Constructing Asia's  
Biggest Swing

written by; Ken Albertsen, April 2013    

The photo at right shows the main hill (Thai folks would call it a 'mountain') at Boomerang park, as viewed from the southeast. At upper right of photo is where the swing was constructed.

           It all happened in northernmost Thailand, a couple of Km northwest of the tourist town of Chiang Rai, in 2012.  Let me introduce myself.  I'm Ken, a former Californian who moved to reside near Chiang Rai in 1998.  I'm writing this in 2013, so I've been here now for 15 years. 

There's a 4 rai (1.5 acre) rural parcel called Boomerang. That's the name, because of its shape. It’s located a couple of Km northwest of Chiang Rai town. I had been going out there to free-climb solo since 1998, but was able to purchase the property in 2008. The price was not expensive, because it didn't have, and will probably never get full title ('chanod' in Thai). I have secured three rural parcels in this immediate region, and none have title. To me, it doesn't matter, as long as I can feel reasonably secure of holding on the properties, and I can do pretty much as I please. I can plant trees, clear brambles, build modest buildings, rent it, sell it, whatever.

All of the three rural parcels which I've secured near Chiang Rai started out weed choked to the maximum degree.  I don't mean weeds a meter tall, but rather stickery weeds the size of small trees, so thick that a strong man with a machete would take a few minutes to cut a space to enable him to take two steps.  And that's just on ground level.  At the near-vertical limestone rock where I chose to secure the swing, there were added challenges. So that's the type of terrain - where this story really starts.

At the eastern end of Boomerang was a steep, 50 degree hill covered in weeds.  Just slashing oneself up that steep weed-choked, slag covered slope took considerable calories.  Rising up from the crest of that hill was vertical limestone.  It went 90 degrees straight up, and then after about 17 meters, eased off a bit to 80 degrees, with crevices and innumerable sharp edges which could slice a piece of thick cardboard with one swipe.

These cliffs had had no human activity ever, so vines, bushes and trees of every sort were embedded in all but the steepest sections.  The swing was finally set up without culling any sizable trees, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

After reconnoitering the site several times, it was decided it would be suitable for constructing the big swing.  No sketches, no photos, no expert advice preceded the project, ….just many long lingering moments viewing and thinking deeply about the lay of the terrain. After taking two days to cut an access path up the hill to the base of the rock cliff, there was concerted added effort put in to clearing some space there at the place where the top of the hill meets the start of the rock face.  That entailed a few more days, with hill tribe helpers. Every few days, we would burn what had accumulated from days prior. A few forays up the left (west) side of the cliff face showed that it was climbable for a determined climber, but was too difficult to use for repeated access – which was what was needed to get necessary work done higher up.  An alternate route was found on the east side of the cliff.  It entailed using a 6 meter bamboo ladder perched precariously upon a large boulder. After the ladder, it was a moderately difficult free-climb for experience climbers. Other than that ladder, there were no other climbing aids to get to the vertical work site.

Gaining purchase on the rock face entailed as much weed cutting as clearing at ground level.  Weeds on the rock face had been growing for decades, perhaps centuries, and were intensely inter-laced.  Some places might entail an hour of concerted hacking (with machete) and sawing (with handsaw) – to advance five feet. Add to that; most often, hacking and sawing was done with one hand, while the other hand was holding on to some sort of rock handhold on a vertical rock face. Put another way; one foot might have a toe set upon a square inch sliver of rock, while the other foot dangled over a vertical precipice, 20 meters high.

Yes, there were a few times when a climbing harness and tether was used, but most of the time the weed clearing was done with no protective aid, other than occassional work gloves. Part of the reason was; having a tether is not conducive to cutting thick gnarly weeds. One quick cut to the safety rope, and it's game over.  When burrowing in to new terrain like that, it's not uncommon to loosen rocks – whether intentionally or unintentionally.  More than a few times, there might be a boulder the size of a microwave oven, liberated from a perch which it may have nestled upon for hundreds of thousands of years.  On particularly dry days, dust from pulverized dirt would fill the nostrils. You can imagine, when you're hanging off a cliff side, there is no easy or quick way to avoid dust, some of which may be mixed with some of the most primitive organisms on the planet – when one considers how isolated those crevices have been, for eons.

So, I get to an area which appears to be in the vicinity of where the big swing's steel 'arm’ will get anchored.  Yet there's still a lot more clearing needing to be done, because once the anchor point is decided upon, it will become a work space.  The less maneuvering around gnarly weeds, 30 meters up a vertical rock face, the easier it will be to get things done. When climbing in such terrain, it’s always better to gain purchase on solid rock, however small, than to grasp plants and branches.

The swing arm was comprised of two lengths of steel welded end to end. It was decided to use 4 inch square pieces, with sidewalls 3 mm thick. The standard length for steel pieces is 6 meters, which translates to 20 feet.  End to end, the arm would be 12 meters, or 40 feet long.  Before welding the two lengths end to end, there was some work needed to be done in town. I had metal workers build a strong hinge anchor of my design.  It was made from half inch flat steel, cut and welded. Its business end had two holes drilled, each just over one inch.  Similarly, the end of the steel which would anchor to the cliff face, was fitted with two holes of the same size.  Later, a one inch diameter steel bolt, which we can call the 'pin' would be slipped through those four holes, and render it a 'hinge' - to enable the arm to get secured to the cliff face.  We'll see later how that happened, and the challenges involved.

The outer end of the 40 foot arm needed to have a one inch bar attached to it, so that was also done at the metal shop in town.  The bar started out three foot long, but had to be bent to a light bulb shape – with the two open ends four inches apart, and welded to the end of the swing arm.  This enabled a double function for the bar.  Its upper end would hold the ends of five guy wires, while its lower end would hold the strong pulley which, in turn, held the half inch steel cable which hung down for the actual swing.  Bending a one inch steel bar is not a job for the frail.  It took two experienced blacksmiths, twenty five minutes, to do it in their shop.  They would alternately heat it to orange with an acetylene torch, and then hammer it around a fixed steel wheel – to get the desired shape.

piesky2I brought the enhanced pieces to the Boomerang Park site. Since I don't have welding skills, I had an Akha neighbor named Sakjai weld the two pieces end to end, using reinforcing angle pieces at the joint. The next step was painting, both for weather protection and for attractiveness. A pretty Spanish lady, who happened to be visiting, did a lovely creative job of it. Using oil based paints, she did a varied sized multi-color block pattern, one could almost call it cubism – to the delight of all.

As soon as the paint dried, four fellows manhandled the forty foot steel arm up the steep hill – to the base of the rock face.  Even that phase was toil, because of the steepness compounded by scree. Scree is the name used for small rocks loosely piled at the base of a natural rock formation. Trying to walk up scree can be like trying to get ahead in life; three steps up, two steps sliding down, four steps up, three sliding steps down, slogging on and on, as smooth rocks slide alongside your ankles and knees.  Well, it wasn't quite that bad, as the scree had become somewhat compacted with dirt, over the centuries. Added to that, ubiquitous weeds were a hindrance, every step of the way.

