August 3, 2016 11:59PM (Perth local time)
This was the day I truly experienced the lifestyle as a true tourist in Laos. I woke up early in the morning at around 7AM and got ready for free breakfast. This time, I ate a bowl of fruits but it really was not enough but I had to move on.
After eating and quickly packing up, I briefly talked to an American African who was there for two weeks or so just relaxing in the city. My driver who was supposed to pick me up at 8AM was late for 15 mins or so, which I kind of freaked out. Eventually, he showed up with other tourists on a mini bus.
The ride was not long, for an hour or even 30 minutes or so. We first went to the elephant camp where we were allowed to ride the camp for an hour. It was quite good experience but I must say it was not healthy for the elephants. I probably won’t do it again. I do know that people would not ride or do anything with the elephants because of the mistreatments they receive. I still wanted to try it because it is one of the experiences that I would regret not trying while I live only one life.
There was an elephant riding stall where we had to climb the stairs and got on to ride the elephants like riding a horse by going on a stepping box for a beginner. Each elephant had a ‘driver’ and each had one or two passengers sitting on a chair that was set on the elephant using tight ropes. I shared with another Chinese girl who lived in France, UK and US for at least 20 years of her life (similar to me, but more). She is a TV host in China but living in the UK at the moment working for Chinese TV channel. We talked a bit and discovered we had similar lifestyle, but that’s about it.
Elephants walked surprisingly slow and the local Lao were running along and calling to the elephants and whipping them with something that looked like long bamboo or some kind of soft plant ‘stick’. I now understand why people argue about mistreatment, which I have recently heard about an elephant dying in Cambodia due to overworking in the middle of carrying a tourist on its back at the time I am writing this (the second time I visited Cambodia, during early May 2016, Golden Week in Japan).
We walked through the forest and then to the open area along Mekong River while another group of tourists were playing (?) or hanging out with elephants in the brown river. Some people who told me about their concerns on riding elephants however said that they did not mind getting along with elephants that were treated properly, such as touching or playing with elephants. These elephants are indeed baby or young elephants and they were quite small for an adult Asian elephant.
Somewhere along the elephant walk, I decided to sit on the elephant. Its skin was very rough with hard hair and it was actually not that unpleasant. I suppose it depends on the person as the Chinese girl did not like it the first time she rode an elephant in Thailand or somewhere where elephant riding was well known for tourists.
After the loop of taking an elephant tour, we waited a bit and took a boat ride somewhere along Mekong River and visited a small village for souvenir shopping. There were bunch of bottles filled with snakes and alcohol. I was more into taking photo rather trying the exotic drink. We got to taste samples of alcohol that had nothing to do with snakes but they tasted awful, and most people had that faces. A couple of people bought the alcohol, but I truly did not know why they bought it…for gifts or for them, I do not know.
The place was very small. Our rather small group, about 20 people or so, followed along. The Chinese girl found a very good quality red and blue fusion scarf and I joined her and bought two scarfs for the price of one scarf. Indeed, it was the right country to bargain, and we bargained a lot.
After the village tour and riding back to the elephant waiting area, I waited behind for my next tour, while the rest of the group who rode the elephants with me continued their journey to Kuang Si Waterfall which I already had gone the previous day. I regretted that I went to the Waterfall and wished I joined this tour. I eventually met up with the same Chinese family from the previous day, whom I shared the Tuktuk to the Waterfall with. This time, we met up with our driver and we went to the Pak Ou Caves via fast boat that could hold about 20-30 people. Of course, new people joined. The Chinese girl whom I shared the elephant with also joined us a little later on.
The boat ride was refreshing and it felt very nice from the breeze and away from the steaming heat. The scenery was very beautiful with the famous Mekong River that connected multiple countries such as Myanmar and Thailand that borders Laos. The boat was about an hour (I think) and we reached the rather famous cave.
The cave was carved in white limestone and it was a cliff hanging overhead. We climbed stairs and eventually entered a massive gate into the darkness. We had to have lights (most used phone lights) to move in the cave. There were two pathways: one that reached to a Buddhist praying area and the other led to a large collection of Buddhist artifacts. Overall, it was not a big area but it was indeed very beautiful that I took many pictures as usual.
After this, we went back to the elephant area while the rest went back to the city (or waterfall, depending on the tour schedule for each individual). I waited behind for another boat that took me to the city. It was sunset by then and as usual, sunset along the river while riding the boat was an impressive sight.
I walked back to my hostel alone after the ride and met up with Dave who slept in and did nothing for the day. After some talk and rest, Dave and I went to the top of the nearby top of the mountain called Wat Chom Si (yes it is a Wat, a temple, but not so much for this one) to watch sunset. The climb was about 10 minutes. It was really nothing since it was not that hot anymore. By the time we reached the end, there were already many people atop the hill and waited for the sunset. We walked about and leisurely waited for the sunset and waited for opening for the sunset. There was the overall view of the city at one side while the other was nature with a river (Mekong River probably). We took some shots here and there and left the area after everyone were gone to avoid the traffic. While going down, we talked to some local Lao and they had an interest in Dave and thought we were married, which was quite common there since everyone married early, which seemed to be a norm in Southeast Asia.
Since this hill was actually right next to the market, we decided to walk along and explore while going towards the direction of our hostel. Coincidentally, we met up with Eve who immediately recognized my deep voice and we hanged out again. As before, she was really into shopping and I again followed her and bought some clothing.
After that, we went back to our hostel and had an early sleep since Dave and I had to leave for the airport the next morning for Cambodia.
It was definitely not enough time to stay in Laos but sufficient for me since I had limited time to travel Southeast Asia as I really have no idea when I would come back to the area next time, as my goal is to visit every country in the world after all. I would definitely love to come back to Laos one day and make a trip outside of Luang Prabang to more remote areas that had to be reached by local buses.