Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 22: The Free-flyin' Troubadour

I awoke to a text message from my home boy, Sav, telling me that Arsenal had beaten Reading away from home in the Capital One Cup, 5-7 after extra time, and that we were 4-0 down at one point. Part of me was glad that we won, but shipping five goals to Reading hardly screams out ‘Title Contenders’ to me, so I was a little bit annoyed at the same time. We grabbed a couple croissants from the restaurant and got into an awaiting mini-van, which had four Canadian twenty something guys already seated at the back. We said good morning, then started our adventure of the day with a one hour drive up a mountain, and into a rainforest where we’d be spending the day zip-lining. The company we’d chosen was called Jungle Flight and our guide introduced himself by saying “Hello, I’m Singha, I’m crazy” and that was it, we were strapped into our harnesses and taken off to our first zip line. The forest was full of enormous trees that were one hundred feet high and centuries old, which they had somehow managed to rig with thick wires and platforms to stand on in-between each potential death spot. We had clips on both our chest and back, which would be used individually and one hanging from our hip which would always be attached to a safety wire of some sort so there was minimal chance of taking a plunge. I was surprised at how safe and well put together it all seemed to be, until I saw how Singha was pushing people off of the platform, then I had my doubts about survival. Nevertheless, I’d bought the ticket, now I had to take the ride. My front clip was attached, as was my hip clip to the second line, just in case, and I took a leap of faith off of the platform, dropping a few feet then whizzing across to the next platform. Now things could only get easier, I thought, unfortunately that wasn’t the case, as after a couple more zips from tree to tree it started raining. Hard.
The rainforest was living up to its name as buckets full of cold water lashed down upon us, soaking the platforms and making the terrain infinitely more treacherous. Then we came to a platform with no line, and before I could ask, Singha pushed a small Chinese girl off the side, then stepped on a rope which was whizzing by just in time to stop her from splattering onto the platform below. He did the rest of their group the same way, then it was just Sarah, the Canadians and I left, and Sarah was first in line. She stepped up gallantly, and he attached the clip to her back instead of the front like everyone else, she begged him not to but with a shove and a scream she shot down safely. Usually if a guy was to push your lover thirty feet down from a tree you’d swing at him without hesitation, but instead I just laughed. My laugh, however was short lived as I was next in line, and beg as I might, I too had nothing to hold onto as I was clipped to my back and dropped like ecstasy at an acid house rave. It was terrifying, so much worse than the zip-lines where you got to fly, this was just straight falling with only a thin, white rope and a tattered, white plimsoll to stop your body being pulverized below. Still, the crazy bastard had his shit together, and the funny Canadians followed, all screaming “STONEY” as they plummeted. By this point we might as well have been seasoned professionals, the fear decreased dramatically and the buzz and excitement heightened with every line, which were increasing in length as we progressed through the now sunny forest.

We reached the mid-way point well in need of a break, so we stopped with the group to rest and sat eating these small, dry cakes with the most minimal, pointless swirl of icing sugar on top of each of them, which amused us probably more than it should have. It was like the baker only had enough for one cake but decided to split it between fifty instead. Yum. We washed it down with some warm water, then hiked off in front of the other groups and guides, across a rickety old rope bridge and through more forestry for five minutes. One of the other guides came running past us and told us to wait, then a second rushed by, then a third. By the time the fourth arrived, we asked what was happening, and he replied “Snake”. I could see the commotion twenty metres ahead, culminating in one of the guys striking five or six times downwards with a huge piece of bamboo. Each hit rang out, like bullets echoing through the trees. We moved forwards to see a giant, blue-ish snake which was nearly three metres long and headless, trapped between two sticks. These guys definitely don’t fuck about. We all said we were lucky that we didn’t reach it first, as we quite easily could’ve. Sarah asked how I’d have reacted and I told her that I personally would’ve strangled the fucker and made myself a new belt or two, but I’m obviously more conventional with my techniques than these raggo Thai guys.

Tonight's dinner for these happy snake charmers.
By the end of the route we’d done more lines than Kate Moss at a Rimmel Christmas party, thirty-two in total, and the last couple were the best. One of them was one hundred and sixty metres long, the other was three hundred. Sick. The view across the forest was amazing as I practiced my Superman pose, shooting along at sixty miles an hour. Unfortunately, due to the existence of gravity, what goes up must come down, and we still had fifty feet of tree between us and the end, so once again Singha lined us up, clipped our backs and bid us farewell. I screamed as I headed down first, being stopped with enough impact to nearly lose a nut, but luckily I checked as I made the ground, and the world had not been robbed of my potential future offspring. Next my lady fell, more or less into my loving arms, and we looked up to see a sign which said ‘Happy Ending’. Unfortunately, this didn’t mean our guides were going to masturbate us to relieve the stress of the day, but we did get a cheesy picture in front of it, before being taken for lunch, which was part of the package.

We both managed to squeeze in a power nap on the drive back to Chiang Mai, then spent the next few hours by the pool, where Sarah slept and I wrote. We returned to our room to become one, then split again for more sleepy Sarah time, whilst I continued to catch up with this beautiful albatross which I’ve carrying around my tired neck. Another two hours passed before I shook the dreams from Sarah’s hair and we showered and shot out of our room, and down towards a place called The Saloon, which we’d read about in the travellers bible and wanted to try out. It was decked out like the Wild West, except all the tables had writing in black marker pen all over them, and the menu consisted of some all-time American greats aka deliciously fattening, fried shit. I ordered chicken fried steak with mash potatoes, bread and white gravy, with a side of crispy onion rings and mozzarella dippers to share with Sarah, who had a burger with some of the tastiest meat I’d had in a long while. It was sickeningly superb. Sarah took a pen and wrote ‘Sarah + Dion’, and drew a heart around it, then for the second time on this trip, I wrote ‘The Freewheelin’ Troubadour loves YOU!’.  We gladly paid our bill and left feeling more satisfied than a nymphomaniac at a swinger’s party.

There was only one thing that could top off this day, a massage. After twenty-two days, thousands of miles and a number of missed opportunities, it was finally time to get soothed by some healing hands. We made our way down through the red light area and back towards our hotel. It was Halloween, and although there wasn’t much happening a few of the girls and lady boys had spooked themselves up a bit for the occasion.  In India, I would always walk ahead of Sarah to fend off leering men with their eyes on my lady, but after being grabbed up quite heavy-handedly by what I assume was a really strong woman giving me the ‘handsome man’ spiel, we swapped roles, and I made her walk ahead to stop them from intimidating me with their overly forceful come-ons. We reached a massage parlour near our place and I spent the next hour being fondled by a small Thai guy who was camper than a row of tents. The oil massage was amazing as I lay fully naked, being cracked into place, but I could’ve sworn the muscles around my bum and balls would have been alright had they been missed. Either way, they weren’t, and I left feeling more liberal and looser than I had in a while. All oiled up like St Tropez swimsuit models; we slid across the street to our beds, and drifted off on an oil slick that wasn’t caused by BP’s gross mishandling of their rigs.

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