Cliff Diving in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I cliff jump in “The Grand Canyon” of Chiang Mai.

July 2015

About a half an hour from the center of Chiang Mai is an old mining quarry that has long been abandoned for its original intention. The deep quarry has since been filled up with water, and has been attracting adventurers from around the globe.

The canyon is gorgeous as a vista point alone, with golden edges of land jutting up out of dark blue-green sparkling water.

“Grand Canyon” of Chiang Mai

There was an entry fee to get in, 50 baht ($1.50 USD), which seemed expensive to us at this point, but it came with a complimentary drink (choice of roselle or butterfly pea, both sweet local favorites).

We set our bags down in a large pile, which was what others seemed to be doing. We weren’t really concerned with anyone stealing our stuff, since Thai culture had proven time and time again to be respectful of belongings.

Getting ready to jump!

Getting ready to jump!

We jumped from a (perspectively) lower ledge first, which still was a solid 15-20 feet high, into the water. I slapped in hard, water rushing over my head. The water was amazing. So warm, it could have been bathwater.

The other side of the quarry

The other side of the quarry

I should have brought shampoo! Just swimming here alone would have been worth the trip out, regardless of the cliffs. Some tourists had brought rubber rafts and were paddling around the canyon.

There were also a couple of bamboo rafts tied in the center of the lake, which were fun to swim to and hang out on.

Hanging out on the bamboo raft in the middle of the quarry

Hanging out on the bamboo raft in the middle of the quarry

It took a few people longer than others to get the courage to jump, but within 5 minutes, all but one had taken the plunge at least once…except one girl. We tried to pep talk her for 20 full minutes. We kept counting down from 5, reasuring her, doing everything we could to convince her that the anticipation is the scariest part. Finally, she jumped, and ended up really enjoying herself.

Jumping from the

Jumping from the “low” ledge! about 20-30 feet plunge

Throughout the hour or so that we spent frolicking and jumping, storm clouds began to gather in the distance, and we heard a great rumble of thunder, which gave the location a dramatic atmosphere.

Storm clouds gather over the quarry

Storm clouds gather over the quarry

Only a few of us decided to give the big cliff a try. The peak could only be reached by climbing up a steep incline, and thankfully a rope was installed to hoist ourselves up.

The path toward the high jump

The path toward the high jump

Unfortunately, I lost the picture from the perspective of the top looking down over the side, but it is a  l o o n g way down. I didn’t allow myself any thinking time. I stepped back a couple of feet, held my breath, got a running start, and leapt off the side.

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon cliffdiving

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon cliff diving

I think I held my breath too soon, because I was already starting to feel the strain before hitting the water. I think it was a full “four-mississippi” seconds before hitting the water. Again, I slapped hard. When my head popped up out of the water, I smiled at a girl who had gone before me. She gave me a terrified expression. Apparently I had bit my lip on the way down, and blood was smeared over my mouth; a gruesome sight.

Mouthful of blood after the high jump!

Mouthful of blood after the high jump!

I went once more off the high jump before leaving, and then I walked along the cliff to take pictures. Suddenly, a monsoon hit. Heavy rain came down from one side of the canyon and quickly traveled to the other. I could see the giant splashes from raindrops as they hit the water, and the definitive line between where it was raining and where it wasn’t. It was spectacular. Unfortunately, all of our bags were still where we left them, exposed to the rain. Almost everyone was still out on the bamboo rafts in the middle of the water, so I had to hurriedly bring the bags to safety, which was not easy considering my path was getting considerably muddy and slippery.

We finally all made it to the safety of the overpriced cafe. I claimed my free drink and we gathered our things to make it back to the sawngthaew.

My ears were ringing for the rest of the day, until I went to sleep.

Worth it!


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