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White Elephant Adventures – Luang Prabang, Laos

Choices, Choices…

Luang Prabang, Laos, is a hub for adventure! Everything from 1-3 day trekking trips to remote tribes in the hills, to kayak trips, to zip-lining, elephant riding and so much more. The hard part is not only choosing which activity to take part in but also which company to choose from the many that line the main street.

Luang Prabang Main Street

Luang Prabang Main Street

I spent a couple of days wandering along looking in at some of the tour companies but none of them really caught my attention, until I wandered in to the White Elephant Adventure Company office. Immediately there was a great vibe, and the owner, Alex, paused long enough on his way out to provide some great information.

From what I could tell the big difference comes from the fact that White Elephant uses only local guides, supports the local communities and schools and also believes in “leave no trace” activities. Unlike other companies who would take tourists to a remote community and leave their company stickers plastered all over the houses… White Elephant also has a unique pricing technique, every day of a tour costs $50 US, regardless of how many people or which tour you do, making things nice and clear.

My friend and I opted for the 1 day kayak and trek. We would drive and then trek through a local village, home to 3 of the tribes: Hmong, Lao and Khmu (In Laos these days the tribes get along really well, and often live together in communities, each with their own architectural designs and lifestyles). Then we would kayak to the Tad-se waterfalls where we would have lunch, have time for a swim and for those interested in Elephant rides or zip-lining there would be time for those (for a small fee).

This is what got my attention at first

This is what got my attention at first

A Right Proper Pair

On the morning of the big day my friend and I were a sight… she had broken her big toe while in Chang Mai after a tourist rode their scooter over her foot and I had decided to skip street food the night before and eat in a restaurant resulting in food poisoning…go figure.

But Miss Limp-along and Miss Sicky sucked it up and gave it a go… our decision was aided in the fact that there was an entry fee that had already been paid and if we changed dates we would have to pay it again (only $10US but that was equal to around 5 sandwiches and 3 smoothies). The staff at White Elephant were phenomenal, making sure I stayed hydrated and my friend had any help she needed with getting around.

A Great Day Out

So despite feeling and looking like I had a heck of a hangover… we had a fabulous day. Our phenomenal guides were Mr Manh (yup he da Manh!!) and Mr. Vee. We headed out by truck 30 minutes outside the city and then, after visiting the 3rd bush on the right (I had been drinking a LOT of water), we walked down to pick up our ride across the river. It became a source of much amusement as it turned out to be a dugout with a motor that sat VERY low in the water and did not feel stable, we were afraid to sneeze.

Once we were across Mr Vee gave us a great tour of the villages explaining all the differences in the lifestyles and their homes, how one tribe prefers double story, another prefers stilts and the other goes for a one story ground floor.

Hmong Houses.

Hmong Houses.

All very fascinating with some awfully cute kids along the way…

Super cute kids.

Super cute kids.

Then it was time a bush trek, around 30min, to get to our next dugout ride and finally to the kayaks. Mr. Vee was my kayak partner since I was under the weather and not sure how well I could keep up, he was fantastic and took over a large portion of the kayaking, also happy to answer all my questions and tell me a few things along the wa.

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Tad-Se Waterfall

After a short kayak across the river we came to Tad-Se waterfalls, similar in design to the Kuang Si waterfalls with the travertine limestone creating beautiful pools to take a relaxing, if somewhat chilly, dip.

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We also used it as the perfect lunch spot while some of the others took a dip in the falls on the back of an elephant.

Kayak, Rapids and Friends

All too soon our fun at the falls came to an end and we headed back to the kayaks for the last stretch of the river and some fun rapids. It was spectacular with a few clouds and blue sky, slowly kayaking down the Nam Khan river (a tributary of the Mekong). We hit a couple of rapids but nothing serious just a bit of fun.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1233.

Finally we came to the home stretch and landed the kayaks smoothly. The last set of rapids were a little more exciting and one of us did tip over (as it turned out his kayak had been taking on water the whole trip without realizing it and was fairly unstable when he hit the first rapid), but no one was harmed…

All in all a phenomenal trip, phenomenal guides, and an outstanding company, highly recommended!!!

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2016 in RTW, Travel

 

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Let’s go UP a Waterfall!!!!!

Dunn’s River Falls

The native people of Jamaica, the TaĆ­no, called their homeland “Xaymaca” in Arawakan, meaning the “Land of Wood and Water”
Dunn's River Falls Jamaica (1)

or the “Land of Springs”.
Dunn's River Falls Jamaica (26)

When you visit Dunn’s River Falls you will see why.

Located near Ochos Rios about an hours drive from the Falmouth Cruise ship port, the Dunn’s River Falls Park receives thousands of tourists each year who flock here to link hands and climb the falls.
Dunn's River Falls Jamaica (24)

Geology

At about 180 feet (55 m) high and 600 feet (180 m) long, the waterfalls are terraced like giant natural stairs, there have been a few man influenced improvements for safety sake, but for the most part it is all natural. There are also several lagoons throughout the falls which make great dipping pools.
Dunn's River Falls Jamaica (7)

The falls empty into the Caribbean Sea at the western end of an attractive white-sand beach.
Throughout the falls there are little mini falls that act as superb massage therapy sessions…
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There are also some rather large spiders…. luckily they stay in the trees…
Dunn's River Falls Jamaica (2)

Explaining The Concept of a Waterfall

Dunn’s River Waterfalls is not only a stunning natural wonder but also tons of fun and great exercise. Therefore, during my talks on the excursions I would always encourage guests that this was the one to pick, especially if you did the combo with the Dolphin Encounter or Jamaican Bobsled (click to read about these adventures). However, it became apparent, on more than one occasion, that when I explained they would not only be visiting, but also subsequently CLIMBING up the falls seem to confuse people. Guests would come back from the excursion and complain that they did not know they had to bring a swimsuit, they didn’t know they were going to get wet….

So, I was forced to attempt to make it crystal clear, much to the amusement of the guests at my talk. It went something like this:
One of my favorite excursions is the chance to visit and climb the Dunns River Waterfall.. Now I have to make something very clear, when you climb UP a WATERfall you will get WET. By nature of it’s name, a WATERfall has WATER therefore if one climbs inside of it YOU WILL GET WET!!!! I am not talking about a little damp, I am talking soaked through, very very very wet, so please remember your swimsuit. You will be surprised at how many guests do not grasp this fact and make a complaint afterwards. For those who wish not to get wet or climb, there is a walkways along the side to take amusing photos of your friends and family, but for the rest of you, you will get wet!

So I hope all of you will take the opportunity and go have some fun and get wet!
Dunn's River Falls Jamaica (33)

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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