|The beautiful scenery around the elephant village|
|Jeff riding the elephant|
The day started with an early morning pick up from our hotel. Rolled out of bed around 7:30 so we could enjoy breakfast on the river (super gorgeous). Our guide spoke English pretty well and we chatted a lot about his life and our lives. Lao is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP of $1200 per person. It's one of the last remaining communist countries. Walking around and seeing hammer and sickle flags was pretty bizarre.
When we arrived at the Elephant Village, we started with just hanging out with the elephants and watching them eat some sugar cane (I'll get around to a video one day). Then we spent a little time learning some basic commands for the elephants. The commands were, naturally, in Lao and kind of hard to remember. After we went over the directions a few times, Jeff and I took turns riding one. Getting up is about as hard as you'd expect. You step with one foot on the elephant's bent leg and kind of haul yourself up with a lot of help from the guide and mahout. Once you get up on the elephant, the directions kind of disappear and you just laugh and smile. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life!
|My turn was through town!|
After we both got a chance to ride bareback, the mahout got on the elephant and we sat in a saddle of sorts. It was REALLY high up. The elephants move super slow and the day was so sunny. I thought we might melt cause it was SO HOT. We crossed a river on top of the elephants and walked around for about an hour. At two different points, the mahout got off the elephant and let one of us ride bareback while he took pictures. Between the two of us, he snapped over 100 shots. IT WAS SO AWESOME.
When we got back to the Elephant Village, we could buy a huge bunch of bananas to feed the elephant as a "thank you." He'd been so good with not trampling us, it was the least we could do. Feeding the elephant was fun...their snouts actually kind of tickle as they grab the food to put into their mouths. It was also a little scary because you realize how incredibly strong they are!
|Not sure if the baby elephant or Jeff has a bigger smile|
After this, we took a boat to see a baby elephant. I swear it's the happiest elephant I've ever seen! It smiles in the pictures! We bought bananas again and that baby was super smart. She kept trying to steal the basket right out of our hands! We took turns feeding her and then said goodbye and headed to the waterfalls.
Unfortunately since we're there in dry season, this waterfall was almost totally dried up so we couldn't really swim in it (on the flip side, dry season=very few mosquitoes). It was really cool to walk through the whole falls though. We climbed on the rocks and stuck our feet in some of the little pools of water, It was SUPER refreshing after the hot elephant rides.
|I love hiking in weird places!|
After this, we had lunch. It was pretty delicious and included REALLY cold water. I think Jeff and I were both tempted to douse ourselves in it, but stopped ourselves cause bottled water is expensive in Lao (well for Lao people). After we were done, the tour guide asked if we wanted to try some of their spicy papaya salad. Jeff was totally down since he loves spicy things. I let him go first cause he knows how much spice I can take. It was too hot for me, but he loved it. We're pretty sure the guide was attempting to play a joke on the foreigners with the spicy food, but Jeff's been preparing his whole life for this!
After lunch was the adventure we'd all been waiting for...bathing elephants! We actually rode the elephants into the river with a mahout and played with them in the water. My elephant couldn't wait for the five minute walk down the river bank so he stopped at their eating place and sprayed a bunch of water all over my mahout and I. Jeff's elephant loved diving. Often I'd turn and look and his elephant would be almost totally submerged. On the other hand, mine barely even sat down, but LOVED spraying me in the face. I couldn't stop laughing because it was just so much fun.
The visit to Elephant Village ended with an hour in the pool with a swim up bar. It was such a perfect ending to a hot, sweaty, and exhausting day. We just floated around and looked out into the Lao mountains. It was super duper perfectly amazing.
|Temple #1 of the trip!|
was in the Mekong River. Then Jeff grabbed a quick nap and we headed out for dinner. We took the long way to the river and stumbled across an old temple where Jeff got his first take off your shoes and walk around buildings experience. We walked around it for a little bit and then kept on walking towards dinner.
|Sunset from our restaurant|
|The whole city looks like this...absolutely breathtaking.|
|Our boatman and the skyline|
|On the edge of a waterfall!|
|Jeff's elephant loved going under water!|
|This is WAY HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS|
|Elephant showers haha|