Day 44 | Treetop Explorer: an ultimate bucket list experience

Today was the second day of our Treetop Explorer tour with our guides from Green Discovery Laos. We had an amazing time hiking in the jungle, ziplining, walking on suspended bridges, eating lunch and relaxing next to a river and cooling down in the waterfalls next to our base camp before getting dinner. Just like yesterday we were impressed by the beauty of the unspoiled nature that surrounded us.

We woke up ahead of our scheduled alarms, with the sun light and the sound of birds chirping around us. We actually slept really well last night, despite our beds not being the most comfortable. That’s probably because our bodies were so exhausted from so much physical activity during the day. We got a little cold at night as the temperature cooled down quite a lot (we are in an elevated plateau after all) and the air was still relatively cool in the morning, a pleasant break from the constant heat we had been exposed to traveling in Laos so far. We had some time before our guides come to pick us at our treehouse, so we decided to take some daytime pictures of our treehouse.

Here is the treehouse “entrance”, a simple wood platform with no external fence that is attached to the rest of the house and which we used to get in and out of the treehouse. There are two ziplines hovering over it (an entrance line and an exit one).

Treehouse entrance

When standing on the wood platform, we had to always made sure we were securely attached to either zipline. The wood platform is a bit narrow and falling down from it would be a guaranteed death since our treehouse was about 25 meters above ground. Here is a shot directly looking down from the edge of the platform (don’t worry, I was obviously attached to the zipline while taking the shot).

Looking down from our treehouse

Next we have the sleeping area with two twin beds. Both beds are covered with a mosquito net that worked like a charm since we did not get a single bite during the night. The bed sheets and pillows were quite dirty but what else would you expect from a place like this? We knew ahead of time that they wouldn’t clean the rooms on a regular basis, even between guests.

Twin beds with mosquito nets

We had our ziplining gear hanging from nails directly on the tree that supports the entire weight of the house.

Ziplining gear hanging in the treehouse

The treehouse comes with a very basic bathroom that just has a toilet and a small sink with cold water only. The water pressure from the faucet was pretty low, probably due to a visible leak from the pipe that was delivering water to the treehouse.

Minimalist bathroom in our treehouse

To complete these pictures, here is a daytime tour of the treehouse with comments courtesy of Mimi.

It was then time to get ready. We prepared our backpack for the day and put our ziplining gear on. Just as we finished, two of our guides ziplined into our tree house ready to pick us up for breakfast. Starting tonight, we will be allowed to zipline in and out of our treehouse without supervision but for now we were still considered too novice to go by ourselves. We walked with them to the base camp, just a few minutes away from our treehouse. There are only a handful of treehouses for guests and each of them is pretty far from the others, which gives them a very private if not remote touch.

We sat down and waited for breakfast to be ready. All meals at the Jungle Hotel are prepared onsite in the small kitchen by a group of only four ladies who take care of cooking for all the guides and guests. We got served baguette, a small omelette and some watermelon to share. Not the most impressive breakfast but without a doubt the best view!

Breakfast in the jungle

We took our time eating breakfast and relaxing in front of the beautiful waterfalls. Since we took the long tour option (three days, two nights), we did not need to rush to complete all activities. The Swiss family that opted for the two days tour had to leave earlier but we only left the base camp around 10 AM. After a short walk we took the first zipline of the day. I think that one was about 200 meters long.

For the next zipline, Mimi went first and took a video as she zipped down the line. She spun around a lot initially but eventually managed to get straight again, using her wood stick. It’s very important to arrive facing the platform to know when and how much to break and also to not get legs or feet caught by the platform. This zipline was one of the longest one, I think about 400 meters long.

The next zipline was also very long but that one was going down pretty significantly in altitude, meaning that the arrival platform was much lower than the departure one. Our guides instructed to push stronger on our wood stick to break as soon as we would see the platform. I did a very poor job at breaking and ended up crashing into one of the guides, not at full speed fortunately. Had he not been there, I was going to crash legs first into the tree. Mimi did a better job though I had to shout “break” several times for her to decrease her speed enough. This was the fastest zipline for the day.

The next zipline led us to a very high tree platform (perched at least 50 meters above ground) with two ziplines connected to the supporting tree. It was different from most other platforms in that they typically have a single zipline (either departing from it or arriving to it) and are very close to the ground. The following video shows one of the guides departing at the suspended platform while another one gets to it from the previous zipline. Throughout the day, our guides kept challenging others for the most funny or dangerous rides.

For my next ride on a long zipline, I tried recording a video like Mimi did previously. I think I was a lot more stable than her, which allowed me to take a breathtaking first person view video of the nature around us, including a river the zipline crossed over. I think the result was very good, almost like recording from a drone.

Mimi and I tried to alternate the order in which we went on each zipline so that we would get a good mix of photos and videos featuring both of us. Since I went first for that last zipline, I was able to take pictures of her arriving to the platform where I was standing using our camera’s burst mode. They made a great animation!

Mimi ziplining in slow motion

That was the last zipline of the morning. After that we hiked through the forest for about half an hour, going mostly downhill to reach a small river where we spent some time playing in the water, had lunch and relaxed for digesting.

River in the Bolaven Plateau

Our guides wanted to catch some river fish for their lunch. They set up fish nets in a section of the river where the current was not strong.

Our guides getting ready to catch fish

At first I was skeptical that they would be able to catch anything, but I was proven wrong within minutes. They quickly caught a number of small fishes like the one I was holding here. That’s because they cooked it.

Raw fish

While the other guides were still in the water catching more fish, one of them prepared a fire on the side of the river and started roasting fishes he had impaled on skewers.

