Thursday, April 24, 2014

Amazing Elephant Experience/Ride near Luang Praboang near Tad Sae Waterfall

Although felt pretty bad with a sinus infection, I could not pass up the chance to get close to elephants and perhaps ride them!  So off I went with a group of about 8 to feed and ride elephants.

First we traveled by car, then by motor boat to get to the site.  The trip along the way was quite picturesque.
Road was not very busy as we passed through a town
People watching as we and others pass by
Very nice gas station and rest stop
Store with snacks along the road

Side, dirt road to river
Ticket booth for motorboat ride on the river:
Boats awaiting us on the river
Garden opposite the ticket booth
Group boarding boat
Shoreline, taken with zoom

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 View reminded me a bit of views of the Amazon when I lived there 40+ years ago

Welcome sign at Elephant Ride
Elephant, stand for mounting, ticket booth

Ticket booth, hours 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Bananas and sugar cane for treats for elephants, 5,000 kip a bunch (about 65 cents US)
Feeding elephant banana
Mahouts usually get an elephant to pair with at age ten and stay together for years
Stand for mounting elephant

 Shira got on in front and Kat and I got on the seat behind.  Shira sat on the elephant (whose name was Nuk), just behind the ears, holding on with inner thigh muscles.  We road into the jungle together with the mahout on the ground walking and taking pictures with my camera.

 Shira was so excited to get on that she left behind her bananas and sugar cane to feet Nuk, so I gave her half or 1/3 of a banana (that I had bought) at a time.

 After about 30 minutes, we returned to the mounting area so that I could change places with Shira, but we managed to do it without dismounting with her sliding back and my sliding forward.  I was so very excited and it was so much fun!!!  I smiled and smiled.  But I had very sore inner thighs the next day.  I rode in front for about 20 minutes.  The water was very low so the waterfall was running slowly.

Waterfall in dry season

Bridge near waterfall
For of our group decided to go "bathing" with the elephants--the term was actually "wash" them but no washing was done.  Since the water was too shallow near the waterfall, the elephants were walked down to the river, and then the for mounted the elephant, Janet and Shira and Mark and Sarah.  They had a ball and got very wet and both elephants went under the water to cool off.

Shira was so excited about her trip that she decided to give up her last day of our tour and return to this site for a 3-day mahout training.  I'm dying to hear about her experience!

Sights as we returned by motorboat:

About to dock
This was really a thrilling experience.  I really wanted a chance to get closer to elephants, and I had the opportunity on this day.  It was one of the highlights of this trip.

Kakada told us that many people ride elephants in Thailand, but he wanted to give Laos the same opportunity. Also, since this was in an outlying area, it was much less crowded.  There was only one other small group here. 

Kakada said that the first time he brought a group here, one of the tourists said that she noticed a mahout hitting an elephant with a whip and drawing blood.  Kakada went to the head of the mahouts, told him the problem, and asked if he could meet with the group of mahouts.  The leader checked the elephant to confirm the problem, and then brought the mahouts together.  Kakada got each a beer and then told him of his concern.  He said that he wanted to bring tourists to ride the elephants in this place but could not if they mistreat the elephants.  They listened carefully and he has never noticed any sign of mistreatment of the animals since then.