The Gibbon Experience

While I was researching back home which places I wanted to visit in Laos I stumbled on The Gibbon Experience in Ban Houayxay in the north east of Laos near the border with Thailand. It presented a possibility to stay in a treehouse for a few nights in the rain forest and discover the jungle using ziplines. This was something which should definitely go on my ‘To do’-list!

I made a booking and on the 10th of Januari 2017 I arrive at the office in Ban Houayxay ready for an adventure. I join a group of 6 other adventurers and after a brief introduction speech and movie we all got into a 4×4 car and are on our way to the jungle.

After a while the car turns off the main road onto a dirt road. This road leads us to a small village from which we will walk to our treehouse via a jungle trail. During the walk it starts to rain a bit, but we all assume it will probably only for a short period of time. By the time we arrive at the tree house we are all soaking wet. The rest of the evening the rain does not stop and has turned into a proper tropical rain.

During the introduction speech at the Gibbon Experience Office we are told to put anything edible and also items like toiletry in a crate in the tree house, because otherwise animals like rats will smell it and eat it all. The next morning we find out that actually anything should be in a crate because the treehouse is infested with rats and during the night they have chewed on shoes, sweaters, backpacks and even on the pillow I was sleeping on. And when I try to fill my water bottle I realize it takes quite a long time to fill it and I notice why: the rats ate the bottom out of my bottle. Did I mention it was still raining that morning?

The guides bring us our breakfast and after we finish our breakfast we walk into the jungle to our first zipline. Well, ziplining through the jungle in the rain and a foggy, cloudy forest somehow it less exciting than expected. No spectacular views and the guides only lead us to the next zipline. And the next. And the rain never stops.

Also the second (and last) night in the jungle the rain only seems to get worse and worse. During the night we can hear branches of trees falling down near the tree house. Or are it complete trees? We don’t know because we can’t see anything of course. At that point I start to think “What if something really bad happens now? An accident or something?”. There is no staff in the tree house and we have no clue where they are or where the village is. The only local living creatures we know who are around are the rats again. Needless to say I did not sleep well again that night.

We are all up early around sunrise. Or should I say when the light came back, because it is still raining. The guides arrive again with our breakfast and after that it is time to go back to the village and civilization. When we arrive in the village one of the guides tries to find the spot where his cell phone has a signal and when he finds it he calls the Gibbon Experience Office. Then he has to tell us the good news: because of the heavy rains the 4×4 cars cannot pick us up in the village because the dirt road is too slippery and muddy and we will have to walk to the main road where we will be picked up. That’s about 15 km walking on a slippery and muddy dirt road. Wow, did not see that one coming!

The village only has a limited supply of bottled water and with 2 bottles of half a litre water we start walking. The road is very slippery and when I walk up a hill it is not unusual that I take on step forward and slide back around three steps. And downhill I try not to slide all the way down uncontrollable. The temperature is already around 30 degrees Celsius and it it very humid. The water bottles are empty after two hills. And it still rains.

When we are around two third of the distance to the main road we spot the cars coming our way. New customers are being brought to the village. So if we wait a while they can pick us up on the way back. Excuse me, could you say that again please? When they finally pick us up I am not sure I am really happy with being in the car instead of walking. The cars slide from one side to the road to the other or slide back at times. How much control has the driver really? I don’t feel safe to be honest.

By the time we are back on the main road again I am glad it is all over. And guess what? The sun starts shining!

The Gibbon Experience should be like a once in a lifetime experience. And indeed it is, never again!

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