We had wanted to spend a day with elephants since Thailand but found the prices to be quite expensive. All the travel agencies wanted at least $70 for an entire day.
It doesn’t sound so much in comparison to the activities you could get for that in Europe, but in Laos that’s a bit more than average monthly salary and a lot compared to the prices of everything else.
After I did some hard bargaining, we did manage to get a 1-day mahout course for $56. Mahout is what the elephant riders are called.
In retrospect, it was one of the best things we could have spent money on.
First of all, we met two awesome couples from the US and Canada. And then there was this 40-something Swedish lady. Already when we got into the minibus that picked us up, I noticed there was something odd about her when she asked Amir “How are you? Because I’m happy. I’m always happy. I’m just a happy girl.”
A bit later she went on to tell us that this was the second happiest day in her life, after the day she gave birth to her daughter. Okaaaay… I then also spotted an elephant tattoo on her shoulder.
Her excitement ended soon after she actually rode an elephant for the first time. Soon she became quiet and eventually the pain in her legs from sitting on the elephant’s neck became too strong, so she had to end the day early and leave the elephant to the real mahout.
We were quite happy because her repeatedly replying to everything “T.I.A. – this is asia” became pretty annoying. One more interesting story of her before I start talking about the elephants: On the way from Vietnam she booked one of the sleeper buses with beds, but the bus was overbooked and she had to share a bed with a strange Lao man. To the question if it isn’t a bit strange to share a bed with a random man, she replied “No it was okay, we became friends afterwards and shared a hotel room.”
The elephant course itself was awesome: We started riding the elephants in couples after getting a stylish Mahout-outfit. Then we gave them some candy aka bananas:
Our elephant was apparently quite the lady or just shy, because she didn’t “do her business” on the way, like the other elephants, but had to hide under some trees. Which meant me being in the tree, while she was creating a new waterfall.
During lunch we learnt the basic commands to control the elephants.
After lunch we took the elephants bathing, which was definitely the most fun. The elephants really like cooling off in the rivers as well and it is also the best way for them to stay clean.
On the way to the river, Amir’s elephant, a male who they called ladyboy, because he didn’t grow any tusks, got a boner and was pretty much dragging a penis the size of a man’s leg along the ground. All while Amir was sitting on him… awkward!
Once we got into the river the elephants would submerge completely under the water for 30 seconds and then come up again (all while we were sitting on them). Some of the elephants would also shower the rider on the command “boun boun”. Mine didn’t know how do it (they must learn it when they’re young), but Amir’s elephants loved boun boun.
So I decided to swim over. Which was really cool because I was swimming right next to the elephants heads (they gave me some weird looks), but one of the elephants had also decided to go number two in the river, so I had to dodge turd fishes the size of footballs.
But then I also got boun boun
To finish off the day, we then went tubing – without the elephants 😉
The elephant were actually brought back into the jungle, where they are chained to a tree by a 25-30m chain, so that they can feed (they eat 200-250kg a day!!).