We crossed the Mekong at the Chiang Khong/Huay Xai border point. 5B each for the exit stamp, 20B for the short ride across the river.
Stayed at the Sabaydee Guesthouse $6 each for 2 rooms as no triples, but we scored the 2 top storey back rooms with the views over the Mekong (partially obscured by trees – this may change as there was a structure being built at the back, at least 2 stories maybe 3) Clean, quiet and the bathrooms had a drainage point which meant you didn’t get your feet wet using the toilet after the shower had been used – very unusual. The food at both the River Terrace Restaurant and Mouang Neua was good.
The Gibbon Experience was definitely the highlight of our trip. After a 2 hour journey on the unfinished highway - very dusty, we reached our turn off at Ban Don Chai, 30 mins later we arrived at the village, hopped out of the vehicles, ate our lunch baguettes, a short stroll through the corn and sugarcane fields then we start the uphill climb (which seemed sooooooooo long on the way there … but considerably shorter on the way down – funny that!). We reached the kitchen hut where we are shown how to wear and use our harnesses, then more uphill to the first zip line. Safety is paramount and very strongly emphasised – note no drugs or alcohol allowed – they say you are already high enough. I’m the first in our group to zip across to Treehouse 1 … 47 metres up - what an absolute buzz!
The zipping is a little tricky, not enough run off and you come to a standstill short of the landing platform and have to pull yourself hand over hand along the wire. Too much, then you have to apply the brake or slam into the platform. Our guide Som said that if you want to see animals then you need to be quiet, but he sang everywhere he went - lovely voice.
On the 2nd morning we learnt that one of the villagers had been gored by a buffalo and died, so all the guides from that village had to leave for the funeral rites. The village headman said that his family would be taken care of by the villages.
There will eventually be 12 treehouses, one for each village within the park. The villagers make as much income yearly from the Gibbon X as they would if they logged the forest once. Poacher’s weapons are confiscated and kept in the village hall and a government official regularly collects them and they are destroyed.
No clear sighting of gibbons, lots of black squirrels – largest arboreal mammal in the world, lots of zipping and uphill climbs.
3rd morning, everyone has breakfast together before walking down the hill, back to the village to await our transportation back to Ban Don Chai, where we will catch the bus to Luang Nam Tha. Which turned out to be a right clunker, our seating - bags of rice in the aisle. The gear stick kept slipping out of gear and the driver’s assistant had to hold it in place the whole way. At one point we all had to pile out of the bus and walk uphill (more uphill!) because the bus couldn’t get up it laden. We had been told that this journey would take 7 hours; we were so happy when we got there in less than 4.
Stayed at the Boatlanding Guesthouse, we wanted something beautiful after roughing for the last couple of days and it is. The restaurant serves traditional Nthn Lao cuisine, and it is superb. Possibly the Boatlanding’s only drawback is that it is 6kms out of town.
Hired pushbikes and armed with out of scale map, toured local villages and got lost (ok we’re now renaming this ‘creatively …….’). After we spent several more hours creatively cycling than we wished, we were happy to return the bikes and collapse, very hot and tired.
Bus to Luang Prabang leaves at 8.30, when we arrived at bus station 1 hour before departure, all tickets sold; but you can’t buy in advance. Bus to Udomxai (32,000 Kip 8.30 – 13.00). A word here, Westerners tend to miss out on seats because the trick is to jump on the bus, bag your seat and send someone out to buy a ticket. This is not easy to do if you can’t read the Lao script destination sign. So the guy who was standing behind me in the queue hops on, has a seat and we’re relegated to the plastic aisle seats (better than bags of rice) or the engine hump. At Udomxai, barely had time to get the bags off the roof before a ‘special’ bus to LP left (40,000K 13.15 – 16.00).
During a ‘pee’ stop, Tiarn, in a momentary lapse of reason, decided to exit the bus through the rear side window, bumped her head (which we didn’t see) walked around the bus, fainted, collapsed and cut her chin deeply on a concrete drainage channel, chipping 2 teeth. The concern of the driver was touching.
We stayed at Tannoy GH in LP. $18 for huge room, 2 db, 1s bed, 5 windows and a balcony overlooking the lane. I thought this was a little pricey so next day looked for an alternative, but the triples available while cheaper were so small, 3 single beds, with no outlook, so we stayed put. As Exacto mentioned in his report, there is a lane off the night market where many stallholders offer all you can put on your plate vegetarian buffets for 5,000K, add chicken, meat or fish and voila! A great meal with or without the extra protein.
Visited the National museum (on display are gifts from countries around the world – beautifully crafted items – Australia’s contribution: a boomerang. All these priceless works of art and we send a bit of wood), Wat Phousi, the Royal Ballet, Pak Ou caves and of course the night market – beautiful things, great prices. We needed to send a package home from here because we couldn’t carry it all.
Onwards to Vang Vieng.
#1 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270
Loved the report!
One question....about sending a package home from LP....
was this easily done?
did the package arrive safe and sound?
are the prices for mailing packages reasonable?
#2 amz155 has been a member since 30/8/2006. Posts: 111
Sending a parcel is very easy, but not cheap. I bought 3 of those beautiful silk kingsize doona cover sets which are reasonably bulky and weight a bit plus other stuff. The cost to send this by sea plus the carton was almost AUD$80 nearly as much as the stuff inside (I still it think it's still a bargain for those doona sets), but we really couldn't carry them. It takes up to 3 months and it hasn't been 3 months yet since we sent it off. So still waiting. Send a package from Penang, Malaysia by air on the 19th Jan and it arrived on the 28th Jan.
#3 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270
The package we sent on the 7th Dec '06 from LP arrived today - 15/2/07. Tiarn's beautiful carved soap sculptures from Chiang Mai, didn't survive the journey - we didn't pack them properly, but everything else - fine.
#4 marianwarren has been a member since 12/3/2006. Posts: 270