Trip Start May 14, 2010
9Trip End Jun 19, 2010
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Where I stayed
It's been a little while since our last blog and we have experienced a lot, so although I'm not known for it I will try my hardest to keep this relatively short. So here's what's been happening...
We flew from Hanoi to Luang Prabang about 6 days ago. The flight into Luang Prabang was fairly uneventful which was quite a relief as the storms in Hanoi had been pretty horrendous as we were leaving. I wasn't really put at ease onboard the plane (Laos Airlines) as the safety procedure before we took off consisted of showing me how to fasten my seatbelt and instructions on where to find the safety card. Upon looking at the "safety card" I found that the reason for the demonstration being so short was that there were no life-jackets (I know they're no good to me over land but I like to know they're there)..
The following day we found somewhere for Tom to get a shave (apparently being on holiday means you don't have to do it yourself). While I was waiting for him I ran into the people that we had met at the airport and arranged to get a tuk-tuk with them to Kuang-si Waterfall. They had been considering hiring bicycles and riding there but found that a shared tuk-tuk was the cheapest option. On our trip out there they were extremely glad that they had gone with the tuk-tuk as it was a 30km ride, the sun was scorching and the road was very windy and quite hilly. We did pass a few tourists on bicycles who looked like the were really enjoying it :P When we got to the waterfalls we also got to visit a bear rescue centre that was pretty amazing, an English lady who volunteered at the centre told us all about the bears and the horrific conditions they were kept in previously, all pretty sad
The following day we wandered around Luang Prabang taking it pretty easy and visited the Hmong night markets and night food market. The next day we were picked up and driven to the Elephant Village. At the village we were given some basic mahout training and were taught how to jump up onto the elephant (grabbing onto their ear and boosting yourself off their leg). We then rode around on the elephant (resting our knees on their ears) practising some of the commands we had been taught. After our training we went on an hour ride (in a seat this time) around the village and into the river. Tom and I were on one of the younger elephants (22) and she liked to over-take the other elephants. At one point the mahout got off and I got to ride the elephant up front. After lunch we each climbed on an elephant and lead them to the river. My elephant was a little bit older this time (61), Mae Bu Nam was blind and deaf and used her trunk as a cane to navigate around. When we got to the river she was quite hesitant to get in but was very placid and let me scrub her clean with a scrubbing brush. Tom's elephant was a little bit more lively and decided that she would give him a bath, she fully submerged herself on multiple occasions causing Tom and her mahout to get very wet
Whilst we have been in Luang Prabang exploring over the days that we have been here we have had a whole heap of experiences, we have walked to a neighbouring village (across a very safe looking bamboo bridge) where the local people are known for their silk weaving and paper-making. We have eaten plenty of good Lao food (especially the chicken at the night food market). We have visited the Phousy market (just outside of town) where the locals go shopping. We even met some kids and chatted with them and debated with them in good humour about the cost of their beaded bracelets and the amount of them that they thought that we needed. All in all it has been an excellent experience and I will definitely come back to Laos to explore it further.
Hope you're all well,
I always expected to like Laos more than Vietnam, and in the end Laos shat all over Vietnam
Then there are the experiences like the elephant bathing (which has gone down as my favourite moment of the trip so far), chilling at the amazing waterfalls, watching the sunset from the top of Phousy hill and getting up early to watch (all from a respectful distance) the Monks collecting their Alms at daybreak from the local women (which we watched from the front steps of our guesthouse). The food was also a step up from Vietnam, where it could be hit or miss. There was not a meal that wasn't brilliant, lots of spices, grilled meats, fresh herbs and sticky rice. Unfortunately, my stomach wasn't the most robust during our visit so I didn't get to partake in nearly as much of the excellent BeerLao (best beer in Asia) as I would have liked but it was good none the less.
As Gaynor says, I too would love to come back and spend more time travelling around Laos, but that will have to be another time as we stayed in Luang Prabang longer then expected and unfortunately have to move on. Oh well, there's always next time...