Life in the Treehouse: Bokeo Reserve Rainforest

Trip Start May 18, 2006
Trip End Aug 03, 2006

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Saturday, July 15, 2006

I met some people in Luang Prabang that convinced me to delay my departure to Bali and go to a very off-the-beaten path part of Laos to live in a tree house in the rainforest.

I rescheduled my flights and despite safety warnings from both the Lonely Planet and timid travellers, I boarded a speedboat to Huay Xai from Luang Prabang. The speedboat covered 2 days of slow boat journeys in about 7 hours. I got in the rickety wooden longboat and noticed that a Toyota Camry (4 cyl.) engine had been grafted onto the back. I put on the crash helmet and lifevest they provided and held on.

The boat wasn't as scary as made out to be, but apparently every few weeks one hits a rock in the rather shallow Mekong river at 70 kph and the results aren't pretty. Safely arriving in Huay Xai, I checked into yet another flea-bag motel and awaited an early morning.

At 8:30, we departed Huay Xai for a 3.5 hour, 83 kilometer off-road drive. We were driving alongside a river when the driver suddenly stopped and motioned that we were going to cross. While the trusty Land Cruiser had a snorkel and serious off-road tires, I'd never seen anyone attempt such a deep crossing in my decade of automotive tomfoolery. The driver hit the gas and crossed the river with no problem.

We got to a small village and began a 2 hour trek into the rainforest, crossing three waist high rivers and lots of steep, muddy terrain. We arrived at the base camp station for the 4 treehouses.

Each treehouse is approximately 100 to 150m above the jungle floor. The only way to enter or leave the treehouse is by a steel zipline, soaring above the dense jungle 150m below. To go to a treehouse, you must find the appropriate line, headed downpitch to the treehouse. To navigate from treehouse to treehouse, you must hike through the rainforest and find the right lines. Like the videogame, "Myst", because of the deep forest and mist, sometimes you don't know where the cable takes you until you arrive. The lines are marked green or red to denote whether they are departing or arriving ziplines.

I strapped into my mountain climbing ropes and zipped over to treehouse one, my home for the next few days. There were 7 of us in the treehouse and we slept on small mats with mosquito nets. During the days, we hiked and zipped around the forest looking for animals.

Through the deep forest we could hear the whirr of people zipping from place to place. We'd know someone was arriving by the sound of a whirr towards our treehouse. Sometimes the guides would zip in with food or people from other treehouses would come to visit. The entire experience was surreal. The Gibbon Treehouse experience was so unique - worth all the trouble of getting to and then some.
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