Anyone who’s ever had a pet rodent will remember the clear plastic exercise balls designed for these little furry friends. Put your hamster inside and set him free to roam around the house without fear of falling down a heating vent or getting eaten by a cat. But have you ever wondered what it’d be like to be inside one yourself?
Welcome to zorbing.
Prior to coming to Chiang Mai, I had never heard of zorbing. And the first time I heard the term, images of aliens and spaceships rather than exercise and adventure came to mind. What on earth is a zorb ball, and how do you do it?
What is Zorbing?
A zorb ball is 3.3 meters of flexible plastic with harnesses inside that can fit up to two people at a time. Once you’re loaded inside, the ball is pushed down a hill, which is just the right combination of hilarious and terrifying.
Zorbing in Thailand: Chiang Mai X-Centre
In Chiang Mai, there’s only one spot to go to get your zorb on. The Chiang Mai X-Centre lies about half an hour north of the city in Mae Rim. This place is awesome. They offer a lot more than just zorbing: paintball, drift karts, ATVs, dirtbikes, bungee jumping, mini golf…you name it. If you’re looking for an exciting place to spend an afternoon doing some less-than-conventional activities, this is the spot to go.
A nice perk of the X-Centre is that they provide free (!) transportation to their location. As long as you book ahead of time on their site they’ll pick you up from wherever you’re staying in the city and drop you back off at the end of your visit.
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The Zorb Experience: Buckle your Seatbelts and Hold onto your Lunch!
I went to the Chiang Mai X-Centre for the first time with two of my friends. We booked 3 spots for zorbing and requested pick-up from our condo the next afternoon. We were picked up in an air-conditioned van promptly at 1:00 pm and then made several other stops around the city before filling up the van with other adventurers and heading to the X-Centre. Almost everyone else in the van was going for the bungee jumping, and as we chatted on the drive, one of my friends decided to opt for that too instead of zorbing.
When we got to the X-Centre, we were greeted by a group of friendly, English-speaking staff who instructed us to fill out waiver forms. For my friend and I interested in zorbing, the process was simple and quick, and the two of us were soon loaded back into the van and driving 2 minutes down the road to the zorb area.
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I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I was surprised at how underwhelming the area looked. I was expecting a huge hill, but the structure we arrived at was at the top of a seemingly small slope. As we climbed up the checkered ramp to the top, we saw the zorb ball waiting for us: a huge plastic ball covered with colored dots. After taking off our shoes, one of the staff members shouted, “Jump in!” So I took a running start and leaped into the hollow sphere with all the glee of a child in a bouncy castle. The magic of giant inflatables really doesn’t fade with age!
Now, rolling down a small hill in an inflatable ball isn’t exactly a death-defying feat. I wasn’t expecting to feel the same nerves as the rest of the group preparing to free-fall from a giant tower. But when I was holstered into the zorb ball with giant velcro straps across my torso, ankles, and wrists, suddenly I began to feel a tiny bit nervous. What exactly was I getting myself into??
My Zorbing Experience
I laughed as the ball was rolled upside down so my friend could get strapped in too. The nerves turned to giddy excitement as I hung upside down over my friend, hoping the velcro keeping me there would hold. The next thing I knew we were being rolled, head over feet, to the top of the ramp. One strong push from the X-Centre staff and we were tumbling fast down the hill. As we picked up speed and raced toward the bottom, I let out a series of laughs and screams until finally, we splashed into the water.
We had been instructed to unstrap ourselves when we hit the water, and would then propel ourselves hamster-style back to the shore. Easier said than done! We floundered and splashed and laughed til our sides hurt, but eventually, we managed to steer ourselves back to the shore, where we were helped back onto solid ground by the staff.
In total, the zorbing experience only took about ten minutes. The actual ride down the hill was less than 1 minute long. After we finished, we headed back to the main complex to watch the rest of the bungee jumpers, screaming as they rocketed down 50 meters and bounced back up. When everyone was done an hour later, we loaded back in the van and headed home.
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Cost of Zorbing
A single run down the hill costs 600 baht per person ($17 USD). This price includes transportation to and from the X-Centre (as of May 2017)
Is it worth it?
While my Zorb experience was a ton of fun and I’d definitely recommend it, it is a lot of money for such a short activity. Combined with the amount of time it takes to get to the X-Centre, I don’t know that I’d recommend making the trip just for zorbing. What I would definitely recommend, however, is taking advantage of some of the other awesome activities they offer, while you’re there. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not combine zorbing with bungee jumping? Or if free falling from 50 meters up isn’t your style, try out the indoor drift carts (they looked so fun!), or even try paintball with some friends! The great thing about this location is that there are so many different things to do in one trip. If you want to go just for the zorbing, you can always take some time to enjoy some food or drinks at the on-site restaurant afterward.
For zorbing alone, although it was a lot of fun, I recommend that you combine other activities to make a full day out of it. The course itself was underwhelming, regardless, we giggled and laughed like little kids throughout the entire time. For a real adrenaline rush, you’re going to need to try the bungee jumping!