Everyone seemed to rave about The Gibbon Experience in northern Laos. I’d heard about its joys before I’d even left Canada and also heard great reviews from other backpackers. It’s expensive (particularly for Asian standards) but I figured…why not? YOLO and such.
So off I went on a night bus to Huay Xai, home of the famed Gibbon Experience (ooooohh. aaahhh). The company offers different choices of treks (closer to gibbons, closer to a waterfall, etc.) but they’re all pretty much the same, give or take a day or two and hundreds of dollars. I chose “The Express” 2-day option as this was much cheaper, I can go see a gibbon in a zoo (so, big whoop, I’m not paying extra for that), and two days trekking through the jungle seemed like more than enough time to me.
While the price tag does still haunt me, I really liked The Gibbon Experience. We started with a 2 hour pure up-hill trek along a mountain (nearly killed me but I pulled through) followed by a series of around 10 ziplines over rivers, across ravines and through the jungle (ish…the area was more Canada’s West Coast than jungle, though still pretty). Looking back, it probably wasn’t the safest activity (I nearly got my hair stuck a couple times and our two Lao guides weren’t all that concerned with safety measures) but for Asian standards it was pretty damn good (this is a place where babies sit atop motorbikes sans helmet and children play with machetes, after all). The longest zipline was 900 m, I believe, and each one was fun. Lots of fun.
After more “trekking” (aka traipsing through the mud trails. Thank you rainy season) we ziplined on over to our night’s accommodation: the coolest tree house of life. I was soooo impressed with the tree house. It blew my mind. Actually. Blew. My Mind. Three floors of tree house joy, a shower overlooking the ravine, a patio-type area, super solid mosquito nets (this is important when dealing with potential tree rats), and decently comfy mattresses that they made up for us on the floor. Everything was matchy matchy and just all around adorable.
Also: Little Lao women would zipline our meals in and out, turn down our sheets, and clean up our mess. They were like little tree house fairies. I loved them.
We spent a couple hours taking in the tree house joy, went back out for more ziplining, and were then left on our own to spend the night in the tree house (there was three of us: myself and two Danish girls). The next day we ziplined some more, trekked back down the mountain, and were picked up in a village to embark on a pick-up truck journey resembling the Indiana Jones ride at Disney Land (Straight up. It was my first thought when hopping into the back of the pick-up. Lots of ducking under tree branches, hanging onto the roof for dear life, and speeding aggressively through mud holes. Great fun).
One muddy fall, one bee sting, a week’s worth of my budget, 472729 mosquito bites, and 25-ish ziplines later I returned to Huay Xai, ready for the 2-day slow boat journey back to Luang Prabang. Was it worth it? Yes.