By this time in the schedule of things, considerable work had been done high up on the rock face. The fixed hinge piece, made from half inch steel, had been been secured to a vantage point, 22 meters up the rock face.  Earlier, four half inch holes had been drilled in to the steel base of the hinge. In to those holes, stainless steel bolts were secured with nuts and washers. Sticking out two inches below the hinge's base, those bolts would provide purchase for securing the hinge assembly to the rock. An appropriate concave depression was found in the limestone. It was wire brushed, and then cleaned out with soap and water and allowed to dry. A liter of epoxy glue was brought up the cliff and mixed on site. The epoxy was placed in to the depression and then the bottom section of the hinge was gently tamped in to it.  Epoxy takes one to three weeks to harden completely.

The week following the setting of the hinge to its epoxy base, was spent hauling the heavy swing arm up to its initial position. We next secured all five guy wires plus the swing cable to it's outer end, which we’ll call its ‘business end.’ There were two episodes of raising the swing arm up the rock face.  You'll see why it had to be done twice, as this story unfolds.  The initial time, the raising was done with brute muscle power. Four strong young men were stationed at somewhat precarious positions near each other – at a place forty feet above the hinge. Each man had a half inch utility rope running from his work glove covered hands on down to what was to become the outer end of the swing arm.  The arm started out standing upright at the base of the cliff, and was brought up with its outer part leading. The able helpers were; a Frenchman (Jean), an American (Dan), a Russian (Ilya), and a local hill triber (Noi). One from each of four continents. 

I stationed my skinny butt at the hinge, and the Frenchman's Spanish girlfriend stood at a safe place at the hill down below. From my position, halfway between the men and the lady, I could somewhat direct proceedings by grabbing on to a rock face with one hand, and leaning over the edge to get a tenuous glimpse of the arm. The four guys doing the grunt work couldn’t see the arm for the first half of their hauling job.

closeupbelowarmThe arm was hauled up the cliff face, inch by inch and gained some character-building scratches along the way.  The first 22 meters was straight up. When it reached the point where I was stationed, at the hinge, the arm began to lean toward the hill – though still at a steep angle. After about 90 minutes of concerted effort, I was able to position the bottom end of the arm in to the hinge and, with the help of some levering tools, was able to slide the one inch hinge pin all the way through. Break time, and all was well.

The remainder of that week, I worked just with a Russian woman (Carol) who gamely free-climbed up and down the cliff to do what needed to be done.  Together, we secured the five 3/8 inch guy cables to the 'business end' of the swing arm. While we were working on it, the business end was close to the rock. This was one of the most pleasant phases of the project.

All five guy wires were strongly secured to the business end of the arm. The plan was to get the arm projected out in to space, horizontally, using just two of the five guy wires attached to the rock high above. The remaining three guy wires would be positioned and secured after that.  When fully installed, the five guy wires would look splayed out from each other when viewed from below. That's what wound up getting built, but the process to get there was rocky.

Using the same four man crew high above, and another small crew below, we gingerly brought the arm up from its steep sojourn on the rock, and out and over to its hoped-for final resting place.  It was dicey operation, as initially, the steel arm was raised by hand as far as possible, then it was pushed up with bamboo poles.  Remember, the whole time this was being done, the arm was anchored on at its lower end.

The cruxiest time was when the arm was brought to straight up vertical position. At that juncture, the men above had to segue to a gentle pulling motion, in order to try and keep the arm from descending to horizontal, on the outward side, too fast. Concurrently, the crew far down below had to just as gently gather in their controlling cable. Altogether a very dicey bit of coordinated efforts.  The two crews could not see each other, and didn’t speak a common language.  It was mostly up to me, hanging at the edge of the cliff where the hinge was, to bark orders in various languages - up and down the hill. While the arm was at, and just past its vertical position, the crew above couldn't pull more than the weight of the arm, otherwise it might come swinging back in their direction, and that would problematic. Those in the crew below were initially pulling strongly on the half inch swing cable, but then, when the arm came close to vertical, they could only pull very gently, and after vertical, they could do nothing more than watch. 

From vertical, it became the job of those up above to ease it down to horizontal. Remember that the four guys working up high were standing on steep sharp rocks the whole time.  I implored them to tether off with safety harnesses, but only two did so.  Amazingly, that initial effort, even with all the shouting and adrenaline going on, worked seamlessly. After a twenty minutes of toil, the arm was majestically pointing 12 meters out in to space for the first time. It's business end was easily 40 meters (125 feet) above grade. Two guy cables (not cable guys) were holding it from the higher rock face, and the remaining three cables plus the thicker swing cable, were looping freely down. Yet there was one glitch.

One of the two guy cables holding it was wrapped around near the business end. It was quickly surmised that the cables had not been perfectly aligned before swinging the arm out in to space. There was some discussion of ways which might unwrap it, though it didn't look feasible. It was decided to reverse what we'd just done, and gingerly bring the arm back to its earlier position - nearly vertical, resting again upon the rock.  The next day, nearly all the same crew personnel were in positions, and arm was slowly brought back. This time, on the return trip, the arm rocked a bit - which put strain on the hinge assembly.  Upon finding its resting place again, the wayward cable was admonished and straightened out, and that afternoon, we were planning to set the arm back to where it spent the previous night.

That second time, when the arm got to vertical, it started swinging side to side. Too late, we realized we didn't have anything or anyone stabilizing it from the sides. We only had a crew at the top end and a crew down below who were in line with the arm and each other. Too much reliance was put upon the strength of the 5 by 5 inch hinge. The arm swung east and it swung west. Then east again, and as it swung west the second time, it went over the side of the cliff and pulled the hinge assembly with it. Interestingly, the epoxy had stuck strong to the bolts but it couldn't stick to its rock indentation in lieu of the very strong levering force of 12 meters of four inch steel with a bunch of cables secured to its far end.  Down it went.  A collective gasp was heard from both crews.  I was the most at danger, because of my position near the hinge at cliff’s edge, but the arm missed me by about a meter, on its way down the cliff.  At the time it fell, all involved were looking to me, perhaps expecting me to cuss or cry, or throw my hands up to give up altogether on the quixotic project. I was annoyed, but not discouraged.

