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Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

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Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

On the basis of our experience, probably best to avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha - but are there better options?

There are lots of agencies in Luang Namtha offering trekking / kayaking. We went round a few, before choosing Khmmu Tribe Discovery (not on Trip Advisor at present) for a 3 day trekking/ 1 day hike. Just wanted to document our experiences, and what we found out, to see how it compared to the experiences of others with this and other agencies - hopefully useful for others choosing in the future.

Khmmu Tribe Discovery has two offices on the main road in Luang Namtha. We talked to, and subsequently booked, with Sai - who as far as we could work out was the boss. Sai seemed really chatty and amiable. We were very clear about what we wanted / were getting, and it was agreed as follows:

- 7-8 hours of activity per day - we emphasised this was key for our choice and we wanted challenging trekking (and were fit enough to handle it);

- by trekking for 3 days we wanted to get deeper into the jungle than was possible on a one or two day trek;

- two guides, one local and one from the office - we were told this was part of the ecotourism approach and would happen throughout;

- we wanted at least 1 night in a remote jungle camp;

- our group size was two - we had to pay a higher price as no one signed up for our tour.

We were pretty happy at the time of booking - our only concern being that when we came back to pay the night before leaving at 9pm (as directed to), that Sai seemed quite spaced out as if on drugs.

Our tour experiences were as follows:

- The guide, Som Pon, was friendly and spoke basic English;

- We trekked for only 4 hours per day (and at a slow pace). Our 3 day trek consisted of the companies standard 2 day trek, then their standard 1 day trek on the end. So, trekking for 3 days didn't get us any further into the jungle. From what we could understand from our guide, Khmmu Tribe Discovery never really change their route (i.e. there was no option that would be 7 hours per day);

- We only had a second guide (the local guide which is meant to be included to return more money to the community) for 1/2 a day;

- The "jungle camp" was actually sleeping in a restaurant right by the road (but also by the river) - when we arrived there were still local visitors sitting drinking;

- One of us got food poisoning on the last evening, so was unfit to kayak;

- On the morning of kayaking, the guide told us another group was joining us. In the event 6 more customers turned up, after we had hung around waiting for a couple of hours (at the "jungle camp". There were only spaces for 8 people in the 4 kayaks (in the event fine as only one of us was kayaking - so ended up being 7+guide - but this was not known when it was arranged). There were only 6 buoyancy aids (lifejackets), of which 3 were in very poor condition. There were only 7 helmets. The guide had no safety equipment. The river was quite high due to recent rains, meaning there were trees etc in the current (risk of entanglement). As an experienced whitewater kayaker (over 15 years), my assessment would be that with these low safety standards that there is a significant risk a serious accident will occur at some point.

On return to Luang Namtha we went to speak to the office about our concerns with the tour. Sai, the boss/ owner, deliberately avoided speaking to us (hiding out the back...), and the staff were pretty dismissive of our concerns. In the end, we were given a token amount of money back, but unfortunately it didn't seem that Khmmu Tribe Discovery was likely to try to learn and improve their service to clients.

After Luang Namtha we went to Nong Khiaw and did a kayaking trip with Green Discovery. It was more expensive, but everything was as described - most notably the company were happy to do the trip kayaking to Luang Prabang in 2 days rather than 3 to meet our desire for plenty of exercise per day (despite never having tried this before).

It's not unusual for companies to "oversell" their experiences - but Khmmu Tribe Discovery seemed worse than most (especially in terms of river safety) and with no real desire to learn/ improve. It would be interesting to hear how this compares with experiences of others in Luang Namtha.

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1. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

Sorry for this double post - accidental result of slow internet here!

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2. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

Sorry to hear you had a bad experience but thanks for the warning. Sadly it is not all that uncommon in Lao. We used a Green Dragon a few years ago and found them to be pretty good. Like you we had a bad experience with another operator. Unfortunately there is no real way of determining who is good or bad apart from by recommendation.

Cologne, Germany
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for Cologne, Laos
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3. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

I am sorry to hear, as the LN area is a great place to visit.

I used Forrest Retreat in LN, and the service was fantastic.

I would usually recommend to check the forum, as you might read some warnings as well, or get recommendations from the regular posters

Paris, France
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4. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

Hi there! We booked Green Discovery in Luang Namtha and it was awesome! but we met people who had booked with Khmu Tribe Discovery... it was a nightmare for them.

It seems that Sai is like the local Khmu mafia and owns most of the eco-shops in the main street so everybody working for him is selling the same treks, which implies lots of people travelling together doing the same tours. Their staff have absolutely no training and no insurances are included... Risky!

We talked with Sai about a 'cultural tour' to learn more about the local whiskey that is sold at the night market and yes, he was high on something. Don't discuss with him at night.

Montreal, Canada
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5. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

Sad to hear that... An thanks I didnt see your post before booking with them.

We had a wonderful experience. We have booked 2days-1night trip (1 day trekking and 1 kayaking). The local guide was awesome. Could speak English and French. Of course, not as we do, but still, we understood him clearly. The trek was great. Quite hot because of the season, but good experience. The kayaking was amazing. No problem with lifejackets or helmets... Everyone had both. The guide insisted on everyone to wear it!

