The Wonderful Gibbon Experience
The Gibbon Experience is located near Huay Xai Laos which is right on the border of Thailand north of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The Gibbon Experience may sound to some people like just another animal monkey tour in SE Asia I’m here to tell you that it is totally amazing and not that at all. On the website they advertise it as an adult childhood treehouse fantasy. This is the most accurate description they could have offered. During the amazing The Gibbon Experience, you’ll get to glide through trees on ziplines, sleep in open air (but still glamourous) tree houses and hike your way through the jungle. In short, it’s an epic adventure that you aren’t able to do anywhere else.
Getting to The Gibbon Experience is actually a lot easier than you’d think. You have a few options for instance you can fly into Laos. But flights into Laos are expensive so I’d recommend a border bounce from Thailand to Laos. You can read a more in depth detailed review and list of what you need for the Laos overland border crossing blog post. Essentially from Thailand you can fly into Chiang Mai and easily book a bus over to the Hauy Xia border. It takes a whole day, it’s not a short journey. Make sure to check availability of seats on these buses because sometimes they do fill up. I’ve done this journey twice now and each time I’ve met someone who wasn’t able to get a seat on a bus.
Laos was one of the largest kingdoms in Asia lasting for four centuries. But due to internal conflict within the royal and leading families the country was split into three territories and was eventually colonized by France. During WWII the Japanese took over Laos during the war, and afterwards left Laos to be recolonized by France. Laos gained independence from France in 1953 and was a constitutional monarchy. During the time period of the Vietnam war Laos was also having a civil war, which was further fueled by neighboring Vietnam’s war. A major reason why Laos hasn’t become a developed country is because it is very corrupt which deters foreign investors from investing in the country.
When you visit the country today you can still see the impacts of the war. *This was all from my personal perspective* But from what I observed was that there seemed to be a small population of young men, many young women and children. Which when we asked a local person they said that this was a lasting impact felt from the war. Also, there are many souvenirs that have been salvaged and remade into jewelry or keychains from landmines and bombs.
Why it’s Amazing-
The Gibbon Experience is really a dream vacation destination, especially for millennials like me. It meets all my criteria of being outside, requires high levels of physical activity, and is eco-conscious and eco-friendly. I was so excited to be able to help out and protect this stretch of jungle from being destroyed by farmers, because as a tourism commodity the many locals whose lives are positively impacted by The Gibbon Experience would world hard to protect it. Also, I love ziplining and usually when you zipline it costs so much to zipline for just a short period of time, so I was really exciting to be able to zipline all day for three days. Last but not least, as a kid I loved sleeping in treehouses and so I was so happy and enthused to sleep in the world tallest tree houses.
My Adventure at The Gibbon Experience –
We chose to attend the classic experience. This was the three-day two-night program which was supposed to provide the most opportunities to see the Gibbon monkeys.
By the time we’d actually gotten to our booked gibbon experience date, we’d been planning our trip for over a year and we were stoked!!! The price was pretty expensive for three days and two nights, but it’s well worth it. Once you get to the jungle and see the tree house and zip lines I developed a greater appreciation for how much it must cost to run and maintain this wonderful Gibbon Experience.
And We arrived early on our first day at the Gibbon Experience office in Huay Xai. After checking in we drank water and sat on their plush couches waiting for our session to start. Go early for good seats They let you leave your big bags, passports and other items in a locked room, but they don’t individually lock up passports. Still I wouldn’t recommend bringing anything that you can’t lose because if it falls out of a tree or a flash rainstorm happens it’s gone / damaged for good.
They gave us a brief safety demonstration on harness use and what to expect once you are out in the jungle. They also give you a pretty detailed weather forecast which luckily for us it was sunny. =) but don’t always count on this freak storms and heavy rains with muddy trails aren’t uncommon. We just got lucky.
On the road
After the safety instructions everyone is split into their groups 2-day vs 3 day and then you all pile into their big open-air trucks. If you can get into a cab I’d recommend that because it’s a pretty long journey to the village where you start your expedition. The roads right before the village are treacherous and steep. For those of you who love four wheeling you are in for a treat. Especially during the river crossing. 😉 By now after living outside the states for so long, whenever anyone says river crossing I get a bit nervous.
After arriving at the village, you start your hike into the jungle.
