Tag Archives: Laos

OMG was that ever fun!

Hi Everyone,

From the first time I heard that you could sign up for training as a “mahout,” I wanted to do it.
Okay, it’s a touristy kind of thing; it’s not “real” as in you’re not really becoming an elephant trainer. But still, the chance to get in the water with an elephant and give it a bath was too intriguing to not do.
I had practically given up on it though since I didn’t know when it would fit into my itinerary.
Once I arrived in Luang Prabang and realized that this was the place to do it, I was so jazzed and thankful that I had the opportunity.
The following are my “selects” from the experience.
And the main thing I want to tell you? They’re much softer than I expected. *Squooshy, even. I talked to my elephants (both of them). Could they understand me? I have no idea, but their ears were flapping! : )
May you too have a wonderful elephant experience some day (if you so desire).
Aloha mon amis,
-sj

 

The Elephant Village was on very pretty grounds; some people stayed several nights.
Our guide demonstrated how to get onto the elephant (and the oral command).
And then we each got a turn to practice!
This is when our elephant ride began.
It was very muddy due to monsoon rains.
Yep, I jumped at the chance to ride on the elephant’s neck!
C’est moi. Je suis très contente. (i.e. happy!)
We went through what I believe is a teak forest.
There were some water buffalo to spy along the way.
 We went down a very steep hill.
That nice couple is from Belgium; they’re traveling for 13-months via bicycle! They plan to ride back to Belgium! First, they flew to China to begin their trip.
Then we were back where we started.
Almost, but not quite, an hour.
We could feed the elephants if we wanted.
They eat a lot!
After we had lunch, it was time to bathe the elephants; the young lady on the left is from Germany. I had so much fun talking with her, her husband, and another couple who just happened to also be from Karlsruhe (where the first couple lives).
This nice gal is from England.
And then it was my turn . . .
My guy loved to go underwater!
He/she did this several times!
And then I accepted the challenge to try and stand on the elephant’s head.
One.
Two.
Three.
I made it!!!!
Yikes! What’s that guy doing?!?
And then it was time to dip under again.
Waz up?
Takin’ a bath! That’s what!
The mahout helped us all get out of the water safely.
Next, we took a boat ride down (up?) the Mekong River. Monks like the river too.
Whatchyoulookingat?
A little fun gal pal time.
Then back down the river.
Someone shared. :  )
It was pretty flat and calm.
There was a **gaggle of these critters!
We got over half an hour to hang in this pool; by golly if it wasn’t one of the nicest pools I’ve been in–ever!
Aloha Elephant Village!
Bye for now everyone!
-sj
*This is how my dictionary spells it. Me, I say, “Squooshy.”
squashy |ˈskwä sh ē; ˈskwô sh ē|
adjective ( squashier , squashiest )
easily crushed or squeezed into a different shape; having a soft consistency : a big, squashy leather chair.
DERIVATIVES
squashily |ˈskwä sh əlē; ˈskwô sh əlē| adverb
squashiness noun
**Same dictionary:
gaggle |ˈgagəl|
noun
a flock of geese.
• informal a disorderly or noisy group of people : the gaggle of reporters and photographers that dogged his every step. (i.e. a disorderly bunch of crickets)
ORIGIN Middle English (as a verb): imitative of the noise that a goose makes; compare with Dutch gaggelen and German gackern.

Luang Prabang, my fav city in SE Asia thus far . . .

Hi Everyone,

Yes, so far Luang Prabang has been my favorite town/city in SE Asia. It’s quiet; it’s cleaner; it’s interesting . . .

But I’m writing this from Hue, Vietnam and on my way next to Hoi An (that people also say they like), so I’ll keep you posted.

Here are the “selects” from my many, many photographs of the area.

Enjoy!

My end room #5, the two windows facing the street made it shine! (literally ; )

This is from Wat Xieng Thong.
This too.

