A touch of French chic...
27.10.2013 - 31.10.2013 30 °C
Our coach ride from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, Laos was horrendous!! Once again we were on a clapped out, former Chinese owned coach which was literally falling apart and was so uncomfortable for the whole 8 hours! The only plus point to the journey was the trip was through some of the most stunning jungle-covered mountains! Finally though we arrived at the bus station and again as there were so many backpackers, we had the advantage and thanks to a handy Australian guy who knew the area we managed to get a bargain tuk-tuk ride to our hotel!
The Khammany Inn, http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Khammany-Inn-Hostel/Luang-Prabang/63621 was a Guesthouse/Hostel about 5 minutes walk from the centre of Luang Prubang and was decent enough, although it could have done with a good clean. Also rather annoyingly our room was right off the main communal area meaning it was quite noisy. However it was a room and cheap so would do. After dumping our bags we went off to explore and get some food.
The town is really only made up of three streets, one street running along the Mekong River, one running along the Nam Khan River and the last street running along the middle. At first glance you could easily mistake it for a remote French village with each building in French colonialism style and shop after shop a restaurant, coffee house or patisserie. We could see ourselves staying here forever.
At night the middle street Sisavangvong Road became a street market, filled with covered stalls selling, quality handicrafts, silks, lamps, artworks, clothes and accessories. It was brilliant and we spent ages looking at them and for once we were not being pestered to buy and were able to ask questions and feel the soft silks. However this market did start getting annoying if you wanted to get from one end to the other as it was on every night and took up all the road and pavement.
At breakfast we decided we should make the most of the day and booked on to a tour of the Kuangsi Waterfall which the hostel had at a bargain price of 40,000 Kip (£3) each. By 11:00 10 people were packing in a mini van for our 25km drive to the waterfall. 45 minutes later and we arrived at our destination (yes they were travelling at a top speed of 20mph) a beautiful jungle with a huge waterfall and bear sanctuary. The bears were sooooo cute, we arrived just after feeding time, so they were climbing trees, swinging in hammocks and just being cute. The bears were Sun Bears which are actually quiet small compared to other bears we have seen and have all been rescued from "herbalists" who were harvesting their gaul stones for the bile. According to Chinese medicine it helps cure all sorts of ailments, which obviously it doesn't and just kills the bears. They all seemed well looked after with lost of space and of course being placed next to a tourist trap were getting lots of money for their cause. http://www.freethebears.org.au/web/Projects/Laos/Tat-Kuang-Si-Rescue-Centre/
After making silly noises at the bears cuteness, we headed to the main attraction a series of; huge, turquoise, clear waterfalls. We slowly walked through the jungle working up from pool to pool each one bigger and more impressive then the last and all of which you could swim in if you wanted. I decided it was too cold but Nick took the plunge telling me it was amazing (although his face was telling me it was a little chilly). Once Nick was dry we sat at a little bench eating our amazing cookie from JoMo and watching 50 somethings enjoying the pools. By 15:00 we had to be back to our slow mini van, so after another look at the now sleepy bears we went back to the hostel.
Our next day was set to be Nick's best day ever, as we had booked onto a half day elephant riding and bathing tour. I wasn't too sure at first, as some of you may remember the horse riding didn't go too well and I was sure this would go the same way. However I didn't need to worry, we arrived at a reserve for 14 elephants most of which were female and the ones we would be riding, as it was mating season making the males uncontrollable. The rest of the group were on a full day trip so went off to another part leaving Nick and I alone with all the elephants and Mahouts. A seat was mounted on to our elephants backs and we very inelegantly climbed on to board behind the Mahout who was riding her neck and we were off down a grass covered bank to the river and a small sand bar. After only 10 minutes the Mahout jumped off and instructed Nick to sit on her neck and guide our elephant while he took pictures for us. It was fab and Nick had the biggest smile, which really made my day.
After taking us round it was time for some food for our elephant, banana's, banana trucks and leaves which we got to hand feed to her. Food finished it was now time to get in our swimsuits and bath our elephants.
This time I had no choice but to get directly on the elephant and her neck, with the Mahout behind me and Nick on another elephant we headed into the Mekong River! Once in the water we were given scrubbing brushes to clean or elephants and then were given baths ourselves when the Mahouts shouted "Ba Ba" making the elephants dive under water getting us soaking wet, Nick’s elephant even started spraying water at him with her trunk. Elephants clean and us not so much we rode them out of the river with a stop at a tree for a good scratch and more feeding, before we had to say goodbye. Sadly we didn’t get any photo’s of the bathing as we didn’t want to get our camera wet.
That afternoon and the next morning we spent sightseeing around the small town, racing up Mount. Phousi just in time for sun set, and seeing the elaborately decorated temple Wat Nong Sikhounmuang before stopping for an early dinner ready for our night bus to Thailand!