Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Escaping Pattaya - The Treetop Adventure, or Pattaya Part Tree
The sun was up, and I knew I wanted to get my day moving, as it was my last in Thailand. Slightly disappointed in myself for sleeping in, I rushed down the elevator in search for breakfast.
Upon entering the lobby, I was greeted by the same receptionist from the night before.
"You're up early." she stated in disinterested surprise.
"Am I?" I answered, still half asleep.
She nodded towards the clock on the wall. 6:30?! I guess I was up early.
Taking advantage of my early hours, I left the lobby and jogged (/walked.) along the boardwalk for a couple kilometers. This would be the only time I saw Pattaya Beach in full daylight.
An hour or so later, I returned and was talked out of eating breakfast at my hotel, by my hotel's staff, and directed towards the buffet down the block at their sister hotel. Strange, I thought, but I did eat my fill before finishing my morning on the rooftop pool.
After deciding on a new hotel to stay in, and catching a motorbike taxi to get there, I found a travel agent, set on discovering some of the nearby islands.
Unfortunately, I was told, all organized trips had been booked at least a day prior and left before any of the agents were open in the morning. Renting a private charter to an island just wasn't worth the money as a single traveler. Neither came as a big surprise, though both were a slight disappointment.
I asked her if there was anything else, I could do. After the previous night's festivities, I wanted out of this city. She pointed at brouchers like "Zoo" and "Snake Show." My complete lack of interest clearly transcended the boundaries of bi-lingual communication.
"You don't seem like someone who wants the regular kinds of tourism..." I grinned and shook my head to confirm her thought.
It was around this time I allowed my attention to focus on a poster I had seen several in various locations.
"What about that?" I asked inquisitively. She smiled, knowing we found the one.
Flight of the Gibbon: Asia's Treetop Adventure.
I was sold. Completing the transaction, and dashing back to my hotel room to prepare, I met the small bus back in front of the travel agent's small office. Last to be picked up, I took my seat and turned to greet my companions-in-adventure: four young Israeli men, and their Thai girl friend.
Making brief introductions, we set off for our ride. Not long later, we found ourselves in the secluded Champoo Wildlife Sanctuary, not far outside Pattaya.
After the ritualistic signing our life away, promising we know we could die and it would be our fault if we did, the six of us strapped in our harnesses, grabbed our helmets, and met Mike and Don, our Tree Top guides.
The two guides were incredible, and fully knowledgeable of the surrounding forest and history of our expedition. The pack of eager adventurers hiked up hill before climbing the first platform. It was here we were told we stood on the first of 24 platforms with 16 zip lines, and several free-fall rappels looming ahead of us. Most of our group swallowed hard, and shifted nervously; some double checked their safety lines.
One of our guides strapped in, launched himself off the safety of the platform and rushed through the trees before landing several meters away on the other side.
"Your turn," the remaining guide smiled. It was at this point I knew we were in for a lot of fun. None the less, I couldn't help but look down...
Flight of the Gibbon was an incredible adventure for your atypical tourist, and a great break from standard Thailand fanfare. I found myself bonding with 7 strangers, to the point I was sad to see them go at the end of our tree hopping. The wildlife sanctuary was breathtaking: out of city smog, and in the grasp of nature, the setting offered as authentic an experience as possible.
And the zip lines, the free falls, they were by no means watered down. At the peak, we soared over one hundred meters above the ground. The longest line lasted over 300 meters, we glided like flying squirrel - or, well, gibbon - from perch to perch.
At first, it wasn't easy to trust the cables and harness that held us. But as time went on, it was encouraging to see how each member of the group became more and more willing to dive off the ledge and let go of their inhibitions... and their white-knuckle grip.
All-in-all, I'd say my unplanned Plan B was a soaring success. If I was to chalk up the score on this Rematch Trip to Thailand, I wouldn't hesitate to say I came out on top.
Treetop, that is.