The mosaic of the tree-of-life is one of its main features.
While walking up the hill to Phu Si temple.
These guys were playing on the gun turret.
Sunset over the Mekong River from the summit of the highest hill (and where That Chomsi temple is located).
Can you get a hit of the fun vibe of this town?
Rented a bike and went out for a spin.
Yes, I received a full dose of happiness while on this boat tour up the Mekong River.
Met this nice young 22-year old Laotian gal; she was showing her parents around who were visiting from the south.
You can get rice based alcohol with all kinds of critters inside!
I bought a few of her cloths.
There were many, many people doing the same type of work in this little village north of Luang Prabang.
Moi and my new friend. : )
The boat trip was to this Pak Ou Caves.
One of my favorite meals while in Luang Prabang–fried noodles with veggies; that’s a mango smoothie in back.
I too gave them sticky rice and little cakes.
My “neighborhood” wat where I heard the monks hitting the drums one day.
Did you celebrate this holiday too?
Rented a bike again and headed out of town.
This is the wat with the golden dome that one sees from the top of the hill in the town center (on the peninsula in the classic “old” part of town).
And this is what it looks like inside; I climbed up to the top level!
There were many levels.
Real life in Luang Prabang.
I like how they have the place for someone to sit on the bike; this was one of my new friend’s favorite wat, Sene, I believe is the name.
This caught my eye while riding down the road.
The one-way road along the Mekong River side of the peninsula.
Setting up for the nightly market . . . there’s lots of stuff in them there bags!
This is next to the Royal Palace Museum, known to the locals as Haw Kham (Golden Hall).
Dragons are one of the four sacred animals. The others? The phoenix, the unicorn, and the turtle. Some of the very important things I learned during my travels.
Lots of restaurants along the river for dining, drinking, and thinking–not necessarily in that order!
There are bizarre insects hidden underneath that goat cheese, salmon, and cavier! Met the wife of the chef of Blue Lagoon restaurant (a very, very nice restaurant in Luang Prabang); he offered to prepare insects for me in a way that “Europeans” can eat. I did; it was good; there was a undefinable “musty” flavor. No, I did NOT ask what the critters were! Knew I most probably wouldn’t be able to eat it then. Why did I eat them? How often is a great chef going to make such an offer to me?
There’s a library on the right; I had a nice evening there reading. Before, I’d gone to the wat across the street to sit and meditate as the monks chanted. I later learned that that was exactly when dear Julie Anne Mercer Lee left this planet.
I bought those paintings (the small ones : ). Recognize the one on the left, Jan? Have you received the box yet? The other two were drawn by that man’s niece (she’s about 5 or 6 years old).
For when you visit Luang Prabang . . .
And then it was time to leave for the airport . . .
Just in case you were tempted.
With my few remaining Laotian Kip and 2 US dollars, I bought my little guardian bat angel; it’s been keeping an eye on my computer for me.
Aloha Luang Prabang!

Aloha mon amis,

-sj

A short video of riding on an Asian elephant outside Luang Prabang, Laos

Listen to what the *Mahout says . . . ears flapping are apparently a sign of that.

So glad that I had a happy elephant!!!

He (he? I don’t know, maybe it was a she) sure made me happy!

ciao,

-sj

* elephant trainer

4 p.m. in Luang Prabang, Laos

I’d read about this somewhere, that at 4 p.m. monks in Luang Prabang gather at the many wat and drum. A few days ago, while chillin’ in my room, I heard some drumming. In less time than it takes to put on shoes in other parts of the world, I’d left my room, walked around the corner, and was watching them drum (albeit behind the vines that you see are hanging down from the little gazebo).

Enjoy!

Lao Lao Garden has the fastest internet connection in Luang Prabang.

Or so I was told by a nice couple who’d been staying at the same hotel as me (they left today for southern Laos). And as far as I can tell, they were right! Looks like I’m going to be able to post some photos from a few afternoon bike trips while at FLO (Future Light Orphanage which is outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia).
I just had a dish of fried noodles with vegetables (and curry added per my request) and a mango smoothie with yogurt. It was one of my favorite meals I’ve had in Luang Prabang thus far.
Also, the place seems really *hip. Here are some things written in their menu:
“Wherever You Go, There You Are!” (I’m using their spelling and capitalization btw.)
“Everything Changes, Nothing Is Real. We Are All Capable Of Change. Not Only Are We Capable Of Change – Change is Inevitable.”
“Neither Be Happy When Things Go Our Way, Nor Unhappy When They Do Not.”
“The Rich Never Go To Jail. The Poor Never Go To Hospital.” Lao Proverb
“Whatever Lessens Suffering In Yourself And Others, This Is Right. We Cannot Give Up On Any Person. Never Abandon Anyone.”
“Forgiveness Is Superior To Justice. Revenge And Justice Are Not The Same.”
“We Tend To Seek Happiness, When Happiness Is Actually A Choice.”
“The Simpler The Life, The Happier The Life.”
And lastly,
Q. WHERE ARE THE MONKS GOING?
A. The same places that anyone would go: school, the temple, to visit family and friends. They want to know why you take so many pictures of them and what you are looking for if you already have everything you need?
Enjoy the pictures that I took while biking (around the area where FLO is located).
Laundry almost always looks pretty; if you wear bright clothes, that is!
Twice I just happened to get a red bicycle.
This wat is the furthest away from FLO; it only took about 15-minutes to bike to it.
Just liked the way that looked.
Lots going on along this dirt thoroughfare.
Just part of a typical routine in Cambodia (in the countryside, in the city too perhaps?).
About the same, but the cow moved. See?
There were several cows around.
This guy was saying hey . . . or something like that.
I think he’s protecting the wat (or pagoda is what they really say).
This little guy wanted his picture taken; I said, “Kay.”
I’ve been told that a famous movie star with many, many children “got” her first one here; it’s just down the road from FLO.
Like I said, lots of activity happening on this dirt road. 
I asked permission before I took their photo; now I realize that they were getting ready for the festival which began around the 13th of September.
Now this guy is a major stud in the area. How do I know? Well, his size for one, his BODY size. He’s a good head or two taller than other cattle. And for second, by ALL the many people who gathered one day around him examining him . . . I didn’t ask any questions.
One afternoon I rode up to this wat and sat down on a bench under the tree. Before you could say, “Jack Squat,” I was surrounded by lots and lots of little kids. These two just cried out to be photographed (well not vocally, but with their eyes they cried out  : ~ ).

