Thursday, August 9, 2012


Elephants wade the river near the Elephant Village, where we spent a "Lao-some" afternoon. 
As you may have guessed by now, we are big fans of Laos. We even coined our own corny adjective from the country's name--"Lao-some" (yes, as in "awesome"; you love it, right?! us, too!!!). Southeast Asia's only landlocked country, Laos is stunningly beautiful, with the aforementioned mountains and temples and markets, etc.  

Now we've "discovered" something else. Elephants. Yes. It is totally Lao-some. 

Perhaps we should've been clued in by the nation's nickname, "Lan Xang," which means "Land of A Million Elephants." Maybe we missed that in our pre-trip research. No matter. 

Just outside of Luang Prabang are two places with their own herds of the massive creatures. Having heard mixed reviews about one of them, we opted to combine one of Kip's favorite things (driving a scooter) with one of Liz's (riding on the back of a scooter, helping Kip drive) and get up close and personal with some elephants. 

The ride out wasn't exactly on a major highway. For 10 miles, we followed a dirt track frequented by water buffalo herders and rice farmers. 
Kip learns the hard way that the herd of buffalo have the right of way.
This woman found Kip very amusing.
After inhaling lots of dust and making a couple wrong turns (Liz's fault), we finally arrived at the Elephant Village and Sanctuary.

The plan was to arrive, have lunch, hang out with the elephants, and head back. Unfortunately, with our wrong turns, buffalo road blocks, and bird watching, not to mention a torrential downpour that made the muddy road almost impassible at times, we arrived too late for lunch. To top it off, staff told us a large group of elephant riders had just left, leaving behing only one very feisty elephant--Mae San, a recent arrival that had labored  for years in the timber industry--that didn't take too well to traditional rides they offered. 

The elephant handler asks us, "So, you come back tomorrow for elephant riding?" 

Not a chance. After a long discussion and negotiation, we reached an agreement. Instead of taking Mae San out for a ride, we were offered to take our new elephant friend down to the river and give her a bath. While this was not some amazing volunteer opportunity, (turns out, it's something tourists pay for), it definitely will go down as one of the highlights of our trip.

Liz got to ride the elephant down a steep muddy hill to the river, and we both got to take turns swimming out to Mae San and playing in the water. That's right. We played in the river with an elephant. The below photos should be emanating joy. If you don't see it, check your monitor. This was seriously fun.

And then, our mahout, or elephant handler, decided he would let both of us ride the elephant back up to the village, and he would take photos for us. That's right. We had a private elephant AND our own pachyderm paparazzi. Guess what's going on our Christmas cards...that is, if we can get them sent before February, like last year.

So, after the happiness overload, we sneaked into the Elephant Village's private pool. Yes, in addition to a herd of elephants and personal photographers, this place even has a pool, randomly, in a grassy area behind the elephant pen. And...wait for it...not only is there a pool, but the place even has a swim up cappuccino bar with locally grown coffee. We obviously had to try a few things on the menu before the long ride home...(thanks Cameline, H. Myers, and S Zipse!)

Fully caffeinated and with staff starting to question if we belonged in the pool, we decided to call it a day. Our timing was perfect, as usual, and we left just as it started raining pouring. 

As we rounded a muddy curve, we approached a mudslide and resulting roadblock. Kip (being Kip) decided to ignore a man in a bright yellow jacket who told us to stop (the jacket had "police" on the back, but Kip insists he didn't see it or understand what the guy was screaming). He barreled right through. That's right...through a washed out road. 

The scooter was sliding all over the place, Liz was yelling directions, and Kip was doing all he could not to drive off a cliff. Finally, Liz got off and walked barefoot through knee deep mud and rocks (flip flops were useless). From the other side, she was able to snap this photo, which shows Kip on the scooter directly in front of the yellow "JCB" backhoe as a local man stares at him incredulously
Yes, that's Kip right in between the backhoe and the front end loader. This is how those "stupid tourist" stories get started.
Eventually, the scooter and both of us made it through in one piece. After sunset, we returned safely to Luang Prabang. The man who rented us the motorcycle asked us where the heck we'd been.  "Just cruising around town" we told him, staring at monks and such.



  1. You guys got to hug elephants. That is laossome, and made my day.

    1. Thanks Jenn! Glad you're accepting the new lingo. It was pretty amazing.

  2. Lao-some!!!!! The photo of Liz hugging Mae San is my new background photo. LOVE!


Thanks for reading and commenting!