It was awesome to be back in Luang Prabang. It’s such a charming city and magical with the monks and temples all over the place. I was happy to be here again and found a little guest house right on the main street with the cutest owners.
I still had a few days until I had to be at the Gibbon Experience and this was the perfect place to chill out. I spent some good time on the computer, got my nails painted, met up with an amazing Dutch guy for dinner, ran into my Israelis Azi and Noa for a third time, did some shopping, visited the crazy sandwich lady everyday, and even managed to ride an elephant in the water.
I really wanted to ride an elephant in the water and take a bath with him. This is not the best thing for the elephants but it always looked like so much fun when the mahouts (trainers) do it. I became the bad non-ecotourist and signed up with the sketchy company that offered it, thinking that it wasn’t going to be too bad. I got what I paid for.
First we road the elephants around the
jungle. I had done this before but still thoroughly enjoyed it. The mahout was kind to his elephant and it was a nice little jaunt. After that 2 others and I jumped on our elephants wearing a bathing suit with a shirt over top. Laos culture is not used to bikinis and I didn’t want to offend them more than I already did in Vang Vieng.
This was by far the worst experience I have ever had on a trip. My elephant guy groped me the whole time and borderline molested me in the water. I have never had this happen to me, in the US, in Japan, Europe….of all places in LAOS! Weren’t these the nicest people I had ever met? At first I couldn’t believe it was happening. I didn’t know what to say or do.
While in the water I loved splashing around with the elephant and getting to be up close with such an incredible animal, but it was very hard and basically ruined as the man grabbed my butt and touched me inappropriately. I literally wanted to jump off my elephant but I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t safe. On our way
Happy Time on the Elephant
I refuse to put up the molestation photos
back I finally said something, but it was a little too late. The emotional damage had been done. Then they chained up the elephants to a tree while we were leaving. I wanted to cry.
Overall it was a horrible experience. The other girl on the elephant experienced the same thing as I did. The 3 girls before us later said they had the same thing happen to them. 5 girls in one day were inappropriately touched by these Laos men. I wanted to hurl. We complained and they did nothing about it claiming it was for safety. PLEASE, IF YOU READ THIS PLEASE DO NOT USE ALL LAOS TOUR SERVICES IN LUANG PRABANG!
I was so emotionally hurt by this that all I wanted to do was leave Luang Prabang. I was trying so hard to not be affected so severely by this episode, but it was all that I could think about.
Fortunately, right before I left I met a great group of young ex-monks that I wished I had met on the first day I came back to LP. Looking at these boys you would never think they were once monks. I learned that
many families send their sons to be monks so they can be educated. At 18 they have the choice to continue with the temple or try something new. These boys, with their tattoos, funky sunglasses and smooth attitudes, definitely got over the monk lifestyle pretty quickly, yet they still had the charm and manners of the other monks I met. My vision of the pure monk lifestyle was completely changed. These guys were so cool! They wanted me to miss my overnight bus to Huey Xai and go with them to the disco (which closes at 11pm fyi). I seriously almost missed the bus and was going to take the speed boat the next day. They saved Luang Prabang for me. We sat eating lunch and drinking beer (yup monks drinking beer and eating meat!) down by the river. I was originally supposed to go swimming at some waterfalls. This was by far much better.
My monk drove me around on his moto running a few last errands, ie saying good bye to my crazy sandwich lady before I jumped on a jumbo to the bus station. I ran into the French Mark Conolly look alike and took a
Good beginning to the day
photo to show Mark when I got home. He was sooooo good looking. I should have made him my Mr. Laos. I melted when he kissed me on the cheek saying au revoir. Bus Ride from Hell
My bus rides had been rather painless up until now. There is no easy way to get to Huey Xai in Northern Laos. You can either take a 2-day slow boat, a very dangerous 6 hour speed boat, or a 14 hour overnight bus. Looking back, I should have risked my life with the speed boat but instead chose the overnight bus. The whole night was a disaster.
I was the only foreigner. Getting on the bus I dodged cranky kids, evil stares and climbed over bags of rice. We left an hour late because a family called saying they were going to be late. Seriously? We were going to wait for them? Only in Laos….
Within an hour they had horrible, I mean HORRIBLE music playing. It can qualify as the worst music I have ever heard in my entire life. I tried as hard as I could to block it out with my ipod on but it
was near impossible. I kept wondering, “Why is the music sooooo loud?” Then it all hit me: a) it’s to keep the driver awake, and b) it is the only form of entertainment that these Laos people have. No one had books or their own music devices. I bet less than 50% of them knew how to read. It made me embrace and appreciate my education and ability to read.
6 hours later we arrive in a small town for dinner. I am always a bit weary of the food at these places, especially when there are bugs and dried rat to eat and flies everywhere. I opted for my delectable sandwich. Still, we managed to sit in this little village in the middle of the night for 2 hours. I am okay with long journeys if we are constantly moving. Just sitting there, I start to get impatient and lose it. No one spoke English so after an hour of sitting there I try to communicate by drawing pictures of a clock and a question mark. No good response. I was getting so impatient I started to pace up and down the one street. In doing so, I
almost missed the bus as it started to zoom off. That would have been REALLY bad. More dirty looks as I got on the bus.
All night the music played making it near impossible to sleep. We went on windy and pot-holed roads the entire time and made random stops. Somehow, I survived. I had never been happier to be off a bus. I kept telling myself, this Gibbon Experience better be worth it……
I can now conclude that men are shady in every country you go to and that all men in Laos should be sent to be monks to learn some manners. Additionally, I have so much respect for people in SE Asia. Most can't read and have learned English through talking and listening. It reminds me of m guide Ly in Sapa. Makes me cherish my advantages to learn and read.
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