To extreme thrill-seekers, life without the imminent risk of death is as boring as a box of cauliflower. (How else do you explain something as blatantly mad as base-jumping?) But you don’t have to risk losing limbs to get endorphins pumping. There’s plenty of safe adrenalized action, well-organized by experts, to be had in Southeast Asia. So if you’re up for something daring and different, consider the following adventurous activities.
Thailand’s bursting with action. There’s paragliding or banana-boating off the beaches; world-class rock-climbing in Krabi; and elephant-back trekking through the northern jungles – usually including a hill-tribe home-stay and white-water rafting escapade in the same package.
Another interesting diversion is the ‘Flight of the Gibbon Treetop Adventure’, a venture growing in popularity in Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai. Vertiginous 3-km zip-lines have been erected in plots of luminous primary rainforest in all three sites, allowing you to surge among the tropical canopies like Jungle VIPs.
Despite the included lunch, gibbons largely avoid flailing foreigners, though the company claims human swingers hear gibbon calls daily – occasionally catching sight of the swinging simians a couple of lucky days a month. However, one Chiang Mai-based tour group per week joins a primate research team monitoring wild gibbon behavior and supporting rainforest conservation – so head there if you’re serious about monkey business.
Way to go: Tour companies organize jaunts locally at all three locations. Contact the group directly via www.treetopasia.com
It’s hard to choose from the plethora of pulse-pounding stuff to do in Vietnam. You can trek Bac Ha, go kayaking in Ha Long Bay or tour the Vietnam War-era DMZ underground tunnel network.
Probably the best way to experience the country is by motorcycle. Once you’ve learned the method behind the madness of negotiating Vietnamese roads, motorbikes are cheap – new 100cc models are around US$400, but buying secondhand is cheaper – available almost everywhere and easy to repair. They also take you hilly places the tour buses don’t dare go. Pick a region and stick to it as Vietnam is massive. Awe struck travelers tend to bite off more than they can chew.
The panoramic allure of biking ‘Nam was well documented in a British TV episode of Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson’s team took a colorful 8-day, 1,000-mile expedition. Along the way, they proved the point is to take in the stunning local scenery via unplanned side-trips – regularly getting totally lost while doing so. It’s all part of the fun. Then when you return home, you can boast to friends that “You weren’t there, man!”
Way to go: Dealers in bigger cities are more comfortable selling bikes to foreigners. Shop around for a 100-115cc model, and have a mechanic check it over.
Float Above Angkor Wat
In recent years Cambodia’s offered tourists a blast – usually from a shoulder-mounted rocket-launcher that tourists were able to fire-off at one of its shooting ranges. There are more options now. One prime example is the ability to go rolling around in a plastic sphere like a human hamster sounds like you. ‘Zorbing’ at iBall Park in the beach town of Sihanoukville is now quite popular.
When Angkor Wat gets overrun by tourists, why not take a more exclusive view of the wondrous UNESCO World Heritage complex? Amazingly, for less than $20 you can relish an unparalleled birds-eye view floating 200 meters over the world’s largest temple – from the vantage point of a giant yellow helium balloon.
Up to 30 passengers can get onboard the tethered, non-polluting inflatable, located on the airport road around 1km west of Angkor Wat. Even budget-conscious travelers can enjoy a heavenly ascent – if only for 10 minutes – without emptying their wallets. Gliding quietly above the majestic Temple of Angkor is an unforgettable experience.