It's resting place was not quite at ground level, because the two guy cables were still attached higher up. It hung alongside the cliff, with a mess of cables, for a couple of days. Later, we detached the guy cables from their higher-up anchors, in order to lower it down to the ground. Between one to two weeks later, I went back to rectifying the big swing project.  This time, I mostly worked alone or with Ilya, the Russian fellow. At some points, Noi assisted, though he didn't much care for climbing up and working on near sheer cliffs.  Ilya was an interesting guy. Even though we didn't have much conversation due my knowing no Russian, and he having a handle of about two dozen English words. The few times I would mention something to him, he would shrug and say; “whatever, ok with me.”  He liked using his ample strength. Whenever there was a log or a concrete fence post to move, rather than choke and pull it with a rope, or manhandle it on to the back of a pick-up truck, he would insist on carrying it on his shoulder. 

One time, at the end of a work day, I was heading away from Boomerang on my motorcycle. I might have had an electrolyte imbalance or something, but I felt on the verge of fainting. I turned the bike around to return to Boomerang, but when nearly there, I fainted and crashed on to grassy turf on the side of the road.  When I came to a couple of minutes later, I looked up from the ground and saw several young hill tribe boys looking down at me.  They were saying “farang kee mao” which is Thai for 'foreigner is shit-faced drunk.” I barely got off a reply that I don't even drink alcohol, when Ilya showed up. He reached down and was about to sling me over his shoulder, when I convinced him I could hobble back to boomerang kitchen with him just supporting me on one side. For the next half hour he tried to get me to eat a half cooked egg, but I wasn't hungry.

After taking a day to get the cables untangled, we organized another smaller crew to hoist the arm back up the cliff, to try placing it again. The hinge pin was taken out, and hinge holder was re-attached to the rock.  The epoxy from the earlier attempt, had fully hardened around the anchor bolts attached to the bottom of the holder - forming a sort of flange sticking out an inch. This afforded purchase for re-attaching to a near-by spot..

The second and final attachment process entailed using a bigger rock depression alongside the one used earlier. That space was cleaned and filled with cement mixed with small rocks. To get cement up a 20 meter cliff space entailed attaching ropes to bucket handles, and pulling ‘em up. As you can imagine, it’s a very physical endeavor, and required using a safety harness clipped to the rock - then simply hauling up buckets, hand over hand. We could have set up a pulley arrangement, but there weren’t many buckets of cement, and we enjoyed the work-out - up high in the clean air with the sun shining down. 


One side note regarding Boomerang and sound: We don’t have recorded music. It’s intentional. If it were a venue run by Thais, there would likely be pop music blaring through loudspeakers non-stop. Indeed, we sometimes get pop music wafting up from nearby houses and shops.  Yet, because we don’t pump music throughout the site, we’re left with sounds of leaves ruffled by wind, punctuated by wild bird sounds including a resident owl hooting, every once in awhile. Granted, all is not so sweet in the audio realm. Nearby is a rock and sand yard which sits alongside the river, from which it gets its supplies. Most day, trucks go by the park, laden with rock or sand. The drivers work by the job, not by the hour, so they drive faster than they should. Driving a heavily laden truck at speed, on a regular country road, is going to buckle and tear it up. That’s what is happening. Loud sounds and dust accompany the truck traffic, but it doesn’t overwhelm the peace of the park space.

A new group of guys were now positioned up high to bring the swing arm up for its second and final time. This time, rather than using brute force, we used a ‘come-along’ tool - which has a crank on a ratchet, which strongly pulls a cable along. It’s slow, but steady, and entails a lot less calories than the prior method of using only brute strength. The come-along tool at Boomerang gets a lot of use.  We’ve used it to string and tighten all three zip lines, the longest being 180 meters (565 feet), and a host of other chores. It would soon be employed often, in tightening up the five guy wires for the big swing.

When the swing arm hinge pin was secured in place the second time, a small crew was again assembled to tilt the arm to its final place. Actually, the hinge assembly was attached to the rock tentatively, not rock-solidly, and the reason for that will become clear in a few paragraphs.

This time, while slowly placing the arm back around about 150 degrees from its resting point on the rock - to its near-horizontal final position, straight out from the rock - we had two ‘sidemen’ - one on each of the two sides. If you can picture the arm starting out from the north, and being projected up and over toward the south, then there was a man on the east and another on the west.  Each of those guys had one of the guy wires.  It didn’t matter which wire they had, because all the guy wires were strongly attached to the business end of the swing arm.

The important factor was the positioning of the men, and how well they did their jobs of gently easing the arm up, then down to it’s final resting place. Suffice to say, all workers that day did a rather good job. I would say they did a 'splendid job’ but the two guys on the east and west ends, tended to hold their guiding wires too taught. The result was, the tentatively attached hinge end of the arm - the end secured against the rock face, was inadvertently jockeyed up and out of position at the end of the placement. It was surmised that the sidemen had pulled too tight, and had compelled the hinge end of the arm to come out of its attached place in the rock. Be that as it may, the most important factor of that day, was the arm was close to its correct placement. Now it was time to fine tune and strengthen its position. For the next several days, it was just me and Ilya again.

After positioning some of the guy wires in strategic positions, there was the job of gingerly tightening the guy wires, one by one. That entailed a lot of climbing, all of which without safety equipment, up 20 to 50 meters above grade. It’s funny, we often hear mention of guys who have ‘the most dangerous jobs in the world.’ I heard it just last night, while watching a video of navy men who work on the deck of an aircraft carrier. We also hear it said about fire fighters and coal miners. Statistically, the most dangerous job is that of a fisherman - in terms of deaths and injuries per time worked. Granted, all those professions and a lot more are definitely dangerous, yet it’s doubtful whether they’re more death defying than scrambling up and down, and traversing vertical rock - tens of meters above grade, for days on end, with no safety gear.

When three of the five guy wires were well positioned, it came time to adjust the hinge to a better position. Ideally, the hinge would have been strongly secured beforehand, but we adapt to the hand we’re dealt. So, Ilya and I went down to rectify the positioning of the hinge. At this juncture, there was considerable tension on the business end of the arm.  In other words, the guy wires were strongly pulling the arm, like a giant nail, toward the rock face. We brought a stout steel bar, not a pipe, with us - to use as a lever.  Ilya was assigned to use the lever. Each of us standing on our own little square inch of rock, while each devoting one hand to holding on to rock slivers at around shoulder level. Ilya with the lever, and I calling out encouragement, were able to move the hinge assembly the necessary few inches.

The moment when it seated firmly against a righteous rock indentation was one of the sweetest moments of the whole construction process. It can be equated with pulling a large splinter out of a foot. It takes but a moment, but the satisfaction is sublime. It could also be compared to building an arch or a bridge supported by an arch.  There can come a time when the two sides are built, and there’s just a small space, about one foot wide, where a ‘keystone’ needs to be added.  One way to insert that, in modern times, is to separate the two halves with strong jacks, while creating a relatively small space which is just a camel’s hair larger than the pre-chiseled stone keystone. After gingerly placing the keystone in place, the pressure from the jacks is released, and the two halves of the structure put all their weight upon, and come together as one.

