Tag Archives: diary

A new set of challenges

Hello from a very soggy Sunday morning in Leeds. We are in the middle of “Storm Brian,” which is pretty full on. I’ve been awake since 5am (great Sunday lie in) after waking up from a horrible zombie nightmare. Maybe I need to stop watching The Walking Dead right before  we go to sleep…

Parker is delighted that I’m up so early and has pushed my laptop off me and has started giving me a slightly scratchy massage.

Anyway.

When I first started my blog in 2015, I gave myself something fun to do, and also to write about by setting myself 25 challenges to complete before I was 25. I didn’t really complete them all, but it was good fun. You can click the links to read about when I tried lobster, caviar, and meditated for ten days.

Now I’m picking up my blog again, I’ve decided to give myself a new set of challenges. (With no more fishy business – now I’m a veggie)

Although I’ve just turned 27, I’m sticking with 25 challenges (seems like a more manageable number haha)

Here we go, here are my challenges for the year!

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

1- Visit India

2 – Hike one of the three Yorkshire Peaks

3 – Read “Shantaram”

4 – See live comedy

5 – Watch “Gone With The Wind”

IMG_6825

6 – Get a tarot card reading

7 –  Take a language class

8 – Donate 200 things to charity

9 – Spend no money for one week

10 – Go to a pilates class

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

11 – Learn to salsa dance

12 – Play piccolo in an orchestra

13 – Learn to sew and make something wearable

14 – Host a dinner party for my friends

15 – Go plastic free for a week

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

16 – Try making my own cosmetics

17 – Go Christmas shopping in York

18- Go to Ireland

19- Go to a concert of music from another culture

20- Go vegan for a week

IMG_6829

21- Read sixty books in a year

22- Volunteer to help out with a charitable cause

23- Start drawing again

24- Have a car-free week

25- Do yoga every day for thirty days

So there we have it! I’m excited to get going. How nice to have a list of stuff to fall back on when I’m bored.

I’ll keep you posted with how I get on.

P.S. apologies for the photo overload! These are all photos I took on our visit to Harewood House yesterday where I had my mind blown by the dahlias. I am no longer using instagram, so you can expect a lot of photos making there way on here.

blogsignature

 

 

Angkor Archaeological Park

Hello from Phuket! It’s nice to be back here, and the weather is much cooler than when we were last in Thailand in April. It’s rainy season, and I currently have tonsillitis, which isn’t fun, but antibiotics are bloody cheap. Yesterday we bought a set of twenty amoxicillin tablets for me, fifty doxycycline tablets (anti-malarials, which cost £1 per tablet at home) some calpol, and some indigestion tablets for a grand total of SIX QUID.

So, dear reader, please put in any drug requests now! We are three weeks away from home. Speaking of home, will the UK still be standing when we get there? This is the worst political turmoil I’ve experienced in my lifetime. I’m so sad about leaving the EU. I love Europe. Plus the pound has already plummeted in value, which makes future travels more expensive, and I’m dreading another recession.

Anyway, happy thoughts please!

Last week we visited Angkor Archaeological Park, just outside of Siem Reap. I filled my phone with photos so I thought I’d post them all here.

First up: Angkor Wat!

image image image

image

Angkor Wat is the most famous of the many temples in the park. We got up at 3.45am and met our tuk tuk driver, Hip, who took us to Angkor Wat for sunrise. It was breathtaking. Other travellers had warned us that there would be loads of people there….but there wasn’t! A few hundred perhaps, but not the huge crowd I’d imagined. The silhouette of Angkor Wat was really familiar to us having been in Cambodia for a couple of weeks. It was incredible to see it in the flesh and watch the detail slowly appear as the sun rose.

image image  image

(Above photos are from inside Angkor Wat)

image image

image

(Made friends with a kitty. I told her she had the coolest house ever and fed her some pizza flavoured Pringles)

image

(The steps up the big “pineapple” made our hands mega dirty.)

