Friday, February 12, 2010

Land of a Million Elephants

Laos, once known as Lan Xang or “Land of a Million Elephants” is now home to about 1600 of these endangered animals. We signed up for a one-day Mahout course with Elephant Village, an organization dedicated to saving logging elephants through tourism. A mahout is an elephant handler, so we learned how to guide our elephants through verbal commands while riding on their backs. My elephant, Mae Kham, was about 40 years old (but didn’t look a day over 30 to me) with amazingly coarse hair and leathery skin, and a lovely temperament. It's rare to be able to interact so closely with such massive and powerful animals so Vipin and I both felt like this was an incredible experience. The highlights of the day were learning to climb up onto the elephant on our own (with the help of its leg) and bathing the elephants in the river. Take a look at how much fun we’re having with our elephants in the pictures below!

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