One of the key activities we had on our list for things that had to be done during our trip was to get an elephant ride in. Booking this trip was done through our guy Mr. Un at the hotel. We specifically wanted to go to the Elephant Village because this sanctuary is government run and the animals are treated humanely, unlike at other places in SE Asia (and the world for that matter). They offer full, half, and two day tours; we opted for the half day tour (as we were going to see the Kuang Si Falls in the afternoon). I apologize that I don’t have the price because we put together a package for the Elephant Village and the Kuang Si Falls that had a negotiated price. However, it’s Laos and the price for the Elephant Village is most likely going to be pretty good for you no matter what option you want to go with. Getting there requires a bit of a trip, it’s about a 30-minute drive from Luang Prabang.
The elephants are as cool as you think they would be. These creatures slowly roam around the sanctuary, allowing visitors to come up (do this with caution of course) and feed/pet them. The Village only keeps females around as the males can tend to be lazy and/or aggressive (sounds like another species we know, right?). After a short orientation, you begin your elephant ride with a designated mahout (the elephant guide). It’s a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience than a camel or horse because the elephants are so big and slow. The elephants can fit two people on their backs along with the mahout up on their necks. The convoy of elephants walk around the village, through a river (which was the coolest part) and back up around the town. During the ride, each person is given the chance to ride on the front on the neck and the guide will climb off and take pictures. Trust me, it’s a little unnerving at first riding on the animal without a guide, but you quickly get comfortable with being on her.
After the ride, the tour takes you on a traditional Lao long boat to Tad Sae Falls. Tad Sae Falls itself is like the less impressive version of Kuang Si Falls, which we will be going to in the next post, and it was even more so not impressive because there was no water from it being the dry season. But the main highlight of taking this side excursion was not the falls, but to see the baby elephant and to get a chance to bathe with an elephant. The baby elephant is adorable; they keep him in a pen with his mother. You can’t help but think of the little guy as Dumbo. He’s playful, curious, and from what our guide says, very mischievous. We were warned not to get too close because he had a habit of stealing cameras. We were also warned that if we get too close or too touchy, the mother would get really pissed. That being said, it still didn’t stop anyone from giving the little guy’s trunk a pet when he reached out of his cage for us.
The tour also offers an option to bathe with an elephant. Do it. Bring your bathing suit and pay the extra $30. You’ll sit atop the elephant while it goes into the river and plays around. The guide will also give you a bushel of bananas to feed the animal as reward for diving under and cooling everyone off. It was such a fun experience, and not one that I’ll soon be able to do again any time soon I’m sure.
After our elephant bath time, the long boat takes everyone back to the main camp and the Elephant Village provides its guests with lunch. For those that book the full day tour, they stay to learn how to be a mahout — the practices, commands and such. For us, we headed our way to Kuang Si Falls, one of the signature sights of SE Asia. That’s next up on Here and There Travel.