In Luang Prabang, I rode an elephant.
Of all the things I did and saw over the 2 weeks of my vacation, this was by far the coolest. Let me back up and give it to you in sequence.
I spent 4 and a half lovely days in Luang Prabang. I didn’t do much but I purposely scheduled it that way because I wanted to be well-rested before I had to go back to Jakarta. To be perfectly honest, there actually wasn’t much of interest there for me, because by then I was tired of temples and waterfalls, but I did whatever I felt like doing then just relaxed for the rest of the time.
I got there on Tuesday evening and stayed until Sunday morning. In Luang Prabang, I actually had the best breakfasts of my entire 2 week vacation (the others were OK but these were really good). Each morning, I had a breakfast parfait, extra fruit, an omelet and toast. And every morning, I had breakfast overlooking the Nam Khan river. It was quiet, serene, rejuvenating and nourishing. For this alone, I put Luang Prabang right behind Singapore in terms of my enjoyment level over my 2 weeks of vacation.
After a lovely breakfast on Wednesday morning, I was off to an elephant sanctuary. I had booked this tour ahead of time, as I do almost everything, and I was really excited about it. I was part of a tour group and we spent the morning learning how to give the elephants commands in Laotian, like stop, go right, go left, and so on. We totally failed at memorising the words but that was OK because each time we rode the elephants, we each had a mahout (elephant wrangler, basically) with us to actually direct the elephant.
I had expected to be scared of riding an elephant at first but I surprisingly wasn’t. This was because the elephants were gentle and basically just ignored us while we fed them bananas and they allowed us to ride them. Once we were comfortable riding them in the yard of the sanctuary, we took a ride across a small section of the Nam Khan river and through a nearby village and it was so cool! Serious joy infusion. My elephant did a little romping in a deeper section of the water (she seemed to really like it) and it was so fun and funny, because it was like she didn’t care that she had me and her mahout on her back; she was just loving the water.
Afterwards, we had a nice lunch then went to see 2 baby elephants across the river. They were 3 and 4 years old but still pretty small (about a foot shorter than me) and so adorable. We fed them bananas and the 4 year old used her trunk to try rooting around in my pocket to see if I had anymore after they were all gone. It was seriously cute. But then once she realised I was out of bananas, she ignored me. Still cute.
But we weren’t done for the day yet. After visiting the babies, it was time to bathe the adult elephants. We each got on an elephant again and rode down to the river, where we were given scrub brushes and buckets. Honestly, it wasn’t a real washing, it was really romping with the elephants (I was romping with elephants in a tributary of 1 of the longest rivers in Asia!). The elephants splashed us with water using their trunks and it was just plain fun. Well, the be fair, I don’t know if they were having fun but I sure was.
Finally, after a total of about 5 hours of playing with the elephants, we spent about an hour at a nearby waterfall, then it was time to go back. The tour operators dropped us back at our various hotels. I was ecstatic simply because I never in my wildest imaginings thought that I would ever have a chance to ride an elephant. I mean, who thinks that? Even when I was booking the tour, the enormity of such an experience didn’t hit me. It wasn’t until I was sitting on top of the first elephant (I rode 3 that day) that I was overcome by a sense of awe and gratitude for the chance to have these wonderful experiences.
I slept so well that night, not only because the bed was wonderful (it totally was) but mainly because I was so happy.
The next day, Thursday, I went into town for the afternoon. Luang Prabang is a nice, quiet semi-rural village with not much to see. The only attractions in town are a museum and a Buddhist temple. Outside of town, there are a few waterfalls and more temples, as well as trips on the Mekong River. I didn’t expect to have big fun in town but I went anyway just to get it checked off my list. I did my usual postcard routine and had a general walkabout. I didn’t bother with the museum because it’s the former palace and reviews told me that it mainly had items related to the country’s former royalty, which I didn’t care about. So I just wandered around the grounds for a while before making my way to Mount Phousi, a town attraction at the top of which is a Buddhist temple. It barely qualifies as a hill really, much less a mountain, and I walked up its 300 steps, looked around at the view, and walked down again in about 30 minutes. Afterwards, I had an early dinner at a nice cafe and hung out there for a while, then returned to my hotel.
For the remaining 2 days of my visit to Luang Prabang, I wrote, read and relaxed. It was just what I needed to end my vacation.