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“Awesome experience, but poor value & service”

The Gibbon Experience
Ranked #1 of 5 things to do in Huay Xai
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed July 11, 2012

One important thing at the beginning: This trip was awesome! Coasting plenty of, up to 700m long, zip-lines in a height up to 200m above ground through the jungle is a frightening and incredible feeling. Full adrenaline and fun at its best for every adventurist.

Hence, if you want to do something completely crazy then this is the right thing for you. If you're not scared and fully aware of the risks you want to take: DO IT!!! For us this was the best and also most adventurous southeast Asia trip so far.

But you should consider the following issues before you spend a lot of money and sign the we-really-don't-care-about-taking-responsibility contract:

- Totally overpriced!!! I just gave an 'average' rating because you get poor service for such a high price. Honestly, I didn't expect western-style service at all for this area. If the trip had been 50% cheaper, I wouldn't have complained at all. But the overall average service quality doesn't justify the 190$ for a 2 day/1 night trip.

- The guides speak only basic English!

- YOU are responsible for YOUR own safety. Because of the guide's poor English knowledge you can't expect professional safety instructions from them. In our opinion they should check every time when you hook your carabiner into the zip-line if everything is OK. At some situations they didn't really care. One guide was saying OK while not looking at all what you're doing. He mentioned that he's very tired. No wonder, he's 19 years old, has a two month old baby at home and works often 7 days a week and this for a bad salary. In my opinion it is the company's respectively the guide's responsibility to be in good shape and to follow the neccesary precautions. On the second day we were zip-lining without the guide's supervision. It was lot of fun, we hadn't any problems nor fears, but for safety's sake those conditions are a definite NO GO. As I said, you're responsible for your own safety. The harnesses were in a good condition which let me feel safe. In addition to the cable roll the harness was equipped with a second cord which should be always hooked into the zip-line as an emergency backup. One thing: The brakes didn't work on all harnesses efficiently because on some of them the rubber was already worn out (maybe this led to the first accident, see below). In overall, besides the brakes issue, I was satisfied with the gear's condition.

- In case of emergency: Help yourself and don't expect too much support from the guides! Thanks to other helpful tripadvisor reviews we learned that the guides don't carry a 1st aid kit. Therefore we packed a kit into our small backpack, and we needed it already after 2 hours. Someone of our group couldn't brake just in time and crashed almost with full speed into a tree at the end of the second zip-line. There was no test beforehand to check if everybody knows how to use the gear (braking, hooking, carabiners etc.). No surprise that this accident happened. I was standing next to the poor lad and thought he fractured both of his legs. Fortunately he was very muscular and also much into sports so that he was able to react quickly and correctly to reduce any major damage to his legs with his strong muscles. Unfortunately he hit a metal bolt at the zipline, which was not enveloped with rubber or any other soft material. He had a deep cut on his ring finger down to the bone and was bleeding. Our guide asked us if someone of us had a 1st aid kit. Absolute NO GO. They should be prepared for such accidents. Otherwise the company should inform the customers beforehand that everybody should carry its own aid kit.

- The advertisement of the Gibbon Experience (website, brochures) gives a misleading picture: The chance to spot any Gibbons is lower because even the guides are singing or listening to music from their mobile phone's loudspeakers. This definitely scares every animal away.

- You will not learn a lot about the jungle or wildlife. Due to their basic English knowledge they don't provide you with a satisfying amount of information. If you ask them something, they usually give basic answers or don't understand the question at all. I had to watch an Youtube movie afterwards to learn how a Gibbon actually sounds.

- Guide's don't wear a simple watch. They ask you several times for the time. Their verbal time schedules are wide off the mark from the unwritten LPDR (Lao, please don't rush) rule. For example: They promised us to come back at 5am for some guided wildlife watching. They arrived at 7am, two hours late.

But besides all the criticism there are also many good points:

- The treehouse was amazing. Big in its size, very comfy matraces (I don't know hot they carried them). Very good and effective mosquito nets (actually permeable to air sheets). Clean bathroom (the best view ever provided by doing nr.1 or 2), shower (MUST DO after the trek, sooooo refreshing), small kitchen with sink (with drinkable water), nice ambiente, solid structure.

- Delicious food (pork and a big variety of vegetables), tasty sandwiches during the trek.

- Lots of fun zip-lining through the jungle with breathtaking views and an overdose af adrenaline.

- Good transportation to the trek and back. The 4WD had a mechanical problem during our way back home. It was replaced as soon as possible with a new truck.

