How an Undeveloped Country Changed my Life (Part two)

If you’re reading this it means that you enjoyed reading about the first part of my trip to Asia and are now looking forward to reading part two of three.

I ended my last post by saying that I had just had the best day of my life. The next day was very much the opposite. I wouldn’t say it was the worst day of my life, but it certainly wasn’t a favourite day.

The following day was our first day of doing work at the Elephant Conservation Center. It was a very humid day and by far the hottest day of our trip so far with a temperature of 37 degrees celsius (didn’t help that I was also slightly hungover thanks to an intense game of Spoons the night before). We were in charge of finishing building the stairs for the elephants that were built in the mountains. We were building stairs for the elephants because the elephants climb the mountains daily. Although the elephants are very good at climbing the mountains, rain season was approaching, which meant there could be days after days of rain, which would make the climb up the mountains very difficult.

Building steps for the elephants
Building steps for the elephants

The purpose of the stairs was to make the mountains safer for not only the elephants but also their Mahoots. After a very long day in the heat we managed to be the group that was able to finish the stairs.

The next day we had spent the morning planting Bana grass in a newly made garden that the previous group began to build. Bana grass is a “healthier” alternative for elephants, rather than always feeding them sugarcane and bananas.

That afternoon was the moment I had been waiting for, for what seemed like forever. I was finally going to see the elephants.

The afternoon started by taking a short boat ride to the elephant nursery. While at the nurse we visited Noi the youngest elephant at ECC, she had just turned 5 months.

Baby Noi and her mom
Baby Noi and her mom

*Elephants aren’t given actual names until they’re about 4 years old. The reason for this is there is a chance that the elephant can die, prior to becoming 4 years old, due to whatever reason. They name them Noi, because as soon as the elephant has a name their mother will become more attatched.

Phu Surya was also at the nursery. Phi Surya was born in 2011, which makes him the second youngest elephant next to Noi. They would allow the two babies in the nursery together so that Noi can get used to other elephants.

After spending some time at the nursery we then took the boat back and watch the large, older elephants bathe with their Mahoots. After a short bath, it was finally time to ride the elephants.

(There is a proper way and a wrong way to ride elephants. Elephants that are at a conservation center, can be ridden. DO NOT ride elephants that local excursion companies offer that have a seat attached on the elephants back. There is lots of information about this online and on the ECC website if you’d like more information about this.)

The ECC is home to 9 elephants at the moment. 5 of those 9 elephants were the ones that we got to ride. I was lucky enough to ride the beautiful Mae Dok. Mae Dok was born in 1963, she is the Matriarch of the Center’s herd and has been residing at the the ECC since March 2011.

My girl Mae Dok
My girl Mae Dok

After a quick ride on the elephants we went to the hospital and watched them do movement tests on one of the elephants. The elephants visit the hospital every day so that they get used to procedures at the hospital, and so that they don’t get it in their head that they only go there when something bad happens.

It was now our final night at the ECC and in Sayaboury, and I was so sad to be leaving. As a group we had a great night of card games and some Beer Lao.

The next morning we did enrichment with the elephants. In enrichment we had to build a swimming pool, and hide food for the elephants. The point of enrichment is to prep the elephants for if they ever left the Center, they could survive on their own (if need be).

After watching the elephants in enrichment we had our final lunch at the ECC. We took the boat across the river where we were greeted by our vans. We made our way to the school for closing ceremonies.

Back at the school for some final goodbyes to the kids
Back at the school for some final goodbyes to the kids

When we arrived at the school all of the kids swarmed the the vans to see us one last time. I was greeted by my favourite little girl Koodkeo who presented me with a flower crown that she had made. All of the other kids greeted us with (cold) beer and cookies. After some pictures and tearful goodbyes, it was time to leave and head to Luang Prabang.

After a long 4 hour drive along winding roads we had arrived in Luang Prabang. It was roughly 8pm and we were all starving. We made our way down the road to a local restaurant. I was presented with a very delicious Pad Thai, that I scarfed down in roughly 2.2 seconds (it was a long day, I was very hungry).

After dinner, Dan, Sammie, Monique and myself walked to the night market. The night market was absolutely beautiful. There were lots of vendors (must of which were selling the same thing). We would barter at each vendor trying to get the best deal.

A vender display at the market in Luang Prabang
A vender display at the market in Luang Prabang

*I’m sure it was hilarious listening to me barter, as I learned how to say the prices, and ask how much in Lao, however I never understood their responses.

The next day was our first day of exploring. We spent the morning exploring the day market and and the temples. We went to four different temples and each one of them was so different from the last one and absolutely beautiful.

IMG_0520

After visiting all of the temples we were all excited to have a relaxing afternoon/evening at La Pistoche. La Pistoche is a pool with a swim up bar, it’s very much what you’d expect if you went down south.

With 2 for 1 drinks things seemed to escalate very quickly. Mind you it was a great night and it brought us all closer together.

Pool party at La Pistoche in Luang Prabang
Pool party at La Pistoche in Luang Prabang

The next morning 95% of us were quite hungover. A perfect day to spend at the Rice Plantation learning how to plant rice.

We went through the 14 step process of growing rice. It was a very cool experience and certainly not something I’ll ever forget. I even got down and dirty in the mud with a water buffalo!

After having a very informative morning at the Rice Plantation we went to the Kuang Si waterfalls. Another amazing spot that I highly suggest everyone should visit. The colour of the water is like something I’ve never seen before. There was an amazing tree that we were able to jump from, which I did a few times.

Tree Jumping at the Kuang Si Falla
Tree Jumping at the Kuang Si Falla

The next day, was our final day in Luang Prabang. The hottest day of our whole trip (40 degrees celsius) and planned for the day was a 20km bike ride followed by a two hour kayak. You’re probably thinking that that doesn’t sound that bad. Well the bike ride was 75% up hill. In 40 degree weather. The last time I rode a bike was five years ago.

While biking we were separated into a fast group and a slow group. Me being someone that has a competitive edge decided to go in the fast group. With the exception of the leaders there were only four of us that decided to go in the fast group.

The "fast group" at the end of our bike ride
The “fast group” at the end of our bike ride

The view from the top certainly made it worth it.

After the bike ride it was time to kayak. Monique and I were doing great going down the river until another group couldn’t control their kayak and went directly across our kayak. We weren’t happy to say the least. After that we got back on track and had a very enjoyable kayak ride.

Kayaking in the river in Luang Prabang
Kayaking in the river in Luang Prabang

After a great active day we visited the local cafe Joma. Joma is the most amazing cafe I have ever been to and I am forever craving and wishing we had one in Halifax.

It was then time for another 4 hour drive to our last destination Vang Vien.

Stayed tuned for the third and final part of my trip to Asia coming out in the next couple of days!

-K

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One Comment

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  1. Wow what a great experience…

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