Tag Archives: elephants

The Elephant Conservation Center, Laos

Thanks to my sister-in-law Sarah, who did a detailed research on the best place to learn more about elephants without harming them, we were fortunate to spend 2 days at the Elephant Conservation Center, in Sayaboury. We also wanted to make sure our funds were going to a place that cared deeply about Asian elephants and is involved in the conservation of these gentle giants. We could not have been happier with our stay at ECC.

The ride from Luang Prabang to the ECC was very bumpy and once we arrived in Sayaboury, a truck from the ECC picked us up. After that, we jumped on a boat to the Center. After a delicious home-made lunch, we started the tour of the facility to learn more about the Asian elephants. The staff was very professional and we can certainly feel their passion for elephants! The highlight of our afternoon was certainly the opportunity to ride the elephants, one by one. There were 4 female elephants and their mahouts (handlers). We learned about the commands that each elephant follows. It was super fun to ride them, their skin is a bit rough though! We got to give them some treats afterwards – sugar cane sticks. They all loved it!

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We also visited the Center’s elephant hospital with their Spaniard biologist, Annabelle, who was wonderful at providing valuable details about the work the center does all around Laos.

We left the ECC feeling great about the visit and with a new sense of protection, concern, and education towards the livelihood of Elephants.

Our last adventure in Laos with Sarah and Amanda was the upstream Mekong boat cruise from Luang Prabang to Houay Xai, on the boarder with Thailand. Our boat – Shompoo Cruise – was quite comfortable and with a good blend of passengers from several nationalities. We enjoyed the slow pace of the river and scenery and spent our days playing cards, reading and watching the world go by. We spent the night at Pakbeng which is half way between Luang Prabang and Houay Xai, and where we also had a farewall dinner for Sarah and Amanda, together with an early-birthday celebration for Sebastian. The following day, upon arriving in Houay Xai, the girls would cross to Thailand and we would jump into the overnight bus back to Luang Prabang. OK, that was the initial plan but as we arrived at the bus station, we learned that the 4 seats we had reserved had been already sold and we could either sit on the corridor (hellooooo, it’s an overnight trip of 10 hours people!!!) or travel the next day. Can you guess what we did? Yep, we stayed one night in Houay Xai to catch the bus.

Next stop – Vientiane, Laos

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The 3-month old baby elephant

 

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Elephant Conservation Center

 

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Shompoo Cruise at the Mekong

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View from our hotel in Pakbeng

 

 

 

Luang Prabang, Laos

Before I dive into our stay in LP, we just hit a major milestone in our travels: in exactly 3 months we are due to arrive back in Florida: June 15th. We had a nice dinner last night and discussed a few things we all need to improve in our family relationship to make the most of our last 3 months of travel. I think it was a very positive conversation and I am certain it will have a positive effect as we continue our adventure.

Luang Prabang, a UNESCO Heritage site, is much more than I expected in terms of beauty. This wonderful laid back town is quite unique, I can’t think of another place that I could even try to compare with. The pretty French colonial architecture has been well preserved as you can see from all the buildings in the old town. It has also a great night market that is much more tranquil than street markets that we have visited before in Southeast Asia. The town is boarded by the Mekong (the largest river in SE Asia) and Nam Kham rivers.

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Streets of Old Luang Prabang

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Old Luang Prabang

 

We had 3 separate stays in LP. The first 3 nights we stayed at the Mekong Sunset Hotel, a small guesthouse overlooking the Mekong. We walked around a lot, visited the main Wats, night market and cute shops. The best of all was certainly the authentic French bakeries. Sarah and I could not have enough croissants and baguettes. In fact, we returned to the same Le Banetton bakery, our favorite, twice in 3 days.  We left LP and went to the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury (separate blog) for 2 days. Our second stay in LP was at the nice Sala Prabang, also overlooking the Mekong. We did a jewelry making class that the kids enjoyed and had our anniversary dinner at the French restaurant L’Elephant. We also woke up at dawn one morning to watch the procession of monks collecting alms. We took a tuk-tuk to the Kuang Si waterfalls and it was certainly worth the visit. Everyone (but me) went swimming at the refreshingly blue waters. Our third stay in LP was a bit shorter and only for one night. Yet, we managed to go back to our favorite bakery again and Louisa did a silk dyeing class. Luang Prabang is one of those places where you arrive and want to stay longer. 1 week is not even enough to see everything. Its a place to come, relax and appreciate the slow pace of life.

