A Bit of TLC Part 10 - A Treehouse in Laos

Huay Xai, Laos    December 2023

When we heard about “The Gibbon Experience” in northern Laos, where you get to play out your primate fantasies by living amongst the treetops in the world’s highest treehouses, swinging along 15 kms of zip-lines…well, we just had to do it!

But first we bid a fond farewell to Thailand for now, and crossed the encouragingly named “Friendship Bridge” into Laos.  Having been supplied with the relevant visa forms by our friendly host in Chiang Khong on the other side of the river, the process went relatively smoothly, and we were soon on our way by tuk tuk to the border town of Huay Xai. I never found out quite how to pronounce or spell this, so settled on “Whey Hey!!”.

The sun sets on our first day in Laos – opposite side of the river to where we stayed in Thailand!

The Gibbon Experience office was directly opposite our small guesthouse in this one-horse town – most of the tourists were there were either on their way from or to other places in Laos, or like us – about to embark on their treehouse adventure.  That said, we did discover a great little French restaurant that evening, overlooking the river, where sadly quiche was off the menu, but which offered half decent French wine at a reasonable price.

Fording the river

After an early video briefing the following morning, we were loaded into the back of a van along with our fellow travellers, and what seemed like dozens of bags of rice and eggs!  I’m not sure about the eggs, but we were certainly pretty scrambled by the time we reached “the village”, where our adventure began.  The journey took us literally “through” a river and along very muddy and rutted tracks where we had to cling on to the truck’s side rails for dear life to stop from being thrown out.  We were accompanied by several German ladies, a young solo traveller from the US and Australian couple, who were on a “babymoon”.  Being 6 months pregnant, poor Saoirse was practising her breathing exercises as she swung from the ceiling trying to minimise the vibrations, while we were wondering how far the nearest maternity hospital was!


After lunch, we set off by foot through the jungle and were shown “the ropes” as we were loaded up with our zip-wiring gear.  It was hard work trekking along the trails through the dense jungle, with our back packs and half a ton of ropes and metal fastenings on our backs, but we made it to our first zip wire where we had instructions on how to connect everything up safely.  Soon we were flying above the treetops and the views were stunning.  Being hardened zip-liners (we’d done this several times before in Thailand, Costa Rica and had even tackled the fastest zip-line in the world in Wales), we enjoyed the thrill.  The long hikes in between, in high heat and humidity, not so much!

The gibbon has landed

After dropping off James and Saoirse at the “Honeymoon Suite”, we were excited and relieved to finally “land” in our treehouse, set some 40 metres off the ground, but feeling much higher as we were above most of the treeline.  Ours was set on two levels and offered amazing views of the surrounding forest and mountains, especially as the sun had started to set.  We made ourselves comfortable on the large wooden platform which contained a small kitchen, tables and chairs and our mattresses, all wrapped around some very large tree trunks.  On the lower level was the “bathroom” consisting of a cold-water shower and (thankfully) a western toilet, screened on one side by a curtain (Ian was the only male in our group so had to whistle while he carried out his ablutions!). Sitting on the loo, overlooking the dense jungle was a unique experience it has to be said, and the outlook did offer some compensation for the freezing cold showers.

Loo with a view

Our substantial meals were “flown in” by some lovely local ladies (truly “haute” cuisine) and after a sociable evening admiring the incredible sunset, chatting and playing cards we retired to our cosy little “tents” formed by large opaque mosquito nets which covered the mattresses. Although I have a strong aversion to “camping”, I was so exhausted and it was so peaceful up there, that I soon drifted off to the sounds of the jungle.  The girls were up in the night for the loo, and were shocked to find what they thought was a rat, but in fact was a flying squirrel, spying on them in the loo! At least it didn’t fly off with the toilet roll!

Setting up our beds for the night

During our walks, we were instructed on how the locals used leaves and plants to cure all sorts of conditions from flatulence to post natal depression, and Khampi also  managed to fashion a pretty tuneful flute out of a bamboo stem! After another few hours trekking and zipping the next morning, several of us decided to give the afternoon session a miss and we spent a wonderfully relaxing afternoon in our tree home, chilling out.  With a very early start the following morning in the hope of seeing some wildlife, we all decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve on Sydney time at 8pm!  It was one of the most enjoyable New Year Eves I’ve ever had however – we played games, entertained each other with magic tricks and shadow puppet shows, and our friendly guide Khampi even brought us a bottle of wine to share. A very different and enjoyable way to see the year out.

Happy New Year!

We were afforded a slight lie-in the following morning as Khampi’s phone (and alarm) had run out of battery due to us teaching him the dark arts of social media on it the previous day! After another long and bumpy journey back (we did manage to score seats in the cab this time, along with a very grateful Saoirse!) we said our goodbyes.

We say our goodbyes…

I feel very glad that we booked this experience, although I did find the pace and humidity quite challenging now that I’m getting older.  Although this was less about “the gibbons” (we never did get to see any!) and more about “the experience” (we did actually feel like gibbons at times, swinging around in the forest canopy!), it was a very well-run operation.  In addition, the company prides itself on being a true “ecotourism” project.  At least half of the revenues go to reforestation, environmentally friendly agriculture and aid projects, ranger operations, wildlife conservation, and the generous salaries for the local guides which help to support many local communities.  A truly worthwhile and memorable experience…

…and relax!

Next Stop:  Slow boat to Luang Prabang

More photos!…

I was tempted, but the pay was peanuts...
And the sun goes down on our first day
Misty morning
Branching out
He made it!
Deliveroo, Laos style
Grubs "up"
I think they call this "line" dancing??
The pied piper of Laos...Kamphi and his bamboo flute
Not somewhere you want to forget your towel...
Pass the loo roll...
Home sweet home
She forgot the ketchup!
Let's get the party started!
Can you guess what it is yet?

2 thoughts on “A Bit of T L C – Part 10 – A Treehouse in Laos”

  1. What can I say….incredible and astonishing! You are most courageous and maybe a little crazy??!! Glad it was such a great experience. Shame you didn’t get to see the gibbons though xx

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *