Where We Be
|If you do just one splurge in Laos, make it this. Why do just one zipline
when you can do 22, some longer than four football fields in length!
Wow, what an adventure! We spent two days
zipping along 22 ziplines past waterfalls and
over rivers, did canopy walks on suspended
bridges swaying high above the jungle, went
abseiling, did a “via ferrata,” bathed under a
waterfall, and slept in our own treehouse 90
feet above the jungle floor (accessible only by
zipline). We had quite a long, steep jungle trek
to get there and back but it was so worth it.
Some of the ziplines were over 400 meters in
length – that’s four football fields! – a very long
and satisfying ride on a zipline over lush jungle
scenery. We can’t imagine a better place than
the pristine Bolaven Plateau to have immersed
ourselves in this kind of adventure. Even the
weather was cool and comfortable, which is
astounding for Laos in March. The cost for all
this fun was $220 per person: steep by Laos
standards but worth every penny in our
opinion. The single best thing we did in Laos.
|Nothing can beat the unique adventure of sleeping in a private treehouse high up
in the jungle for a night or two. Each bed has a comfy sleeping bag set atop a
mattress surrounded by mosquito netting. A toilet and sink are also included.
|A 1½ hour ride brings us from Pakse to the Bolaven Plateau. We arrive at this small village
in the midst of coffee country, where coffee beans are laid out on mats to dry in nearly every yard.
|Last call for fruit and snacks!
|We don our zipline harnesses and are ready to go. We're each given a crooked stick meant to serve
as a primitive form of brake, we're told, if we're coming in too fast for a landing on a zipline platform.
|The walk starts out easy and gets harder as we go, taking maybe 1½ hours
altogether. The last half hour is a steep downhill scramble deeper into the jungle.
|Along the way we pause for lunch. The three guides lay out huge leaves on the ground and pile food on top.
We all dine together, using our hands to dip chunks of sticky rice in the various foods – steamed fish cooked
in banana leaves, a bamboo salad, spicy salsa, fried fish, beef and pork jerky, hard boiled eggs, and more.
|Then the real fun begins. Our guide Boon -- who speaks terrific English and is both amiable and
professional -- introduces us to our first zipline. Here he shows us how it's done on a short run.
|Phew! Made it! Boon and his two assistants make sure we're correctly
clipped onto safety lines as we move about the platforms between runs.
|The ziplines get longer as we go, and before long we're whooping for sheer joy as we zip along
through the jungle. What an amazing course they've set up for us here high in the trees!
|We also get to do three different abseils where we're lowered from a platform to the ground below
|Can you tell I'm having fun?
|We do 8 ziplines on our way to the lodge, and by the end of it we're getting pretty good,
latching and unlatching ourselves to the cables, with the guides always double-checking our work
|We drink coffee while enjoying the outstanding views. We and our two fellow guests have this gorgeous jungle sanctuary all to ourselves. We're
immersed in a green amphitheater replete with cliffs and waterfalls. Getting to this miracle of a spot takes some doing but what a reward!
Note: in the rainy season the falls are so huge they sometimes have to put up tarps to keep the mist from overwhelming the guests!
|A short walk brings us to these smaller waterfalls, perfectly sized for a cool shower
|Afterwards we relax and pet the friendly cats. The roar of the falls is constant. At 6:30 we share a hot dinner of chicken, rice, and veggies,
then sit around the fire and chat contentedly until dark. Happily exhausted, we head off to our own private treehouse for the night.
|We take a long time at the falls, just enjoying
a slower pace after a full day of adrenaline
|But first we have to put our harnesses back on for the final short zipline to our treehouse!
Now if that isn’t one of the most interesting ways to get to your lodging, I don’t know what is.
|The longest ziplines are all on our second day -- including several runs over 300 meters and
one over 400. That’s a good, long time to appreciate the jungle scenery zooming by below you.
|We also have little choice but to cross this crazy U-shaped cable bridge
made of dozens of free-swinging cables. It's actually quite tiring to traverse.
|Along the way we get to cross this swaying canopy bridge
|We awake bright and early eager for more adventure. And what fun
we have! We take an amazing 14 ziplines from platform to platform.
|Around 1 pm, after lunch at the lodge and a final waterfall shower, we begin hiking out. It's a hard, steep slog through
jungle terrain. Eventually we reach this “via ferrata,” an assisted cliff climb where brackets are bolted into the cliff face.
|The via ferrata is challenging but in a fun way. You're always roped in so it's safe
|Robin takes her first zipline. Note how she's using the crooked stick, holding it just behind the wheel
that runs along the zipline, to brake and keep herself facing forward. It takes a little practice to gauge
how much or how little to use the brake in order to land with the right amount of speed on the platform.
|The last zipline brings us to a series of tiered wooden steps and walkways that
lead us to our Tree Top lodge around 3:30 pm. What a breathtaking location!
|Amidst all this adventure, the jungle scenery is gorgeous
|Both before and after our adventure we enjoyed the modern
comforts of the Pakse Hotel ($34 per night). It's located on the
same block as Green Discovery, which runs Tree Top Explorer.