Mission

Our Mission …
Since its inception, White Elephant Adventures has embarked on a cooperative campaign with local authorities and village elders to eradicate unscrupulous, fly-by-night tour operators who show little regard toward environmental costs and accountability and whose chief motive is to turn a quick profit.

Our Mission is to provide therapeutic eco-adventure excursions to discerning individuals who wish to immerse themselves into the unique strata of Lao life and culture but are willing to respect the rare ecology, traditions, and culture of the region, obey the local laws and customs, and honor the strict principles of eco-tourism. Our desire is to place the rewards of these endeavors back into the hands of the cherished people who inhabit this magnificent land in order that all may bask in the delight of its grandeur.

GUIDELINES FOR THE RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

  •     WILDLIFE and natural habitats must not be needlessly disturbed.
  •     TOURISM should be a positive influence on local communities.
  •     TOURISM should be managed and sustainable.
  •     TOURISM should be culturally sensitive and contribute to greater cross-cultural understanding.
  •     THERE must be no commerce in wildlife, wildlife products or native plants.
  •     TOURISTS should leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of nature, conservation, and the environment.
  •     TOURISM should strengthen conservation efforts and enhance the natural integrity of places visited.
  •     AT THE END OF THE DAY both the tourist and the local people should be better off because of their interaction.

Books on Laos
Reviews on Books about Laos

A Short History of Laos: The Land in Between by Grant Evans
Silkworm Books, 2002
An ideal introduction to Laos for travelers, business people, diplomats and students. For those familiar with Lao history, Evans investigates key events in new ways and presents serious challenges to conventional views about Laos’ intriguing history.

Ant Egg Soup by Natacha du Pont de Bie
Hodder Headlin, 2004
Natacha Du Pont De Bie is no ordinary tourist. She is a food tourist. Ant Egg Soup chronicles Natacha’s adventures in Laos. It is a  portrayal of the people she meets, the places she visits and, of course, the food she tastes. Funny and refreshing, with delicious recipes and line drawings, Ant Egg Soup will give you an understanding and appreciation for Lao food like no other book can. You’ll even read a bit more about the Boat Landing’s family.

Another Quiet American by Brett Dakin
Asia Books, 2003
This a first-hand account of a poor struggling country. Above all it is a story of a young American coming to terms with his country’s role in the world at the beginning of a new century. This book has a good, if reckless, description of Vientiane expatriates, their lives and the Lao people they meet and socialize with.

One Foot in Laos by Dervla Murphy
A wonderful story about Dervla’s truly unique journey off the beaten track. Her observations are poignant, even if some of her trivial facts are a bit wrong (e.g.; The tails of Lao cats are genetically malformed and not amputated as she would have you believe). Definitely the most current travel book available about Laos. A good book to read when you are on the road.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
by Anne Fadiman
The Noonday Press, 1997
Anne Fadiman lovingly portrays a struggle between a Hmong refugee family and their American doctors over the care of their epileptic daughter, Lia. Both sides are trying to give the best care they know how but an immense gulf of culture and misunderstanding leads them to tragedy. Ms. Fadiman tells their story with grace comprehending those who do not comprehend each other. She will also help you to comprehend the world view of the Hmong in light of your own. This book was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Further Travels in Laos and in Yunnan: the Mekong Exploration Commission Report – Volume 2 (1866-1868) by Francis Garnier,
Reprinted by White Lotus Co. Ltd, 1996
This is second part of the Mekong Exploration Commission Report (1866-1868), whose purpose was to explore trade routes in Indochina. Volume 2 contains the report of the Commission’s travels in Upper Laos and Yunnan. The book has many illustrations of ethnic groups and daily life of the time.

Travels in Laos: The fate of the Sip Song Pana and Muong Sing (1894-1896) by E. Lefuvre,
Reprinted by White Lotus Co. Ltd, 1995
Written by a member of the famous Mission Pavie, describes the dramatic final episode in the tale of French conquests in Indochina. The rivalry of the British and the French in Asia reached its culmination when the superpowers met in Upper Laos.

