Did I mention that so far this has been my favorite place? Well, it is. I love the views, the people, the food…pretty much everything. The only thing that is really bringing me down these days are the mosquitos. I think they’re some sort of mutant breed because they can bite you through your clothes. It’s just not right. I won’t divulge how many bites I have on my bum, but it’s really hindering my ability to sit down comfortably. And I’m sure that the amount of deet that I’m putting on isn’t doing my body much good either. What’s a girl to do?

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After my experience in Thailand, I was super hesitant to do a tour with my travel partners. But I read nothing but great reviews, so I thought it was worth a shot. Fortunately, it was a great experience and our guide was so friendly and informative. The first stop we made was to Pak Ou Caves. It’s about 25km up the Mekong River (I actually took pictures of it on the slow boat, not realizing what it was).

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Inside the limestone caves, there are literally thousands of tiny Buddha statues, mostly made from wood. From what I understood, our guide said that it was one of the most holiest places in Laos and it gets pretty busy in April when the locals come to pray at the new year.

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After the caves, we met the elephants and their mahouts (or trainers). Right off the bat, I knew that this would be a great experience. The elephants looked happy and healthy, and you could tell by the way that the mahouts interacted with them, that they had a special and loving bond.

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This was also the first time I have seen mahouts without sticks in their hands. They used just their voice and knees to nudge them behind their ears. We were given a quick lesson on how to command an elephant in Laos and were quizzed so we could try to ride them on our own. Those 10 minutes I was riding the elephant bareback on my own was probably the most intimidating and terrifying and thrilling thing ever. Also, my elephant didn’t listen to a damn thing I said. Maybe it was my accent?

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Eventually the mahout jumped on with me and off we went into the river, where my elephant proceeded to shake me off her back and into the river. I accidentally drank some of the Mekong… that wasn’t disgusting at all. I bought some bananas after and made friends with the baby elephant (4 years old!). They are such amazing creatures from the pads of their feet to the tips of their trunks. Absolutely incredible. There was a moment there when I thought it would be entirely possible to live in Laos and become a mahout of my very own elephant. Then I remembered that I hate jungle mosquitos.

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The next day, we woke up bright and early (read 9am), rented some bikes and began a 32 km (roughly 20 miles) bike ride to Tat Kaung Si. I almost gave up halfway through; it was a steep climb to make in the heat. But I persevered, mostly because I was too proud and embarrassed to hail a tuk-tuk to take me the rest of the way. After the initial climb, and after I managed to catch my breath, I was able to take in the views. I took two photos, because I knew if I stopped to take a picture every time I saw something beautiful, I never would have made it to the falls.

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I have never sweated that much in my life (except for that time in hot yoga, which I’m still trying to figure out what the hell I was thinking doing that). So jumping into the swimming area at the falls was absolutely heavenly. We were down at the lower swimming area so long until we realized there was a rope swing a few pools up from us. So worth the brutal bike ride to get there.

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Other than that, I have just been enjoying walking around the city and eating the street food. There are some interesting buffets going on in the alleys by the night market.  $1.25 for a plate full.

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And these little coconut pancakes…I’m kind of glad I discovered them late in the game, otherwise I would have been pigging out on them everyday.

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I finished weaving a scarf on a floor loom today and it has gotten be all kinds of excited about crafting again. Now if only I had some place to put a floor loom….

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