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Published: November 10th 2008
Chiang Rai Clock Tower
Saw most of the sights of Chiang Rai at night, which actually turned out to be the best way!
Filling in some gaps - left Chiang Mai for Chiang Rai where I spent one night, then boosted straight for Houayxay, the first town across the border in Laos.
Jumping on a bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong, I got talking to a British couple - sorry Jasmine, last I heard we included Wales in that statement ;-) They were headed to Houayxay too, but were going north from there to live in the jungle for a few days in what is called the Gibbon Experience. I had heard about a Gibbon sanctuary where they had made tree-houses and set up zip-lines between them so you could access the canopy in a more "natural" fashion, so got very interested when they mentioned this, as I had assumed it was further north. To cut a long story short, I arrived at Houyxai, went straight the the office of the Gibbon Experience and asked if they had one space free for the next trip. Karma was feeling nice to me that day obviously, as they had one solitary place left which I snapped up. What I had let myself in for I did not know, which made it even more AWESOME!
Moon and temple shot
Ah yes, the attempt to take a long expose shot by hand. Fuzzy but with feeling.
I'm going to try and upload on of the videos but will also explain.
Had to say goodbye to Jo, Briana and Leon (a dude we met up with in Chiang Rai) then which was strange as had got used to traveling with them. Was sad to see them head off into Laos with me. Jumped into the back of a covered pick-up truck with 7 others: Colin, Stuart (both from the states), Andrew and Miriam (a couple from Sydney), Darren and Jasmine (the couple from the bus ride earlier), and Mike (a Frenchman living in Germany). A really great bunch of people all of whom are very likely to have the whirlwind of disaster that is Alastair “Goose” Fletcher descend upon their location in the future - no point running people, just makes you tired and me dizzy.
Anyway, had packed everything for 3 days into my 15 ltr day pack and appeared to be the only one totally unaware of what was to come. 3hrs of bone-jarringly potholed roads, one forded river, and lots of very speedily driven dirt tracks later and we were officially off the map. We then hiked for about 2 hrs to
Our driver across the river into Laos. Thank you Mr Boatman for taking me to Laos - they may not be to happy!
reach the Gibbon sanctuary area, during which time I was the only one lucky enough to get leeched. Oh how they laughed, little knowing what was to come… We stopped to harness up. These were leg and waist harnesses that had a wheeled contraption attached to the front, with a bit of bike tyre acting as our brake :-) Oh, British health and safety would have had a fit, exploded in a messy fountain, then reformed itself just so it had the opportunity to spontaneously combust just at the thought of what we would end up doing on these things. I think my folks would have had a similar reaction, with perhaps a little more pointing and grinding of teeth. Sorry folks :-)
How can I explain this? Imagine a valley. A heavily forested valley. Lots of very tall jungle trees. Now stand at the top of on side of that valley. Now imagine there is a cable from where you are standing to a point on the other side of the valley equivalent to yourself, but about 20m lower. The cable ends here. You are standing amongst the trees, and you clip yourself onto the cable using a
I won this at a festival. I could choose between a can of sprite, soe oranges, or a jar eggs in what looked and smelt liked formaldehyde. No choice there!
wheeled contraption and launch yourself down the cable. Now imagine this cable is about 300m long and about 150m above the canopy of the trees below you, and you are flying along this cable in a Laos harness. God it to was freaking AMAZING! Check out the pictures at least, then the video if I get it uploaded, or if there is no video go to YouTube and search on “Laos Gibbon Experience”. Tell me that doesn’t look like the most awesome thing ever. It is. By the end of the three days we were doing tricks, performing the Gibbon V (go upside down and sick you legs out above the cable in a V shape) and the Gibbon X (see Gibbon V but means you also have to let go of the harness to make an X).
No Gibbons were seen (the guide pointed one out to me but all I could see was a small black thing falling through the tree for about 1 second), but other wildlife was found… We stayed in tree houses up in the canopy, sleeping and eating there, oh, and showering - I mention this because it is quite a liberating experience
Oh no he didn't!
Oh yes I did! I ate one ad it was disgusting! So did some other people, but they really should have known better.
showering over grid in the tree house floor, with only 2 walls and the rest open to the jungle. Anyway, we had been warned there may be rats, and there were. People got the bags or sandals chewed on, but nothing more than that. More fun were the leeches. There was a good 3 hrs of hiking each day as we changed location, and each step was a treacherous step into leechy territory. The little suckers are tenacious and reach up of the ground hunting for blood. What god-awful route is evolution taking those little b@stards?!? It was an amazing 3 days and still remains a high light of the trip.
Made it back to Houayxay in one piece and with enough blood to continue. Stayed one more night so we could catch the slow boat the next morning (we is now myself, Darren, Jasmine and Mike as Andrew and Miriam decided to take the speedboat due to time restrictions. Rather them than me - small wooden boat, hoofing great card engine, and off they go. Oh, and here is a helmet if you want. Will it help? Probably not…). Got in a tuk-tuk to go to the slow
BeerLao, one of my basic five a day. So five beers later, I'm good to go :-)
boat port and bump into the bunch of 7 Scots and Irish guys and girls. Day 1 of slow boat became one hell of a party with vast amounts of SangSom (getting a theme?) being drank and much fun had by all. Also met up with three Aussie girls and two British dudes. Like I said, was one hell of a party. Day 2 was very quiet as people realised that 9 hrs on a slow boat on the Mekong with a hangover isn’t much fun…
OK, so so far it sounds like I've just been hanging out with Gibbons and partying, which is true. However in my next post I will make sure I get some pictures of Laos up because this country is BEAUTIFUL. I have a very good feeling about Laos, it's so relaxed, and up in the north it has limestone karst scenery similoar to that found in the Yunnan province of China. The people a relaxed and friendly, never pushy, and everywhere is very clean and tidy. Laos is a wonderful country.
Going to leave this one here as have to go. Still not much closer to the real date yet. Ah well.
RIce paddies and hills
Seriously though, Laos is beautiful and I would love to go back.
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