Elephant Ride and Bathing in Luang Prabang

Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
Trip End Mar 16, 2011

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Where I stayed
Phonthida Guest House

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Louangphabang,
Sunday, April 25, 2010

25 APRIL 2010 - We finally arrive in Luang Prabang at 5pm and we were very happy to get off this bus.  We thought we would never get here.  We get a tuk tuk into town and drop us off at the Phonthida Guest House.  Our guesthouse isn’t central, its about 10 minute walk into the main street.  We get into our room and chill out for a while and then we went out at night to check out the place. Luang Prabang is gorgeous, reminds us of Hoi An in Vietnam minus all the lanterns.  We walk around for a while and had some weird dinner at a restaurant.  Mary had some sort of shredded chicken with lots of basil and Troy had a chicken dish with caramel sauce.  The smallest dishes we have ever seen.  We walked around the night markets which is down one end of the main street, Sisavangvong Street).  The markets are nicely set out and have lots of beautifully made handicrafts.  We walked down one section and were selling food, some of it looked like well I don’t want to know, I noticed some sort of creatures on sticks and didn’t hang around to ask or to have a good look, it caught my eye and then I kept walking. Those weird looking creatures on sticks make my stomach turn because here anything that walks, crawls, flies is eaten.  Instead some chocolate cake and a donut looked much better for us as we walked home.  

26 APRIL 2010 - Last night Mary didn’t sleep at all felt like crap.  Last night our room was lit up like it was broad daylight.  The room had frosted internal windows without curtains high up on the wall and the lights weren’t turned off at night. All night the room looked like it was day time so Mary’s brain couldn’t switch off while she listened to a banging noise all night and then thunder and rain and very strong winds outside.  Troy was asleep of course and I just couldn’t sleep even though I was so tired.  In the morning I told the guy that I wanted to move room to another room that had no internal windows or if we can’t then we were going to check out.  After breakfast we came back to our guesthouse and we moved into another room and it was much better and darker at night.
We then went exploring this gorgeous town.  We went to the Wat Aham which looked like no-one maintains it.  We then explored Wat Wisunalat.  We walked down to the Nam Khan river where we saw where this river meets the Mekong river.  We walked up to a bamboo bridge, checked out the river and then walked back into town.  We then went to Wat Xieng Thong which had several stalls around it with monks, daybeds covered with different items for the monks, they had tables with alms bowls that you put money in to donate to the monks.  There were ladies making flower arrangements for religious floral offerings.  We walked around several temples in this complex (Wat Xieng Thong the main one).  All the temples were beautiful glittering with lots of gold and emerald and gorgeous detailed mosaics. 

We walked back into the main street where we stopped at a french bakery and had a delicious pastry each.  We walked across the road Wat Sop and admired the tall standing buddha. After admiring some shops and never buying any souvenirs we went to the Royal Palace and checked out to nearby temple.  We saw some buddha photos in an exhibition and then Troy went into the Royal Palace museum and Mary waited outside. Its so hot and not feeling too energetic but somewhat sort of keen we paid 20,000 kip and climbed up more than 300 steps to see the Phu Si temple on top of the hill.  The temple itself wasn’t much but we saw the beautiful views of the city.  It was worth the climb for the views.  We had a delicious mango lassi and then walked through the night markets which had beautiful handicrafts, each stall selling more or less the same, you know as the locals say “same, same but different”.  On our way home Troy has a cashew and chocolate pancake and then we stopped at the Hive Restaurant and Bar and had a small pizza and a drink.  Mary got her pineapple drink with a bamboo straw and I asked if I could keep the straw, its in my bag now!  
Its been a very hot day considering this morning was nice and cool (well much cooler than usual).  The days have been so hot here, drinking lots of water, fruit shakes and diet coke is what we spend a lot of kip on. Tomorrow will be a big day, we are looking forward to our elephant ride and we get a chance to bathe them.