Angkor Wat definitely has the coolest silhouette, but the other temples were way cooler inside!

Next up, Bayan Temple. This place was one of my favourites, it had loads of hidden faces everywhere.

image image image image

I’m sorry that my photo quality is pretty pants – these were taken on my iPhone and then reduced in resolution so I can upload them easily with crappy wifi. I can’t wait to show you all some decent photos from the big camera when we’re back!

image image image image image

I can’t believe it wasn’t even 7am at this point!

I’m unsure of the name of the next temple. It felt a bit like something from Ancient Greece to me.

image image image

It was a muggy day, but it worked out well because it wasn’t too hot.

image image image image

I really loved the temples that were a bit more rugged and unkept. They reminded me of The Jungle Book and really captured my imagination.

image image

(Statues are often missing heads because it was once believed that they contained gold, and so the temples were sometimes ransacked.)

image image image  image

I firmly believe that the only good thing the Khmer Rouge did was to leave the temples alone. Thank goodness they left them. They’re such a joy to explore as a tourist. Also, they’re free to visit for locals, and we met a local family who told us that they go nearly every weekend for picnics. How cool is that?!

image image image

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

 

image image  image

See – I did warn you I took a lot of photos!

We were totally knackered by the time we left, but it was a fabulous day, and one of my favourite sites in South East Asia. I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

Before I leave you, here’s a list of really mundane inanimate objects I’m excited for when I get home. Always appreciate the small things!

  1. Electric toothbrush
  2. Heinz tomato soup
  3. Pajamas without elastic around the ankles
  4. The correct conditioner for my candy floss hair.
  5. Sofa
  6. Bed
  7. Tea making facilities
  8. Bath
  9. Haircut
  10. Not feeling ill.

 

That wasn’t meant to be a rant, I just know I’ll have the post-travel Blues so I’m getting myself excited for the small things that I miss a lot.

blogsignature

The slow boat to Luang Prabang

For the next section of our trip we’d decided to take a slow boat down the Mekong river from Hauy Xai to Luang Prabang. It was to take two days, with a stop over night in Pak Bang.

We’d been recommend by Luke to pay a bit extra to take a luxury boat. The cheap local boats can get very overcrowded. We looked into the luxury boats but none were running due to it being low season. So, local boat it is then! We ended up having a really great time! Our boat was a good mix of backpackers and locals, and we were with David, Daria and Anita from the Gibbon Experience. We got chatting with lots of people, drank beers until the bar was dry and enjoyed the scenery. I’ll let the photos do the talking.

image

image

Eight hours on a slow boat is a really great way to travel! No motion sickness, you can walk around a bit, plus it was such a stunning journey. Also, it cost 20 quid each, for sixteen hours of travel! We arrived at the half way point, Pak Bang, and were shoved in the back of a truck and taken to a hostel by some locals. It was half the price of what we usually pay (tenner a night) but I must say….. It was absolutely grim. I took one look at the bathroom and said “no thank you!” And walked back out. We were then taken to somewhere really nice, so we had a good night! We enjoyed good food, more beer then conked out.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The following day on the boat was much of the same. We arrived in Luang Prabang at around 6pm and went to find our guest house.
That evening we met our gibbon/slow boat buddies at a bar called Utopia, which is all outdoors and on the banks of the Mekong. It had loads of mats on the floor so you can be horizontal whilst you drink – definitely my kind of place.

image

We spent five nights in Luang Prabang because we loved it so much! It was similar to Ubud in Bali… Really chilled and hippie! What I love about travelling is when you find somewhere you really like so you just stay. Here’s a few good memories:

– silly nights spent in Utopia. Being kicked out at 11.30pm and then being bundled into tuk tuks and taken off to the bowling alley with people riding on the roofs and hanging on the back (I was safely inside mum) … Due to the communist government there’s a 12pm curfew in Laos, but the local policeman runs the bowling alley which stays open and is full with drunk backpackers until 2.30pm. I’m crap at bowling but doing it pissed makes it much more enjoyable.

image

– the best icecream I’ve ever had. Coconut icecream from heaven.

