Many people have a fear of heights, so climbing the tower to go ziplining at Nam Xuang certainly brings a sense of apprehension, but once you swing from the tower and speed over the lake it really is the height of excitement.

My colleagues and I recently visited the lake, which is 47km north of Vientiane and known as Don Savan or the Island in Heaven, to experience ziplining.

As we were preparing to launch into space, one of my associates confided in me that he was scared. I told him I felt the same way so we decided to turn our backs towards the tower that held the launch platform, so we couldn’t see the huge drop below us.

Once suspended from the zipline, however, we had a great deal of fun as we screamed with excitement and banished any worries from our minds.

As soon as we had zoomed across the zipline, we wanted another go. The thrill is somewhat addictive and a one-time adrenaline rush is never enough.

The five ziplines were recently installed at the lake, which is in Naxaithong district. There used to be only a small river here but it was dammed a while back and now there is a large reservoir in its place.

An American of Lao descent decided he wanted to cash in on the tourism boom in Laos and set up the ziplines, which are the latest craze in the country.

Tour operator Green Discovery was the first outfit in Laos to set up ziplines as part of their tree top adventure package, but now the thrill has caught on and ziplines are going up everywhere.

The good thing about the Nam Xuang site is that it’s not far from Vientiane, so it makes for a great day out with family and friends.

The lake itself appears peaceful and calm when you first arrive, but that all changes when you climb the tower to take the zipline over the lake.

At 18 metres high it is certainly not for the faint of heart, and you are a little bit giddy by the time you get to the top. But the view is magnificent so it’s better to look around to keep your mind off things, rather than worrying or looking down.

Some people are reluctant to leave the safety of the handrails and the solid ground of sorts that the tower provides, but once you surrender and let yourself fly through the air, you really do feel as if you are free.

Site manager Mr Viengkeo Lor says some people get cold feet at the last minute and don’t want to take that final leap into space, and so might need a helping hand or a gentle push to help them let go.

One thing is for sure, however; once people get to the bottom, the first thing they want to do is go back to the top.

The entrepreneur says he invested more than US$200,000 to develop the 30-hectare site, aiming to attract thrill-seekers and those with a spirit of adventure. The area used to be fields where locals grazed cattle as their livelihood.

Mr Viengkeo says other activities are also available, including bicycle riding, boat trips, trekking and camping. He also plans to build a bungee jump and set up water skiing facilities.

His thoughts first turned to ziplining when he saw the popularity of the lines set up in the Km 52 area in Vientiane province. So he looked around for a larger site that was a little closer to Vientiane, beli eving it would prove a draw for city-dwellers.

It gets the largest number of visitors at weekends. On Women’s Day in March last year, almost 400 people turned up to put their courage to the test.

Aside from all the adventure, food and drink are available as well, of course, so you can enjoy a cold beer or two. There are a number of huts on the edge of the lake where you can sit to enjoy the view, have a picnic, pluck up the nerve to throw caution to the wind, or discuss your bravery after hurtling across the lake.

There is something for everyone, young and old, and what more can you want than to take in the calming beauty of the lake?

It costs just 10,000 kip to take one zipline, but if you want to try all five you pay only 30,000 kip. You’ll also need to pay 10,000 kip to take a boat across the lake to get to the site, and another 10,000 kip to park your vehicle.

Although the site isn’t yet fully developed, it provides a refreshing and challenging option for people seeking a new experie nce in the company of family and friends, and will certainly ease the pressure of the daily grind in the city.

The lake really is a great place to get away from it all for a while. The choice is up to you – you can go in search of adventure and thrills or just take in the serenity of the surrounds, but I can definitely say that, without a doubt, it’s one of the best ways you can spend a day.

Source: Vientiane Times
March 6, 2013