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Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, Laos

In our wisdom we paid additional money for a mini van from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. The picture in the tour office was of a very new looking people carrier which we were assured had air conditioning. What we actually got was a pink and white van with no air conditioning! The journey wound up and down through mountains with spectacular scenery.

Luang Prabang is another Unesco site, it has lots of beautiful old historical buildings and is surrounded on 3 sides by mountains, bisected by the Nam Song and Mekong rivers. On our first night we had a great meal at a restaurant that specialised in traditional Lao Barbeque food. As a bonus, we got a free drink! Our table was transformed into a barbeque with the arrival of a burning bucket of coal and we proceeded to cook (both ourselves as it was pretty hot –and the meat!). We all really enjoyed it and tried buffalo for the first time, which was tasty!

The following day we trawled around various tour operators, looking at elephant related activities. We were determined that whatever we booked had to be conservation based rather than just a tourist attraction offering elephant rides. After the trawl around and a heated debate over lunch we booked ourselves on a one day Mahout course for the following day.
We awoke the following day to torrential rain but were picked up from the hotel and taken to Elephant Village (http://www.elephantvillage-laos.com/). It was quite a sight when we got there to see elephants up close and personal. We first went on an elephant ride through the jungle for an hour, unfortunately, the rain had not subsided but it didn’t detract from the experience.

Once we got back, our group were taught a few basic commands and then we were boosted up onto the elephants neck to have a ride. This was a totally different experience to riding in a chair (obviously). I know it is stating the obvious but you are incredibly high up and as the elephant walks you are swayed from side to side by its hips, you almost felt in a permanent state of falling off! Elephants are actually very bristly, its like a stiff brush rubbing against your knees! Its also a slight worry that you are on the elephant on your own after just a few basic instructions!

Once the mahouts were happy with our abilities, we rode the elephants down to the river to give them a bath. It felt very strange to ride the elephant into a river until they were completely submerged. We gave them a good wash down and there was lots of splashing around. I cannot begin to describe what a fantastic experience this was, it was pure magic, I think this photo maybe sums it up?

By now the weather had really changed and it was hot and sunny. After lunch we went on a boat ride up the river to Tat Kuang Si. This is a series of waterfalls and pools which cascade through the trees. It was very picturesque and really nice to jump in the clear water after bathing the elephants in the muddy river.

Our next stop was Chang Mai, we weren’t looking forward to this journey as we were told it would take 16 hours just to get to the border. More about this epic journey in the next entry....

permalink written by  Tim and Em on August 11, 2010 from Luang Prabang, Laos
from the travel blog: Round half the world!
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Like the fact that Polly is colour co-ordinated with the pink van - she must have been wearing pink when you booked the van!

Elephants look as though they were an experience to be remembered. Whose went the quickest or was it a case of who had the largset.

permalink written by  David Barrett on August 20, 2010

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