After setting the hinge in its permanent resting place, several buckets of cement were hauled up and strategically placed, along with embedding a stout chain - to ensure that the hinge would not budge for a coon’s age.

All during the course of these maneuvers, from the very first ventures up the rock face, until the final stages of securing the swing arm, there needed to be brush clearing. Large amounts of weeds and seedling trees were cleared on an on-going basis, both on the steep scree hill below, and all around the rock cliffs above. Every so often, a tree would fall, so that obviously created challenges, because a tree falling in such terrain inevitably involves copious amounts of vines, and therefore impacts on every plant and rock crag in its vicinity.
There are so many types of vines which grow in this part of Thailand, it’s mind blowing.  I estimate at least 200 distinct types. In one climbing area, we were compelled to take out a vine which had a trunk as big as a tree, easily a foot in diameter. Since I’m a tree hugger from Flower Power daze, I avoid taking out trees as much as reasonably possible. Yet sometimes the ax must fall. As compensation, we have on-going tree growing and planting activities. Literally hundreds of trees have been started by us, from seed, and planted in the vicinity, and at least as many trees and bushes have been set out similarly, by rooted cuttings and other types of propagation.

Suffice to say, weed clearing is never a done deal on this terrain. The usual pattern is: Intense clearing to begin with, then each successive clearing of the same area is a bit less brutal. The second clearing session might take place ten months later, and then on an annual basis after that. Any area, other than some rock faces, which are left untended for more than a year and a half, will revert to completely weed and vine covered.

So, to summarize what’s transpired thus far: The first effort to put the swing arm in place went smoothly, but there was a wire out of place. The arm was brought back safely, but the subsequent effort to put it out again rendered the arm unstable, and it swung severely and broke off its perch on the rock face. This third effort, with ropes and men steadying it from four directions, went with just one slight hitch; the hinge was jimmied out a few inches. A few days later, that was rectified by a deft movement by Ilya and a steel lever.

The main thing left to be done on the rock face, was secure and adjust the five guy wires. There was some dicey maneuvering of guy wire tension, by Ilya and I, during the next few days. At least twice, the arm wanted to lean in a wayward direction, as if it was a teenager with a mind of its own. Yet, with more scampering over rocks, and adjusting tensions, the arm was brought to the desired direction. During these times, the tensioning was usually done initially by muscle force, and then alternately cinched up with the come-along tool. The plan was to splay the five guy wires as widely as possible. There were some plans mulled, to use stout metal pipes, two to three meters long, to splay the end guy wires out even farther than the rock cliff would permit, but those plans were deemed unneeded.

The easternmost guy wire was a challenge, as was one which was close to the middle.  Both had tree limbs to deal with, as obviously the guy wires had to go straight from their respective anchor points on down to the business end of the swing arm. Both those guy wires had trees fall on them while I was in the process of adjusting their tensions.  It was almost as if mother nature was putting up resistance to the hare-brained plan of setting up Asia’s largest swing. However, I don’t believe in hocus pocus, so whenever an impediment showed it’s fuzzy face, I would just grab a machete or whatever tool seemed appropriate, and start hacking away.

Several times, when a high branch needed lopping - which was impeding the straight run of a guy wire, the branch would need to be severed. If it was too far to reach by climbing either the tree or rock face, other means were employed. The loping saw blade would be attached to the end of a seven meter long bamboo pole, and used to lop off the branch. Several dozen vines and branches suffered similar fates. Often, I tethered off, and would be hanging, nearly in mid-air, while performing such nutzoid tree and vine surgeries. Several times, fires were lit, in order to clear accumulated leaves and debris. One fire must have burned a big old dead root, which in turn loosened a large boulder, which had been a key factor in supporting a good-sized tree. When I returned a day later, the boulder and the tree it was holding up - had both moved. The tree had fallen in to a near very steep ravine and was still alive, by having some roots still in cracks in the rock.

As mentioned earlier, nothing falls in that terrain without affecting other trees and rocks. That one tree strained and twisted other trees and, along with hundreds of vines, filled up that steep ravine. That ravine had been one of the common ways to climb up the cliff, to get to work on guy wires, so like ants obstructed by a pile of dry grass, we dutifully found other climbing routes around the obstruction. Another reason we climbed around it was the distinct possibility that the massive entanglement might fall further, and none of us wanted to become entrapped.

The last of the five guy wires to get secured was also the highest. Getting it positioned and tensioned entailed some concerted climbing, up and down. It also required, as did some of the others wires, a process of attaching a string to the end of the wire, and tossing the string over intervening branches and vines.  Before tossing, the end of the string would be tied to one of ubiquitous small rocks found throughout. Tossing a rock attached to a string, attached to a heavy cable may sound like a breeze, but it was near as challenging as any of the other actions needed on this endeavor.  they say ‘boys will be boys’ and there’s probably a companion saying which goes something like, ‘some boys never grow up.’

You can imagine the relief of getting the guy wires all placed and tensioned correctly. The finality of it came while I was at that highest point, tweaking the tension for the last cable. Right around that moment I heard a soft rumble - of the type I’d never heard before coming to reside in Thailand.  I had heard it since coming to Thailand, close to a dozen times, and it was nearly always while climbing rocks. It’s the sound of rain approaching.

The sound can precede its arrival by several minutes, and it’s a unique thrill to hear it approaching.  If experienced while climbing, the timing is usually both good and bad.  For the immediate moment, its refreshing because, if you’ve been scrambling over steep rocks for awhile, you’re likely to be warm, and there are few things more exhilarating than cooling off with rain. The ensuing thoughts, however, are much more grounding, and all relate to safety.

A cavalcade of thoughts come forth, and all have to do with descending as quick and as safely as possible. More than once, I’ve been caught in the advancing curtain of rain, and then run out of daylight while negotiating slick limestone rocks interspersed with tangles of bushes and vines. In order to get free of the the rock, it’s often necessary to ascend in order to descend. At the end of a long dark difficult descent, there’s one more strong emotion, and that’s the profound relief of getting feet back to ground level.

The rain that found me at that rock shelf, where the highest guy wire gained purchase, carried that crescendo sound of applause. I had a choice to descend the vertical way down, which I was familiar with, and which also had the steep gully packed with the recently fallen trees and vines - or take the back way down. The back way was less steep, though entailed four times the distance. To endeavor that route, required climbing through a narrow gully at the highest point, which was less than shoulder width, so entailed moving one’s body sideways for seven meters, with about a centimeter clearance between front and back of skull. Not a route for the portly.

