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Brian Thom’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 20 Jun 2007

Location: Houay Xai (Way Sigh), Laos

MapWow, I could just about write a novel for this one. The last 3 days were very intense. I will try to keep it small.

We woke up the next day back in Way Sigh and ready for the Gibbon Experience. The Gibbon Experience is an actual company devoted to saving the forests in Laos or some humanitarian bs like that (just kidding!). Basically some French guy decided it would be neat to set up tree houses in the middle of nowhere and attach them with cables so that you can fly around on them. Steph wasn't really feeling the whole idea anyway because she is afraid of heights. The previous day we had strained to get her to come because maybe she could test her fears, she had told us that ferris wheels scare her, and they signed up. She was hesitant even after paying and signing the waiver form (first time since leaving Canada we had to sign a waiver, which made me infinitely nervous as you can imagine) so that when the next morning came and it had rained that night, Steph and Bryan backed out at the last minute but somehow managed to retain 80% of their money. Andrew and I still plugged on.

We hopped in a Land Ranger truck which was pretty heavy duty. These are some thick, dense jungles you drive through and the road is bumpy to say the least. They stuffed 10 of us in the back of the truck and we instantly became friends with everyone due to the body contact. Actually I'm just kidding because most of the people on this trek were kind of lame but I will explain later. After 2 hours of highway driving and another 1 hour of jungle driving, we were kicked out at the side of the jungle road and trekked it in for at least 2 hours before we arrived at the Gibbon Experience.

You walk to the kitchen level and strap yourself with a harness. The kitchen is essentially a big hut in the middle of the jungle. You trek a little more (and believe me, at this point we were SICK of hiking because the previous few days were spent hiking around Chiang Mai) and eventually reach a platform with the first zipline which connects to Treehouse 1. Treehouse 1 is where we slept and stayed and it is the main hub that connects all the other Treehouses in the jungle to the entrance, exit and Kitchen. The harness is a belt with leg straps that you can tighten. It is attached to a carabeener (sp?) and rope that acts as a safety line. The harness is ALSO connected to the main zip attachment, which has two rollers embedded in a steel case and carabeener that you can fasten to the steel cables which are attached to the the massive jungle trees. Got all that? Good. You slap all your gear on the cables and then run and jump as if you were trying to commit suicide. Before you know it your in a treehouse.

It's actually quite fun, and an amazing experience. You are at heights of up to 150 metres and some of the cables are very long, they move quickly and take sometimes half a minute. While your up the first time you think "Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit" and subsequent zipping you think "Pretty fun, but if this harness snaps... hmmm........ can one survive a 150 meter fall?".

Bees were ruthless in the treehouses. ALL OVER US. You can't get a break and now Andrew and I are not so much of pansies in that department. The sleeps were genuinely comfortable and the sounds of the jungle get soothing, in the morning you awake to a thick fog and you can hear the gibbons singing to each other. It's pretty interesting. We had a guide wake us up so we could try and spot them, but they can hear the ziplining of the cables and scurry away. We missed them but the people who stayed in our treehouse with us saw them because they went a different direction. These were some BORING people. Incredibly boring. At night we would sit around and talk via candlelight in the treehouse and it would mostly be Andrew, me and one of the British girls we went with. They just loved to be boring. Not sure why. Insects are all around you constantly, and if you come back without a muddy shirt you are either a champion or not leaving the treehouses. Andrew took a video of the zipping with his camera which is really neat, Im not sure if Planet Ranger allows for video but if I can find the feature I will try to post it.

Today we woke up and began our way back. Unfortunately it rained last night which meant that the truck that brought us in probably wouldn't be able to pick us up until we could make it tp the main road. How do you spell 'uh oh'????

Thaaaaat's right folks! We were faced with a beauty 7 hour hike because we were in the middle of NOWHERE! This is also in the face of muddy hills, or so we thought. We hiked for about 4 hours back (about half of it uphill which is never a lot of fun) and finally in the distance you could hear the murmur of a truck. I've never been so delighted in my life to see a truck. We are pretty sore now (our legs) from all the walking and hiking and zipping, but overall it was a fantastic experience.

The trucks drove us back, and here we are back at Way Sigh. Tomorrow we are going to exit the down via slowboat and spend a night in some town (mandatory to get the hell out of here) and the following day we will have arrived at Luang Prabang which- coincidentally- has an airport. We may just fly straight to Bangkok ready for hometime or we may go to Vang Vieng again because we loved it that much. Either way our travels are almost at an end and, yes, we are happy about coming home.