NewsSpring 2011

How does it feel to…

Tour the jungle—on a zipline?

So on a trip to Thailand this summer, I tried as many of the local experiences as I could. First was a two-hour zipline tour that led us throughout the jungle at heights up to five stories. I was nervous before going on the first line, not knowing what to expect. Sure enough, I got myself tangled up and ended up kicking the guide while trying to land on the platform!

Luckily, I did better on the next line. Once I learned what I was doing, the rest of the tour was pretty fun. I just enjoyed the scenery and tried to push myself to take the lines backwards or no-handed.
Our guides were just plain crazy, going across the lines upside down or on each other’s backs, or dropping between platforms at near-freefall speeds. I guess it wasn’t so scary after all!

Ride an elephant?

My next challenge was riding an elephant. Our group went to Maesa Elephant Camp, famous for its painting elephants. We watched a show that included everything from elephants painting and doing feats of strength to a soccer game and harmonica concert. Then it was time for the rides. Each elephant could carry up to three people including the mahout (trainer/caretaker), who rode on the elephant’s head. A bench-like seat was tied on the elephant’s back for the rest of us to ride in.

This made the ride very bumpy, as the bench shifted a lot, but the elephants also move very slowly, so there was time for us to react to each bump. Our elephant was very well-behaved, and it let our mahout climb on and off to take pictures and buy treats to feed it. The ride seemed short—only thirty minutes or so—but it was a fun experience.

Share a tiger cage?

By far the scariest experience I tried in Thailand was going to the Tiger Kingdom, where you can pay to pet Bengal tigers. Before we left our hotel, the owners took the liberty of telling us all about a friend who had been bitten in the tiger cages. Our whole group told her we were only going to visit the cubs, but by the time we arrived at the zoo, we had all challenged each other to “go big or go home!” We spent some time with the cubs and then headed toward the adult tiger cages.

On the way, we stopped to take pictures of some other tigers in cages. Some acted like big house cats, purring and rubbing on the fences. Another one lunged at a girl in our group, drenching her with water from its pool. So much for our nerves! But we already had our tickets, so we continued on. The trainers allowed us to come into the tiger cage in pairs. On my turn, another girl and I went in while giving each other looks saying, “Are we really doing this?”

There were three tigers and five trainers in the cage with us. These tigers seemed pretty lazy and barely noticed our presence (though the employees swore they were not drugged). The trainers instructed us to approach the tigers from behind to avoid challenging them and to pet them firmly so we wouldn’t be mistaken for flies.

For the most part the tigers ignored us, but one got up to roll over while I was sitting next to him, and you can bet I was on my feet in a split second! He just rolled over on his back for a belly rub. Relieved, I petted him some more and took some pictures.

When our time was up, we left the cage feeling very proud of ourselves for taking on a new challenge and making it out safely. I definitely came away with vivid memories of Thailand. After all, what’s travel without experiencing something you would never do elsewhere?
­­—Nicole Jonas ’07

the authorMarty