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Two days hanging with the elephants

By 6 years ago
Categories Luang Prabang

By Dani Howison
8:30am: The day started with a tour os Luang Prabang guesthouses, picking up tourists as we went.  We soon crossed the Nam Khan River to the outskirts of Luang Prabangwhich turned into dusty, bumpy roads. 
We passed through small towns that seemed solely populated by chickens and small children until we arrived at the Whisky Village.  After sampling the whisky containing everything from snakes to centipedes and claiming to cure all ailments, we walked through dirt streets meeting local people and watching women weave beautiful scarves on wooden looms, the clickety-clack following us down the road. 
After seeing the sights, we piled back into the van with other tourists from Israel, Holland and Spain, and experienced the jolting ride up and down hills until we reached the Pak Ou Caves.  Crossing the river in traditional long boats, we were presented with the sight of steps carved into the sheer cliff face.  Climbing the stairs to the dizzying heights was an achievement that was rewarded with the hushed darkness of the caves and the spectacular views of the countryside. 

On leaving the caves we drove to the elephant camp for an afternoon of mahout training.  After taking a sedate ride safely strapped into a chair on the elephant’s back, we were then treated to ‘real’ elephant riding.  

Having been given a hastily written list of commands and a brief Lao lesson, we hoisted ourselves onto the elephants and rode on their necks around the camp.  
 After 10 minutes of confidence building tameness with the supervision of mahouts, we rode the elephants down the steep riverbank into the water where we bathed and swam with them.  After a lot of splashing and being drenched by elephant spray, we rode the elephants into the jungle where they were to spend the night.  We then made our way back to the camp for a well-deserved shower and hiked to the Whisky Village for a Beer Lao and a chat with the locals.
Walking back in the dark to the elephant camp we were serenaded by our guide until we reached camp and sat down to a meal of soup, sticky rice and stir-fried water buffalo with ginger.  Making the most of the light provided by the generator, we talked until lights out at 10pm, and rolled into bed, thoroughly warned out by the day!
Next day:  Waking up for our 7am start, we trekked into the jungle to collect the elephants, again taking them into the river for their bath.  After breakfast we had free time until lunch.  Intending to read my book in the sun, I had an impromptu English lesson with our guide and driver. 

After lunch we climbed into the van for another grimey, thrilling ride back to Luang Prabang.  After 2 days of too much fun, I’ve got about 200 photos courtesy of our snap-happy guide…and of course a bunch of great memories!   
For more info about ethical elephant tourism click here and if you’re also interested in elephant rescue, see GVI’s Thailand project.