Laos is a stunningly beautiful country. While visiting, I was constantly taken aback by the lush greenery, endless mountains, loving culture, deliciously spicy food, and the ever flourishing Mekong river. While touring Laos, I couldn’t help but want to get out into the jungle to be one with nature and fully immerse myself in the land.
I first started looking into jungle treks and landed on a company called Green Discovery Laos. They are the most well known and highly regarded adventure and Eco-tourism tour operators and one of the few social enterprises in the country.
Green Discovery Laos has countless rave reviews boasted great tours, unique itineraries, excellent service, and high quality, maximum safety equipment. They offer several different types of excursions that include, hiking, kayaking, abseiling, rock climbing, zip lining and much more.
TAKING THE PLUNGE WITH GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS
After much consideration and research, I booked an excursion called the Tree Top Explorer. It was advertised as a 3-day 2-night zip lining tour where you sleep in tree houses. I had never ziplined before and the thought of sleeping in a tree house, in the jungle, excited me beyond belief.
I was torn at first on spending the money being $329 USD for the entire tour. Which was more than triple my daily budget. However, I decided to go for it. I never want to look back on my adventures and have regret for not doing something I felt so compelled to do.
After booking and paying for the tour I started to research reviews on this specific experience. I was shocked to read that I would be climbing a rock face on the last day, I hadn’t read that in the original advertisement. I just thought I would be zip lining. I’ve never rock climbed in my life and it seemed really out of my realm of comfort. I was thinking if that’s the worst thing, I believe I can do it.
I also read reviews about a tour that went south when the group was freak attacked by a swarm of bees. Many people had to be admitted to the hospital. This terrified me, I hate bees.
Lastly, I read that it is quite common to pick up many leeches while trekking through the jungle. I have never had a leech on me and I never want to. I researched leeches online and was sick to my stomach reading about the way they latch on and suck your blood until full, sometimes taking up to 20 minutes to fill. Luckily I read these reviews after I had already paid, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have booked.
GETTING STARTED IN PAKSE
Pakse was the pickup point for the Green Discovery tour, which is located in the south of Laos. I had been in Vientiane in the north so I took a night bus into Pakse where I stayed one night. The tour would leave at 8 am from the Green Discovery office the next morning.
READ MORE: Read more about my adventures in Vientiane, Laos
I was able to leave my big backpack in the office while we were away. This totally stressed me out because I had to leave my computer, hard drive and tablet behind. I would be devastated if I lost them. However, good news, it was all safe!
We would be carrying everything we wanted to bring with us, so I tried to pack my daypack as light as possible. We were told we could pay one of the guides to carry our backpacks but I wanted the challenge. Actually, no one chose this option. At the office, we filled out general paperwork then loaded a bus that reminded me of a little school bus.
I sat next to the only other solo person. Her name was Audrey, which I loved because my sweet angel of a niece is named Audrey. She was from Holland, traveling solo, also 33 years old and on a 3 week holiday in Laos. I instantly liked her, we became quick friends, stuck together the entire time and even shared a tree house at night.
We chatted the whole 2-hour ride into Nong Luang Village where we would embark on our tour. When we arrived we had a final opportunity to use the restroom before we put on all our zip lining gear, which isn’t light mind you, and we also had our backpacks. We were given two bottles of water and off we went.
JUNGLE TREKKING WITH GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS
We walked through the village and past the construction of a new dam and off into the jungle. The first couple of hours was all hiking downhill which was very slick causing me to slip a couple of times. Hiking in the zip line equipment was a challenge in itself. I’m just glad I didn’t hurt myself because that would not make for a good start.
We eventually stopped at a little tree house camp and had a delicious lunch prepared by the women in the village served on giant banana leaves. We had sticky rice, hard-boiled eggs, sautéed veggies, a chicken dish of some sort, fish cakes and meat that was similar to jerky. I was very impressed by the quality of this meal seeing as we were in the middle of a jungle. I was excited to see what the remaining meals would be like!
After lunch, we left the tree house and started hiking again. Our first feat was a canopy walk, which is a walkway from tree to tree suspended in the air. This bridge was very old and had many boards either missing, loose or rotting. I was connected to a cable above my head as I walked which didn’t feel like enough protection. The more people that got on the bridge the wonkier it became.
CANOPY WALKS? WHAT?
I had no idea we would be doing any canopy walks, nor have I ever done one before. I was so frightened but somehow kept on going. Little did I know that I would be doing two more of these the next day, one being the most terrifying thing I have ever done.
That day we did a total of 12 zip lines as well as dropped down off 3 platforms with ropes. The Green Discovery Laos guides were extremely helpful, patient and friendly. I could tell they knew what they were doing and took every possible safety precaution. Although I was scared, I was comforted by the guides because I knew they were doing everything possible to keep us safe.
