Luang Prabang (5)

30 10 2009

Friday 30th October 2009

leafEverywhere we’ve been there are dozens of tour operators wanting to keep we tourists ‘entertained’ and Luang Prabang is no exception. After spending the last few days in leisurely wanderings around the old part of the city all the while refusing the touters and ignoring the signboards promoting boats, cycles, kayaks, busses, treks and cruises on the river, to caves, wats, shrines, waterfalls or mountains, we felt we probably should do something touristy. Tad Sae Waterfall LuangPrabangSo today we headed off for a visit to a local waterfall and an elephant ride, yes elephant ride! Seduced by photos of tourists riding and playing in the river with happy looking elephants we set off on a ‘package tour’ that seemed like a good idea at the time. The package turned out to be just the two of us and a friendly English speaking guide who drove us to a point on the  Kahn River where we embarked on a locally built boat to take us down stream and across the river to a place where we disembarked. elephantAt this point a stream seemed to erupt from the jungle over a distance of 40 or 50 metres in a divided and haphazard manner, and just fall into the Kahn River. Curiously, apart from the fact it was clean water, it looked more like the overflow from a dam burst rather than a regular stream as there seemed to be no river course. Ashore and into the bush a bit we were led to where elephants were kept chained by the foot. Up until this point I don’t think either of us had contemplated the plight of elephants kept for the amusement of tourists. That however, was brought home to us when we were helped into the howdah and found our mount was obviously was not happy about having her meal interrupted by two heavy weights. Anyway we had our ride and were pleased to leave the elephant to get back to her brunch. The ride may have been disappointing but the place was remarkable. This quite large stream seems to run through the jungle without any particular river course having been gouged. The top soil is gone of course, but then it just runs over a hard clay pan around roots and shrubs and trees spreading out wide at some points and becoming narrower and faster at others.  All this and the water has that sort of milky blue of glacial water while being at a most agreeable temperature for swimming.Flying Fox

With Maree wandering around the falls and with the guide accompanying me I followed a track upstream all the while noticing a series of platforms suspended high in the upper branches of huge trees.  This turned out to be a flying fox course that crisscrossed the stream and followed it downstream. I decided correctly that I need not return and ask Maree if she wanted to join me in taking this as an option for descent having decided that it would be much more invigorating return than walking back, so the appropriate assistant and gear were summoned and I came back by the easy route, swinging through the trees for over a kilometre. There were 9 or 10 stages, one of the spans being 200 metres by itself for which I was supplied a bamboo forked stick to apply as a brake to control the excessive speed. And at several points I had to belay down heights of 10 or 12 metres between spans before bursting out of the tree over the swimming area on the last leg.boat

One of the things we haven’t mentioned that has given us much pleasure, both here and at Sapa, is the magnificent and colourful butterflies we see. From large black and indigo with white spots to delicate butter yellow and every colour in between we have observed them to be very plentiful.




3 responses

31 10 2009

It all seems very breathtaking, ‘specially the flying fox ( help!) mum

31 10 2009

Wow! I can’t believe dad did that! I would have thought the elephants enough of an adventure. What are the OHS standards like? Perhaps I shouldn’t ask.
Look after yourselves.

1 11 2009
Roger and Maree

I don’t think OH&S translates into Lao. Everything looked pretty trustworthy up until the first belay down. The lowering rope was the sort you would see on a good main-sheet but it was furry with wear in places. I pointed it out along with an indication my weight might be stretching things (excuse the pun) but he just laughed and assured me it was good quality rope. There was really no way back so I stepped off and the guide lowered me down giving it a couple of good ‘bounces’ to prove his point.

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