27 APRIL 2010 - THE BEST DAY EVER!  Today we went on a One Day elephant tour.  We started at 8.30am and took about 1/2 hr drive to the Elephant Village in Luang Prabang.  Last night it rained a lot and this morning it was still raining.  We arrived at the elephant village and sat around to wait and see if the weather would improve.  It did a little bit and then we went on our 1 hr elephant ride through the jungle and river. Our mahout was friendly but spoke little English and we travelled through some beautiful scenery. We were both sitting in a basket and feeling so high up.  We stomped along slowly and our elephant would regularly stop later to realise our elephant was actually blind in one eye.  There were moments where it was a bit scary, we were so high up and going down steep slopes was a bit hairy but fun.  We had a safety bar in front of us and we were holding onto it for dear life or Mary feels she would of fallen out. It was so cool to be riding on these incredible creatures, their skin so tough, thick, rough and wrinkly.  It felt good to be hit in the feet by the elephant big floppy ears and its amazing just how incredibly strong these girls are (they were all females).  We loved it so much, travelling through mud and stomping through a river.
After our ride we got off and then we each bought a bunch of bananas to feed our beautiful elephant called Mae Son who was once so maltreated and is blind in one eye from falling one day because it was so badly beaten up and is now on the road to recovery. We then got to sit on the neck of the elephant and have a ride.  This was fun and scary as you didn’t have no basket just sat close up on its neck.  They are such beautiful animals, we love elephants and was hoping this was ok to do, some of the money we pay for our tour goes to their conservation program.  We had a delicious lunch of pork curry, stir fried vegetables which were so good, rice and a salad.  After lunch we went for a ride on the elephant down to the river.  Again we sat on its neck as we rode down to the river to wash them with our mahout behind us.  We were both somewhat frightened, so high up and we were holding on tight.  Mary actually told my mahout that I was frightened and I tried to tell myself to relax but it was scary but also so much fun at the same time.  Its not everyday you get on top of an elephant and hope to god you don’t fall off because its a long way down.  Anyway we made it down to the river, now this part was even more fun.  We rode through the river and we washed the elephants head with a scrubbing brush.  Mary loved the big black spikes of hair on top of their heads. This was an incredible experience for us, Mary was teary, I just loved it and had to hug him because it was so much fun.  We would scrub them with a scrubbing brush and throw water on them and watch the other elephant do duck dives with other mahout standing on his back.  This was an AMAZING experience and we are so glad we did it, a highlight of our Laos trip by miles.  We didn’t want to stop washing them but we ended up going to the other side of the river to be met our guide who took photos for us and then took us up the river on a boat.  The weather cleared up so it was now sunny.  We cruised up the Nam Khan river for about 1/2 hr enjoying the scenery and then came back to the Elephant Village.  We got wet from the bathing the elephants which was great so we got changed and then waited for our bus to take us back to our guesthouse.  We both think it was worth the money $US63 each and so glad we did the one day tour instead of the half day as our tour including bathing the gorgeous elephants.  In the afternoon the elephants are taken back to the jungle so they can rest.  Elephants are such wonderful creatures and more should be done to save them, they are such amazing animals on this planet. What a great day!    

We returned to our guesthouse where Mary did some domestic duties called hand washing clothes while Troy went for a walk to hike up a nearby mountain to That Chomsi Temple.  This temple is a famous sight in Luang Prabang because it has the golden nagas and a small cave temple and buddha statues. We went to the Lao Lao Garden restaurant where we had a traditional Lao BBQ, which is known as Sin Dad and it was delicious. While we were waiting for our dinner we were reading the brochure and it told us that a local salary is only about $1 per day and an average wage of $1,000 per year (assuming they are talking US dollar).  Also monks wonder why we have so much and want more - good point!  The brochure also told us that in Laos there is no such thing as entree, main and dessert.  Also there is no such thing that this is your meal and this is my meal as everyone shares.  So that now explains why since been on our Asia trip all our meals come out in staggered times and in no particular order and sometimes but rarely not at all.  If we order say one entree each and one main each we may get the main first but not both together mostly one at a time, or one entree and then main and then another entree so quite a number of times Troy and I have eaten our meals separately but we mostly share our meals. This sort of eating has taken sometime to sort of get used to.   

Our Lao BBQ was a hole is cut on the table top, then hot coals in a ceramic pot are placed in the hole and a round metal conical shaped dish with a brim is placed on top.  You wipe pork fat on the top of the metal barbeque, where holes are placed so the heat comes through.  You then place your pork, beef, fish, squid or chicken pre cut into thin small pieces on the metal bbq. We had chicken, pork, water buffalo.  Troy had the water buffalo, not me. Inside the brim you pour water and then place the vegetables to boil.  The juices of the cooked meats roll down into the water/vegetable mix and create a lovely soup.  We had vermicelli and meats placed along with a egg that you place a hole in the top and bottom of the egg and drizzle it around the brim with the water and vegetables.  Cook it and eat, it was delicious, the meats you dip in this delicious tamarind sauce.  A great way to end a great day.    

