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The Gibbon Experience

by becca on December 8, 2009

Three days and two nights in Bokeo Nature Preserve in Northern Laos. Zipline over the forest canopy. Living in a treehouse more than 100ft above the ground. Waking up early to walk around looking and listening for animals. Did I mention ziplining through and above the forest? The Gibbon Experience is just as the name describes, an experience. A feast for the senses. The most extreme version of climbing trees and playing in treehouses, with the power to make any adult feel 10 years old again.

Nate and I shared Treehouse #3 with a British couple from London, Lou and Ben. We ate our meals together (some hot, some cold, all involving sticky rice), explored the forest via hiking and ziplining, and cared for our resident cat who we named Frankenstien due to his crossed eyes and half-chopped curly tail. We also kept ourselves entertained when the sun went down by playing cards, searching for and naming the spiders in the roof of our treehouse, drinking our nightly dose of hot ovaltine, and the best of all, climbing out on the zipline to dangle in the dark and see the vast array of stars above.

Each morning we were lead by a guide on a hike to look for wildlife in the area: giant squirrels, asiatic black bears, tigers, and of course, the elusive gibbon. Nate spotted one giant squirrel, we saw some colorful birds, and our guide made some cool animal sounds, but that was about the extent of our sightings. And while I think it would have been pretty amazing to see gibbons swinging through the forest, swinging through ourselves on ziplines was breath-taking. In one day we traveled over 5km just on ziplines, and some sections allow you to zip for nearly 400 meters over valleys and see untouched jungle for miles. The second morning there was a thick mist sitting in and above the canopy and zipping through this, then rising out of it to see a blue sky, layers of white clouds, and then tree tops… what an unbelievable sight.

The Gibbon Experience was set up to help preserve this beautiful area. The revenue from one year of operation is equal to the money logging would generate in a year – and that can only be done once. The project also protects the area from poachers and is staffed by local Lao people.

If you find yourself Laos (which I would highly recommend), you would be missing something incredible by not indulging in this experience, though you should book ahead. We decided we were willing to take the $260 plunge a few days before we wanted to go, and it seemed like no problem. It wasn’t until later that we realized how lucky we were – they had created a new group to take us (and eight other last-minute-bookers) out. The next opening was in mid-January.

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A Jungle Night

by nate on December 8, 2009

I want to share a very vivid recent experience I had in Bokeo Nature Reserve, in Laos.

It was the last chilly night in Bokeo, we were all nestled in our jackets were drinking hot chocolate in our wooden tree house, 40 meters off the jungle floor. As the sun sank behind the distant mountains, a new set of sounds began to consume our surroundings, quickly becoming pitch black for miles around. This night I was determined to finally see the brightly starred sky we got peeks of through the corners of our treehouse. We only had a zipline that disappeared above the noisy black jungle, so we inched out on the 80 meter steel line above the canopy, with little headlamps and a little intimidation.

It’s hard to describe the sensation. To be suspended over 100ft above a howling jungle in total darkness. A sky errupting with more stars than I had ever seen. To be floating between the soundscape and treetops beneath my feet, and a mesmerizing sky; weightless, so small and unprotected. The headlamps were useless once we got too far on the wire, but they were an appreciated comfort.

I stayed out a little while longer as the others inched back to the treehouse. All the senses were engaged, fully alert and analyzing, yet almost hypnotized in a dreamlike state by the sensations. My eyes were open, but felt closed. My body dangling nothing within reach, yet all felt so close. It was beautiful.

Feet, lit by a headlamp 100ft above the jungle.

Feet, lit by a headlamp 100ft above the jungle.

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Luang Prabang

December 1, 2009

Luang Prabang is beautiful, charming and a great jumping off point for exploring all the outdoors that Laos has to offer. The city sits at the meeting of two rivers making for outstanding views, and the night market is irresistible. A few highlights: (1) The bus ride here was five hours on winding roads sprinkled […]

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Plunge into the cold water and repeat.

November 28, 2009

Ever drifted down a river only 20 feet before you had two shots and a mixed drink, lost your sunglasses, and swung on a 30 ft trapeze swing into the river? It caught us by surprise too. The 6km drift down the Nam Song River can easily become a drunken blur after visiting a few […]

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Welcome to Vang Vieng

November 28, 2009

AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE! LET’S PARTY!! LET’S DRINK!! This was our first impression of the geographically stunning city of Vang Vieng; three drunken travelers, barefoot and bare-chested hopping on to our still-moving bus with the enthusiasm that only a great day of drinking on a river can inspire. Made famous for tubing down a quiet little […]

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Thanksgiving

November 27, 2009

The Thanksgiving holiday isn’t quite a Lao holiday (or any other country’s holiday for that matter), so after a few hours of tubing, we were able to grab a British and Australian couple to come spend the holiday with us. Because we couldn’t find Turkey, or stuffing, or cranberry sauce (or basically anything even close) […]

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Abandoned building in Vientiane

November 25, 2009

Just a quick set of photos of this old abandoned French building in Vientiane that we caught at just the right time of day for the amazing light coming in over the river. Share

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Taking it slow in Laos

November 24, 2009

Lonely Planet compares the laid back atmosphere of Laos to a tuk-tuk driver that you have to wake up and persuade to drive you somewhere — a drastic difference from the constant touts of “tuk-tuk? tuk-tuk?” heard in Cambodia or “Moto? Moto? Moto-bike?” in Vietnam. And while there are plenty of tuk-tuk drivers ready and […]

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