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Vang Vieng - homestay and visit to elephant sanctuary

I rode one of the elephants in the river but it was very unnerving since I always felt like I was going to fall off; the handlers had us ride their necks which didn't seem the most stable position

I rode one of the elephants in the river but it was very unnerving since I always felt like I was going to fall off; the handlers had us ride their necks which didn't seem the most stable position

Four of us spent an enjoyable afternoon at an elephant sanctuary; Laos has banned the use of elephants as beasts of burden so owners no longer wanted them hence the need for sanctuaries

Four of us spent an enjoyable afternoon at an elephant sanctuary; Laos has banned the use of elephants as beasts of burden so owners no longer wanted them hence the need for sanctuaries

We took a cool tubing trip along this lengthy underground river that was within the cave behind me; you pulled yourself along using a rope system

We took a cool tubing trip along this lengthy underground river that was within the cave behind me; you pulled yourself along using a rope system

Jonathan in front of a typical rural Laos house where the bottom floor traditionally has housed livestock, chickens and other animals; the second level has all the living space with multi-generational families sharing being the norm

Jonathan in front of a typical rural Laos house where the bottom floor traditionally has housed livestock, chickens and other animals; the second level has all the living space with multi-generational families sharing being the norm

Fortunately this was the only homestay on our month long tour; the locals we stayed with are quite prosperous by Laotian standards

Fortunately this was the only homestay on our month long tour; the locals we stayed with are quite prosperous by Laotian standards

Laos has about 7 million people which is roughly the same as Arizona or Massachusetts; the birth rate in Laos is almost twice that of the US so there are lots of babies here

Laos has about 7 million people which is roughly the same as Arizona or Massachusetts; the birth rate in Laos is almost twice that of the US so there are lots of babies here

In recent years, Vang Vieng has become a stop on the Southeast Asia backpacker circuit and the main street has many guest houses, bars, massage studios, restaurants and tour agencies

In recent years, Vang Vieng has become a stop on the Southeast Asia backpacker circuit and the main street has many guest houses, bars, massage studios, restaurants and tour agencies

This is the dry season so the rice fields are fallow; cows and water buffalo graze the rice paddies this time of year

This is the dry season so the rice fields are fallow; cows and water buffalo graze the rice paddies this time of year

Laos is a very poor country where people die 16 years earlier than US citizens and where people make 94% lss than Americans; in many of the rural areas people don't even have running water

Laos is a very poor country where people die 16 years earlier than US citizens and where people make 94% less than Americans; in many of the rural areas people don't even have running water

Amnesty Intl and other NGOs have reported egregious human rights violations, religious persecution and the arrest and imprisonment of political and religious dissidents in Laos by government military and security forces

Amnesty Intl and other NGOs have reported egregious human rights violations, religious persecution and the arrest and imprisonment of political and religious dissidents in Laos by government military and security forces

Elephants don't have the best eyesight so the yellow wrist strap for my camera looked very similar to a banana and was thus a target for the trunks of the friendly elephants

Elephants don't have the best eyesight so the yellow wrist strap for my camera looked very similar to a banana and was thus a target for the trunks of the friendly elephants

The view of the karst landscape from our hotel balcony; significant expansion of Vang Vieng and its infrastructure occurred during the 1964-73 Vietnam War when the US constructed an air force base here

The view of the karst landscape from our hotel balcony; significant expansion of Vang Vieng and its infrastructure occurred during the 1964-73 Vietnam War when the US constructed an air force base here

Kayaking was the other good activity option in Vang Vieng but, with only 24 hours here, we had to choose only one and the elephants won out; tubing the river is also popular but in dry season you hit bottom often

Kayaking was the other good activity option in Vang Vieng but, with only 24 hours here, we had to choose only one and the elephants won out; tubing the river is also popular but in dry season you hit bottom often

For our homestay they made us wear traditional Laotian costumes which made us look even more like tourists than we already did

For our homestay they made us wear traditional Laotian costumes which made us look even more like tourists than we already did

When we stayed with a local family in a rural village we got a tour of the neighborhood; this house has an outdoor comfort room while many of its neighbors had more civilized outhouses

When we stayed with a local family in a rural village we got a tour of the neighborhood; this house has an outdoor comfort room while many of its neighbors had more civilized outhouses

As part of our visit we fed the elephants bananas; we were told they eat hundreds of pounds of food every day which is one reason their former owners wanted to get rid of them

As part of our visit we fed the elephants bananas; we were told they eat hundreds of pounds of food every day which is one reason their former owners wanted to get rid of them

Throughout Laos we have dealt with extremely smoky skies as locals burn land so that they can farm it; I don't think the burners even own the land since people seem to farm any area they can

Throughout Laos we have dealt with extremely smoky skies as locals burn land so that they can farm it; I don't think the burners even own the land since people seem to farm any area they can

Our village homestay was for the pigs; I would have preferred the extra night in Vang Vieng so we could have enjoyed kayaking and/or visiting one of the nearby blue lagoons (although there are lots of Chinese tourists crowding sights)

Our village homestay was for the pigs; I would have preferred the extra night in Vang Vieng so we could have enjoyed kayaking and/or visiting one of the nearby blue lagoons (although there are lots of Chinese tourists crowding sights)

The agricultural sector accounts for 70% o national employment and most of this is comprised of small plots of land where people are growing barely enough to survive

The agricultural sector accounts for 70% of national employment and most of this is comprised of small plots of land where people are growing barely enough to survive

In the third quarter of 2012, the Lao government carried out a crackdown in Vang Vieng, pulling down all the riverside bars which had created a rowdy party atmosphere; there were dozens of tourist deaths each year from drunken activities on the river

In the third quarter of 2012, the Lao government carried out a crackdown in Vang Vieng, pulling down all the riverside bars which had created a rowdy party atmosphere; there were dozens of tourist deaths each year from drunken activities on the river

Laos is about the same size as Minnesota; the roads are horrendous with tons of potholes and dirt/gravel stretches along the winding, mountainous center of the country

Laos is about the same size as Minnesota; the roads are horrendous with tons of potholes and dirt/gravel stretches along the winding, mountainous center of the country

It apparently wasn't at all unusual to pass cows on the road in the village where we had our homestay; we were divided up with local houses each taking two of us (Jonathan and I lucked out to have a house with a real toilet)

It apparently wasn't at all unusual to pass cows on the road in the village where we had our homestay; we were divided up with local houses each taking two of us (Jonathan and I lucked out to have a house with a real toilet)

Vang Vieng is a traditional stop on the road from Luang Prabang (8 hours north) to Vientiane (4 hours south); Laos is the only land-locked country in SE Asia and is a one party socialist republic

Vang Vieng is a traditional stop on the road from Luang Prabang (8 hours north) to Vientiane (4 hours south); Laos is the only land-locked country in SE Asia and is a one party socialist republic

Looking out from the hidden river where we went tubing; there were portions of the cave where we were down on all fours to explore passages

Looking out from the hidden river where we went tubing; there were portions of the cave where we were down on all fours to explore passages

Rice dominates agriculture, with about 80 percent of the arable land area used for growing rice; however, only 4% o the country is arable land, and a mere 0.34% ued as permanent crop land

Rice dominates agriculture, with about 80 percent of the arable land area used for growing rice; however, only 4% of the country is arable land, and a mere 0.34% used as permanent crop land

Posted by VagabondCowboy 03:33

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