28TH APRIL 2010 - Today we went to Tamnak Lao Cooking School for a one day cooking class. We went for a tour to the Phousi Markets where we were shown some local produce.  We then returned to the restaurant and watched the guy prepare each dish and then we got to make them ourselves by following the recipe.  Our menu was Luang Prabang salad which was pretty good but we both don't like cucumber.  We then made Feu Khua - fried sticky rice noodles with chicken and vegetables, Chicken Larp - Chicken Salad, Oh Paedak - Lao Pork Casserole, Khua Maaak Kheua Gap Moo - Fried Eggplant with Pork which was both Troy and my favourite dish. We were also shown but didn't cook were Kheua Sen Lon - Vermicelli noodles with pork, vegetables and woodear fungus, Luang Prabang Jeowbong - Luang Prabang Chilli Paste, Geng Phet - Chilli casserole (red curry paste with coconut milk) and sticky rice.  We made 5 dishes all up, 3 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon and it was lots of food. We were so full.  We returned to our guesthouse and chilled out for a while.  It was a surprise to see that our wifi was finally working so it was good to speak to Troy's Ma and Pa and brother via skype today.  No dinner tonight, we caught up on this blog.  

29TH APRIL 2010 - Mary stayed in hotel room all day not feeling great, bad cough, lack of sleep and feeling rather tired.  The sore throat and runny nose have nearly gone.  I did a bit of washing, surfed the internet and only had a bit of oily fried rice and potato for dinner.  Exciting day, hopefully feel better tomorrow.  
30TH APRIL 2010 - This morning we got up about 5.30am to make our way into the main street near the night markets.  We watch the monks walk through the streets on their daily ritual of Alms giving. It was great to quietly watch the monks walk around with their baskets collecting offerings such as sticky rice from the locals. We knew that as tourists we were to respect the monks and keep our distance and be silent when watching them walk thru the streets, its a very religious ritual and they have to be respected.  

About 6.30am we didn't see any more monks so we then went to have breakfast at Joma Bakery.  Troy had eggs and bacon and I had muesli, yoghurt and fruit, all nice.  After breakfast we walked around town for a while, checked out a nearby temple and browsed through some day markets.  We booked our tour to the Kuang Si Waterfall.  We headed back home and relaxed for a few hours and then at 1.30pm we got picked up at our guesthouse to go to the waterfall and two villages.  The driver wasn't very friendly and didn't speak English so we just basically were shown the van an hopped in.  We drove around for more than 1/2 hr picking up other tourists and stopped several times just because he had to I guess.  We thought we will never get to the waterfall.  Finally we headed our way to the waterfall.  Again our guide wasn't a guide just a driver really, dropped us off and didn't say anything only to be back at 4.30pm.  We were supposed to speak 3 hrs but only spent 1.5 hrs at the waterfall.  We didn't know where to go and that we had to pay an entrance fee due to lack of advise.  We made our way and saw some black bears in an enclosure and then made our way to the waterfall.  It was a beautiful swim, cold but so refreshing, nice to swim around and at times I had the waterfall all to myself. Nice! We left the waterfall and was driven to one village only (think its Hmong village) and stayed for only 10 minutes.  The kids in the village were all trying to sell us something and all could speak English when they were trying to convince us to buy.  Also the tiny kids all knew how to ask for money for a photo. We were then dropped off at the night markets and that was it.  It was nice to go to the waterfall but it was the worse guide/driver we have ever come across.  

We walked around the markets for a while and then had dinner, we both felt like burgers so that was what we ate. Yum.  The manager came up to us and asked us if we speak English.  She sat down with us and wanted to know what the word "fancied" meant.  We asked her depends how its put, so she took off and came back.  She wrote the sentence down and then explained to us that she met a much younger French guy.  Well we explained it to her that the guy was interested in her and sounds like he wanted to be more than just friends.  It was funny listening to her carry on, she was an older lady, one minute she would say she wasn't interested and she would palm him off to her friend and next minute she says that she would like a younger guy.  It was funny to listen her carry on about this guy, she didn't know what to say and asking us for advise.  Well we left it to her and then we went home.  

1ST MAY 2010 - We get our bags packed for our tuk tuk ride from our guesthouse to the airport which we understood it to be 15,000 kip but then told no no its 50,000 so I don't know if it was a misunderstanding or just an instance price hike.  Oh well we paid anyway we had to get to the airport and luckily Troy exchanged a bit more money or we wouldn't of had enough. Troy pays the bill and we say goodbye.  This guesthouse kept turning the airconditioning off because the owner told me she her electricity bill was too high. Once they came in and turned it off when we were still in our room. The housekeeping wasn't great, very slack but it was ok, wouldn't pick this place again if we came back.  
Our last day here today in Luang Prabang, our longest stay so far.  We now say goodbye to Laos.  We had a nice time in Laos but must say we haven't found the people in this country very warm and friendly.  Vientiane was the most unfriendliest place but we found the people in Vieng Vieng not too bad and Luang Prabang the friendliest. Its definitely more expensive here than Vietnam and Cambodia.  The highlight of our trip here was the elephant trip.  It was fantastic.  

Laos done.   Another tick for our list.  Thailand next. 


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