The rest of the descent went through seldom-climbed terrain which I had purposefully burned in prior years. Admittedly, I don’t endear myself to neighbors by occasionally burning rocky hillsides. Most people would say, “leave well enough alone.” Often I agree with that, but there come times when a well-placed control burn can render improvements. Besides the obvious effect of burning off weed infestations, another plus is burning thick canopies of vines off trees. Some of those same trees may survive being thickly covered in vines, but the same trees grow happier when their leaves can capture sunlight, and they’re not so weighed down. Other advantages to well-placed control burns are aesthetic, and have to do with exposing rock for viewing or climbing.

One of several secondary advantages of burning is; much of the resultant ash serves as fertilizer for the plants left behind. Plus, there are some seeds which need to go through fire (or the gut of a large animal) in order to germinate. Control burns lessen danger from build-up of dry material, year after year which, if fired every ten years or so, would burn hotter and possibly kill large trees. I’m not saying that annual control burns are a panacea in all situations, but if done well, there can be benefits to the environment.

After a while, I got a reputation locally, as being a fire-setter. It’s not something to be proud of, and more than once, I’ve had locals express their anger towards me about that. By not having a handle on the Thai language, I have not been able to discuss the issue with locals, beyond a few words. In response, I’ve toned down my fire-setting proclivities. Not surprisingly, thick knots of vines, bushes and prickly weeds have happily filled the niches left unburned. As long as I reside in Thailand, I will always be a farang, and that I accept. As such I have to defer to what locals expect, whether I always concur or not.

Soon after leaving that upper realm of endeavors, which entailed positioning the swing arm and its guy wires, the weeds, vines and trees quickly came back to commandeer the rocky terrain. I didn’t much mind, as the lion’s share of my work on the cliff space was done for the time being.  The focus now turned to the mechanics of the swing itself.

The half inch thick steel cable had purposefully been left long thus far. It now got severed to a more reasonable and manageable length. Right after that, a loop was put in at its end, and a string attached, in order to maneuver the swing cable, now a shortened 22 meters long. The next several steps were devoted to gaging where the arc of the swing would go. It became a challenging process with many 'trail and error’ efforts.  All the possible take-off points for future swingers would be from rock perches at the base of the cliff.

There were many things to consider, not least was; determining where the closest points a swinger might get to ground level. Initially, a few small trees had to be taken out, as well as at least one stout branch of a medium-sized tree.  As if that weren’t enough, several microwave oven-sized boulders had to be dislodged and allowed to roll down the scree hill, and out of the way. The closest any earth moving machinery could get to the work site was several hundred meters, and no elephants were available, so all ground work had to be done by human muscle.

Electricity too, was a hundred meters away, so initially, no power tools were employed.  Later, however, there was a need to drill some half inch diameter holes in to the limestone, in order to secure fastening bolts. There were various choices to drilling those holes. We could have man-hauled an electrical generator up the steep scree hill, or spent a load on money to buy a heavy duty cordless drill, or perhaps drilled holes by hand using an old fashioned chisel-type method. We wound up running a long electric cable from the closest AC electrical outlet, 150 meters away, over rock crannies - on up to the work site. That seemed the most plausible option. It may be worth noting that, of all the months’ work done on setting up Asia’s largest swing, those few holes were the only electric-powered chores done on-site.

Several times, there were thoughts of stringing white and/or colored lights along the arm, in order to light it up at night, but those plans were not pursued. Reasons were; added expense, and also what to use for a power source?  It may happen that a solar panel gets put up there in the future for that purpose, but if lights were to be strung out along the swing arm, I’m not sure who wants to go shimmying out 12 meters in to space on a four inch wide metal arm, 30 meters above grade, to do it. Any volunteers?  Granted, I had thought of stringing lights along the arm before swinging it out to its final position, but didn’t get around to doing it in time, and it would have compounded rigging which was already challenging enough with six heavy wires.

Back on the ground, weed and rock clearing continued, and several days of deft work with hoes and shovels had rendered goat paths to and fro, so getting around at the base of the swing area was not as difficult as it had been earlier.

Numerous hours, stretching out over several days and weeks, had been devoted to gaging where best to position the take off points for the swing. A test was done, by your truly, to try out the swing and get an initial feel for it. As with the three zip lines and all other thrill rides at Boomerang, I’m the designated crash test dummy.

On that fine day, there were two young farang ladies at the site. I put on a climbing harness, clipped on to the loop at the end of the swing cable, and went airborne. The take-off point was around midway between low and high (we would put in a high place later), and we had the foresight to tie a string to my harness, which dangled down about ten meters. After swinging for a couple minutes, I naturally slowed to the nadir, with my feet eight meters above the steep slope. So far, alright. Now it came time for the two women to pull me back up to a place where I could disembark. After a few minutes of joking about “how much will you pay us?” and “we’ll come get you tomorrow” the gals began pulling me in.

We soon found that the strength of the two was not sufficient to pull me all the way to a safe point. Pulling the first few meters from nadir, or resting point, was not difficult, but pulling the added few meters at the steeper angle required considerably more muscle. After some prolonged musings having to do with calling out the fire department, the ladies summoned herculean strength and managed to just barely get my skinny frame over to a rock upon which to stand.
For parts of the following two weeks I worked solo at the site, experimenting with where best to place take-off points. Initial efforts revolved around securing a high take-off place, nearly 90 degrees from vertical. At that angle, the effect of the swing would be most akin to bungy jumping. Though bungy jumping is a free fall straight down, this would be free fall for about six meters, until the swinger’s weight is taken up by the cable and propelled outward by centrifugal motion. The initial swing from take-off would carry the swinger to nearly the same height, on the other side of the arc - as the take-off starting height.

It was about that time that the name, “Pie in Sky” jangled my brain cells. If you consider the business end of the swing arm as the center of the pie, and the sides of a slice of pie as the length of the swing cable, then the arc of the swing would be the curved crust of the slice. Altogether, one gets a slice-of-pie shape, with the crust at the bottom and the pointed end facing straight up.

Initial thoughts were to have the swinger lying prone, belly down, like Superman. To do that with a harness, would need an elaborate support for the body and limbs, and two anchor points on the back of a harness. One attachment at a person’s tail bone, and another between the shoulder blades. Since I didn’t have access to such harnesses, I opted on the next best thing: a frame to support the swinger.

Dubbed the ‘gondola’ its frame was fabricated by a local furniture maker. It was a flat contraption, two meters long by one meter wide made from the type of bendable 3 cm thick round wood-like pieces used as  frames for high quality wicker furniture. The frame perimeter was two such pieces with spacers. The bed was made from 2.5 inch strong strapping, interlaced in a loose square pattern, similar to the pattern used with aluminum lawn furniture.  Though we thought of using rivets to secure the strapping, we wound up using epoxy.  To attach the gondola to the swing cable, it had four pairs of straps, one pair at each rounded corner. They all came together to attached to the loop at the end of the swing cable. The next step was to devise a good way to secure a swinger upon the gondola.