– discovering we had really posh tv channels so avoided the midday heat by lying in the air conditioning and watching The Walking Dead. (Ive reached the point where this doesn’t make me feel guilty at all.)

– a really cool book shop filled with art, where I bought a beautiful tile painted with Buddhas face, made by a local artist. Upstairs they had a cinema room where we spent two evenings watching films.

– the best waterfalls I have EVER seen. Blue water. Stunning.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

(Swimming in an infinity pool is on my bucket list. I found the natural version – swimming on the edge of a waterfall. Tick!)

– walking the streets of Luang Prabang and bumping into people you know from the boat. It gave me a sense of familiarity that made me feel like I was back home in Kendal.

– helping a local shake mangoes from a tree with a big stick.

– meeting a survivor of the 2006 Thai Boxing Day tsunami. Out of 120 people in his village, he was one of four survivors. I couldn’t stop thinking about him for days and days and days.

– walking up a lot of steps to visit the temple and watch the sunset. Got fleeced by a “monk” and couldn’t see the sunset for the people. HA

– wandering around hungover and seeing Anita and Patrick and then joining them on a very slow food crawl from cafe to cafe with more friends joining as they bumped into us.

– hot and killer walks to and from the Vietnamese Embassy to get our visas sorted.

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

We left Laos with heavy hearts. Although we didn’t get to see all of the country, what we did see was beautiful, and we made some wonderful new friends. Until next time!

blogsignature

 

 

The Gibbon Experience

Hello stranger!

I’m writing this in our hotel room in Hanoi, Vietnam. I didn’t actually manage to get any blog posts about Laos up, so here I find myself playing catch up! Here’s a post about the Gibbon Experience.

Following our stop in Chaing Kong, we were ready to head across the bridge over the Mekong river that takes you from Thailand to Laos. Admittedly, we both didn’t know a lot about Laos (organised as ever.) After a bit of research on the internet, I was left with a sense of foreboding. The government website explains that Laos is one of the poorest countries in South East Asia, there are lots of muggings, and one of the bus routes we were planning on taking was to be avoided at all costs. GREAT.

It’s difficult sometimes when travelling, trying to figure out what to do and remembering to trust your gut about potentially dangerous situations. For example, when we went to Bali, the government website told us not to visit unless absolutely essential due to the threat of terrorist attacks following the bombing in Jakarta. But in the end, we went, we were fine, and Bali has been one of my favourite places so far! Anyway, I digress. We decided to just go for it, and keep our wits about us, and cancel the dodgy bus route where tourists have been bombed and held at gun point. La la la!! (Singing and smiling) !!!

The bridge from Thailand was my first border crossing by land. We queued up and handed over our passports and paid for our visas (in US dollars for some unknown reason) it was easy peasy! We got a tuk tuk to our accommodation, which was deserted. When we eventually found someone, we were sent into a posh hotel across the road, which we weren’t expecting and definitely hadn’t paid for, but it worked out fine, so I’m not complaining! Houi Xay (that’s a fun one to pronounce) is a small town on the edge of the Mekong river and home to the Gibbon Experience. It’s so cool being in Laos and looking across the river to Thailand. We spent the night, and then got up early and headed to the gibbon experience centre for our briefing.

The Gibbon Experience is the top tourist attraction in Laos. It involves trekking in the Nam Kan National Park, zip lining across the canopy and staying over night in the highest tree houses in the world. Plus the added extra that you might get lucky and see gibbons in their natural habitat. We were very excited! We opted to do the “classic” tour – three days and two nights with the minimum amount of walking and maximum chance of seeing the elusive gibbons.

image

(A photo of the highest treehouse in the world, to whet the appetite!)

