Day 43 | Ziplining in the jungle on the Bolaven Plateau

Arriving in Pakse, Laos after our overnight bus journey, we were ready for day one of three of our Treetop Explorer hiking and ziplining adventure deep in the jungle of the Bolaven Plateau.

We slept surprisingly well on the overnight bus despite the fact that both of us had to squeeze into a mattress that was about 5 feet 6 inches long and the same width as a twin size bed. At least we are a couple, we had read on other blogs that if you are traveling alone you will be paired on the same bed with a stranger of the same sex (if available). You will get to know each other pretty well.

Soon after sunrise we arrived at Pakse, a provincial capital and travelers’ hub in southern Laos. Here’s our double decker sleeper bus after we disembarked. Tuk tuk drivers immediately approached us asking us if we wanted a ride, very cheap, into the city. I knew in advance the city is only 500 meters away so we kept refusing them.

Bus from Pakse

We were an hour and a half early from our 8:30 AM meeting time at the Green Discovery office (it was still closed), so we got breakfast at Sinouk Cafe a few blocks away. Maurice took the time to finish his last yolomimo blog post. See a trend here?

Breakfast at Sinouk

Then we went to the Green Discovery office, met our English-speaking guide Lee and dropped off our carry-on suitcases. Since we have to hike and zipline with everything we need for the next three days, we prepared our backpacks to be as light as possible.

We got on the bus and met a Swiss German family: mom, dad, dad’s brother and two little girls ages 6 and 8 who were doing the Treetop Explorer tour for 2 days / 1 night. The bus drove about 1.5 hours until we reached a village in Paksong. Most of the drive was on a bumpy and very dusty rural road.

Bus to Paksong

After we got off the bus, one of the English-speaking guides gave a quick explanation of the coffee growing process in this village. The coffee grown on the relatively cool highlands of the Bolaven Plateau are quality arabica beans vs. robusta which is the other type of common bean. Coffee beans were laid out on tarps, drying in the hot sun.

Coffee beans

We were fitted with our ziplining gear: (1) a harness we step our legs into, pull over our shoulders and then lock over our chests, (2) the main carabiner that attaches to our harness which is connected to the zipline pulley and two safety cables, (3) a helmet and (4) a wooden stick with a hook at the end, which we use as our brakes. Maurice demonstrates the proper way to use your wooden brakes.

Brakes not nunchucks

We started by hiking away from the village through more of the reddish sand then into the dense forest. We walked through the forest for a while until we crossed a small stream. The two little Swiss girls love swimming and immediately changed into swimsuits to swim in the stream.

Crossing the stream

This is where we stopped to have lunch. The crew consisted of two English-speaking lead tour guides, one tour guide who seemed to be in training with relatively less English skills and four local guides who came from the village. Together they picked banana leaves to place on the ground and prepared our food on top of them. We had plenty of sticky rice, which we ate with our hands.

Lunch on banana leaves

After the delicious picnic lunch we continued to hike, descending steeply first and then ascending until we reached out first zipline.

Hiking through the grass

We hiked past the first waterfall. Since it’s dry season the water flow was not as impressive as in the photos online.

First waterfall

We rode about ten ziplines throughout the day but since we were still learning our braking skills, we didn’t take any photos or videos while ziplining. We rode one tandem zipline, here’s a video of the daring 8 and 6 year old sisters zooming down the cable.

We went after them.

We saw the top of a very long waterfall which descended from the top of the plateau to the deep valley below. (We visited the top on the last day of our tour).

Wide waterfalls

The views here were breathtaking.

The plateau

We continued hiking to reach our basecamp at the Jungle Hotel Paksong.

Last bridge

We saw a treehouse similar to the one we will be sleeping in tonight. It was about 30 meters off the ground and the only way to get in is by ziplining.

Treehouse

We reached basecamp where we would have all of our breakfasts and dinners. We happily removed all of our gear, sweat soaked through all the straps, our clothes, everything.

Removing our gear

Then we drank some fresh brewed Bolaven coffee and enjoyed the view from the dining tables.

View from basecamp

Our guide Lee encouraged us to swim in the swimming hole near the waterfall. We brought soap and shampoo with us and started walking towards the swimming hole. The Swiss family already left for the swimming hole long ago since the two little girls are unstoppable swim mavens.

We were completely lost since there were hundreds of huge rocks, we would climb on one of them and then realize there was no safe way to get to the other side. We eventually figured it out, it was a full body, using your arms and legs, barefoot kind of rock scramble.

Swimming hole

The water was brisk. We jumped in with our clothes on in order to wash the sweat off of them. Then we washed ourselves over our swimsuits, just as the locals do in Laotian rivers. The best way to get my hair extra clean was to rinse directly under the stream of a waterfall!

We sunbathed on a large rock to dry off. (In an effort to trim down our backpacks to the most minimal configuration, I forgot to pack sarongs to dry ourselves with).

Sunset

We scrambled across the rocks back to basecamp in time for dinner. We played with one of the three resident cats.

Pet that cat

Dinner was served family style. It was delicious with fresh spring rolls, a stir fried vegetable dish and a vegetable curry for us vegetarians (Maurice challenged himself to eat vegetarian).

Dinner at Jungle Hotel Paksong

Mr. Cat, despite being a born carnivore, was also intrigued by our food.

Cat burglar

We chatted with a couple from England and New Zealand who were also doing the 3 day / 2 night experience but they started yesterday. They were on a three week trip covering Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. We gave them advice on Myanmar and shared Uncle Kiang’s contact information as an excellent tour guide for Yangon.

After dinner, two of the local guides escorted us to our treehouse. We put on our ziplining gear and our headlamps, walked along the elevated walkways to our treehouse and then ziplined in. The treehouse is extremely basic with two mosquito net-covered twin beds, a bathroom (toilet and sink only) with no light and hooks to hang our backpacks on so that rats don’t eat through them. Here is our most unique room walkthrough video!

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