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Hanging around in Laos forest



The Gibbon Experience is an innovative forest conservation project in northwestern Laos, where visitors spend three days living in treehouses built 40 metres above the ground, reachable only by a network of ziplines and a few short hikes.

A few months ago, I decided to give it a try. It takes place in the Bokeo Nature Reserve, a 123,000-hectare area in the province of Bokeo, which shares a border with Myanmar and Thailand.



At present, Lao National Parks have no forest guards for day-to-day protection. Only the forest guards in the Bokeo Nature Reserve receive a salary; fully funded by The Gibbon Experience. They presently monitor one third of the 123,000-hectare reserve.

There were two trip options when I went: Classic Experience and Waterfall Experience. The Waterfall option takes you further into the forest and has more required trekking, two-three hours/day. I tried to book the Waterfall trip and even planned my travel dates around it since the trips leave on alternating dates, but due to a miscommunication with the office I ended up on the Classic. It turned out that all the Waterfall trips were fully booked for weeks by the time I tried to reserve a spot so there’s no way I could have done it anyway.

But it didn’t really matter which trip I was on, because with the Classic Experience I had lots of free time to do all the extra trekking I wanted, including a visit to Treehouse #5 where the Waterfall people stayed.

Small groups of people travel into the forest together on alternating days; in our group there were two families with a total of five kids aged four-10 or so, an American/Thai couple, two English girls and me. The families were in Treehouse #1, the couple in #2, and I was stuck in #3 with the cute English girls. Treehouse #3 was the best of the three in my opinion, though the others were better for playing on ziplines.

After watching a video on how to use the ziplines, we were shuttled three hours from the town of Huay Xai on the Thai border to Ban Toup, a small village on the border of the nature reserve. We were joined there by a small monkey and a black bear cub who were both quite cute, and constantly at each other’s throats. They seemed fairly evenly matched now but I wouldn’t give the monkey very good odds once the bear has grown a bit more.

From there we walked for about an hour to a building near Treehouse #1 where our meals were prepared, where we were each given a harness to use on the ziplines connecting the treehouses; these are like normal rock climbing harnesses except for an extra little roller/brake contraption and redundant safety rope and carabiner attached to them.

We walked to the first zipline leading to Treehouse #1. The kids were taken across by guides on the first few zips but the older ones were allowed to go on their own after a while.

We spent the next few days living in treehouses, hiking through the forest and playing around on the ziplines. There are a total of seven ziplines leading to Treehouse #3; I think the longest one is about one km long.

The treehouses were pretty impressive: each has running water from a nearby spring, there’s a shower and toilet, sinks in the kitchen and bathroom, and all the water is completely safe to drink. The toilet is just a normal squat toilet with nothing underneath it but a 40m drop to the forest floor. I heard there are pigs at Treehouse #1 that help clean up the mess; on Day 2 when we were eating pork sausages for dinner I remarked on this beautiful circle of life.

The beds were quite comfortable, with duvets and thick mosquito nets. The shower looked pretty fun because you could see right down into the forest through a bamboo grate, but I never used it because it and the toilet were constantly swarming with hornets.

The views from the treehouses were fantastic, especially at dawn and sunset.

The guides were amazingly well-tuned to the weather: they told us to put our harnesses on because they could hear strong winds coming, when all I could hear were crickets and birds. Sure enough a while later it got quite windy, and they correctly predicted other weather events as well.

However, although the guides were good weather forecaster, they weren’t exactly the way their brochures portrayed them as. The marketing info says the trips include “Local guides eager to show you the forest and its inhabitants”, but I would replace “eager” with “reluctantly willing”. I asked a couple times about going for a walk to see animals or going for a guided walk the next morning, but only got confusion and “no animals” as a response.

I think the more experienced guides were assigned to the tree house with the kids, so the ones we had were fairly new (a couple of them said they had had this job for three months), and the main issue was the language barrier between us. I expect the more experienced guides would have done much more in terms of teaching us about the forest, animals, treehouses and the conservation programme.



Later, we made our way out of the reserve, stopping to watch the monkey and bear scrap for a while. It was amazingly fun to watch; they’re both so cute and have such different fighting styles: the monkey is really quick and agile, and the bear is slow and clumsy but more powerful.

All in all it was a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone, in spite of disappointment with the guides. I expect the guides would be better on the average than the ones we had, and I think they would have done the guided walks if I had pushed them a bit more.

Source: http://news.brunei.fm/2010/03/21/hanging-around-in-laos-forest/

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About the Author

My name is Dinh Quang Huy or known as alias NhamNgaHanh .I made this template in magazine style and named it Simplex Darkness .I hope it helpful to persons who want a solutions for a template in Blogspot.To download this template and see template install instruction ,go to Simplex Design blog.

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  2. I think Laos is a great destination.You should experience.
    Laos Tourism

     

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