Laos is not exactly a famous tourist destination, but once you are there, you will quickly hear about all the must-visit places this beautiful country has to offer. One of these spots is Vang Vieng.
You may have or have not heard of this small little town but in any case, let me tell you what I know about it. While located directly at the Nam Song river, surrounded by beautiful mountains, secluded fairytale lagoons and caves, Vang Vieng is not a tourist favourite because of its stunning nature. It's the party place of Laos, where drugs can easily be bought in many bars, and many backpackers find their way there every year, looking to get high. (More about it in a later post) So imagine my surprise when I heard that Vang Vieng is also home to an elephant sanctuary.
I am well aware of the reputation this kind of South-East Asian sanctuaries have in western countries. From forcing Elephants to carry people around for their pleasure all day long, Elephants being straight up mistreated and torture but let me tell you right now, this place is not like that at all.
The Vang Vieng Elephant Sanctuary was founded by a married couple who wanted to do something against how these animals are being exploited for tourists. They put their money together, bought land and started this project together.
Half a day costs 55 Dollars and includes pick up from your hostel or hotel, feeding the elephants, bathing them and a delicious vegetarian lunch. They will also give you a ride back to town, which is around 45 minutes away. 55 Dollars is not exactly cheap, especially if you are on a tight backpacker budget but keep in mind, that all the money goes directly back into the care of these friendly giants. At the moment this place is home to four elephants, three females and one male who was locked away by the time I was visiting cause it was mating season and apparently, they can harm the visitors, the staff, the other elephants and themselves during that time.
All of those four have been rescued from tourist attractions but the owners are still paying them off. On top of that, each of them needs to eat around 250 Kilograms every day! So I think this is one of the occasions where it is worth spending more money. It is for a good cause after all!
So before I end this post with some more pictures, I want to finish with the words the staff welcomed us at the sanctuary: Here, the elephants don't work for the people but the people work for the elephants.
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