lolamatopoeia: (sideview)
[personal profile] lolamatopoeia
Another catch up day in Luang Prabang, at Utopia again, oddly enough. I'm spending as much time as possible alone today. I desperately need it. I need time to decompress and process. As well as you can get along with your travel partner, it is tougher that I thought spending 24 hrs a day, every single day, with a person (no matter how awesome there are) and it's wearing on me. I'm just not used to not getting enough alone time. I think everyone needs it. I may need more than others, I've discovered. I'm feeling overstimulated and overstretched and I need time to catch up on my journals, catch up on the world, watch television, read trash novels and magazines, fart, eat junk food and hang around naked in my air conditioned guesthouse room and not feel the need to be 'on' all the time or even talk anymore. I know that sounds harsh, I know, and nothing's wrong I just need alone time so, so, so desperately. This will need to be a more regular occurrence through this trip for me, I think.

So, catch up the last three days. The last three days have been fairly quiet. I can't recall too much about what we did the day our group of friends left aside from taking things fairly slowly and walking around the town and exploring.

The next day we woke up early to watch the monks collect offerings of merit from believers along the streets of Luang Prabang. It's one of the fantastic sights in this city. The alms ceremony happens every morning here at around 5:30-6AM and its a pretty magical sight to see - all of the orange robes lining the street in the quiet of the morning. Unfortunately, the road that I caught the ceremony on was filled with tourists and their huge cameras and flash units lining up and shoving their way in to get their best shot, as though their large camera entitled them to be jerks. I suppose I expected a certain level of ceremony and reverence.

After a short nap, Bianca and I ventured out again and met a girl named Jodi, from Alberta. We met her later that day for dinner and have been spending as much time as we can with her since she's just so fantastic. She's currently studying Fair Trade in a Masters program at the University of Alberta and just finished two months of research in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Shortly after meeting Jodi, we met up with our friend Steve again and he treated us to iced coffees at his favourite places along the river before he said goodbye - he left the next day to fly back home to Pennsylvania for a while. I hugged him goodbye and learned that he's not a 'hugger'.

The rest of our time was just spent walking around one heck of a lot and meeting people, and eating Lao BBQ/Fondue/whatever it's called twice (even though I don't even like it), and crossing scary rivers and bridges at night.

Yesterday was pretty incredible for me though. I signed up to be a Mahout for the day at the Elephant Village just outside of town. It was probably the most expensive activity I've done so far on this trip, but it was worth it and I know the money is supporting a good cause.

I needed something to redeem my experience of elephant treatment in Thailand and this was just what I needed. The village's aim is to rehabilitate and care for retired elephants from the logging industry up North. There were seven elephants and each one had a story. Usually a very sad story. The elephant I was with, Mae Kam, had been worked hard and abused while logging and lost her baby in childbirth. She's also blind in one eye and the only Mahout she trusts or will listen to is the one she's been working with for over twenty years now. She was very gentle and calm and sweet with me.

We got to ride the elephants through the jungle at the beginning of the day, and at first I was a bit discouraged because we were put on those platform things like we were in Thailand again, but then this time we were allowed to ride directly on our elephants necks! Bareback! It was awesome! I could feel her thick leathery skin and the way it moved over her muscles and joints between my legs as she slowly and gracefully and carefully walked along in the jungles. Her ears gently flapped against my legs the whole way. It was beautiful. There were pictures taken. Believe me.

After the riding we got to feed our elephants bananas and they just took whole bunches and devoured them whole. Those girls ate a lot of bananas. One of the elephants only wanted the bananas to be fed directly into her mouth, not at her trunk, and so I got to dip my hand into her vagina-like mouth and feel her smooth and massive backwards tongue against my hand many times. It was great. I later found out that she prefers to be fed this way because she's actually blind and this makes it easier for her.

After our lunch, we got to bathe our elephants in the river. Yeah, we did. We had practiced mounting and dismounting our elephants and learning Lao directions to give our girls beforehand. We mounted the ladies and rode down into the river together and got dunked right in there with them as they bathed. We got big scrub brushes and scrubbed away as the elephants had a happy time cooling off and pooping underneath us. Some of the others in my group got dunked in by their elephants, but Mae Kam was so gentle and relaxed with me. It was pretty damn magical. There were also pictures taken of this. I'll likely post them all in a month's time. Absolutely unforgettable.

The whole experience was completely redeeming for me. I could see that the elephants were happy and cared for responsibly. It was such a great experience being able to interact so much with these majestic creatures. I was mesmerized by their slow movements, their silent grace and wisdom, their gentle and sweet yet stubborn and mischievous nature. They're just magic and I was reminded how much I love these creatures. I could write pages and pages about how much I love them but I'll stop here and save you all from that.

That evening I was dropped off at our guesthouse with just enough time to have a shower and change before I was supposed to meet Bianca, Jodi, and a Lao guy working at OkTokPop(?) gallery that Bianca met and agreed to join for dinner. I thought I knew where I was going until I met up with the Irish couple, Andrew and Mary, along the way who told me I was going in the complete opposite direction. I turned around and found my way alright when the Lao guy in question pulled up on his motorbike and told me that he'd already met with Bianca and that she was on her way to meet me back at the guesthouse. I went back the way I came to the guesthouse where I got found a note scrawled for me telling me the name of a restaurant and its approximate location in a town I don't know to navigate. I was ready to go up to my room and call it a night - sincerely regretting passing up offers of dinner with an Australian couple I spent the day with at the Elephant Village (the one whose shit fed the pigs on their trek in China) and an American grad student I met on the way back - when Bianca and Jodi and the boys in question (again) pulled up on motorbikes and we all went off together. We drove to a place outside of town where I swear the record screeched and skipped as we walked in - we were the only non-Lao people in the bar. It was sincerely uncomfortable for Jodi and me, but Bianca seemed to have a great time. It's just, well, trying to have a conversation or any type of interaction with a person, when neither of you can speak the other's language well (or at all) in an extremely loud and extremely busy and rowdy outdoor patio bar at night in a foreign country is ill-advised. Most frustrating dinner and beers ever. At the same time, it was kind of this unforgettable mix of awesome and a complete disaster. Our company was very sweet though, and I even got to ride home on the back of a young Lao girl's motorbike. That was so much freaking fun.

In any case, today is a much needed quiet time and isolation kind of day. I need it so very badly. I need more me time sometimes, and more vacation in this trip.

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