|It's been a while since i made an entry on here and there has definitely been a lot going on since then.
My first full day in Laos was a pretty good day. Myself and a few other people decided to rent bicycles and head to a waterfall about 30 km outside of huay xai. We didn't really know where we were going but we knew which town it was near and figured we could ask someone once we got there. After an hour and a half of pretty intense cycling we arrived at said town and began asking around. Of course, nobody spoke a word of english but after using some hand gestures and crude water sounds we managed to find out that the waterfall was located down a dirt road. We set off down this dirt road not really knowing how far we had to go or even where it was. After being on the dirt road for less than 5 minutes a kid pulled up next to me on a motorbike and asked me where i was going. I told him i was headed for the waterfall. He said that he was going there as well and to follow him. This certainly seemed like a convenient coincidence but seeing as how this seemed to be the only person in the whole village who spoke english we decided we would go with him. Along the way, our new friend (his name was Dedd) picked up a few of his friends and we got invited to what appeared to be some sort of wedding celebration. Eventually we arrived at the waterfall which ended at a significant sized swimming hole. There were quite a few local children there when we arrived. I don't think too many tourists visit this waterfall because these kids spent the entire time crowding around and staring at us. Anyway, we spent a few hours swimming and jumping off the rocks etc... before it was time to head back. Dedd insisted that we come to his house to meet his family before we head home. We didn't want to insult him so we went with him to his house. We stayed there for about 20 minutes during which time Dedd's father asked us questions while Dedd translated. Meanwhile the rest of his family and neighbours just stood and stared at us. Eventually we got back on our bikes and headed back to town. 60 km later i was back in my room and ready for a relaxing evening before leaving for the Gibbons Experience in the morning.
After viewing a brief safety video at the Gibbons office we were on a bus and headed for the Bokeo jungle. Our group consisted of 8 people and although i really enjoyed most of them i wish it could have been better. The group was myself, a pretty hilarious Irish dude, a swedish couple, a Danish girl, an older French couple (in their 60's if i had to guess) and a very strange middle aged american guy (more on him in a minute). As we set off into the jungle it was pretty obvious that the older couple was going to slow us down significantly. It's too bad because they were very nice people but when you pay a lot of money for something like this you want to be able to go at your own pace and not have to stop to help all of the time. In the end it was okay because one of our guides would just stay with them the whole time while the other stayed with the younger group. When we arrived at our first zip line i was very excited. You don't really realize just how high you are until you are out in the middle and you look down. I was definitely a little bit nervous on the first few zip lines but after a while you get used to it and you don't really think about the height. The swedish girl was very scared before her first one and was absolutely balling. We all helped her out with words of encouragement and by the third day she was loving every minute of it.
Once we arrived at our treehouse we dropped our stuff off and were permitted to go off on our own for the day. The young group usually set off together and eventually the girls would want to head back leaving me with the irish guy and the swedish guy to explore. The times when it was just the 3 of us were easily the best ones. We usually moved pretty quickly and walked some pretty long distances to discover new zip lines that we hadn't tried. We eventually stumbled upon some more tree houses which we invaded and stole fruit from other groups. The nighttime in the tree houses were pretty interesting. After dinner there really isn't a whole lot to do. Some of us went for some night zipping which was pretty crazy but probably not as dangerous as it sounds. Other than that we would just hand out and play cards etc... On the first night we had a lot of very interesting visitors. During a leisurely card game, one of the girls started freaking out and crying. I looked up and saw one of the biggest spiders i had ever seen (easily the size of my hand, if not bigger) sitting on the ceiling staring at us. After looking around a little bit more i saw at least a dozen more of the exact same spider all over the tree house. It was definitely pretty crazy but also one of those things that you try not to think about because there is really nothing you can do about it. I also noticed that there were some rats running around in the rafters. Once everyone went to bed the rats really came out to play. We could hear them running all over the treehouse the entire night.
The second night we were staying in another treehouse and it wasn't nearly as bad. When we arrived at our treehouse on the second night we noticed that there was a second floor where two people can sleep. We thought it would make sense to offer this spot to the french couple because they usually go to sleep earlier and we also figured that they might like the privacy. Before we had the chance to do so, the american guy was headed up there with all of his stuff. When we told him our idea he responded by saying "i will take that into consideration" as he continued up the stairs. Later on that night he took it upon himself to eat an entire rice cookie to himself (we only had 4 or 5 of them and when one was eaten it would be passed around to the whole group). It was at this point that i went from thinking he was kind of weird to just flat out not liking him. It all went downhill from there.
On the final morning a few of us got up at 5 am and set out with one of the guides in search of the gibbons. The american guy was having a hard time keeping up with us and at one point freaked out on the guide saying that he didn't like being left alone in the dark. The irish guy responded by telling the american to shut the f#ck up because he was going to scare the gibbons away. I later admitted to my irish friend that him telling the american to shut the f#ck up was easily one of the highlights of the whole experience. In any case, we never did see any gibbons although we could hear their mating calls which was still pretty cool. Apparently less than 50% of the people who do the gibbons experience end up actually seeing them so it was hard to be too disappointing. All in all it was a pretty amazing experience even though we didn't see any monkeys. The treehouses and the ziplines were pretty unbelievable. One of the ziplines was about 500 metres long and must have been 60 m above the ground. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Anyway, so i am in Luang Prabang now which is a very cool city and i will probably have more to say about it in the future. From here i'm going to head to phonsavan for a few days before heading south through Vang Vieng and then to Vientiane where i will catch a flight to Hanoi on March 17th and be there in time to celebrate St. Patty's day with two Australians i met that live there and claim they know of an irish pub in town.