Surveying and Exploring in Siam by James McCarthy
Reprinted by White Lotus Co. Ltd, 1995
This is a captivating record of one man’s mammoth effort to survey all of Siam and his personal observations. From 1881 to 1893, James McCarthy struggled in the jungles of Northern  Siam and present-day Laos against fever and the lack of food. Here is a rich world of information about the small states and peoples in Siam’s Lao Dependencies, and on the early movements and trading of the hill tribes. This narrative culminates with the French annexation of the Lao territories. This book has a large collection of drawings and early photographs from Laos.

The Edge of Tomorrow by Tom Dooley
The Night they Burned the Mountain by Tom Dooley
Promises to Keep: the life of Dr. Thomas A. Dooley  by Agnes W. Dooley
Before I Sleep: the last days of Dr. Tom Dooley edited by James Monahan
Published by Signet Books
Dr. Tom Dooley worked in Laos from 1957-1961. He established hospitals in Vang Vieng, Luang Namtha and Muang Sing. He describes with love and devotion his life of among the peoples of that day. Among his many adventures was a trip down the Namtha River to bring medicine to people along the river. One is struck by how little life in Luang Namtha has changed. The Edge of Tomorrow describes the establishment of the hospitals in Vang Vieng and Luang Namtha. The Night they Burned the Mountain tells of the founding of the hospital in Muang Sing, the trip down the Namtha River, and Dr. Dooley’s discovery that he has cancer. Dr. Dooley died of that cancer in 1961. Read an excerpt from his Great Float down the Namtha River.
The other two books, Promises to Keep and Before I Sleep are biographies of Tom Dooley’s life. Dr. Dooley is well-remembered by the people of Luang Namtha and Muang Sing as well as by the generation of Americans growing up in the 1950′s.

Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War complied, with an introduction and preface, by Fred Branfman,
Harper Colophon Books, 1972
This little known book is the work of one American Volunteer outraged by the secret bombing of Laos by his own country. The book is composed of the translated essays of the people who lived under the bombing from 1964-1969. This is the story of the first society to be totally destroyed by aircraft. The effects of this automated war has until now has remained unknown to the rest of the world.

The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia by Alfred W. McCoy,
Harper and Row, 1972
By far the most definitive book ever written about the history and organization of the opium trade in S.E. Asia. An excellent documentation that 30 years later is still pertinent. This is the book that the CIA tried to suppress. It tells you who really benefits from the opium trade.
Poppies, Pipes and People: Opium and Its Use in Laos by Joseph Westermeyer,
University of California Press, 1982
For three years between 1965 and 1975, Joseph Westermeyer practiced medicine and studied the function of opium in Laos, and spent an additional six months studying opium addiction in other parts of Asia. His work gives a clear picture of the very different ways opium and its use are regarded in a developing agricultural society.

Lao-English Phrase books
Lao – English/English – Lao Dictionary and Phrase book
James Higbie,
Hippocrene Books, Inc.
This romanized dictionary and phrase book is designed for travelers and people living in Laos. It features the essential phrases and vocabulary of modern spoken Lao.

Travel Guides
Lonely Planet Guide to Laos
Rough Guide to Laos
Footprint Laos Handbook

  1. A personal note about travel guides They are precisely what they claim they are “guides”. They cannot possibly tell you everything about a particular area.
  2. If you are wanting to connect with locals and eat local food you might not want to go the restaurants mentioned in the guide books as you are sure to meet all the other people reading the same book.
  3. The same goes for finding directions. How often I have seen tourists with their noses in their guides books trying to figure out where to go when there are people around who would gladly direct them! What a missed opportunity to connect with the locals!
  4. Don’t suspect the locals of cheating or lying when their information is different from the guide! The book can be out of date or just wrong.
  5. Keep your nose out of the book! Simple observation will tell you more than the book ever will. They are great when used in combination. Don’t let your guide-book be a barrier between you and the local people. Don’t use it as a crutch. Be adventurous and strike out on your own. And remember that travel guides cannot possibly tell you all there is to know, do and see in any particular area.

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