Although centrifugal force, along with a swingers grip on the frame, would keep a swinger stuck safely to gondola, when constructing any sort of play equipment, one has to always consider worst case scenarios. In other words, even if 9,999 out of 10,000 users may not have any problem with the device, it has to be constructed safe enough for that one user who may either panic or otherwise do nutzoid which may result in harm. 

I’m reminded of a tire swing which I’d heard was constructed in the town I hailed from in northern California. It was made from stout chain, and all connections were rounded and safe. However, the guy who made it didn’t put in a provision for enabling it to be freely twisted. Lo and behold, just a week after it was constructed, a few strong young boys decided to twist it as far as they could, with one boy sitting on the tire. The chain twisted so much that it knotted up upon itself. When released, the chain made a wild loop motion and caught the rider’s head - and wound up choking him to death in an instant. In hindsight, a single bolt with a few large flat washers would have precluded that sad episode. Yet, the blame is not with the guy who constructed the swing, because even with a see-saw or a playground swing, bad things can happen when people play with them wrongly or too harshly. People even climb up and fall out of trees, so should we then ban trees?

After constructing and fastening the gondola to the swing cable, and having it do a few test wings with no load, it was decided that a climbing harness would be a better way to enjoy the swing. That decision came about partly from thoughts of how best to secure a swinger lying prone, and also on thoughts about how best to get a swinger on and off the gondola. A little while later, after retiring the gondola before it had a chance to do its duty on the big swing, I strung it up between two strong trees, down near the Boomerang main area. There it sits, months later, having been used numerous times - though it is looking a bit worn from some frolickers using it wrongly. Some will stand on it, while other times, there are contests to see how many kids can fit upon it at one time.

crew3Another paradigm adjustment concerned how to get a swinger off at the end of a swing. The original plan was to attach a rope to the dangling swinger’s harness, and somehow pull that person up to a safe footing to disembark. Perhaps now is a good time to segue over to how some other big swings do it: Though the number of big swings in the world can be counted on both hands, the most common method for taking swingers off is as follows: When a swinging motion is expended, and the swinger is hanging at the nadir, a long tether is used to pull the swinger up to an disembarking place. Although, when I was considering this method, I had started to construct a hand-cranked ratcheted wheel for doing that, other big swings world wide do the ‘pulling back’ by mechanical devices, like a winch. There is at least one big swing which uses a method which I considered, which involves a platform under the nadir (lowest point) which can be raised and lowered as needed.  I abandoned that plan, partly because the terrain at the nadir is a steep scree hill, but mainly because I had devised a simpler and better way of doing it.
The chosen method entailed using a fixed platform - which was built directly below the nadir. When a swinger came to a stand-still, one or two aluminum ladders were put up, to facilitate the swinger getting unclipped and down safely.

You may wonder how we then get the end of the swing cable back to the next take off point. The cable loop, now with no load on it, is too high and out of reach to simply grab and walk with.  So there’s a permanent red rope that hangs down, the end of which is just low enough for a worker on the platform to reach.  Each of the three take-off points has a long white string of its own. The next swinger indicates where he/she wants to take off from, and the string from that take-off point is connected to the red string from the swing cable. After that, it’s a simple matter of physically pulling the string and swing cable up to the next take-off point.  From that juncture, it’s a simple routine to get the next swinger safely hooked up, and ready to swing.

Regarding take off places. You know the expression; “aim high."  That’s what I did when contemplating where to place the take-off point. At early stages of planning, I was still considering the gondola method.  A small tree near the top of the hill on the western side, was well positioned for temporarily securing it while attached to the swing cable. As you can imagine, the long cable got heavier, the higher up it was pulled from vertical.  A few test releases of the empty gondola gave a good idea of its route. Similarly, the gondola was cinched up to various places along the rock face which shot up from near that lone tree. That tree, by the way, was a type which had larger-than-rose sized thorns all over its trunk.

Since we’re on the topic of gnarly plants, there is a type of vine which grows all along the base of the limestone cliff where we were working. If not for its roots, it would be no big deal. However, its roots were compelling, as they were comprised of long thin spikes. To put it another way, imagine a meter length of stiff black steel wire. Coming off at right angles were needle-thin stiff black spikes, every one or two centimeters - going every direction. Then imagine hundreds of those beastly spike bundles embedded thickly in the soil. Any worker who says he didn’t have a needle pierce through the sole of his tennis shoes into his foot, at least once, isn’t telling the truth.

After some test unmanned swings from the thorny bark tree, I tried some unmanned test swings from several places along the cliffs west end. After securing bolts with epoxy at several possible take-off points, and then abandoning those, the best option was picked. This wound up being the highest of three take-off points. Surely, this would be the take off point for the most daring swingers, and also the most bungy-like at the site.  Much work was still needed to be done at this juncture. 

After some vine clearing, work was begun on building and securing a platform.  It was a small pre-fab wood design, fabricated at a lower site, and then carried up and set in place.  It was secured to the rock by three bolts, and its outlying perimeter was held up by four steel posts. Each of the posts were diagonally secured in small crevices in the rock, with epoxy. A ten foot bamboo ladder was assigned to access the platform, the lower stringers sitting upon a truck tire topped with cement on a leveled part of the ground. The tire was not entirely filled with cement. Most of the inside of the tire was packed with sealed empty plastic bottles, so as fill the underside cavity, and to save on mixing more cement than needed.

Between three and ten feet above the wood platform resting above, was secured an unusual safety bar array. It was made from 3/4 inch galvanized pipes. The pipes were joined by fittings to a common point which faced out away from the rock face. The trio of pipe 'legs’ splayed out towards the rock face and were strongly anchored using epoxy and small lengths of chain. A similar three-legged safety bar was later put in at the lowest take-off point for the same purpose - for something to hold on to, for swingers and guides alike, as needed.

The first test of the swing from the highest take-off point was done with rocks. It was a rock show. Two five gallon plastic pails were each filled with medium sized rocks. The pails were then secured by string to the loop at the end of the swing cable. Then all that was left to do, was nudge the laden pails off the edge of the platform, and off they went.  It was exciting to see how high they went on the first pass. We estimate 50 meters to grade, straight down from its highest point. There were other things to consider also, not least was the closest distance of the rocky pails to ground level. It also afforded a way to gauge how much of a free fall there would be from the highest platform, and also how far back a swinger would come on her return momentum. 

It was surmised that, unless a swinger pushed off hard from the take-off point, that person would not hit the platform or surrounding rock on the return trip. We found that there was such little loss of momentum due to friction, that the return swing was close enough to kick off - to add momentum, for subsequent swings.  However, there was no danger to anyone getting hurt from return momentum unless, as mentioned, a swinger deliberately shot off from the platform as vigorously as possible. Even then, the swinger could cushion that first return, by simply sticking a foot out.

