Monkey SEE, monkey DO
Ziplining at Hanuman World in Phuket might be scary but it's worth every second of the adrenaline rush
Located deep in the jungle of Kathu to the west of Phuket Town, Hanuman World is a great option for adrenaline junkies for whom sea, sand and sun simply aren't enough. Here they can zipline in the rainforest, abseil down a century-old tree, walk on the treetops, climb up and down the tall trees, or go trekking in the rainforest.
Our small group arrives at Hanuman World Phuket just before noon and it is almost like stepping into another world. The shady jungle surrounding the reception hall reminds us that there is another face to Thailand's best beach destination and the huge well preserved trees and the lush greenery make it clear that this is not the Phuket we ever see on postcards.
Connecting to the reception hall is the restaurant, Wanon, a poetic Thai word for monkey.
"I came to this restaurant once. The food is amazing especially the Hanuman Prasan Gai, which gets its two distinct flavours from Phuket chilli paste and shrimp in coconut milk," says my friend, causing my stomach to grumble.
The park officer greets us with a welcome drink and asks what we would like to do first - have lunch or take to the air. The food is tempting but the thought of the Roller Zipline, which traverses the whole park at high speed in one long, twisting line, wins the day.
Open since March, the 80,000 square-metre eco-adventure park gets its name from Hanuman, the divine white monkey warrior who helps Prince Rama, the rightful king of Ayutthaya, fight against Totsakan, the evil king of Lanka, who abducted Sita, Rama's beautiful wife, in the Thai epic, the Ramakien, which is based on the Indian Ramayana.
In the Ramakien, Hanuman is a mischievous, loyal and brave daredevil and all these aspects of his character are reflected in and around the park.
"Flipflops are not allowed in the park because you may have to walk a long way, climb some ladders and trees or even fly in the air. Everybody from the age of four to 80 with no critical health condition can join the activities in the park, although for safety reasons, there is a maximum weight limit of 120 kilograms," says the friendly officer as he hands out sheets of paper giving the dos and the don'ts in the park.
We start our adventure on the Sky Walk, the treetop walkway that takes us more than 40 metres above the ground. The view is so breathtaking that it forces us to slow down and take in our surroundings.
"Everything in our park revolves around Hanuman and his clan. The Sky Walk allows us to move around the treetops as Hanuman does. You are seeing the world through his eyes," says our guide.
"This area is Asurapat's home. If you've read the Ramakien, you'll know that Asurapat is half monkey and half giant since he is Hanuman's son with the giantess Benjakai."
The walk leads to a large platform that's home to a refreshments bar serving local fruits and juice. The highlight though is a trampoline-like sun bed where we can sit back, relax and enjoy our bird's-eye-view of the rainforest.
Sipping chilled fruit juice above ground is probably not what Hanuman would do but for humble mortals like us, it is exactly what we need to quench our thirst on this hot and humid afternoon. We take a short break before walking down the spiral staircase and heading back to the reception hall.
"The thrill is about to begin as you will become one of Hanuman's warriors flying through the air," says one of the staff.
We walk to the equipment corner where the staff put our bags in lockers and help us put on safety harnesses and helmets. When we are ready, the buggy take us up the hill to the Roller Zipline platform where two professional guides are waiting for us.
I take one look at the endless rail I will be riding along and wish I had opted for lunch instead.
"You will fly nonstop for 800 metres. It won't take long because you will be travelling at 40 kilometres per hour. At that speed, you will get to the final point in a few minutes. If you feel scared, my advice is to scream as loud as you can. It will make you feel better," says our guide with a grin.
Scream? That sounds exactly what I want to do right now.
My heart pounds like a drum as my turn gets closer. Fight or flight? My brain cannot seem to get these words straight.
"Miss, it's your turn now," says our guide turning to me.
Like the world is crumbling around me, I drag my shaky legs to the takeoff point. As the guide clips my harness to the zipline trolley, I take a very deep breath.
"Hold on to this grip and enjoy the view."
That's the last thing I hear as I fly along the rail. It seems like there is no straight line at all. It's all twists and curves. At every turn gravity takes over, making me swing even harder. I hold my breath, duck my head and pull my knees closer to my chest every time I bounce near the trees.
Do I scream? You bet!
IF YOU GO
- Hanuman World is less than 30 minutes drive from Phuket town. The park is open daily from 8 to 4. Transfer is available for a fee. Visit Facebook.com/Hanumanworld or email: [email protected].
- Bangkok Airways flies daily between Bangkok and Phuket. Visit www.BangkokAir.com.