7  Thank saxos1983
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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589 - 593 of 806 reviews

Reviewed July 10, 2012

I have done the Gibbon Express Experience just a few days ago (July 5th to 6th 2012) - rainy season. I am not super fit, extremely scared of leeches, spiders and other creepy jungle animals and most of all I am terrified by heights! A dear friend got me into signing up with her, I would have never dared to do this by myself!

I got to Huay Xai by air via Vientiane. There are no taxis at the airport in Huay Xai so if your backpack is very heavy and you get there with other people, let some people walk down withput backpack, get a tuktuk down the hill and have them pick up the rest of the group on the way up the hill to Huay Xai city, which is quite a lovely little town with a beautiful temple on the top. My friends got there from Chiang Mai (by Minibus which is a 4.5 hour ride) to Chiang Kong and then took from there a 2 min boat ride crossing the border to Huay Xai. I did this on the way back, its easy and heaps cheaper than flying to Vientiane.

The Gibbon experience starts when you check into the ofgice and sign a paper that basically states that if you get hurt, paralysed or die by either tigers, snakes, bears or ziplining, the organizers will not take any responsibility. After that you are shown a quick introduction video about how to put on your gear as well as the do's and dont's of ziplining.
By the end of the video everyone in our group was absolutely terrified and I think we all wanted to rather stab ourselves in the eye than get on the truck that took us into the Bokeo National Park.

But eventually we did all hop onto the van and off we went. The most scarriest journey of my life began. During the 1 h drive I made about a million escape plans in my head :) When we got to our destination, the Gibbon guides helped us into our gear. A girl in our group who has lots of rock climbing experience told us that the gear looked to be in good condition and safe. Much to my relief because I was so worried.

After about 5 min walking, we arrived at the first zipline. This one is only about 20 m long and 3 m high. Perfect to get you used to the equipment. I must say I felt a lot better about the ziplined ahead and was heaps more confident that there was actually a possibility for me to survive this adventure.

To reach our treehouse, we hiked for about 2.5 hours (I am not very fit but I managed ok) and we did 11 ziplines. The ziplines all are made of a thick strong steel wire. You hook on to them with your main cord as well as a safety cord. I actually felt quite safe when I hooked on. Most of the ziplines are about 150-180 m high and 400-600 m long. Zipping is like flying accross the jungle and over valleys and your hiking efforts are rewarded by stunning views and a massive adranalin kick. The Express adventure also includes the longest 700 m zipline :)) which crosses the river and is really absolutely AMAZING!

Unfortunately I got stuck about 150 m before the end and as I am terrified by heights, this was my worst nightmare comeing true. Dangeling on 2 cords 200 m about a river in the middle of the Laos jungle was defenitely not fun! Ziplining is really not all so scarry I found, even if you are afraid of heights like me bc you are constantly moving at about 40 k/h but getting stuck on one is a completely different story. I was so terrified that I couldnt move while hanging onto my life. It only took one of the guides a few minutes to come out and get me by hooking me onto his safety cord and then hangeling us back on shore. I survived! :))

The treehouse we stayed at was about 40 m high with amazing views. They recently replaced the roof with tin so there were no spiders or creepy animals. There were some rats at night eating out of the garbage but they run away as soon as we got up and made some noise. There are also lights in the treehouse. There were some bees around the toilet area because the oldest tree in Lao is quite close to the treehouse (you can see it from the treehouse) and it has many beenests on it. But noone got stung.

The food was lovely and heaps especially considering that you are far out and away in the middle of the jungle on a treehouse. Plus eating Lao food is part of this cultural experience so dont expect pizza or burgers... Really you can eat those the other 563 days of your life!

The guides dont speak good English which is a bit of a shame but they always tried hard to explain everything and went out of their way to help - they even safe you from the zipline, if you happen to get stuck like me.

Would I do it again? YES!! I feel like I faced my demons by having done this and I am so grateful to my friend who got me into this. I feel bigger and braver than ever before :)

11  Thank Travelschneckchen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 22, 2012

This experience might be a little pricey but my 14 year old son is still talking about it. I felt a little unsure until I took that first great leap off the platform and then I was sold on zip-lining. Tree house camping was a blast and we were lucky to have a fun group of people from all over the world. We did the "classic" experience and would highly recommend for the adventurous traveler.

1  Thank NorthernLights60826
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 4, 2012 via mobile

The zip lines and the jungle is quite common, But the tree house is incredible! There is nothing like it.
I wish it was a little cheaper, but overall it was amazing and worth it!

1  Thank Tomum
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed May 29, 2012

Absolutely one of the greatest things I have ever done. The views are amazing, the zip lines fun and the food is great. A little more walking then expected on the classic but very rewarding and well worth it.

1  Thank michael_perman1990
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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