Stand on Patong beach, facing the sea. Turn 180 degrees. Spit as far as you can.
Did you hit a tree? Of course you did. That’s how close ocean and rainforest really are in Thailand, and it’s seriously cool. Now, obviously, you shouldn’t really spit as a means of measuring this. That would be very inaccurate. And also, very gross. The spit is figurative. The following advice is not.
Ditch the beach.
Not permanently. But just for a day.
My brother is a seasoned adventurer. There’s not much he won’t jump off of, climb over, wade through, touch, eat, drink or otherwise ingest. I am less seasoned. But I am also older. And much cooler. So when he says “hey we should totally go and throw ourselves off of tiny treetop platforms ten kilometres in the air and hope we don’t smash into trees while whizzing at ridiculous speeds through the rainforest,” I say, calmly, “Awesome! I’ll pay.”
We choose Flying Hanuman over the other canopy tours for two reasons: I like the safety standards plastered all over the flyer (although my confidence slips slightly when I see the headless mannequin in reception) and my brother likes the free lunch.
The tours are taken in groups of about ten and we get lucky – everyone there is both inexperienced (useful in helping one not look like a total prat) and very friendly. There’s only one annoying Frenchman (his annoyingness is obviously unrelated to his French-ness), who we’ll call Go-Pro Gustav, and an Australian chap who spends the whole of the briefing doing elaborate stretches and making everyone else feel that we, too, should be doing something vaguely athletic. Then we remember that there is very little athleticism required to throw oneself out of a tree, and decide that Stretchy Sam is a git.
The tour starts with a short walk through the rainforest, up to the first platform. It’s exquisitely beautiful. It’s also filled with the sounds of the forest – bird life, insects, and the Hanuman tour operators singing Justin Bieber songs and swearing happily at each other as they careen from tree to tree. You can’t hear any of the usual, crazed noise of Phuket, but if you listen carefully, you can hear Go-Pro Gustav narrating his walk, gazing lovingly into his Go-Pro lens, and ignoring his surroundings completely.
The first two zip lines go off without a hitch… unless you count me inexplicably ending up backwards every time, and Go-Pro Gustav’s girlfriend deciding that she’s afraid of heights and would rather wait in the bus. So, the first two zip lines go off with only two hitches. Then, as I am coming in to land on the third platform – backwards, again – it all goes terribly wrong. I lift my feet, but not soon enough (see, backwards) and my heel catches on the edge of platform. My shoe goes flying. I crash into the guy who’s supposed to be catching me, but is instead staring in fascination at my Tomy, which is coming to rest below us on the forest floor. And Stretchy Sam stops mid-lunge, jaw hanging open, and topples over. Unfortunately, he is clipped safely to the platform.
On the bright side, the Hanuman guides think this is hilarious. (They are right). It’s a bit less hilarious for our group leader, who now has to abseil all the way down, and then shimmy up the side of the tree to get it back to me. I assure him that I’m happy for it to live down there and become a mouse-house. He assures me that I am an idiot and will lose my foot if I try certain sections of the canopy tour without it. He disappears down the side of the tree, and we carry on with the other team, everybody – especially me – hooting with laughter.
Ten minutes, two more zip lines, and a precarious rope bridge later, our group leader arrives, looking sweaty, bedraggled, and incredibly impressed with himself. He kneels down and presents me with my shoe. His mate breaks tunelessly into My Heart will Go On. Everyone applauds.
I realise that I am now between one and all of the following things:
- Permanently crippled.
- In love with Thailand.
- Engaged to a stranger.