Here are some of the other fishes that these guys caught in just a few minutes. Good thing they were productive while Mimi and I just watched them do as good city kids, very impressed with their fishing skills.

Small river fishes caught by our guides

Here is the last fish they caught, they were very proud to display them in the nets.

Fish caught on the net

Eventually they decided they had caught enough fish for the four of them. Mimi and I were not interested though I did try one small fish just out of curiosity (it was not very good). They laid down banana leaves on the rocks and took out the food that the women had prepared earlier this morning. We had another tasty lunch in the middle of nature.

Lunch with our guides along the river

Towards the end of the lunch, I decided to express my artistic creativity while declaring my passion for this beautiful country. I managed to spell out “Laos” using sticky rice. And then I ate Laos.

Give me an L, give me an A, give me an O, give me an S: LAOS

After we finished lunch, we went to play in the river. I walked up against the current. The water level at this time of the year (pretty much the peak of dry season) is very low, exposing very large boulders that would normally be under water during the wet season.

Even in dry season however, vegetation remains very dense and very green around the river and everywhere else on the Bolaven Plateau.

River with large boulders

I walked for a while until I decided to come back and check what Mimi was doing. As I got back to the area where we had lunch, I saw that one of our guides was still catching more fish! He called us over to show his latest catches and displayed visible proud. He had a good dozen of fishes on that net.

Our guide proudly showing his catch

Mimi and I finally changed to our swimsuits and played in the water for the next hour while our guides took a nap along the river. We then started to hike back up towards the base camp. We had to go through a first hanging bridge that was made of two parallel sets of wood beams and had two steel cables for hands. Of course there was also a third steel cable in the center on top of our heads that we attached to for safety.

Walking on the bridge

Mimi started making trouble on the bridge by voluntarily making it shake as she walked behind me. The guides soon followed her example, making it quite hard to walk straight.

As we crossed the bridge, we were rewarded with a superb view over the Bolaven Plateau from the tree platform we were standing on. That one was also perched really high in the tree, allowing for such panoramic views.

Bolaven Plateau

We exited the platform using another zipline, which I think was the longest one of the entire day at 430 meters. This time Mimi took a video of me until I disappeared into the nature.

On the other side of the valley, we had to walk on another funny bridge. That one was significantly harder to cross than the previous one, because a lot more unstable. Instead of wood beams, we had to step on very narrow steel cables that were hooked to the side cables. Again there was a safety cable in the middle though none of us actually fell from the bridge.

Suspension bridge

Each new step involved delicate balance of our weight. Needless to say, we took our time crossing that one!

One step at a time

We hiked for some more time until we finally reached the base camp, quite exhausted. After resting for a bit at the base camp, we decided to go to the nearby waterfall where we could shower and wash our sweaty clothes. After a careful descent on the rocks that lead to the waterfalls, we arrived a bit after 4 PM. It was time to get clean and then rest our feet from all the hiking.

Posing on top of a small waterfall

We came back to the base camp an hour later, ready to eat a well deserved dinner. The path to the waterfall connects directly to the base camp so it was easy to get back.

Path to the common area at Jungle Hotel

As we sat at the base camp, we saw two of the resident cats in an intense cuddling session. Lulu if you read our blog, don’t worry you are still daddy’s favorite little girl!

Cuddly felines

We were then told by our guides that dinner will be served a little later around 6:30 PM but that we were now authorized to zipline to and from our treehouse by ourselves. That is exactly what we decided to do. We put our gear back on, buddy checked each other for safety and then walked back to the zipline in front of our treehouse. We then went back and forth on the zipline a number of times. It was really fun for both of us despite these two ziplines being much shorter than the ones we took during the day!

For the first ride, Mimi took a video of me and then kept the camera on her while going next.

Her second ride was a bit more on the scary side as she did not break until pretty late. I really thought she would crash in the gate but fortunately she did not.

On this next ride, I ran in the treehouse and through the opened gate and jumped from the platform at full speed, bouncing up and down on the cable as a result.

We eventually decided it was enough as all good things must come to an end. The sun was setting over the Bolaven Plateau and we took some sunset pictures from our treehouse before heading back to the base camp for dinner with the other guests.

Sunset over the Bolaven Plateau

The food was very good that night again and different from the previous night which we appreciated. It was also really nice that they were able to serve us vegetarian food on short notice. Kudos to the ladies for preparing all these excellent meals one after the other for us.

Group Laotian dinner at the Jungle Hotel

After dinner we chatted with other folks some more, played silly games with our guides and then returned to our treehouse with our headlamps on. Ziplining alone at night was also fun but this time we were a bit too tired to zip back and forth forever. We decided to call it a night and went to sleep early for our last night in the treehouse.

6 thoughts on “Day 44 | Treetop Explorer: an ultimate bucket list experience

  • April 9, 2016 at 6:44 pm
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    What an experience!!! I loved reading your posts about your adventures! Zip lining around nature from treetop to another seems like a lot of fun and it’s so nice you get to do it together. I can’t wait to read more about your trip as you enjoy every moment of it. 🙂

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  • April 10, 2016 at 3:55 pm
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    The treehouse is quite spacious, a small engineering marvel. Congratulations for graduation from Zip line class, you can live on tree top now! It is an authentic picnic, catch the fishes from the stream, and cook them with woods. Crossing the hanging bridge without wood beams is a real challenge. What an adventures day!

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  • Pingback: Day 46 | Getting to Don Khon, one of the 4000 islands on the Mekong River – yolomimo

  • April 16, 2016 at 9:39 pm
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    nice videos! what camera did you use for the faux-pro action videos?

    Reply

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