And so the adventure begins…

Trip Start Jan 14, 2010
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Trip End May 14, 2010


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One side effect of growing up in the blissful isolation of New Zealand is that we became quite delirious at our ability to sit on the balcony of our room in Chiang Khong and look across the Mekong River into Laos.  This seemed even more humorous at night when karaoke from Houay Xai (pronounced “Whey Sigh”) could clearly be heard - with its only rival the local wildlife that appeared to descend on our accommodation after the sunset.  You are likely thinking this is some form of poetic license – but the guesthouse honestly could have advertised as a wildlife park with at least one rat loosing its life and some unknown creature that we assume was a bat making occasional appearances in our room during the night.  In compensation, the guesthouse oozed character and proved a great place for meeting equally entertaining people. 

The following day, we caught a five minute boat ride across the Mekong and entered Laos – getting a 30 day Visa for $30 USD stamped on arrival.  By the time we secured accommodation for the night, we were convinced Laos is a near perfect country as the local people are delightful and in addition to the delicious traditional food there are croissants, danishes, and baguettes galore due to the time Laos spent under French rule.  Not even the discovery that only 4000 km of the countries 40,000 km roads are sealed (10%) could dampen our excitement.

While Houay Xai itself had some charm, the sole reason for using this land crossing was to take part in ‘The Gibbon Experience’.  This is a tourist venture run by local Lao for the purpose of protecting the forest and its inhabitants from deforestation, poaching, and damage through over-commercialization – and involves taking a limited number of tourists into the jungle to stay in treehouses while exploring the surrounds via a series of ziplines set above the canopy line (the largest of which is 400m long and 150m above the ground). Having pre-booked the ‘classic experience’ we were stoked to be given a free upgrade to the ‘treehouse spa’; and on the 29th of January we set off on a three hour jeep ride north followed by a one hour trek that can only be likened to a goat trail version of the ‘Kepler Grunt’ to get to the hut we would be sleeping in for the following two nights…. 

In addition to an on-call masseuse and two free bottles of Australian wine, the ‘Spa’ hut came with a cross-eyed kitten called Damo and an inspirational guide called Nuan who had taught himself English from an old text book due to the absence of schools in his nearby village and an inability to afford private lessons.  This book must not have included the laws of physics; however, as the guide’s estimate of when to brake at the end of a zip-line to prevent crashing versus gathering as much speed as possible to make it all the way across seldom applied to David.

After five hours trekking around the zip-line route, it was the wine that was the winning luxury item and we accidentally drank both nights supply with our first evening meal accompanied by an American couple and two Welsh men who spent the night telling self-written jokes – drawing the interest of fellow ‘experience’ participants who said we could be heard laughing from one km away.  Despite this racquet, we were the only treehouse to see wild Gibbons swinging through the forest and dangling from nearby trees before returning to Houay Xai on the 31st January. 

The next morning, after refueling with baguettes and strawberry jam, we caught the slow boat to Luang Prabang.  While the two day trip down the Mekong was beautiful – it certainly lived up to its name arriving at least one hour late both days due to the owners tendency to hang around the dock well after the scheduled departure time in an attempt to pick up additional passengers - thus overfilling the vessel until the more vocal tourists began an onboard protest.  Unfortunately these individuals did not quiet down after achieving their aim, and provided some classic examples of tourists behaving badly over the following 13 hours that it took to reach our destination. 

So we are currently based in the picturesque town of Luang Prabang where we intend to spend some time exploring the national museum, climbing That Phousi Mountain (which is really a moderate sized hill), bartering at the night market, and gaining any weight that we may have lost trekking with chocolate croissants and French fries!

Hope you are all well. 

Love

Nicky & David
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

Jo on

Thanks to Fats post of FB I thought I would check this out.
Captivating writing. Makes me want to fill up the backpack and race to the airport for an adventure. I'm looking forward to following your journey (green as I may be!) - your posted on my favourites now. Enjoy the experiences. And well done Nicky on getting the Fats on the plane - you make me proud!!!

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