TREEHOUSE CAMP AT GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS
After a long day of hiking and zip lining, we finally arrived at the treehouse camp. It was nestled serenely in a valley next to a giant waterfall and had more than 8 different tree house buildings. To my surprise, there were western toilets, no hole in the ground, as well as showers.
Five of the tree houses were for sleeping, some of which could sleep up to 10 people. Audrey and I shared a tree house and we opted for the one that could only be accessed via zip line. Which we found to be very thrilling in the dark at night. Our tree house had three beds and two of the beds were set up with giant mosquito nets and we also had our own bathroom.
The large main tree house was the common area where the women from town cooked all our meals. There were picnic style tables where we could sit and play cards at night and there were 3 house cats that I, of course, went crazy over.
NIGHT #1 AT THE TREEHOUSE VILLAGE
That first night we were served another delicious meal of curry, rice, fresh spring rolls, and sautéed veggies. I can’t say it enough, the food the women served us was very flavorful, fresh and amazing!
We all sat and ate and got to know each other. Our group was a total of 10. Five young 21-year-old’s from Denmark traveling together on a 3 month holiday through SE Asia. Three friends from Malaysia on a quick one week trip and then Audrey and I, the solo females.
Luckily the Denmark group came equipped with cards, so smart. We sat playing cards until after dark when we split off into our separate treehouses. Audrey and I were accompanied by 2 guides to ensure we got into our treehouse safely.
We both weren’t tired and stayed up chatting for awhile about our lives and what we would be doing the following day. Also, daydreaming about pizza because we both were craving it. To satisfy our craving, we made a plan to get pizza in Pakse, as our reward when we returned. Nothing wrong with a little motivation to keep us going the next couple of days. Below is a video compilation from my first day with Green Discovery Laos.
DAY #2- THE REAL ADVENTURE
The next morning Audrey and I were up early and ready to go. We put on our ziplining gear and waited. They had to come to get us eventually, right? We could have hooked ourselves up but we hadn’t been given much instruction and didn’t want to break the rules.
After waiting for quite a while we started to call out. “Can we come out now?’ “Mom, Dad, we slept good all night, can we come down now?” “Hello, is anyone out there?’ “Can anyone hear us?” Finally, our Malaysian friends next door heard us and went to fetch a guide to help us.
For breakfast, we were served delicious French bread, omelets, mango, and coffee. After breakfast, our wonderful lead named Phon (Pawn) went over the day’s events with us. We would be doing a series of 16 zip lines in the earlier part of the day. Followed by 2 canopy walks. After lunch, we would be abseiling down the waterfall that was our beautiful background at the tree house camp.
OFF INTO THE JUNGLE WE GO
We left camp and headed into the jungle for our series of 16 different zip lines, one of which was the longest, being 450 meters long. I loved how each zip line was different. The scenery, the platform, the thrill was all unique.
Some of the platforms were just downright scary and dangerous. Especially, when all ten of us were on them. You’re always hooked to a cable for safety but there is never any ledges or banisters. We were just standing on a platform, many of which were old and very dodgy. I lost my stomach several times looking down.
The worst part of this day was the canopy walks. The first one was an obviously newer build and I wouldn’t have been as scared if the guide hadn’t alerted us to hurry across because there was a giant bee hive in the tree above the platform we were standing on while waiting to cross the bridge.
I could hardly breathe thinking about the possibility of being stung while trying not to pass out, as I was walking across a bridge, suspended millions of miles above the jungle floor. Exaggeration, I know, but I was feeling pretty stressed out and pushed to the maximum level of fear.
SUSPENDED IN THE AIR SWINGING FROM CABLES
The second canopy walk was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, up to that point in my life ( I had no idea what the next few days had in store for me). It wasn’t a bridge with boards but instead, it was only cables. You had to hold yourself up while stretching and balancing from cable to cable.
The cables were far apart and obviously not steady. I felt so scared and kept wondering what would happen if I fell. I don’t know how I would pull myself up and how badly that would hurt.
My legs turned to jelly and I was shaking like a naked baby in a snowstorm. I tried so hard to focus on the task at hand but kept looking down which made me shake even more. I couldn’t tell you how I survived, but I made it across. Below is a video montage of my second day with Green Discovery Laos.
ABSEILING WITH GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS
After hiking back to camp we had lunch and prepared for our abseiling. I had no idea what abseiling was, which probably helped so I didn’t chicken out. In case you also don’t know, abseiling, which is also called repelling, is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope.
Basically, you are descending backward down a drop, connected by a rope around your waist, you feed the rope through a little device called a rack. You are the only one with control as you descend.
Our first drop was a mini practice drop. It was quite easy and I thought “oh yeah, I got this”. However, then our guide leads us walking across the top of the waterfall, where we weren’t connected to anything. If I were to slip and fall, I would have gone flying off the top of the waterfall. Which was not a comforting feeling.