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Le Banetton bakery

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Monks at the Mekong

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Silk Dyeing class

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The student

 

 

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia ⎮ A Day at the Temples…

Okay, to start off this blog, Dad made me do it! Alright, maybe I was happy to get assigned to do an educational blog. This was a pretty awesome day to begin with, and I really enjoyed all the temple viewing. It is quite tiring though!

We visited multiple small temples and saved the largest, Angkor Wat, for last.(which Sebastian will be educating you on) But before I start my portion, here is a little fun fact that was in my World History class.

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Fun Fact!

Did you now it took over 600 years to build Angkor Wat? It is also the largest Hindu temple in the world! Pretty cool!

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Before telling you all about the temples we visited, let me provide you some knowledge on Hinduism. It is okay, you can trust me. I just learned about this in World History.

Hinduism is a religion originated in India. To be specific, with the Aryan peoples in the Indus Valley. It is the largest religion in India and considered 3rd largest in the world. Today, about 80% of Indians are Hindu. One of the projects I did for my World History class involved the caste system. This is one of the beliefs in Hinduism. It is a social structure used to organize society. The Hindus worship many gods. There is one main god, Brahma, but Hindus worship millions of other gods separately including Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Ganesh. You may have heard of these gods before. A major belief that the Hindus have is reincarnation. This is the belief that a person is reborn after their death. They also believe in karma which is if a person does good deeds, they will be awarded in the next life. Maybe by being in a higher class in the caste system. Karma also relates to a person doing bad deeds being punished in the next life. Possibly by being in a lower class in the caste system or even a slug!

Now that you have some background knowledge on Hinduism, let me tell you about the temples of Siem Reap.

The first we visited is a city named Angkor Thom. It actually has multiple temples in it such as the main one, Bayon temple. It took 40 years to construct the city and there is a moat surrounding it. There are five gates that allow you to enter or leave, each having both gods and a demons. To the left are the gods and the right has the demons. They are lined up and you will notice that they hold something; well, that something is a snake. Yep, that’s right! Not a real one of course. Anyways, the gods hold the tail and the demonds hold the head. And to think that we have not even entered the city yet! But even from the outside, you can see that there are 49 tall towers in the city. This was easy to remember because all I have to think about are the San Francisco 49ers! Each tower has four faces that were built for the king way back when (12th century) and the four faces on the tower represent mercy, compassion, sympathy, and impersonality. Inside each tower, there are statues of the Lingha and Juni. The Lingha is represented as the male and Juni is female. The Hindu people offer the Lingha and Juni water and flowers and Buddhist people burn incense instead. Today there is only one statue of Lingha and Juni still standing of the 49 towers.

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Another temple we visited inside Angkor Tham is Phimenakas. The cool thing about this one is the awesome myth behind it! Let me begin…

There was a king and he wanted to know what was on top of the temple.  No one had ever gone up before so no one ever knew. The reason being that if you did, according to legend, then you would die. But the king was tempted and he set off to climb the temple. At the top, he found a beautiful woman and he made a promise that he would climb up there every day to see her. Lucky him, right? Not! If he failed to do that, he would die. One night, the king climbed up hoping to kill the woman and free himself from this daily burden. But just as he slashed his sword into her, she turned into a snake. The woman was a serpent the whole time! The king was given a disease from the serpent’s bite and soon died. Sorry to let you down friends 🙁

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 Another cool place we visited in Angkor Thom was the elephant fields. It’s a very large grassy, dirt area where they used to have races, on elephants. Just imagine how fun that would be! You could have your own personal elephant and climb up and race on him any day! Now I don’t know how fast they’d go but my brother, Sebastian, says that they could run as fast as 25 mph! There is a huge viewing area with really cool sculptures of animals that the royalty and friends would sit on to watch the races. Now they use the field to set up VIP private parties for sunset dinners and no, we were not VIPs!

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Fun Fact!

Did you know that Hindu and Buddhist dancers use twisting hand motions to tell stories? 

I learned some moves – pinch your two fingers together, (index and thumb) and point them down towards the ground. Curl it back up so it is pointing to the ceiling or sky now. This means stem and growing. Get it? The plant is a stem to start with and your fingers pinched towards the ground. When you twist and curl them back up, it is growing just as a plant grows. Then, open up your two fingers still pointing up. This means flowering and fruit. I thought it was really cool how people can tell stories just by making hand motions!

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Phew! Just writing all this makes me sleepy…just think about how it really was! I hope you got something out of this and most of all enjoyed it! 🙂

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The 180º panorama view of Angkor Thom

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Family photo with Angkor Thom

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A relaxing lunch on the hammocks…

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