The night at the village was a beautiful time. We slept in the chief's house. They were very kind and we ate so much! At the moment, noone is sick!! ;)

Im sad that people had bad experiences. I think that if you have not too high expectations, you can spend a wonderful time. It cant be like home! ;)

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6. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

completely the opposite experience for me.

This was one of the highlights of our trip in Laos , our guides were informative friendly and funny , we made a jungle camp from Banana fronds and slept next to a beautiful rainforest creek. All out meals were cooked in vessels made from giant bamboo , including shot glasses for Lao Lao whiskey. We were stunned bye the work put in bye our guides ,(Im a 4wd tour guide in Australia). The traditional village and "house" we stayed in on the first night was great as well, and the friendliness of the villages saw us chatting and laughing well into the evening enjoying the chance to experience local village life. After several hours i asked if i could get my camera out and take photos and the locals were delighted to oblige and i think our respect and interest in these people was returned in bucket loads.The treking was long difficult and exhausting . We also negotiated with SAI , however we wanted to travel as a couple without the perfume wearing noisy crowds. We were adamant that we wanted a jungle camp and thats what we got . Our local village guides were nothing short of amazing.

Edited: 27 August 2014, 10:36
Acireale, Italy
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7. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

A good guide can make your trip. That's sure and I can tell it because I am a hiking guide and know so well this job.

But what you expect from whatever you buy: that's another question.

If you buy pineapples you don't expect to open your bag and find potatoes....

Acireale, Italy
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8. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

A lot of people have been DISAPPOINTED about their trips with KHMMU TRIBE EXPERIENCE, walking for hours in RUBBER PLANTATIONS and sleeping close to the road....

This people is dishonest and they just want to make money!!!!

(Just for you to know, they currently have FOUR AGENCIES along the main road of Luang Namtha!)

Actually I found this topic because I am trying to insert KHMMU TRIBE EXPERIENCE on TripAdvisor and write a BAD REVIEW about them.

Fortunately I didn't trek with them, but with FOREST RETREAT which I really recommend, and had a great exploration into the jungle.

But in my case what happened with KHMMU TRIBE EXPERIENCE is that ONE OF THEIR AGENCY STOLE MY MONEY.

I went there just to buy a bus ticket to Pak-Mong and a guy, "Yuan", very friendly and helpfully, took 110.000 kips and gave me a piece of paper, with his signature and mine (!!!!) which was completely A FAKE TICKET!

Day after I woke up at 6:30 to go to the bus station and once on the bus they didn't allow me to leave. I payed a tuk-tuk (50.000k) to the center to go and have my money back and when the guy saw me he pretended to don't understand what had happened and to go take the money for me, but in few minutes he disappeared.

I was furious, but everybody else in the other agencies pretended to don't have any connection with him.

Ah! I also discovered that on Sundays Laos Police doesn't work. o_O

Please everybody else who had a bad experience with this people: add a review on Trip Advisor under KHMMU TRIBE EXPERIENCE (just wait a few days...I am trying to insert this place...) and help other travellers don't be tricked!

Falkenberg, Sweden
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9. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

Its probably NOT an ECO TOURISM agency !!

I joined 2 day trekk with others at the agency "Khmmu Tribe Discovery" in Luang Namtha.

They used a freelance guide who spoke little english, walked short cuts and didnt visit the promised villages. Guide didnt support any interaction or experiences in the villages.

We were back at office after 1 and half day, guy we booked with was not in office, staff always said come back later...guy we booked with came and said he had not his phone now so not number to guide to ask what happened, come later...we told staff to call his boss so boss could phone the guide...staff called the boss and handed over phone to us but hanged up after a while...staff later said boss will not give any money back!!!

Our street conversation where heard by other agencys staffs who told dont say all Luang Namtha is bad, we other agencys are not like them ! They have 4 offices and just want to get the money, tourists who are less experienced low demands are happy with them.

This agency is SCAM , they use low quality guides and dont care if customers get the experience agreed and written in their leaflets.

They dont say excuse, just smile and keep the profit, we were not registred to visit the NP...

We could see local guide get some 5.000 K, and homestay probably 50.000 because guide asked us for small notes when he should pay them, we paid almost 1.5 million...

Guide did not talk to any in those villages, neither gave them money and agency dont know where we were so they can not support the villages... thats NOT ECO TOURISM its a SCAM agency and must stopped, we are informing tourist police and tourism auth. so they all can improve quality

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10. Re: Avoid Khmmu Tribe Discovery in Luang Namtha?

Avoid at all cost!

This "agency" or "tour operator" is a big SCAM.

First of all when I signed up it said that the tour already had 4 participants. When I showed up for departure none of those that were already "signed up" weren't there implying that they only say the tour is booked to get more people. I even heard afterwards that the owner was violent against a traveller who threaten to post a bad review because of a horrible tour she took with that company.

I get the feeling that they are going to change their name but currently they have about 4 shops along the main road.

I am definitely sure that we never entered the NPA, afterwards I realized that that was completely true because they do not have to pay entrance fees if you never enter the park. The "homestay" was with local people at a small village connected by roads and had electricity, shops and TV, not as authentic as you might expect, and the villagers were NOT happy to see you, implying that they do NOT get their share. Also my GPS showed me that we never entered the park, just hovered close to the road. Guides are underpaid and the owner apparently lives in a villa, soaking up all the profits.

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