Zip lines and Cleavers

The first couple of zip lines were surprisingly easy. After almost 2 1/2 hours in a van picking up my flying cohorts – 3 young Israeli men, a honeymoon couple fresh off the plane at the airport and a saucy Brit, just off the train from a month in Burma, and a scenic drive up through the mountains, the guides were ready to get us flying right away. We walked down some steps through 1500 year old virgin rain forest to our first platform. Strapped into our harnesses and wearing our helmets, our crazy Brit was the first to zip. With little time to worry, I was next up flying across huge chasms to the platform on the strangler fig tree ahead of me. Sitting in the harness, I held onto the connecting piece and twirled around as I traveled. The landing is quick, “Feet up! Feet up!” as you are caught by the guides, giggling with excitement and adrenaline.

The Flight of the Gibbons is a new place and is already one of the most visited places in Thailand. There are 18 lines high up in the trees, one of which is over a half kilometer long and believe me, you can get up quite a speed descending over that distance! It was a little like the top of a roller coaster at the beginning, that pit in your stomach feel as you descend, but it sure didn’t take me long to learn to scream a bit to let off steam and enjoy the twirling before crashing into the next platform in the sky. Between some of the platforms there were some swinging bridges to walk across and in one place, a set of steep stairs up to the next place. As the others took a smoking break, the 3 Americans hightailed it up to a scenic spot where we actually spotted a family of gibbons swinging merrily through the trees. They made it look so easy and so fun.

After awhile, the shorter lines started to seem too short and the landings became easier. To shake up the complacency, the next platform didn’t have any lines leading from it, nor stairs nearby. Spotting the hole in the platform, I looked down to see a huge rope descending straight down a story or two. The heart rate started to increase a bit as I realized that was our next line – straight down. Hooked in, I started a slow descent being held by the rope to the guides above. Having amazing senses of humor, they enjoyed my gasp as they increased the speed suddenly for a quicker descent. Yikes! Laughing let off the steam that time. I must have been on an endorphin high the whole 3 hours or so I was out there!

To keep things interesting, we had a double line across two more platforms. The newlyweds kissed in the air as the cameras rolled. I was matched up with the Brit, about my age, to much kidding. It was an unusual first date, our second being another double straight down descent and the third dinner with the group afterward. And no, that was it, as we parted ways at the end. Too cheeky for me.

As much fun as I was having, I had a time of minor panic at one of the platforms. Where was the line to the next one? This time, we could “fly like the birds”. The harness line was attached to our backs, think Peter Pan in the movie. We were instructed to just leap off. What?! Nothing to sit in? Nothing to hold onto? My brain knew that leaping off a platform where I couldn’t even see the ground below was not a smart idea, even if it knew somehow that I was connected to a wire way above my head. I couldn’t do it. As I was trying to talk myself into making the leap, I felt a push from behind and there I was flying through the air, and laughing my head off as I approached the cargo net where I made my crash landing. I wonder what my heart rate was as I climbed up to the platform!

The whole experience was such fun, seeing the jungle from the tops of the trees, traveling through the air with the gibbons, connecting with new friends in a very fundamental way given our circumstances huddling together on the platforms in the sky, waiting for our next turn. The other woman took my camera and made a couple of videos of me crossing and we all took pictures of each other. I liked the Israeli guys right away as they guessed my age at 45 and looked with wonder at the old lady in the van. From the shocked looks on their faces across the first couple of lines, I’m not sure they enjoyed it all as much as I did, at least the first few times. Age has its advantages. I was gleeful!

I was the oldest again, by far, when I was picked up yesterday morning for a Thai cooking class. This time, we traveled by an open truck, sort of like a Tuk-tuk for more people. All the others were already in the back, so I slid into the jump seat behind the driver. We stopped at the local market where I knew most of the veggies and spices from Bali. Back at the school, actually someones’s home, we gathered around our chopping blocks with huge cleavers to slice up the ingredients. We had some choices as we fashioned different varieties of curries, soups and noodles. Bashing together the ingredients for a curry paste in a mortar and pestle takes a lot of arm strength as the cinnamon is a stick, the pepper in its green casing, and the star anise a tough little customer. The results were delicious as we made each course, ate it together at a table, tasting each others varieties and then resumed our places by the cleavers and woks. I enjoyed the international flavor as we discussed our travels and gave each other advice about things not to be missed in Asia. I had chosen the half day course which, given my full belly, was a good choice. The people left to make three more courses were looking a little stressed as I left.

After some digesting, I made my way around the corner to pick up my laundry. It was only this morning that I discovered that I have lost one of my bike gloves in the process. That darn Velcro must have stuck to someone else’s clothing. I guess it wasn’t as cheap as I had hoped to have my laundry done again.

The massage I used to console myself was cheap. A couple of nights ago I had tried the blind Thai massage. Thai massage is done fully clothed as the therapist uses pressure points to move and push on your body to release tension and open the energy lines. The blind are supposed to be especially good at this, using their sense of touch to find the blocked places. It was intense at times but I felt great afterward. Next to the laundry, I tried an oil massage for 200 baht, about $6.00. For an hour on a mat on the floor (unfortunately with a TV going in the room), she stroked and pushed me into a puddle of relaxation. With a pedicure, I’m now ready to leave for higher places.

I’m heading back to Bangkok on a flight this afternoon. It will be hard to leave this place where I have made new friends and enjoyed the comfort of a soft bed, hot showers and full breakfasts. On Saturday, I fly to Nepal where the quality of life will be different in many ways. I’ve enjoyed my week here, being a tourist, trying new things (elephants! zip lines!), enjoying delicious organic food at the local cafe, meeting wonderful people and living well inexpensively. Nepal was my original destination on this adventure abroad. Once again, I’m not sure about internet access there, but I’ll post again from the Himalayas when I can. But first, one more night in Thailand.

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6 Comments

  1. Janie Sherwin

     /  March 9, 2012

    I never know what to expect! Your days are so full. Looking forward to Nepal. All of your fellow travelers that you meet up with are lucky to be able to share your enthusiasm, zest for exploration and your contagious personality.

    Reply
  2. pam perkins

     /  March 9, 2012

    You are the most intrepid traveler I’ve ever known and have lots more guts than I do.
    Can’t wait to hear from Nepal. Riding with Candace and the Babes today. No doubt we
    will discuss your adventures. XXOO

    Reply
  3. Penny

     /  March 9, 2012

    You really are amazing and to think how nervous you were about traveling by yourself when you left Hawaii! We are having rain and hail!!!! So glad your week here wasn’t like this. Enjoy Nepal and can’t wait to hear your next adventure.

    Reply
  4. Mary Blake

     /  March 10, 2012

    You go girl! Whatever is next on your agenda I can’t wait to read about. Stay safe. Mary

    Reply
  5. Beth-Ann Betz

     /  March 11, 2012

    Ellen, sitting here reading your post, I feel my heartbeat in my neck! Phew. What a ride you are having and giving us. I Better go take a rest now. xoBeth-Ann

    Reply
  6. Candice Stein

     /  March 13, 2012

    Zip lines! Got butterflies just reading blog entry. You are a hardcore adventurer, my dear.

    Reply

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