Somewher in Northern Laos
Well I think I have found Shangri-La..
I caught a bus to the Northern border crossing to Laos(from Thailand), it was long and extremely claustrophobic. 5 hours in a totally packed minivan is not fun, I literally got half a seat to myself. But it was worth it. I managed to cross the border by ferry just before it closed with no hiccups.
As soon as I was over, in this small town called Houei Xai, I really sensed a whole different atmosphere, way different from Thailand. It is so chilled out here. I hadnt really had much of a plan, aaprt from going to the gibbon experience. The office was in that town, but I found out that they were fully booked until next month.. Luckily, I persisted and just before they closed the office they gave me a place because 6 people hadn’t checked in.
I spent that night in my guesthouse. It was run by a Chinese lady who was drunk most of the time, but she was friendly enough. I met an ozzie guy who was staying at the same place and a bulgarian guy who was drinking at the guesthouse. It turned out that the ozzie guy, Eric, had hired a scooter and had been driving it round for the last three weeks in Laos, clocking up over 3000 miles! The Bulgarian guy, seemed to travel with his american wife constantly – he had some strange stories. But it was a nice introduction to Laos. The Bulgarian guys wife was booked on the gibbon experience with her friend who was over for two weeks on vacation. So the next morning before we left for the bus, I had breakfast with them.
I met the others who were going on the giobbon experience in the office. Our grou p consisted of an Ozzie guy, a young French Canadian couple, a girl from Vancouver, the two American ladies and an older German guy. We had a 3 and a half hour journey to the reserve via pick up, so there was plenty of time to get to know the group for the next three days. The journey in was interesting too, Loations don’t have many road rules. The countryside is beautiful though.
When we got to the park we had a 45 minute trek to the treehouses. Having been out of the jungle for two years, it was a shock to the system, but it was enjoyable sweating buckets over nothing.
To get up to the treehouses, there were zip cables between trees., Our tree house, was on toip of a massive 50m giant. It was fantastic. We got a quick tour of the cables in the area and were left to our own devices. Everyone shared a single tree house, except the two american girls who opted for having their own. The tree houses had a little eating area a sleeping area and a shower/toilet. We really were close to nature. It was pretty cool!
The first night we had a thunderstorm and we had arranged to get a wildlife walk with a guide, starting at 6am. Unfortunately however, we weren’t going to see anything with the weather like that. Everyone went back to bed, but I took the chance to go zipping in the fog, it was pretty spectacular. The longest cable was 340m long and they are all pretty high, so you get a good view and it is really fast. Unlike most places, here in Laos, theres no Health and Safety, so we could use them on our own whenever we wanted.
The next couple of days were really good, it was so relaxing being up in the trees, so when we werent zipping we were sitting round making coffee and chatting. Everyone was pretty decent and it was such a mix of nationalities, it was all very nice.
The three days went pretty fast. On our last morning, it had been raining for ten hours throughout the night, so we were forced to walk out of the jungle, because the un surfaced road we came on was slick with inches of mud. It was around 20km so it was no walk in the park. When we left the treehouses, handed in our harnesses, I was walking a little ahead to get warmed up(the jungle can get cold at night)..But, me being me, I quickly got lost. I came to a river, which we had crossed via bamboo bridge. But I had come to a different one, so I tried doubling back to find the group, but after a search I came to the conclusion that they must now be ahead of me.
So I used the bridge I found and crossed the river, only to find myself in padi fields, so I got my nearly dry boots soaked. I headed south(using the watch you gave me dad) because thats where I knew the village was where the dirt road started. Luckily I found it quickly. I asked a local if he had seen anyone come through already, he had..shit I thought. I must be way behind now.
Luckily as I started walking, a local guy called Jay, who spoke basice english said he would show me the way as he was going the same way. So I accepted his help, and he set the pace, which was quite grueling. The road went uphill half the way then downhill – basically.. It was interesting speaking to a local guy, it turned out he used to work for the gibbon experience, so the thoughts that I wqas going to be robbed on this isolated road disappeared. 3 and a half hours later, after running out of water(I had one litre), being horribly sunburned on my neck and totally exhausted I had made it to the raod – 20km was hard.. Luckily Jays house was on the road and I was able to get some water, before making my way to the point outside a shop where the trick was coming to collect us. To my surprise, no one from the group was there ……An hour after I arrived Stephane(the German guy) arrived, looking mightily pissed off. he had stuck with the guide who had taken him on a ‘shortcut’..The two french canadians arrived 320 minutes after and in final place came Paul and Jessica a full two hours behind me. We were all knackered, to say the least(I am still aching now)
When we got back to the town, we all went for an Indian curry, which was great, and then went our separate ways..
I would recomend the gibboin experience to anyone, I think it makes a world of difference when you have a good group though(which I did)