Monday, November 9, 2009


I had my day with the elephants today (thanks Mom and Dad, I spent my birthday gift on it), and what a day it was! I went to the Elephant Village, a "retirement home" of sorts for elephants rescued from the logging industry, where I learned the basic commands used by mahouts to direct an elephant. My gal for the day was Mae Cot, a younger elephant with food issues (don't KEEP those papayas from her). I said, "soeung," and she knelt for me to hoist my butt onto her neck (glad it wasn't the other way around). We first rode around the yard to get our "elephant legs" before we headed down the path through the woods, down the hill, and into the river. After lunch we rode back to the river for... a bath. They didn't really tell us how to wash our elephants, or where they like to be scrubbed, but I did discover that Mae Cot likes to be scrubbed gently behind her large, floppy ears. After bath time ended, we rode back up the path, where Mae Cot rubbed her side along the hillside and got herself dirty again... . It was a GREAT day!
This morning at 6, we walked to the town center to view the daily alms giving, where saffron-robed monks of all ages (some of the "monkins" as Colin says, appeared as young as 10) receive sticky rice from the faithful who lined the street. It was a solemn, peaceful experience.
Saturday morning we volunteered with an organization, Big Brother Mouse, to help Lao students learn English pronunciation. We sat and chatted with a dozen or so high school and college students for several hours about anything and everything. Somehow, I ended up in the street with a drawing of a truck and a motorbike naming all the parts, including lugnuts (who draws lugnuts on a truck?!?!). Three of the students didn't want to stop when the session officially ended, so we took them to the patio of our guesthouse and talked for another couple hours. Later that night, we met them again and helped them with their English homework. The students were Hmong from very rural villages who are studying at the teachers' college, with a goal of returning to their home villages to teach English. We both were surprised when the homework lesson referred to a refrigerator, and neither knew what it was. Since their villages don't have electricity, who needs a refrigerator? We were really impressed by their eagerness to learn and excitement over having someone to speak with, as well as their obvious love of their homes.
With the rest of our time in Luang Prabang, we've visited many wats (Buddhist temples), including one that was a cave that extended several hundred (I thought it was thousands) feet into the mountainside. A guide unlocked the gate and led us through the cave with flashlights. It was hot, damp, slippery, and darker than the darkest closet corner you've ever been locked in. Needless to say, I wasn't a fan. But Colin, who is usually claustrophobic, thought it was a picnic.
Other than all of this, we also were witness to a slice of "the circle of life" pie yesterday afternoon. During a beverage stop at an open air cafe along the Mekong River, a cat caught a rat, but was in no hurry to kill it (since it's fun to play with our food, no matter what you say, MOM). The proprietress attempted to shoo the cat away, which only led to the cat dragging the rat under our table and then under another couple's table. More staff appeared with sticks and tried to shoo the cat away. But...the cat came back...with the rat, who was looking worse for the experience. Colin told me to look away, and keep looking away, when the proprietress reappeared with a small club. When the scene ended, Colin told me that the woman was trying to whack the rat with the club, but the rat was still in the cat's mouth. Every time she tried to whack the rat, the cat pulled it away. She resorted to holding the cat by the scruff so it would hold still while she put the rat out of its misery. What started as macabre became rather hilarious by the end of the scene.
Tomorrow we are heading to a local waterfall for a picnic and some swimming, and the day after, we leave for a two-day slooooowwww boat trip to the Thai border. We'll post again when we get to Thailand.


  1. I can't think of anything better to spend your birthday $$$ on. I hope you have LOTS of pictures to post when you get the chance! Safe journey! me

  2. I am looking forward to the photos. What an experience your elephant day must have been. With a creature as large as an elephant I wonder how long it took to find her pleasure spot. Maybe your practice as a cat scratcher gave you an edge. Sorry about your cat & rat does sound sort of funny in a macabre way. Smooth sailing on the next leg of the journey. Love to you both.

  3. I am still getting my "blog-legs" and apparently didn't send my message correctly. The heffalumps story is terrific. I am right with you as I read! thanks so much for sharing!