Letters Home: Chiang Mai

I arrived here last night around ten thirty after a five hour bus ride from laos where I did The Gibbon Experience. We got back to the main street of Huay Xai in Laos around 2 p.m. yesterday after a two hour bus ride from a small village on the edge of the Laotian jungle. The following is a description of the best $300 ever spent: We left Tuesday morning from Huay Xai and arrived in the aforementioned  village where dogs and wild pigs and chickens roamed around freely. The homes were like small wooden cabins scattered about a clearing of dirt and short, dry weeds. A couple of small horses were tied to wooden poles that stuck in the ground. Little naked children ran around and played with rocks and sticks in the dirt. There were fifteen of us who split into groups of 7 and 8 and began our separate treks into the jungle.

In our group there were three sisters from southern France, two of whom lived in Sydney Australia, and the other in Amsterdam. They all moved after finishing university because of the lack of opportunity and the snobbiness of the people in the south of France. There was Alex, a solo former economics major from Toronto, Jesper and Marlenka from Holland, and Rachel, a well-traveled English girl.

We went on a pretty strenuous hike that lasted two hours and led us to a big pool of water with a tiny waterfall at one end. We hung out there for about an hour and then hiked for another hour and a half to get to our first zip line. I had been excited for it until we actually reached the start of the line, which was a cliff of sorts that dropped down a couple hundred feet to the jungle floor. We all stepped into our harnesses and put on our gloves. Only Alex hadnt been given any gloves. The guides had none  for him. Alex was out of luck.

Our guide gave us a brief and only slightly comprehensible ziplining tutorial in broken English, and then  jumped off the wooden planks he had been standing on to zip to the other side, his body hanging from a string of ropes that was his harness.

We all looked at each other nervously and formed a line, each of us waiting our turn to throw ourselves off the planks. My stomach turned as I clipped my harness onto the wire, waiting for it to vibrate, signaling that the person before had made it to the other side. The wire vibrated three times. I stepped off the planks and prepared as well as I could to fall into the depths of the jungle. Instead I went flying hundreds of feet in the air above an incredible aerial  view of the mountains and thousands of trees below as the rush of wind cooled the sweat on my face. It was over seconds later and I unstrapped myself from the line and sent the signal back for the next person to jump.

We did a few more lines before making it to the tree house, which was accessible exclusively by zip line. In the wooden tree house that sat in a giant tree hundreds of feet in the air, the toilet and shower were closed off  to the rest of the room by a wooden wall and curtain and opened to another beautiful view of the jungle. There was one sink in the bathroom and another in the common area that dispensed drinking water, next to which was a rack with plastic dishes and silverware. We would sleep on green plastic covered mattresses that were lined along the wall and under thick black mosquito nets we would struggle to set up ourselves later.

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