I was looking through some old photos of a trip I took to Southeast Asia a few years ago, while visiting some LanguageCorps teach English abroad sites, and remembered fondly a trip to Pattaya, Thailand. Say what you will about Pattaya, but the highlight of my trip there was definitely bungee jumping.
The day started with go-karts. And I’m not talking about the American go-karts you’ll find at the carnival. These were tiny race cars, flying around the track at god knows how many miles per hour. There were three different levels of car available, different classes, or speeds if you will, and we opted for the medium model. And it was plenty fast for me, as it was all I could do to stay on the track. The scary part was they put the medium cars on the same track as the highest level cars at the same time, so there were faster cars flying around me at every turn, passing on the right, the left, and everywhere in between.
I was hesitant, but wound up having an absolute blast. The rush was incredible. I’ve never been much of a Nascar enthusiast, but having a miniscule idea of how those drivers must feel, I can see the appeal.
The bungee jumping tower was in the same park as the insane go-kart track. An adrenaline junkies paradise, if you will.
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t all that comforted by the safety regulations at this place. They claimed to be the first and only licensed and insured bungee jumping spot in Thailand, and I believe I had to fill out a form or two, but Southeast Asia isn’t exactly known as a region of strict safety oversight (anyone who’s seen the traffic in Phnom Penh can attest.)
They strapped my legs onto the bungee cord, and I sat down in the little cage with one other guy, a nice Thai gentleman who did not seem to speak much English. I’ve been bungee jumping a few times now, and I seem to recall most places strapping me into the cord at more than one location. A harness around the feet, and a harness around the waist for example. This place did only one. I’m no scientist, and I don’t know anything about bungee jumping industry standards or practices, but I would presume that two harnesses are safer than one. Didn’t exactly help my nerves, but no matter.
The cage creeped upwards towards the top of the tower, and maybe halfway up, the Thai man in the cage with me started waving his arms, and shouting down at the people below operating the crane. They lowered the cage back to the earth, apparently to fix a problem with the cord. The cage was spinning around as we were being raised the first time, and I’m pretty sure that they brought me back down because the cord is not supposed to spin. It probably wasn’t a big deal, but again, didn’t exactly help my confidence.
No explanation needed, they brought the cage up a second time. I reached the top of the tower, and looked out at the city below. There was a pond directly below me, which provided some comfort that if things went badly, I might still have a shot at simply getting soaked in dirty water rather than splattering on the pavement.
The attendant said in broken English, something like, “OK, READY!?” I swallowed, and my brain shut off. And that’s the beauty of bungee jumping to me. There’s not much room for thought. Just step to the edge and jump. If you think too much, it doesn’t really seem like such a good idea, and you’ll probably never do it.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” I took a deep breath and dove forward, head first into the abyss below. I’d be hard pressed to find words to describe the feeling of that sort of free fall to someone who has never experienced it. It lasts maybe 8-10 seconds, but it feels like a life time. Imagine the best roller coaster you’ve ever been on, and then multiply by 10, or 20, or 50. It’s pretty unbelievable.
My finger tips touched the water below, and at the moment of truth, the cord held, and I snapped back upwards and enjoyed a disorienting view of the sky. It’s a much more gentle experience than it looks. There’s no shock, or jolt to speak of really.
And then it was over. And I hung there, upside down as they lowered me to the raft below, relieved. Another jump complete.
Of all the memories I have of my time hanging out with friends who were teaching English in Asia, bungee jumping in Pattaya is still one of my favorites. Apparently Macau Tower in China is the highest bungee jump in the world. I never made it there, but it might just top the travel to do list at the moment 🙂 http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/play/asia-bungee-jumps-400126