25.01.2012 - 27.01.2012 26 °C
I am so pleased that I decided to fly in the end, I know it was expensive compared to the other options but the flight was great and only an hour from Chaing Mai so in my book worth every penny. I still had to decide on my exit route though, bus, boat or plane but decided to park that decision to later in the week.
I had pre-booked accomodation just outside Luang Prabang at the Eco Mahout lodge as I wanted to do a Mahout training course while I was here. I don't think I had actually realised what I'd booked until I turned up and had to climb down a steep mud bank with my bags and jump into a leaky wooden boat which would take me to the lodges. So a bit shell shocked I had a good look around my lodge. It looked idyllic and the views of the river were amazing it was just the big gaps between the lodge's wooden walls and the roof which concerned me slightly as I think there were more Mossies and other creepy crawlies in the lodge than outside. It was also really chilly and the bathroom was basically outside. Oh well I thought 3 nights it's ok it's an adventure. The first night I stuffed towels and t-shirts around the tree trunks that were growing through the room and the big gaps around them to stop any rats climbing up them and into the room. I don't know if rats actually would do this but I'd seen a few outside and was completely paranoid by this stage. I slept with my ipod on not to stop any noise but to make some as it was just so quiet all you could hear was your own breath and the occaisional flap of wings in the pitch roof. I sprayed myself and the mossie net liberally with bug spray and hoped for the best.
I slept like a log ( huge sigh of relief !!) and headed off at 7.30am to meet the driver who would take me to LP to the boat station so I could join a tour for the day. Caves, lunch and waterfall was the plan back at 4.30pm. Ok well very quickly I realised that Laos time is very much like Dubai time, it will happen when it happens and will happen how it happens inshallah. So I think the boat finally set off about 9.30am it was to take me to Pak ou to see the cave. The boat was a wooden number and there were well over a hundred of us waiting at the boat station so we were split into smaller groups of about 10 each which was a painfully slow process. Lots of boats were ready so nobody was turned away.
It took about 90 minutes to get to the cave via a quick pit stop at a local village to buy local crafts. The caves were a disappointment, very small with a lot of old broken buddha statues in it and far too many tourists. We than headed back the way we had came and by this point I was wrapped up in my towel freezing cold and thirsty so I probably didn't appreciate the scenery as much as I should have. I grabbed a quick coffee at a cafe by the river and realised I had no idea how I was getting to the waterfall, everyone had gone their own way after caves and there was no tour guide in sight. About an hour later a tour guide lady turned up to find me on a motorbike as they had lost me ( whoops I had missed a packed laos lunch box lunch in the tour office, such a shame !) I jumped in a van and off I went with a new group to Kuang Si waterfalls.
The waterfalls were a much better experience than the caves. Cool pools to swim in and bears at the bottom in a sanctuary to see so I enjoyed the few hours we spent there. I eventually got back to the lodge at about 8.30 after crossing the river in that leaky boat in the pitch dark ! I had met some french girls at the waterfalls who were also staying at the lodge so we ate together ( bad, bad food at the lodge the cheese baguettes were just about edible) and played cards drinking Laos beer for the rest of the evening.
Next day was Mahout training. What an amazing day. Lots of elephant rides, learning how to control an elephant and the opportunity to ride the elephants neck ( which I found petfrifying) and the finale was to bathe the elephants in the river. This part was the best of the day, my elephant was very good at obeying the command boun boun, which means spray water from trunk. My Mahout made sure that I got well and truly soaked but as he had been a star all day and had put up my shakes and gripping of his hand when I was riding the elephants next I forgave him and it was all part of the fun. Casualty one broken camera and all my nails.
I had arranged to go tubing ( bobbing around in rubber tyres on the river ) with the girls and for a short trek in the forest on my final day which was fun and muddy ! then we all departed the lodge and the elephants for Luang Prabang for a few nights.