An early start today, up at 4.50am, leave to walk to the street where the locals give alms (food & offerings) to the Buddhist monks. Naa has a spot sorted for us, bowls or better described as baskets of sticky rice and a chair fit for a 2 year old, but we have to sitting. The ritual roughley – Before they arrive, you put a scarf over your left shoulder under your right armpit, you pick your basket up, say a little prayer, they as they have their bowl in front of you you put a small handful in their bowl which may have money or other food in it. You stay quiet, be respectful of the event, this is their food, thy do this every day but today is a special Buddhist day so lots of people are out. They do a few laps and a few of us haven’t got rid of all our rice so we wait for another group of monks to walk past. Its a very quiet serene event and I’m glad I got out of bed early, not normal for me I have to say.
We walk to early day markets down near the river, all the local food is cooking, there is a “wet” meat market as well as fish, vegetables and herbs and spices of all sorts, hardly a tourist in site.
Breakfast at the French Bakery, an almond croissant with an iced cappuchino with the local coffee beans hits the spot. We walk back to the hotel about 7am and rest until 8.30 when we leave for the jungle.
About 30 minutes drive out of Luang Prabang is Mandalao Elephant Rehabilitation Park. It’s run by some Lao locals but setup by an American guy probably early 40’s, to get elephants out of logging camps and tourist parks where they are ridden every day. The saddles affect their reproductive functions and the Lao elephant population, once land on 1 Million Elephants now only has about 5,000. So they own 400 hectares, have to buy the elephants usually old tired females usually at the end of their breeding time but probably not going to reproduce anyway, cost $20-$25,000 US each. They then work on getting the females back to health and fitness and release them to the National Park in groups. The staff are mostly ex mahouts so they know elephants pretty well. The American guy turns up at lunch and is very grateful for Intrepid’s business, he’s an interesting character. There are no chains, no ropes, no hooks, no work, only care and food for these fantastic beasts.
We have to get a narrow boat over the river to were the elephants are, the river is rocky bottom and flowing freely. Fist thing we do is feed 2 elephants with banana’s, then we walk into the jungle with them and their carers, the elephants decide where to go, nobody leads them. its hot and humid, again, but a fantastic day. The elephants return to the river under their own steam to bath and cool down.
We get the boat back over the river and have magnificent lunch prepared by their staff. The elphants are still over the river playing in the water.
Its been an early start so the afternoon is a chill down in the air con for us, some go walking, some go for a massage, some for a beer.
Tonight its dinner at a very nice restaurant then TMM and I head to the markets, but my feet are swollen with the heat so I return home to pack the bag, newly laundered clothes will give my bag a bit fresher smell.
Tomorrow we leave Luang Prabang, we’re heading overland throught the limestone karst country to Vang Vieng, about a 7 hour drive over some pretty mountainous country.
Cheers Ciao and Sayonara from Luang Prabang – Paulo