And now . . . back to thumbing through the Lao Lao Garden menu.

Love and light to you all,

-sj

The closing of the 15-day festival which began while I was still at FLO . . .

Hello Everyone,

When you visit Luang Prabang, you’ll most likely want to get up early one morning to give the monks sticky rice. I’d read and heard about it, and then decided that I too wanted to participate.

This morning ended up being an auspicious day, it was the closing of the festival which began while I was still in Cambodia and at FLO; it was why I got to go to the *pagoda (temple) with many of the FLO students on my last day. Yes, I haven’t told you about that yet (nor properly thanked all of you who gave $s for taking some of the FLO kids out to dinner! That will come; I promise. In the meantime, here’s a simple, “Thank you; the kids were soooo appreciative!”) I have many photos of that most wonderful experience (both).

But for now, it’s Tuesday morning, September 27th, and I just sat outside with many other people and one-by-one handed the monks sticky rice and a cake (there were 3 separate groups of monks, about 60-70 people all together, of all ages). There was one other guest from the hotel who also participated (a cute, young Japanese lady, a nurse who lives in Tokyo, she said).

Here’s a shot to give you an idea of what it was like . . .

Best wishes for a beautiful Tuesday, September 27th . . . wherever, whenever, and however you may be.

With warm aloha,

-sj

*the word of choice in Cambodia, but in Laos it’s vat (wat), the nice 22-year old lady I met yesterday while riding the slow boat up the Mekong told me this. (She’s lived in Luang Prabang for one year and was taking her parents on a tour; they’re visiting for 3-days. She later told me that her brother, who had come north to live with her and “watch over her,” had died in April during the water festival. “They do not smile for many months,” she said as she explained that she wanted to bring them a little happiness . . . )

In Honor and Memory of our little Fido . . . born September 26, 1995

Along the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos.

One shot from "SJ’s Amazing Elephant Experience"® (aka SJAEE !!!)

:     )      !!!

Afternoon bike rides while at FLO . . .

At the beginning of my 8-week stay at FLO, I devoted all of my time to lesson planning, preparation, marking of the letters/stories they’d written, etc.
But towards the end of my stay, I managed to find a few afternoons when I felt “caught up” and could take off for a half or full hour bike ride. (Granted, there were a few afternoons when I’d thought of taking a ride, but the monsoon rains had a different idea of how to spend the afternoon.)
The students were very willing to share their bikes, “Take mine; it’s really fast!” one called out.
Luckily, I just happened to learn the secret password for getting past the security guards without much fuss on the very day I took my first solo jaunt into the surrounding countryside. Exercise. “I’m going out for exercise,” I’d say. And they’d nod their heads granting permission to leave the FLO grounds (The security has been set up to protect the children, but honestly, at times it felt a bit like a prison. Okay, what would I know about how a prison feels? You’re right; I wouldn’t. And I was free to leave so it wasn’t really . . . point made.)
The following are some pictures I took on my few late afternoon journeys biking outside FLO.
Enjoy. : )
 . . . I’ve been trying to upload photos periodically over the past few days . . . but to no avail.
They’ll come when the time is right, and the internet connection is faster.
Meanwhile, I’ve been loving Luang Prabang. Had the most amazing elephant experience the other day . . . and, I’m digging getting to speak in German and French with the tourists and locals.
Today, the 26th of September, marks our little Fido’s birthday.
While riding in the long, slow boat up the Mekong River to some caves, I realized the date. I took a photo of my “Fido” ring with the carving of his paw print with the Mekong in back. 
For now, just imagine it. 
Later, I’ll post it.
Regardless, this glob entry is dedicated to the much loved Fido LeHoven.
Love to you all,
-sj

Made it to Luang Prabang!

The hotel I found is awesome!