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Day 13: Elephant Trekking

Elephant Trekking on Phou Asa

Multi-coloured patterned butterflies flit here and there. The rich green dense jungle feels very much alive with bird song and the wind playing with the trees. The foliage releases fresh scents and the hot sun weaves it way through the canopy. There you are, on top of a large pachyderm slowly rocking from one side to the other, meandering up a hill leading to Phou Asa. Ok, there I was, not there you are. But you could be there. In fact it’s so hard to describe what it really feels like to be here. Nothing beats actually breathing, living, feeling, seeing and sensing all of this. While no one aspect is more poignant than the other – the whole experience together is something better to experience yourself.

The jungle suddenly stopped and there was a large open plateau of volcanic rock with sparse, almost dead, trees speckled in between. As the trees thinned out, to the left was a view of the valley below and mountain peaks rising in the distance. To the right, is the same rich green jungle, just sitting quietly stopped at its’ border. Ahead was an elephant stopping platform and rising gently above it was the remains of Phou Asa

As the story goes, Phou Asa was used by an enterprising Monk called Sa. In noticing how badly the villagers were being treated by the feudal lord, he raised & trained an army in the villages to overthrow said feudal lord. Phou Asa was his training camp and a fairly decently located fort or stronghold. What’s left is stone columns evenly spaced around a large perimeter. If you didn’t know what it was, it would look rather uninspiring in this desolate space. Well, it rather looks uninspiring anyway. The tourist information centre back down in the village jazz it up a bit by adding Monk Sa trained them in swordplay and martial arts. So if you can imagine that in the space, it’s probably more interesting than what you see today.

The only way people seem to reach this spot is via an elephant ride. This would be the only way I’d want to go up at this stage, because of the heat and also because there are so many elephants trekking up and down, it’s be down-right difficult to avoid stepping in their droppings. It’s quite nice to amble along and watch the multi-coloured butterflies randomly flittering about.

After this little excursion I was off to marvel at man’s ingenuity. Really. Who’d have thought of strapping 3 long tin boats together with some planks of wood on top to make a ferry? I’d like to see Ikea do better! There are about 4 of these that seem to criss-cross the Mekong to and from Champasak whenever they have a full load. It’s only a short 10 minute ride. It’s really rudimentary but I think amazing that people just use what they got. Nothing fancy, but it works. It works well! I didn’t believe my guide when he said: just go to the ferry over there. I looked over there and all I saw was a jeep parked on a wooden pontoon looking thing. Even as I stepped up the ramp, I wasn’t really sure if it was really a ferry! There were icy cold refreshments and noodle soup for sale. Talk about full service onboard and all for 5,000 KIP (about 60 cents).

On the other side, I’d highly recommend trying to cram aboard the tuk tuk/song-thaew that is waiting on the other side. I’d read that the town was about 2km from the ferry. It’s more like 4. It’s a hot walk even in winter and not a great deal to see/admire on the way.

Funny story, there was a man touting his guesthouse that rolled up along-side me just after the ferry asking if I needed a guesthouse or tuk-tuk ride. I politely declined, committed to walking 2km. After a parching, sweaty 40 minute walk later I found my hotel, checked in and went in search for food. There was a guesthouse opposite my hotel, but I thought I’d look farther afield. Failing to find anything, I went back to that guesthouse to eat. Lo and behold, there was the man from the ferry and we exchanged laughing hellos as he confirmed that I had walked all that way. Yes. Yes. Yes, I did. How hilarious. Oh well, small world when you’re on an island like this. Pack_Pachy..sak-034.jpg

Posted by Teamworkz 03:44 Archived in Laos Tagged in at trekking elephant laos champasak phou asa Comments (0)

Day 6: Kayaking and Trekking in Vang Vieng

The glittering crystal in the Uneven Cave and Snail Cave were mesmerizing

Today was an even tougher day than yesterday. Somehow, last night’s dinner didn’t agree with me, so I didn’t get much sleep last night and was feeling sore from yesterday’s rock-climbing and from being up all night in the bathroom. I wasn’t looking forward to trekking and kayaking all day.

The other person who’d signed up for the tour was an older, frail gentleman who had bandages on his knee and hand from a motorbike accident 2 weeks earlier. So the trip was at a nice slow pace - the unfortunate part was because as I still felt ill, it was difficult going at his pace when all I wanted was to run for the nearest toilet!

We visited 4 caves today: Elephant Cave, Tham Loup (Uneven Cave), Tham Noi (Snail Cave) & Water Cave. The glittering crystal in the Uneven Cave and Snail Cave were both mesmerizing and it was fun going into a completely dark cave. No ropes/fence or lights in the cave, just a head torch – so watch your step! The water cave was quite the experience. Place yourself on an inner tube and feel the icy cold water from this limestone cave (source is somewhere up in the mountains). Refreshing is one thing, and this water is something else.

All the guides had a good technique to prevent them from touching the icy cold water. Kneeling on the inner tube, but that requires a lot of balance!

When I had stopped squealing, I grabbed onto the guide rope like everyone else and pulled myself along and under the low hanging cave opening. With only a waterproof head torch, there is nothing else to light the way. Just sit back, look up and don’t let go of the rope unless your paddling skills are very good. With my bum in the water, there was a slightly disturbing moment when I felt something brush up against it. I hope it was just some underwater plants that were growing in the dark……

After that unique experience, it was onto kayaking down the Nam Song River. We followed the well-travelled route of the inner tubing bar circuit for 4km back to town. The limestone peaks never fail to create a magnificent backdrop set of beasutifully by the tranquil, deep green colour of the river. It was a beautiful trip down the river, punctuated by lots of partying on the river banks along the way. One had to watch out for revelers jumping off the 10 metre swings in abundance across the bars and banks. It was Interesting watching the life of Lao people, from children bathing themselves in the river to parents working hard by the river, cutting up food or wood for cooking.

Thanks to our excellent guide Ola, I learnt a lot about Lao culture today. Unfortunately, his father was one of the many that while looking for scrap metal from unexploded bombs (UXO), was killed. Ola was only 2 at the time. We passed two Lao weddings on the way, which were interesting to see. A great day with a great finish of a much appreciated steaming hot shower (the river water was cold!!).

Kayaking and Trekking in Vang Vieng, Laos

Kayaking and Trekking in Vang Vieng, Laos

Posted by Teamworkz 04:04 Archived in Laos Tagged and in trekking laos kayaking vang vieng Comments (0)

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