That’s me riding an elephant somewhere near Luang Prabang in Laos. I was told that he doesn’t look as big as the elephants you see in a zoo because he used to be a work-elephant who carried logs all over the country.
Now the poor guy is made to carry silly tourists who’d like to have an “I rode an elephant” photo.
Whether this is considered a demotion in the elephant world, I do not know. Do the other elephants jeer at him saying “Belat, he’s only carrying people now”. Or do you think his tourist work improved his social status and that other elephants want to follow his footsteps?
It would be interesting to know, no? Unfortunately, I’m not versed in the language of elephants so he ignored me when I asked him about how he felt carrying tourists. Hehe. [Maybe he was saying, “Keep your dirty unwashed feet off my shoulders! You, overweight human being, you!”]
Anyhoo, probably the most remarkable thing I learned about elephants during this ride is this: Elephants can freaking climb mountains!
When the elephant guide started leading us up the mountain slope, I went, “Hey! Are we supposed to go there?” I was nervous, to be honest, but I also saw elephant droppings on the trail which assured me that these huge animals do go up that mountain.
So wonder no more why our Asian neighbors place a very high value to their elephants; they can carry loads as big as a tree and, despite their bulkiness, they are good mountain climbers too. I don’t think they can climb really steep slopes, though.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to visit Luang Prabang to see the age-old tradition of giving early morning alms to Buddhist monks. It is an amazing sight to see hundreds of monks as they walk on the city’s main street (which was closed to traffic) to receive the offerings of locals and tourists. I’m not sure how long they’ve been doing this (maybe hundreds or thousands of years) but it is interesting to see a city that sticks to its past.
Luang Prabang is a spiritual city. You’ll be reminded of this by the countless monks in orange robes and the many monasteries around the city. The city is also noted for the French-style architectural buildings it was able to maintain and which earned it a place in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.
Because of its charm and the many things it offers to visitors, Luang Prabang is bursting with tourists. They’re all over town and they’re from all over the world. Expectedly, this opened good economic opportunities for the locals who run hotels, restaurants, bars, and travel agencies. It also created a market for pimps.
One of my guides who brought me to the elephants intimated that he can also bring me to an establishment which male tourists visit at night. A friendly local I keep bumping into was more direct when he said: “Do you want to see a pretty Laotian lady?”