Travel and Escape : Kayaking
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Travel Time:
October 15-23, 2007

Peripheral Information:
This is the beginning of the dry season as well as the middle of the rice harvest (which last approximately 2 weeks depending on how many family members help with the harvest).
It can still be hot and humid with occasional rains.
The Full Moon festival at the end of Oct. offers candle lit bamboo boats built by the monks which are floated down the Mekong!

Laos has two seasons; the wet season runs from around May to October, and as with many Southeast Asian countries, the wet season is characterized by a downpour for a few hours a day rather than all day torrential rain.
The cool dry season runs from November to February and the hot dry season from March to April.
Mid-October through December may be the best time for active travel as the rivers are still higher and good for river travel and the air is cool and days are relatively clear.
Reviewer Background:
This was the last week of a month trip to SE Asia which began with PATA in Bali, then on to my International OD program in Singapore, then 10 days in Northern Vietnam. I hesitated to even go to Laos and am so glad I did!! I spent the entire week in Luang Prabang and loved it.

Review:
I arrived back last night from a month in Bali, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam. I spent a full week-a lifetime-in Luang Prabang, Laos and loved every minute of it.


Each morning I woke at 6 am and went to my guest house porch to watch the monks passing with the alms baskets. Daily morning fair-trade coffee at a cafe along the muddy waters of the Mekong river. Days were spent biking to local villages or nearby waterfalls and Wats (temples). Afternoon massages and evening conversations with monks and listening to 5:30 pm chants before enjoying tasting local Lao dishes wrapped in banana leaves, accompanied by sticky rice and a big beerlao.


While in Luang Prabang, I stayed at AMMATA GUEST HOUSE 37 KHUNSUA Rd Phonheung village tel (856-71) 212175 or 020-7607304 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (tell them Kathy Dragon says hello!) which I LOVED for $15/night..room 4 on the 2nd floor is a corner room with a nice view of the monks each morning from the lovely porch. Simple rooms have AC. No fridge or tv (or safe...see below!). Great little staff...wonderful pots, flowers, plantings everywhere and outdoor tables to relax at. No breakfast (really, what do you want for $15??. Make sure to go to Saffron Cafe along the Mekong for the best fair trade coffee in town. In the evening try the Big Tree Cafe (smile@bigtreecafe.com) for lunch or dinner. Mi Ja just opened the restaurant and it is very good. Her husband is a photographer so check out the gallery.


My first two nights I had booked Ancient Luang Prabang Hotel across from the night market on the main st. Beautiful rooms and great staff as well as wonderful bakery/mac cafe attached..downside was the rooms on the front are VERY noisy though they offer a private balcony. All rooms have AC, fridge, tv. No safe (why would you need it in LP??). Rooms online are approximately $40 plus booking fee.


Other great places for dinner include Tum Tum Cheng (or Tum Tum Banboo-they have two restaurants now) and Tamarind, both which offer great Lao food as well as cooking classes.The Three Elephant restaurant and Blue Lagoon Cafe (best service in town) are both good. I loved the Sala Cafe...I was the only customer and enjoyed a Lao BBQ (you must experience this...you cook the food on your table with sort of a BBQ/WOK contraption that allows you to steam the veggies and cook the meat/fish.


Other places to stay: For a lower budget, I looked at the Lao Wooden Housee (brand new and very nice) at $30+/night and the Senesouk House (opposite Vatsene temple) at $25-35. The Sayo Guest House has large rooms with very high ceilings (one of the old french houses) and now has two properties, one on the water and one across from one of the Wats (temples). Rooms are from $30.


A must is the SPA GARDEN (they also own the Aroma Spa on main street) which offers more upscale massages than us generally found in LP (fyi: $3/hr Lao massages are not for me...I tried one!). For $15 the aromatherapy massage was excellent and I added another hour of back and shoulder for $5 more.
Best Time to Travel:
Dry Season beginning Oct.
Operators:
North by Northeast Tours
Finally...:
I would definitely go back and spend more time in Loas, heading to the North and visiting the hill tribes in that area as well as the eco resorts.

Reviewed by Kathy Dragon

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Sunday, January 15, 2006
Travel Time:
December 27,2005-January 10th, 2006

Peripheral Information:
This time of year is New Zealand's summer and they had an exceptionally dry spring...until we arrived!! Then came rain, wind and finally SNOW below 1300 meters which made going over the Waterfall Face of Rabbit Pass impossible. Once we arrived in Able Tasmen National Park the weather improved and we had 3 spectacular days.
Review:
Though our time was short (only 12 days) our team of 6 had an amazing adventure...trekking in one of the most remote regions of the South Island, day hiking around Wanaka and along the Greenstone Trek, and finally exploring Able Tasmen National Park by foot and kayak. We had RAIN, wind, snow, and sun to complete our adventure. vegan trail food, local Pinot Noirs, and an eclectic mix of cuisine off the trail. We stayed in tents, huts, boutique hotels; traveled by boat, helicopter, kayak, plane and van. Lots of card games played and books read!!
Best Time to Travel:
January-March. Try to avoid Christmas/New Years as most NZers take off 3-4 weeks at this time...hotels are booked, service can be poor due to the influx of travelers. Feb./March are preferable months due to crowds as well as more stable weather.
Finally...:
The Grand Traverse is the longest guided trek in New Zealand. Following the main divide of the South Island this route has exceptional views of the highest peaks, including Mnt. Aspiring

The track winds its way up the valley sidewall under the awesome East face of Mnt. Awful. This is really an Alpine Paradise. The climbing ends at Gillespie Pass and one of the great view points of the Southern Alps, from here the track meanders through the beautiful Siberia Valley and then plunges steeply to the Wilkin River. From here the trek gradually rises until reaching the Top Forks. This area is one of New Zealand’s treasures with outstanding native bush and hanging glaciers. The final challenge... torrents of water pouring of the surrounding cliffs as the trek offers an improbable scramble up the Waterfall Face leads to Rabbit Pass before before heading down the East Matukituki Valley.

This is a unique and challenging trek.

View the Gallery Photos!
Reviewed by Kathy Dragon

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