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Laos (Day 26) Bathing ELEPHANTS!

WE GAVE OUR ELEPHANTS A BATH!! We are still processing that this really happened. 

After the best sleep of our trip, we awoke early and embraced our beautiful surroundings. 

Minecrafting in Laos Across from Elephants *insert eye roll* *sigh*

The GOOD Life!

Spot my kids!

From across the river, we could see the mahouts bringing our elephants out of their forest retreats. Ahhh, we enjoyed our wonderful breakfast. But, we were super excited to get to our elephants!

Dressed to get wet and wearing water shoes, we made our way to the dock and took a boat across to say good morning to the elephants as they came out of the forest to the riverbank. It's still just our family (and a whole lot of staff) making this a very special experience. 

We each took our own elephant into the water for bathing. Or, was it the other way around. How did they get so dirty in the forest?! Mine needed extra attention behind her ears. Squeaky clean (elephants and humans). Seriously. This experience. Be still my ❤️ heart. We can go home now.

Why do the elephants need to be bathed? Elephants are highly dependant on water, not only for drinking but also for their skin and general hygiene. During their evolution, they were probably fully amphibious, and the present Asian elephants are reported to have swam a good distance in the ocean. Elephants enjoy a daily bath and apart from the hygienic benefit, it's also important for their mental well-being.

With hearts soaring, we returned camp side and went to get cleaned up before lunch. We wandered the grounds a bit while waiting for each other. 

Now, it was time to learn more in-depth about the care of our rescued elephants and the good work of this sanctuary with a tour of the camp museum and elephant hospital. 

There is a full-time elephant vet on staff. The doctor examines each elephant every morning - weighing it, treating wounds, providing vitamins, and making sure it is getting plenty of food and water. We got more familiar with the 12 elephants from their medical charts, which identified them by pic, age, weight and mahout. There is a daily-check written noting their current condition and treatments. They carry heavy scars from 💔 experiences, but may they now live the rest of their days in comfort here at the sanctuary.  Molly, who has wanted to be a vet since pre-school, has found her mothership here in Laos. She hasn't stopped talking about returning and bringing all her friends. 

Medicine for the Elephants

The museum is well done and we learned many new things taking our time at each signage and display.

We got a lot of dung paper to bring back home! FYI - there is no aroma to it.

This sign cracked us up!

Oh right, I almost forgot to mention the logistics of booking our Elephant Village experience. Now, there are 2 sides to this operation. And, if you want to do the stay that we did then you will need to make sure that you are booking the Shangri-Lao (2 Day Expedition with Camping).  

There is a less costly option to stay overnight in their Elephant Lodge. From what I can tell, it is a substantial cost savings per person ($154 vs $406 per person at the rate when we booked). I have no idea what the accommodations and surrounding grounds are like, but do know that you would not have access to the Shangri-Lao Treehouse Restaurant and THAT pool. For us, this was a once in a lifetime experience and we came away completely satisfied PLUS.

We booked directly online and paid in full at the time of booking. There are only 3 tents and I knew that we would need 2 of them.  No way was I leaving it to chance with availability. We booked about 15 months in advance! I had to shift our dates by a day when I finally booked our flights due to flight schedules, but it was not a problem. I don't know what their cancellation policy is as I didn't ask. I just assumed it was non-refundable. Here is the web address:

Yes, I was freaked out at the number of pre-paid non-refundable expenses that we were accumulating prior to actual travel. It honestly boggles my mind that everything went off without a single hitch. 

Too soon, our time with the elephants ended. I might have shed a tear at departure. Instead of going back to Mekong Riverview, I had arranged that we be dropped off at My Dream Boutique.  We checked into this small garden boutique hotel which is located back near the heritage town of Luang Prabang. Conveniently, they called Mekong Riverview to have our cleaned laundry and excess luggage sent over. Like everything else we've experienced so far in Laos, it's so Zen here.

We enjoyed the rest of our day around the garden and pool. 

We have a huge interconnecting family room (2 identical rooms with full bath each and one HUGE balcony). After pool time, the kids fairly quickly disappeared into their room with their electronics to chill until dinner.

We were keen to go back to the Night Market for dinner, so we had a tuk-tuk called to take us. There are bikes available and we did see people use them to get into town, but we are lazy and no way did I trust Rob's "5 minutes tops" estimation. 

These two. Partners working out their bargaining strategy for little sister's desired item (the backpack that she is wearing). They did so much better than Rob. Turns out, Caitlin is a pro. It got to the point that we would just tell her what we wanted and then walk away as she completed the purchase.

We had told our tuk-tuk driver that we would meet him for the return ride. But, we just couldn't find him and I'm not sure we were even at the right end of the market where we said we would meet. We felt bad because we hadn't paid our one-way fare. To balance our karma, Rob paid our return ride extra. Sneak preview - we find our original tuk-tuk driver!

Up Next: Living Luang Prabang

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