03.02.2007 25 °C
After spending almost a week in Pai, I took an overnight minibus to the border Chong Khong and crossed into Laos. While I was still in Pai, my new friend, Jea, a 20-something girl who works at an internet cafe and makes jewelry for sale part-time, ethusiastically told me about something called the 'The Gibbon Experience' in the border town, Huayxai, of Laos. So instead of following the rest of the 'falang' (foreigners) to take the slow boat to Luang Prabang. I requested about availability for myself. And sure enough, they squeezed me in the following day. Even with a slight fever and sinus, I was determined to spend the unexpected expense.
The owner of this company, Jeff from France, had dedicated the past 12 years to get the government to set up a national park in the northern part of Laos, where forests are still pristine enough, compared to the overlogging in the neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, by companies in China. After 10 years of hard work, Jeff and friends had a brillant ideas of building treehouses around the forests and linking them with ziplines so people can have a bird-eye view of the forest.
An unusual morning shower postponed our departure, but they doesn't deter our drivers' desire for speed on a very bumpy and slippery road in the jeep. We arrived in a very poor village hours later and started immediately trekking across corn fields and uphill to the main station where we were greeted by two hyperenegetic monkeys and 1-year-old asian bear.
After a brief intro, our group strapped on our zipping equipment and zipped into the first treehouse. Due to my sinus, I stayed in the first treehouse while the others kept going. There I met two New Zealand women who are cycling thru Laos and an American woman taking a break from her journalist work in Nepal. We decided to zip around freely and tried our luck on spotting the black gibbons.
An hour of walking through bamboo forests did not allow us to see much of anything. In fact, gibbons jump from tree to tree quickly and extremely difficult to spot. But we did hear their loud noise. That's probably enough for us.
While we were having delicious family-styled Lao food for dinner, a civet appeared on the brance right in front of us. Although I like to quietly observe the forest that night, busy dinner conversations had overrided my plan.
Next morning, I was waken up by the sounds in the jungle, 50m above ground in a misty fog. Breakfast and fruits were served promptly. I birdwatched and spotted some amazing beautiful birds with bright-colored beak, head or tail, joyfully searching for their own breakfast.
After a brief lunch, I zipped to another treehouse to join a small film crew preparing to document 'the Gibbon Experience'. At last, a moment of silence that I had hoped for. We stayed still and quiet for hours before playing cards and dinner. Early the following morning, the crew played a recording of gibbon calling. Surely after a few minutes, the real gibbons call back. I enjoyed my two-second 'experience' of a gibbon jumping from one tree to another at least 100m away from us.
After having a lovely western breakfast with the crew, and by this I mean toast with nutella, I zipped back to the base station and hanged out with my new monkey friends before trekking back to the village for departure. Of all the time I spend watching Animal Planet at home, this experience had worth more than I had expected.