During our night market browsing, we also made a reservation to spend Wednesday morning at an elephant camp. I was SO excited! We were picked up, driven to the camp, and loaded onto "our" elephant.
We sat on a bench-style seat on it's back, much like the Lao people did back in the day. After giving her (the elephant) time to eat, we were on our way on a 1.5 hour ride through the jungle and across a river. The local "mahout" sat on the elephant's neck as we bounced along, but when we got to a clearing, he gestured to us, indicating that we could ride directly on the elephant. Adam knew how much I wanted to do this and generously let me go...and it was pretty awesome.
At first, I was nervous going up and down hills, but I adjusted to the rhythm and figured out what to do with my legs. When I tightened my knees against her neck while going uphill, she tightened her [very strong] ears against my legs; this turned out to be a muscle workout! The hair on her back and head felt very course and bristle-y, like a toothbrush, and her skin was incredibly dry, paper-like, and tough.
(Adam's edits: "I have fallen off every animal I have attempted to ride, and while I could manage tumbling from a horse or camel without injury, I think a fall from an elephant into the jungle was pushing my luck. And I would probably be allergic anyway").
It was an overall wonderful experience, and we're both very happy that we went. Here are my favorite pictures of the elephants:
|For some reason, I love this picture. It looks like the elephant is wearing shoes that are too big or over-worn on the right side!|
We arrived back to Luang Prabang hungry for Lao noodle soup. (Food side note: it's absolutely DELICIOUS and similar to Thai or Vietnamese food. Tons of fresh herbs, sticky rice (you eat it with your hands), barbecued fish, and BeerLao. The noodle soup has beef in a broth (sometimes with chili peanut sauce) and then you get a plate with lettuce, fresh mint and basil, and limes to add as you wish. Yum! The typical Lao dish, laap, is meat (we ate beef) mixed with a ton of fresh mint and other spices and eaten with sticky rice. I'm hungry just thinking about it!)
Anywho, after a quick nap and change of clothes, we walked up Phou Si hill in the center of town for a spectacular view of the city.
We then sat and people-watched (tourist-watched) for a while. There were tons of backpackers and retirees, which made for an interesting mix. Many were European (German, British, French), while most of the backpackers were Australian, as it is now their summer.
After wandering along the streets for a while, we decided to have a BeerLao overlooking the Mekong River during sunset. Incredible.
Our second day ended just like the 1st: browsing through the night market and bringing spring rolls back to the balcony for dinner. While we considered sitting with the other tourists at long tables along the food street, neither of us felt like having forced conversations about who has traveled further/whose experiences are more extreme/the craziest things we've done in Asia (these are the topics overheard while browsing). When you actually live here, it's not quite as glamorous ;) We were also very happy to just relax and enjoy each other's company without the outside forces of work and life getting in the way. We knew we needed a vacation, and our first 2 days in Laos were definitely working their magic!