Well here I am.. sitting on a porch at a camp over looking the Mekong river in Laos.
How did we end up here? Well we got on a boat today in Change Rai and headed south towards the heart of Laos. You would not believe how close these countries are. I could literally thrown a pebble from thailand to laos across the mekong river.
but let me fill you in on the past few days since I was without internet. We spent a few days in the Golden Triangle. Famous for the trade and production of Opium. For such a corrupt place in the past, it had an amazingly peaceful ambiance. To tell us a little about that era in this area, they have a museum called the “Hall of Opium.” It was honestly one of the most elaborate and well thought out small museums I have ever been to. I couldn’t take many photos inside because it wasn’t allowed but i snuck a few of the tunnel walls that lead into the museum. They are cement depictions of people that suffer from opium. Pretty powerful.
After the museum we checked into our beautiful hotel called Anatara. and then were met by a master mahout (elephant trainer) in the lobby. He took us up to the elephant camp. Yes there is such a thing, and it is comparable to what I believe heaven to be like. What unbelievebly intelligent and emotional animals. I quickly turned my attention toward the baby elephant. 5 years old and still wobbling around like a newborn puppy. He plays tag and hide and seek and begs by hoisting himself up onto the bars of his pen for a banana.
We then learned the controls of an elephant and got our very own. there was no seat and there were no reins. You sit on their neck, balance yourself with your hands on their head. and steer by kicking behind their ears and yelling commands such as “bai” (straight) “map long” (sit down). it was crazy how well they listen.
We then road our elephants down to the river, took about an hour. my elephants name was Lana and she is the same age as me… and as feisty as me! Everytime there was a pond or puddle she would suck it up and splash me with it. I was soaked in no time. That thing is like a fire hose!
When we got to the river, she walked right in with all the other elephants. she didn’t really care that I was still on here and immediately began wallowing. I had to get my balance and try not to fall off as she completely emerged her head and body into the river (but I did fall off… twice.) It was like balancing on a barrel in water. I couldn’t stop laughing! meanwhile my dads elephant who was about 53 just laid under the water and didn’t move.. my dad lounged comfortably on top of him like he was a day bed or something.
When Lana finally stood up she doused me another probably 20 times with water and then we got out. It was an experience that is truly hard to explain, but is now a top 5 favorite memory of mine.
The next morning our master Mahout invited us back to the camp to wash and feed the baby and its mother. The baby kept wrapping his strong trunk around my arm that had the hose and pulling it into his mouth. Then he would run away like a dog that just played a funny trick. The way he walked it looked like he could fall over at any time, and many times he stumbled over his own feet. I also fed the mom water, but she would fill up her trunk (which held a couple of gallons) and then put her trunk into her mouth.
After we washed and fed the mom and her baby, we headed to the border of Thailand and Myanmar (formally called burma). We walked across the border and entered Myanmar. It had a different feel immediately. It was not as clean and didn’t seem quite as friendly as Thailand. Interesting what borders can do!
We went and visited a tribe called the Karen People. There are a few different divisions of the Karen tribe but my favorite are the Longneck Karen. The women place rings around their neck to lengthen it. This tradition stems from a superstition that a tiger spirit was coming to kill the women in their tribe, so since the tiger bites the neck to kill, they put metal rings on it. It is now more of a sign of beauty and status. The woman with the longest neck in the tribe is thought to be the most beautiful.
We shopped for a while at the market in Myanmar and then headed back to thailand, walked across the border again, and went back to our hotel. It began to pour so we just took it easy and called it an early night.
This morning we boarded the boat I was talking about at the beginning, and are now in the jungle of Laos, absolutely beautiful! And absolutely full of giant bugs. We stopped at a village where we were met by tons of kids waiting our arrival.They had embroidered bracelets for us to buy, and my dads soft spot once again hit and we ended up with about 20 of them. The kids were all so happy to see a photo of themselves, and video seemed to blow them away.
We made it to our camp lodge and are here for the night. I have my mosquito net up and my eyes open. Already found a huge tarantula looking spider in my room but was comforted when it seemed much more scared of me than I was of him (I hide my fear well). And a beetle the size of a small bird slapped me in the face while I ate dinner. The lady next to me screamed.
Should be an interesting night! Tommorow we continue down the river to the next camp.