Once we reached the middle of the waterfall, the guides started to prepare the ropes. They were very comfortable walking around the edge and throwing the ropes down the side of the falls. They weren’t hooked to anything and were scaring the crap out of me leaning over the edge like it was nothing.
I felt like I was going to die, my heart was racing, everything was shaking and I swear I was having an asthma attack.
BUT DID YOU DIE?
The first guy goes down, show off. I decided I had to be next or I would lose my shit up there. They hooked me up and gave me the signal to start my descent. The first part was a rocky terrain but was the middle of a waterfall, so it was seriously slick, causing me to slip and hit my knees and shins several times.
The first part I really hated because it was so slippery and I felt really out of control. I couldn’t get my footing and the severe shaking wasn’t helping either.
The second half was a complete suspended drop. Meaning I wasn’t touching anything except my rope. This seemed better to me and I was surprised how little I had to depend on my own arm strength. At first, I was only suspending myself inch by inch but then I became more comfortable and started to crank it. The view from this point was the most amazing view I have ever seen.
I spun myself around so I could look outwards and not just at the waterfall rock face. I felt very free, strong and brave for facing fears and giving myself the opportunity to experience life beyond my comfort zones.
ADRENALINE, VICTORY AND EMPOWERMENT
When I reached the bottom I was elated. The rush of adrenaline mixed with fear and the pride of my accomplishment sent me to cloud nine. From there I had to walk through the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall that were slimy and slippery, which was another real challenge, to reach a viewpoint where I could watch Audrey come down the falls behind me.
After Audrey made it down safely we climbed our way back to the waterfall camp. We zipped to our tree house, with no assistance this time, because we were pros now, and changed into dry clothes. We set out our shoes and clothes for drying and then zipped back to camp to wait for the others to come back to celebrate everyone’s victory!
Another delicious dinner was served late, after dark that night and then we played cards for a short bit, but everyone was so exhausted from the day’s events that we all retired early to bed. That night Audrey and I zipped alone again, in the dark, to our tree house, SO thrilling at night!! Check out my full video of me abseiling down the waterfall below.
THE FINAL CHALLENGE WITH GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS
Our third day and final morning in the tree house fort was a little bittersweet for me. I honestly could have stayed for weeks. We ate breakfast and got all our gear on and prepared for the all uphill hike out of the jungle.
This final hike was extremely challenging because my whole body was excruciatingly sore from the last two days of strenuous activity. We had to wear all our gear, as well as carry our backpacks. It was very humid in the jungle which made it a challenge to breathe.
After about an hour or so of hiking uphill, we arrived at the rock face that we had to climb in order to get out of the jungle. It had metal steps built into it with a cable system running along the path. We had to climb up the steps while unhooking and hooking ourselves to the different cables.
PUSHING MYSELF TO THE LIMIT
Audrey went second and was ahead of me. I was beyond terrified and my entire body was shaking again. At the beginning of her ascent, Audrey stopped and said: “I don’t like this”. I told her “JUST GO!!” I had to get this over with and I couldn’t be behind someone who was second-guessing themselves or I would freak out more than I already was.
Like the badass that she is, she persevered and I followed her lead. I’ve never had my body convulse and shake the way it was while I climbed. As my entire body was shaking I had to hold on with one VERY sweaty palm and unhook and rehook my cables. I kept begging my limbs not to fail me. I had already come so far in the last few days, I couldn’t fail now.
At the top of the rock, I felt like the world would never be the same for me. So much intense adrenaline was coursing through my entire body, which continued to shake for a good 15 minutes. Experience the intensity of this rock climb with me in this video.
REFLECTIONS OF GREEN DISCOVERY LAOS
The view from the top was beyond words and we stopped for a quick break to take photos and rejoice before we made our final jungle trek back to the village. Trekking back with sore, tired legs was no easy feat, but I was driven by an inner fuel of satisfaction, accomplishment and pure happiness.
We were served our final meal in the village before we loaded the little yellow bus back to Pakse. Audrey was so kind and invited me to come to stay with her at her very nice hotel. The next morning we left for the quiet sleepy little town of Don Khon in the 4,000 islands of Laos.
READ MORE: Check out my stories from the stunning island of Don Khon in the 4,000 Islands
Reflecting back on this experience with Green Discover Laos I am overcome with joy. I faced many fears and pushed my mind and body past limits I never knew I had. I will never second guess my abilities again.
I have gained valuable experience and now have a growing passion for outdoor and recreational sports I never would have pictured myself doing. This was a very valid reminder that I am strong, brave and I can overcome any obstacle that is placed in front of me.
Still to this day, the Green Discovery Laos adventure has been one of my greatest accomplishments and memories. I have so much love for the guides and the people who organized this unforgettable journey. I have zero regrets for spending the money that I did and I would honestly do it all over again.
If you’re interested in going on this same adventure then check out this site.
SHARING IS CARING
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