Into the jungle we go
The beginning of the hike is flat as it meanders through farmers’ green fields and rice patties. It’s quite scenic and peaceful. A few minutes after entering the jungle you’ll come upon the lunch spot, where they give you a simple lunch of sandwiches. They tasted really good though. Don’t eat too much though because after this point the hike starts to become steeper. You do have to be in decent shape to participate on any of the Gibbon Experience hikes. I work out at least 3 days a week and I found it a bit difficult and was out of breath.
Your Tree house Options
After hiking for a while you get to the harnessing station which is a big long house type spot where everyone is given a harness and gloves. You also choose your cabins here.
- Treehouse 7 is amazing you should definitely take that one if possible. It is the one most loved by the Gibbons.
- Treehouse 5 take if you love heights and views, you’ll see what I mean when you get there.
- Treehouse 1 is huge! It’s the newest and most glamourous house of them all. It even has multiple stories and also has a good likely hood of seeing the gibbons.
You also meet your guides at this point. They are all very welcoming and friendly. Try to remember their names because you’ll need it to complete a survey after you return from the trip.
After you’ve been suited up you start off to your first zipline. Woot Woot! They don’t believe in warming up here so the first one you go on although it is smaller is still really high up. Leaping into that humid jungle air and looking out over the treetops was so incredible. It’s even more breathtaking because you are so far away from civilization. I couldn’t believe how magnificent it was. One of my favorite parts of the trip was after this point where they’ve made a loop de loop where ziplines can zipline on a course for hours. It’s great fun and so relaxing.
Our new Tree house Home
After hours of zip lining fun it’s time to head back to your tree house. By the time we got there we were all really tired. We’d been going since 8 am and just finally got to the tree house about 5:30pm! Talk about a long day. Once there we explored a bit.
Our tree house had 3 stories. The first story had the bathroom and the landing entrance platform, the second story was where we all would sleep, and the top story was a small observation room. The tree houses were quite modern considering what they were they had two sinks a small table with some stools the bathroom was a squatty potty with a really nice rain shower head. the view from the bathroom (and to be fair the rest of the house) was breathtaking! What really made it was those Instagram-ready rain shower photos that we all took.
Dinner was yummy Laotian food ziplined in for you by two women, who would prep and clean up dinner so that we could enjoy our time watching the sunset.
Our first night
I must say that I didn’t get the best sleep in the treehouse especially that first night. All the animal noises like buzzing, whooshing, shrieking, and barking kept me up or would wake me up. Plus, the mosquito nets didn’t allow for much airflow, so it was pretty hot. The second night was much better than the first.
Waking up in the jungle
We woke up that morning to the eerie and ethereal howls and songs of the gibbon monkey. They came down about 6-7 am and stayed until well past 9 am!! It was incredible. Our guide was dumbfounded he’d never in his life seen the monkey stay so long. Normally visitors would see a tail, paw, or sometimes even a whole monkey but never this. We were quite the blessed group as we also so a whole family of langurs another near extinct monkey. Whatever it was we had been blessed by the monkeys.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the other treehouses and seeing other wildlife. This might sound a bit boring, but it was anything but that. I love hiking and exploring the jungle, we also got to zipline into and out of all the houses and even went on their longest zipline. So, even though it might be tempting to chill out among the treetops in your jungle house, I’d highly recommend joining the group as they site see. I’m not sure if every guide is like this but our guide also enjoyed teaching us about the plants that we encountered which ones were good to eat and for medicine.
If you are an adrenaline junky then you should stay in tree house five. This treehouse is in the tallest tree. It literally has a 360-degree view of all of the jungle, because for whatever reason the tree that it is one stands taller than anything else without a contest. It’s also the most unnerving to zip into and out of. It’s literally a leap of faith to leave the tree house.
Stay in tree house number one if you want a more luxury and private experience. this treehouse has so many huge floors and seperate more private sleeping areas, with good opportunities for monkeys too.
This day was the least exciting and saddest day because we had to leave the jungle. The day consisted of just packing up and leaving. You take a fancy survey during lunch so make sure to remember your guides’ names. You arrive back in Huay Xai about 2-3 in the afternoon.
To sum it all up The Gibbon Experience is amazing, and you have to take part! It’s a wonderful natural experience that you don’t and can’t experience anywhere else in the world. The Gibbon Experience is not only great for you but it’s great for the local families who help run it and it protects the jungle and the near extinct species that live in its green bosom. Make sure to let us know how your trip to The Gibbon Experience goes. I know you’ll love it! Please make sure to leave your comments below and let us know how you like your time at The Gibbon Experience. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for travel tips and advice too. We can’t wait to hear from you!