Gibbon Experience, Laos
It was another 7 a.m. wake up call in the hopes of finding some wildlife. After a couple of ziplines our guide suddenly stopped in the middle of the track, signalling for us to be silent and look up. Sitting on the highest branches of an extremely tall tree there was a dark brown blob, which our guide assured us was a gibbon. We must have stood there for 45 minutes with our necks craned painfully skywards, waiting for this gibbon to entertain us. All he did was shift around a couple of times, stretch out his arm and go to sleep. Many tour groups don't see any gibbons so we should be thankful we saw one (or so we were advised) but it wasn't exactly exhilarating. After our heads had readjusted to their normal position we made our way back to the tree house for breakfast. For the fifth meal in a row: sticky rice, veggies and omelette. We are soooo over sticky rice.
Once we left the tree house we started making our way down the mountain. Going downhill was a nice change. To reach the bottom we travelled on new ziplines, including one that ended on a tiny, unstable platform high up in a tree. From there we needed to climb down rickety stairs to reach another tiny, unstable platform so we could take off on the next zipline. Talk about an adrenaline rush - I was glad I only did that once. A couple of hours later we made it back to the village where we started from two days ago, glad to be back in the real world but sad to be leaving a beautiful part of the country.
From here we jumped in a tuk-tuk to head back to civilisation: beds, hot water, Western toilets and toilet paper (not once did we see toilet paper on the trek and not once did they inform us that we needed to bring any, so we were all caught out for three days). On the way we stopped at a cafe (i.e. shack) for lunch. We were praying it wasn't sticky rice and our wish sort of came true: steamed rice. I have never been so happy to see steamed rice. We all swore we would be eating noodles for the next week.
After lunch we drove back to Houay Xay, where we picked up our bags and headed across the river and into Thailand. At the bus station we jumped on the oldest bus I had ever seen for the two hour journey to Chiang Rai. It was hot and crowded, and we longed for the fresh air and open space of the jungle we had just left.
In Chiang Rai we wandered around for 10 minutes until we found a decent hotel, and our first objective was to have a hot shower. It was one of the best showers of my life. Once scrubbed clean, the next objective was to locate a non-rice dinner. Italian was the final decision. I made it sort of Asian by ordering a green chicken curry pizza, which wasn't too bad but Danny thought I was crazy. The vanilla ice cream cake was a clear winner though. With our taste buds satisfied we returned to the hotel to sleep in a real bed with no snorers to irritate us.