Mahout

Luang Prabang Travel Blog

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After Vietnam, I flew to Luang Prabang for my first foray into Laos while Patrick and Steph went further south in Vietnam, and Hugo returned to work in Singapore. Even before the plane landed, I knew I would love Luang Prabang -- the view from the plane was so green and beautiful, especially after the urban chaos of Hanoi.

On my way into town, I happened to share a taxi thing with a French Canadian named Mirko. We got along quite well, and ended up spending the next five days together. He had come from six weeks in Vietnam and was heading to Thailand next. Neither of us had places to stay, so we got dropped in the center of town and found a guesthouse from his guidebook. They had two rooms to spare, and I ended up with my very own bathroom with fan and hot water for only $6 a night. Mirko's room didn't have an attached bathroom, and was only $4 a night. We drank many fruit shakes, visited some temples and Mt. Phousi, frequented a couple bars by the Nam Kha River, visited the crafts market near the Royal Palace, spent hours playing guitar and ukelele, and watched a performance of scenes from the Ramayana by the Royal Ballet Theater. I enjoyed this so much I went again with Will in August (I am writing this after my return, to fill in entries I didn't while on my trip).

We also took a Lao cooking course where we visited the market in the morning, then went back to Tum Tum Cheng, the restaurant hosting the class, and made five courses that we selected from their menu. Honestly we didn't do much of the cooking, because I think they found us too slow, but we learned a good amount about the foundational ingredients of Lao cuisine and both received "official" certificates in Lao cooking -- too bad my certificate was for a Jane Cheng and not for me : ) We chose to make ginger fish, fried spring rolls, aw lam (a beef stew), sticky rice with bananas, and fried chicken with chili and ginger.

For two days, Mirko and I also signed up for an overnight stay at the All Lao Elephant Camp, where the mahouts, or elephant drivers, took us to bathe the elephants in the river, taught us some basic commands, and accompanied us on rides through the surrounding areas. Some memorable moments included a HUGE, at least hand-sized spider hanging out in the corner of our lodge, separated from our sleeping mats only by the mosquito net; tubing and then rafting down the Nam Kha River; climbing to where the elephants sleep in the jungle because the British dude on our trip wanted to see what this looked like (they still looked like elephants); having to literally cling to our guide Kao and falling on him several times, since the sandals I was wearing offered absolutely no traction in uphill mud climbing (the rainy season had turned the jungle all to mud, and the guides warned us it would be unpleasant and probably not the safest if we wanted to see where the elephants sleep. the British dude's girlfriend opted to stay at the bottom and wait 'til the elephants were brought out); eating the Lao version of balut as we drank lao lao whiskey with some former university students of Kao's in the nearby Hmong village; watching Kao do magic tricks at dinner the last night; getting alternately drenched and burned on the raft ride back to Luang Prabang; and being up to my knees in elephant doodoo at one point.

I loved Luang Prabang so much that by the time I left for Cambodia I knew I'd have to return. I'd already made plans to meet Patrick and Stephanie again in Siem Reap, so figured I'd come back at a later time - which I did! There was still a lot left to explore.



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Luang Prabang
photo by: oxangu2