Constructing the disembarking platform up under the lowest part of the swing was a fun project in itself. To get started on that, we first charged in to the 1.5 meter thick undergrowth at that part of the hill.  It took two men, the better part of a day to clear an area the size of a squash court - all on a 50 degree slope. 

We toyed with idea of building a platform all from bamboo, which would have been the easiest option, because bamboo proliferates on the property, and the hill tribe workers were as familiar with working with bamboo as a potter is with working with clay. Instead, we opted for using two inch galvanized steel for its five support posts - four at the corners, and one in the middle. The many diagonal pieces were also steel, and all were painted to inhibit rust.  The reason steel was used is simply because there is fire danger in that area. It would only take one quick fire to pulverize a platform made entirely from combustible material. For the same reasons, and to cut down on rampant weed growth, the ground under the platform was cleared of all vegetation and covered with a thin layer of brown-colored cement. This covering spread out roughly a meter beyond the drip line of the platform.

Of the four corner posts, the two uphill were just 2 meters long, whereas the pair placed in the lower side were closer to five meters.  All corner posts sloped inward several degrees, for stability and attractiveness. Placing the first two long posts on the downhill side was challenging in itself.  For starters, there was no flat space to set up a self-standing ladder. Neither was there any place to lean a ladder against at that early phase.  The solution, was odd but it worked.  Two hill tribe workers, who happen to be father and son, stood on the upper side of the hill while holding the ladder.  It should be mentioned that, at this early stage, all we needed to do was secure two steeply diagonal bamboo pieces to the upper part of each steel pole. This needed to be done to secure the pole in position and remember, those corner poles we all angled to lean in to the middle of the soon-to-be-built platform. Climbing up a three meter high leaning ladder, held only by muscle power, is a unique and trusting experience, let me tell you.

The floor of the platform was made of bamboo. The joists were mid-sized bamboo lengths, up to two inch diameter, cut from alongside my house, at a nearby location. The flat sub-floor on top was made on-site by splitting lengths of bamboo, and then using a hammer, to further split it and pound it down to flat. This is a common way, among hill tribers, of making floors.  Not surprisingly, it forms a strong floor, though if it’s in a house, it doesn’t keep mosquitoes out. Even if rained upon, it can last several years. If kept dry, it can last for over a decade.

Because we planned to use one or two folding ladders on the platform, to bring swingers down at the end of their swing, I chose to put two plywood pieces down, side by side, in the middle of the platform for a smooth floor surface.  Ladders and split bamboo floors don’t mix very well. After three days of building, we had a handsome level platform of about 12 square meters. The next day, a stout wooden walkway was built to facilitate accessing it from the upper side of the hill. Concurrently, a path with rock and cement stepping stones was built - as a walkway from west end of Boomerang Park on up to the big swing.

Even the pathway route went through several incarnations. Initially, it was planned to come up along a steep rock abutment on the west side of the swing area. That idea was scrapped when it looked as though the best access would be up a route from the zip line take-off platform - which entailed scrambling over rocks - a bit challenging, but not overwhelming even for a beginning climber.  Both those options were scrapped when it was decided that, even if one out of 10,000 visitors might slip and bruise a leg, it was not worth the odds.  So a diagonal route up the steep hill was chosen. Also, the hill route was the most direct way to get to the platform, which was the center of activity regarding the big swing.  It’s funny because just several weeks earlier, the hill looked foreboding. Not only as it weed choked, but it was quite steep with small rocks mixed 50-50 with dirt - which was powder dry in the winter and spring, and slippery mud during other seasons. It was the same hill upon which five strong men struggled valiantly to haul a 20 foot long 4 inch steel piece up. Now, with platform completed, and several additional brush clearings and burn piles later, it was a relatively brisk walk up and down - using the new path with stepping stones.

The lowest take-off point for the swing also took some trial and error - to find the best place. The place chosen, atop a car-sized rock, needed to be a bit higher, so we found two sizable flat rocks, and stacked them one on top of the other, atop the apex of the big rock. Each of the stacked rocks were about the size of a seven inch thick large pizza.  They were secured with ample amounts of epoxy. 

The variance between a heavy person and a lightweight child made small difference in their respective clearances from the ground. The reason was; the swing cable came off a fixed point high up on the business end of the swing arm. That point was not going to vary more than a couple inches up or down, regardless of whether it was supporting a heavy person or child.

Another consideration was stress on the arm itself - which didn’t amount to as much as one might think. The arm itself wasn’t supporting the weight of the swinger and swing cable, but rather it was the five guy cables which were supporting nearly that entire weight. The arm needed to be strong enough to keep itself from buckling from the pull of the guy wires, and from its own weight - and neither of those forces were considerable. 

A basic premise in determining the length of the swing cable was; how close a swinger might get to the ground. The critical factor was not the weight of the swinger, but rather how close that person’s feet might get to the ground. The shortest allowable distance was determined to be 50 centimeters, or about 1.5 feet. With that in mind, we removed rocks, tree stumps, weeds and whatever else a tall person might possibly hit with feet outstretched. Of course, no people could be allowed in in the swing path, unless further down towards the platform, and well clear of swingers feet.

The cruxiest point of each take off was, not surprisingly, the initial moments after leaving the platform. This became particularly poignant - the higher up the take-off spot. The main reason was; the higher the take-off, the more pronounced initial free-fall effect. With this in mind, a middle platform was built - about halfway between the lower and uppermost take-off places. The middle place was five feet above grade and its floor was made from rough cut lumber which had been cut and milled at the Boomerang site. The walkway to the platform was made from the same lumber. 

Soon after completing the functioning swing, I thought there would be a need for short bungee cords. The thinking was, with the near free fall from the highest platform take-off point, the cushioning effect of a bungee cord would be needed. It has since been shown that a bungee is not needed, as the inherent ‘give’ of the swing apparatus, due mainly to the flexing of the guy wires, is sufficiently cushioning. Even so, at that early stage, I proceeded to fabricate several bungees using strips of second hand truck inner-tubes bundled together. We now use those home-made bungee cords for more mundane things like ground level swings - used lower down at Boomerang Park main area.

Every swinger now uses two tethers attached to the loop at the end of the swing cable.
As of this writing, about fifty folks have taken off on the swing from its highest point, and well over a hundred have taken off from one or both of its lower take-off points. No injuries, but a whole lot of yelping, screaming with joy, and claims of “wow, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever done” types of comments from revelers. 

That’s one of the basic motivations for developing an Adventure Park. The satisfaction gained from providing enjoyable venues for others, particularly kids and young adults, is priceless. There’s a unique joy in witnessing someone experiencing pure glee, on some contraption you’ve designed and built. Perhaps it’s similar to a chef who enjoys observing others relishing his food creations.

