Thailand boasts its fair share of dense jungles, beautiful sun-baked beaches and of course, one of the most vibrant cities in the world—Bangkok. But it is also home to some hair-raising adventures that will not only test your courage, but also your strength (and yeah, balls!) With a little help from Travel Freak, Atlas Obscura, and yours truly who is currently traveling in South East Asia, these are the top five tests-of-will that qualify as official MudTribe badass adventures.
1. Free-form climbing in Tonsai/Railay
You not only require tough feet for this activity, you also need nerves of steel. Free-form climbing a sheer cliff means no ropes, no climbing gear, no anchor points, no harnesses, no parachutes. Assuming you make it 100 or even 200 feet up onto a stone ledge, the only way you’re getting back down is to jump off into the deep blue sea below. Now isn’t that fun? Since you can’t expect to get to the cliffs on your own, professional guides will deliver you to the rocks in their wooden boats. With the use of rope ladders, you can go from boat to rock face in mere moments. But once you’ve begun your precarious climb, you are entirely on your own. So don’t slip or it could be a painful landing on the sea’s surface. Think of it as a belly flop on steroids.
Travelfreak.net describes freediving as a form of underwater meditation. I describe it as a combination craziness meets adrenaline junky. But Thailand, especially Koh Tao, has become a hot spot as of late for divers who prefer not to utilize oxygen tanks. Did you know that an expert freediver can last 20 or more minutes on one single inhaled breath of air? But the average beginner can expect to last two minutes while they dive 20-plus meters down to some spectacular underwater sites, such as shipwrecks, stunning coral reefs, and aquatic life including sharks, colorful fish, and all sorts of strange plant growth. So how is it possible to manage to spend so much time underwater without taking a breath? You learn to relax and not give in to the temptation to suck in a breath (you’ll die).
3. Off-Roading by Motorbike
Anyone who spends an extended amount of time in Bangkok’s congested, exhaust and smog-filled concrete jungle, might find it hard to imagine that just a few miles to the north exists some of the most unspoiled jungle and fresh air countryside in South East Asia. The jungle is also a breeding ground for dangerous animals. These include poisonous snakes like cobras, venomous giant centipedes, and caterpillars (I ain’t making this up), scorpions, spiders, ants, mosquito swarms, monkeys, elephants, you name it. If it bites, stings, claws or mauls, it’s alive and thriving in the Thai jungle. Which is precisely why some adventurers love to risk their lives by off-roading over narrowly carved trails and through its many rivers and streams. The three most popular routes are as follows:
The Golden Triangle—Following the Mekong River between Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, the 390 miles of winding mountain road feature caves, temples, elephant camps, hot springs, and more.
Sukhothai Loop –The 620 trek begins at Chiang Mai and ends at the Sukhothai Dam Reservoir. Its thick forests are a challenge for even the most experienced motorcyclist. But the views along this route are said to be some of the most spectacular in Northern Thailand.
Mae Hong Son Loop – Located along the Myanmar border, this lush mountain route offers significant challenges like steep, slick, winding roads. It also covers the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, which is 8,500-plus feet above sea level. You’ll also encounter several small villages including Mae Hong Son and Pai.
4. Rappelling Waterfalls in Chiang Mai
You’ve got to be a really inventive adventurer to come up with a crazy idea like rappelling down a sheer cliff hundreds of feet high that also sports a raging waterfall. Situated in the center of the Thai jungle, the Chiang Mai multi-tier waterfall is insanely powerful and only the bravest, most conditioned explorers should attempt rappelling it. How does it work? You start at the bottom and climb through the powerful downpour until you get to the top. And once you’re up there, you rappel back down. Just don’t tell your mother.
5. Climb an Abandoned the 49-story “Ghost Tower” of Bangkok.
When construction began on Bangkok’s Sathorn Unique skyscraper back in the mid-1990s, the Thailand economy was booming. According to Atlas Obscura, developers were focusing on creating a new world of residential and commercial skyscrapers that would be the envy of the modern world. Then came the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and along with it, an economy that crashed and burned. Construction on the Sathorn Unique was abandoned leaving a shell that today has become a 49-story, apocalyptic ghost tower. Adventuring men and women also enjoy the thrill of sneaking beyond its perimeter security fence not only to explore the tower but to climb it all the way to the top. Not an easy task. It’s a man-made mountain, after all. Plus, it’s not only dark and eerie, it’s said to be haunted with strange shadows reflecting off the concrete walls. I wouldn’t want to be stuck inside the building when the sun goes down. Explorers also want to watch out for gaping holes in the floor. Your next step is liable to be your last.