Gringos!!!! If you are reading this it should be titled Luang Prabang Laos not Chiang mai Thailand, i dont mean to confuss you. Hope you are all ok. the last 3 weeks have been fantastic for us in loas. As i ended the last report saying we were off to pretend we were in jungle book and play with elephants and monkeys, well that is exactly what we did. However how first stop was in Vang Vieng for my birthday, it didnt involve animals but it did involve the inner tube of a tractor tyre. For my birthday we went tubing down the river (what vang vieng is famous for). however this was no ordinary tubing, the lao people had made it far more interesting by placing make shift bars all the way down the river. So we rented our tubes and jumped in. After only being in the river for 2 minutes the first bar appeared from around the corner, of course it would have been rude to have missed it out. It costs 10000 kip or 50p for a 660ml bottle of beer lao what more can you ask for, the day was bound to be a good one. After a beer or 2 there we jumped back in to a tubes to float to the next bar which was about 30 metres down the river. This bar was class it had a zip line and a tree swing that flow you over and into the river. I dont think you would have got away with them in england with all them health and safety laws. Here it was go on them at your own risk. It was brillant though, climb up the tree and away you go. As up can imangine i was like a big kid in and out of the water only stopping for a beer. Haylz decided not to go on them, she decided she didnt have enough arm strength, to be fair though they were very high and you weren't cliped on or anything so if you did fall it was a long way down plus after a few sherberts it was proberly a good idea. The day was going great and the beers going down well, in fact 5 hours had passed before we reached the last bar, this bar also had a massive swing so there was still more fun to have. However the swim back to shore against the current was getting harder and harder the more beers i had i called it aday on jumping in, plus we were on a time scale our tubes had to be back for 6 oclock. Not wanting the day to end we noticed that it was 1/4 to 6 so decided to set off on the last leg down the river. Having had a few to many beers we floated stright past the point where we were supposed to get out and it was only because a local shouted to us that we noticed we had floated way to far down the river. OPPS. We had to make an emergancy exit on the river bank and walk though a random hotel resturant with our tubes in hand with everyone looking at us very confussed. To the relief of the guys in the office we finally made it back at about half 6 by which time it was completly dark. ha ha ha it was a great day.
Our next adventure was a couple of hours further north in a town called Luang Prabang, from here we were going to become elephant handlers. A 2 day course which involved walking, riding, washing and feeding the elephants. The programme they have got going is only in its starting out stages but the work they are doing is incredible, all the money that we pay to attend goes straight back in to conservation of the asian elephant and it also creates lots of jobs for the local people. At present they only have 5 elephants, 4 females and 1 baby. All these elephants are ex-logging elephants that have be rescued and given a better home, you can still see clear scars from where the elephants have been poorly treated, each elephant has a sad story to go with them the worst being an elephant called Mae San who was blind in one eye, she was being forced to pull logs way to heavy and the chain around her legs snapped, she fell forward and landed straight on a branch. Her mother was also brought to the camp but unfortunatly died, she just could get used to the new food rations, love and attention after being so poorly treated. However the elephants are now very well looked after and they plan to rescue more and more. We had a 2 great days with them getting to know there personnalities, the one hayley had was very grumpy she didnt like being made to walk fast and so just walked along at her own pace no matter how much the mahouts slapped her on her bum with a stick. At night we walked them to the jungle where they would spend the night. That night in our little room we tried to sleep through the loudest thunder storm we have ever heard, there was no gap between flashes and bangs, we even nearly lept out of bed it made us jump that much. In the morning we picked the elephants back up and took them for their morning bath where we washed them, after bath time it was feeding time and then time to say good bye.
After saying bye to the elephants it was time to kayak 18k's down the river, we thought it would be easy considering how fast the water was moving in the river, but because the river was that wide and deep it had loads of different currents you had to fight against. We nearly lost hayley at one point in the rapids, we hit a wave that sent her into the air but luckily she landed just on the edge of the kayak, we powered through the rest of the rapids without inciden, it was hard work but great fun and the views were amazing floating through the jungle. We arrived back very hot and tired and desperatly in need of a nap, so thats what we did.
We chilled in Luang Prabang before setting of on yet more horrible bus journeys to get us to the office for our gibbon experience (living in a tree house for 3 days). The first bus was again a small mini bus and we were sat right over the wheel arch so had no leg room what so ever and you couldnt even stretch out in the asle because on these local buses they fill them up with as many people as possible whether there is a seat or not. It was again 5 hours of pure uncomfort. However nothing out of all the bus journeys we have had all trip could compare to this one 4 hours on a mini bus we thought would be easy, think again, we got there early to make sure we didnt get the wheel arch seat, however like normal they kept letting more and more on untill a fat women with a baby decided to squash next to hayley then a guy next to her, it was a joke i had to lean forward and hang half out the window, while hayley leant behind me. The women then decided to continuously breast feed the baby whilst resting her elbow in hayleys ribs. Then the bus broke down and when we asked this guy to move so we could get off and stretch he said no and didnt even move so hayley had to climb over the women and baby then climb over the guy just to get out ( to be fair though i dont think he could understand us i think he thought we were telling him to take some one elses seat so that we werent squashed). Then everyone realised that the bus had broke down and everyone decided to get off and watch. I have no idea why they decided it had broke down it didnt make any funny noises and anything they just decided to stop and take the wheel off. They hit the brake drum with a hammer for a while, did something with an elastic band then decided it was fine and put the tyre back on. It was very funny to watch and i still cant understand what they did. Anyways we had to get back on the bus and back into the same squashed poistion until we finally arrived about 2 hours late.
The last bus leg we though was going to be the worst of all because it was 10 hours through the mountains on an unsealed road, however our book that told us that is abit old and the road thanks to the chinese is now wonderful tarmac, and the journey was a only five hours long and we had a seat EACH!!!!!!!!!!
Bring on the gibbon experince.