after an initial outbreak of cold sweat and trembling knees I enjoyed every minute of the course. There are around 5 kilometres of zip-lines, abseiling, (and/or rappelling — can’t remember which is which), along a well-designed route in a truly spectacular treetop setting. When they say it’s fun for any age or ability, it’s true — even for those with vertigo.
The current rate when we checked their site was 3,299 baht per person, which may seem a bit pricey but remember it’s a whole day out and includes lunch, a waterfall trek and transfers, as well as the treetop course itself — and it certainly is a great experience. (Where safety is concerned it’s probably best not to skimp on the price either.)
By Mark Ord
Last updated on 20th September, 2013.