Living in Treehouses

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Asia » Laos » West » Muang Xai
July 2nd 2010
Published: July 18th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

This is definitely one of the highlights of our trip. 3 days of living in trees and zip-lining through the jungle? Does it get any better?

It all begins with a trek up into the limestone mountains in Northern Laos. Once we reached a sufficient height we threw on our harnesses and zipped from tree canopy to tree canopy, whizzing through the trees only to suddenly emerge and fly across deep valleys, viewing the world from the eyes of a condor. These views were breath-taking.

Most of the lines, start in the dense jungle, so you can’t see where you are zipping to, so when you suddenly emerge and see that you’re about to zip over a valley to the next peak, it steals your breath away. There are seven tree houses in total, and many other little ‘stops’ along the way. One such stop (my favorite) is a sole tree in the middle of a clearing. The platform is only big enough for 1 person so you have to quickly clip onto the safety cable, climb up to the second tiny platform and zip off again. Dana and I spent some time here on our second day to just dangle over the edge and appreciate the heights.

The tree houses we slept in were quite large and could sleep up to 8 people. Ours had 3 stories. You zipped into the first level and once you are through the safety gate and have removed your shoes you can either climb the ladder of go directly ahead to the bathroom. This bathroom is in my all-time top 10. It consists of a simple squatter toilet, a sink, and a marvelous shower head. As you stand (or squat) you look out into an expansive valley of green. If you glance down you can watch through the widely spaced slats or even the hole in the toilet, your bodily fluids fall 150m to the ground below. The only drawback that prevented this bathroom from reaching my number 1, were the wasps which were attracted to the water and always coated the toilet. Even after being shoed away, they returned to crawl on your naked behind as you quickly relieved yourself. Dana had one crawl down his butt crack into his boxers but luckily was only stung once the whole three days on his foot. Good thing he didn’t clench when it tickled him!
The second floor was a quite large with an ‘open’ concept kitchen, dining room, wildlife observation room and bedroom. Really it is just a large circular room with the massive tree trunk at the centre. Our beds were foamies with mosquito nets. Dana and I slept in the ‘penthouse’, up the spiraling staircase to a small loft with just enough room for our bed.

During the day we hiked through the forest or zipped over to our friends’ tree houses for lunch or for a visit. Our guides were always waiting and ready whenever we wanted a wildlife tour or a snack. At the beginning of each day our guides would wake us up early and we would sit in the tree house for several hours watching quietly for gibbons and sipping coffee. We would then go on a short trek and afterwards have a hearty breakfast. We planned which tree house we wanted to have lunch at and then the rest of our day was free to explore. We were very lucky and saw the gibbons both days and on the second we watched them sing their unique song to each other. Each member of the family, father, mother, and baby has its unique song. It was very enchanting. In the evenings we returned to a hot dinner and our beds set up and ready.

I noticed on the first day that a number of tree houses had jungle cats living on them. I found out why that night. I was deep in sleep when Dana yelped as something jumped on his back and then threw it on me! It ran over my legs and then was freaking out and jumping all over us trying to get out of our net. Dana and I frantically searched for our flashlight which quickly revealed a jungle rat!!! It somehow, and for some unknown reason to me, wiggled its way into our mosquito net (which was tucked under our mattress). I got a good look at it as it froze clinging to the net momentarily, and saw a tiny nose wiggling and light brown fur - kind of cute actually. I was just happy it wasn’t a dirty black city rat, even if it was as big as a cat and had teeth the size of my fingers, or at least that’s how it was in my dreams.

After we let it out and settled back down we noticed that there wasn’t just one jungle rat, but our tree was full of them. We could hear them scratching all over the floors and 2 were battling on top of our net. I kept thinking they were trying to get in again as they walked by our net and I didn’t sleep well, always waking up and looking around with my light. At one point, hours later as I was doing my routine rat-in-the-tent survey, I accidently startled Dana (who had been dreaming of the rat latched to his back) and he looked down at his body, saw his flashlight on his arm and starting full body convulsions trying to get it off. Unfortunately, the strap was pinched between his body and his arm and it took several long moments for he stopped hitting himself and realized it was only his flashlight. This might have been one of the hardest times I’ve laughed on the whole trip, and when he realized his mistake we were both in tears laughing until we couldn’t breathe. The second night I stole a jungle cat and zipped him over to my house to protect my penthouse. Silence.

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