An adventure park is, among other things, a place where people can push their limits. To do that, there almost has to be an element of danger or at least perceived danger. Taking a thrill ride at a multi-billion dollar amusement park imparts that, and even to some extent a purely digital mega-million dollar ride which pitches while staying in place. Yet, developing Boomerang by using, as much as possible, the natural contours of its hills, trees and rock, imparts a more natural experience with no less thrills than the others which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. bambooswing

The first thrill ride built at Boomerang was a bamboo swing. We had, at the time, taken out several large bamboo pieces. The longest piece was 22 meters (70 feet) with its long thin end lopped off.  The smallest end was nearly three inches and its butt end was over four inches. Two trees were chosen, about 30 meters apart, and stout ropes were secured to each end of the bamboo. Then, with able-bodied help from some hill tribe workers, we strung that length of bamboo between these trees, with its lowest point about two feet above grade. That same afternoon, with no prompting from any of us, three boys discovered it. They did as any boys would do, experimented with how best to have as much fun as possible. Within several minutes on their own, they devised several ways to swing, balance on it and grasping under it - all the while squealing with joyful sounds. I toyed with the idea of showing that bamboo swing design to Guinness, the world record people, but their entry fee is several hundred dollars.  Even so, does anyone reading this know of a swing wider than 22 meters? 

Now, take that sort of boyhood experience, and compare it with what most boys are doing on afternoons out of school. While hundreds of millions of kids their age were watching TV of playing shoot-em-up video games while staring at a digital screen, those three boys were moving their bodies around outdoors, and having a natural blast.

A similar dynamic took place awhile later, when a rope was tethered to a high branch. The rope came down in the middle of an eight meter wide irrigation ditch at Boomerang. The ditch is dry for half the year, and a foot deep the rest of the time. Not surprisingly, within hours of setting it up, a crowd of local hill tribe kids found it and proceeded to have loads of fun - and came back to play, every non-downpour afternoon, for weeks afterwards.

There are some lessons in here somewhere, and here is one: If you’re an adult, and you like making things and seeing kids enjoying themselves - why not design and construct some things for kids. Obviously safety is #1 concern, and you may be surprised to find that the cost of building some things around your neighborhood is less that you might have thought. Granted, there can be other extenuating considerations, such as legal liability in lawsuit-crazy societies, cost of construction, and building skills needed, plus quite possibly; ‘where to put the darn thing?’

Granted, there are plethora of reason for not doing such things, but why not buck the trend, and just go ahead and do it?  Sure it’s easier to find excuses and/or retreat to the comfort of your home, but by stepping out and taking the initiative, you can expose kids to fun and challenging things which they wouldn’t ordinarily get a chance to try.

written by; Ken Albertsen, April 2013
Boomerang Adventure Park
Chiang Rai, northernmost Thailand

B O O M E R A N G                    
Rock Climbing & Adventure Park
     tel. 08 552 55435

*** one low rate = good for all activities (can pay by Baht / Dollars / or Bitcoin) ***

Can you dig it?!  nearby archaeological dig sites for the amateur

Brief video of Asia's largest Swing
called 'Pie in the Sky - Chiang Rai'



We named it Boomerang, because of the shape of the property.  It sits alongside a paved road just 3 Km NW of the tourist town of Chiang Rai in northernmost Thailand. It's a fifteen minute stroll to the large Mae Kok river, where there are other climbing crags. The rock is limestone karst, and there are dozens of gnarly climbing areas of all skill levels at our site.
We also have two side by side zip lines (flying fox, for our Brit friends).  They stretch 160 meters, coming down from the cliff face, to the meadow below.
Top quality equipment on site.  Safety is #1.

The map above shows directions to Boomerang: Park. It shows the area directly north of Chiang Rai town. From the 2-lane Mae Fa Luang bridge, go 1 km north.  Then take a left at Soi 5 and go two Km west. We're on the right, as the road curves to the left. We're between two Buddha caves, one is a half Km before, and the other is a half Km after Boomerang Park. Here's a google map of the same route.
Best times to arrive at the park:  10 am or 1 pm (by appointment).   Activities go on until late afternoon.

Typical schedule of activities:

>>>>   Nearby trek to Three Bears Cavern at nearby 'Lion Hill' alongside river (each of 3 chambers has a natural skylight, and the cavern goes all the way through the Limestone hill.

>>>>   Back at Boomerang Park,

>>>>    After that, we usually get going with slack line walking (a.k.a. 'tightrope') - with overhead safety cable.

>>>>   Rock climbing at Boomerang Park. Top quality equipment, including climbing harnesses and 11 mm ropes, available free at site. 

>>>>   One or more zip trips on our 160 meter zip lines.

Other activity options:  

>>>>  Traverse routes using fixed safety cables - two 6 mm steel wires for each route.
Currently, there are four routes with safety cables, as long as 18 meters and as high as 17 meters.

>>>>  Scramble up rocks in 'Hidden Ravine' to summit of 90 meter rock wall

Note: this is not a 'fixed' schedule, and you can adjust the activities to suit yourselves. The key is safety, while having an enjoyable and challenging time.

There are three 'tiers' of climbing routes on the hill.  Each is from 50 to 60 feet high, much of it vertical. Obviously, most climbing activity will be at the first tier, because it's most accessible from the ground level. The first tier has about 20 routes, and there are several no-yet climbed routes in the vicinity. 

Ideal for special occasions, such as school outings, birthday parties, team building events, or groups. Plan ahead to schedule. BIG discounts for groups, whether adults or children or mixed (example: father and sons). Great site for camping out, with facilities and restaurant on-site.

***   Lion Hill Nature Trail (being developed)  ***  safety  ***  contact  ***

***   map of climbing areas nearby Chiang Rai  ***  Archaeological Dig Opportunity  *** 

more photos  *** opening day pics  *** 

***  slack-line  ***  traverse  ***  volunteer *** rates ***

click photo at left to see 29 second video
of 8 year old Ollie enjoying the big swing

Brief Boomerang Videos

Two guys zipping side by side.

View from top of first tier, including glimpse of zip line platform (under construction).

Video of a zip filmed by person zipping

Panorama from 80 meters up the 90 meter vertical big wall. 

Small portion of second tier, taken from below.

Asia's largest Swing - a.k.a. 'Pie in the Sky - Chiang Rai

All these videos and more on our YouTube 'channel' 

Nearby excursion options:  waterfalls, bicycle treks, hiking, caving, swimming, .....and more. 
Boomerang Adventure Park / home page


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B O O M E R A N G 
Rock Climbing and Adventure Park
- Outdoor fun for the whole family, Chiang Rai, northernmost Thailand
Books by Ken Albertsen
Topics: Thailand, travel, Tibet, organic farming, cleansing fasts, political satire, Chinese and Hong Kong history, anti-nuclear activism,  alternative energy & lifestyle
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