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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Elephant Cave

In the tired travel town of Thakhek, three students looked for something, anything, to do. They wandered the streets, incapable of finding anything but overpriced ice cream and two lethargic temples. In the central square, signs pointed in all directions towards multiple tourist sights on a famous motorcycle trail, commonly referred to as The Loop. Mikey, one of the students, pointed at a sign and said, “I’m bored. Let’s go there.” Another student, Eleanor, replied, “Sure,” but there was uncertainty in her voice. Ben, the last student, was not as enthusiastic because it was completely unplanned and likely relatively expensive. But Mikey was committed. His sense of adventure was sparked. He took the initiative to approach a tuk tuk driver and soon negotiated a reasonable price. The three were on their way to the Elephant Cave.

In a few minutes, the students were at the foot of a mountain, with stairs carved into the side and vegetation crawling up the stone. They walked through a golden, ornamental gate adorned with two elephants. As they climbed up to the cave, Mikey desperately hoped that he didn’t lead the group to some crappy tourist destination. They were both pleasantly surprised and slightly disappointed when they arrived at the top. Statues of Buddha sat along the walls, surrounding a statue of an elephant man. Guano was piled under the massive bat infested ceilings. At a far end of the cave, Mikey discovered a small room, full of miscellaneous objects and offerings, including an old loom, that people had left in this place of worship over the years.

The three walked around for a while more, taking in the beautiful view at the mouth of the cave as the sun sank lower in the sky. Finally satisfied, they made their way back to Thakhek, feeling like they had accomplished something worthwhile. Their adventure had been in the spur of the moment, but that only made the experience all the more exciting.