We started off with a two and half hour ride in the back of one of my favourite trucks. The last hour was dirt road and incredibly bouncy, and involved a drive through a river, avoiding the ducks. It wasn’t too sicky, and nice to get to know the people in our group. We arrived at the village, had a warm free beer (fabulous) and then began the walk to the first zip line. The walk was a taste of things to come…. Very very hilly and very very hot and very very sweaty!! We reached a resting point where we were given our zip harnesses and split into two groups. One group of seven people, and one of six. We could choose between two tree houses, number one and number seven. Some members of the group were really pushy and said that “there’s more chance of seeing gibbons at hut seven” so we were left with treehouse one. Kind of annoying when we didn’t get a choice in the matter, plus we’d paid a lot for the trip (£200 each) so I was a bit pissed off, but in the end, dear reader, karma is a bitch…..

We fastened ourselves into our harnesses and carefully clipped ourselves onto the wire. The first zip line was really fun, a real adrenaline rush. I was panicking about being able to stop in time, so I pulled my brake early and stopped quite far away from the platform. I was left dangling mid air and thinking “hmm.” In the tutorial video, we watched a smiling lady pulling herself along the wire hand over hand. I though “okay cool, time to pull myself in.” But she made it look SO easy!! Hahaha!!! I have no core or upper body strength, so pulling myself in was really really exhausting for me. Luckily one of the guides came out and hoisted me back in. This happened many, many times over the next three days. God bless those guides!

We enjoyed more hiking in the beautiful jungle, with our guides pointing out the snakes (little ones) and jumping spiders (surprisingly a lot cuter than they sound!) we made a lunch stop, and then after a few more ziplines, we got the one that took us to our tree house. As I was zipping across, I was thinking “woah this looks so tiny!” But when we got there it was actually pretty huge, and the biggest one in the Gibbon Experience.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

(The little square at the top of the photo is the bed where Tom and I slept)
Behind a curtain on the bottom floor was our bathroom – a squat toilet (yaaaay) a sink and a shower. Then we walked up some stairs to our kitchen and social area. Up the stairs again was where Tom and I slept, and on the floor above, more sleeping space. I was dreading a dorm layout because I’m so sick of dorm rooms and I don’t sleep well surrounded by people other than Thomas, so I was really pleased with it! We had a double mattress on the floor with seriously heavy duty mosquito net covering it that gives you some privacy.
We had a cup of coffee with the guides and then they said “okay, someone will deliver your evening meal at 5pm, we will see you tomorrow at 8am!” I was laughing and like “haha yeah good one!” Then they zip lined out of the tree house. And I was like “holy shit, were 30 metres above the ground for the night, unattended!” For some reason, I’d assumed that the guides would stay with us…. The health and safety procedures are so different on this side of the world. They basically just said “don’t zip line when it’s dark and don’t light candles.” And that’s it. We later were thinking “what if someone has a heart attack or something, what do we do?!” And it was very discomforting when one of the guides told me that our tree house had actually burnt down a few years ago, when some travellers fell asleep with a candle burning and had to zip line out of the burning house in the dark. Terrifying! Anyway, I’m rambling again..

I had a shower. It was completely open air with awesome view of the jungle. I felt slightly exposed, but there is no one there to see you, just the odd gibbon, snake (!) bear (!!) or leopard (!!!)
In the shower you are stood on floorboards with gaps between them. I’m fine with big heights, but I must admit watching the water droplets from my shower snake down the thirty metre drop before hitting the ground below took my breath away and I found myself clinging onto the railing and doing some deep breaths.
There were seven of us in our treehouse; an American couple – Dani and Kevin, Anita from Switzerland, and David from Scotland with his Polish girlfriend Daria. So it was a good mix of people! We watched the sun go down over the jungle, listening to bugs that were deafening, and sounded like someone using an angle grinder, geckos singing and squeaking, an ominous humming that sounded like flies over a body, and all sorts of birds and unidentifiable animals singing. It was SO loud and fascinating!

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

When it got dark we played cards by the single solar powered hanging LED light, and a few bugs came to join us. It started off with every five minutes of so, someone flinching and brushing off a mosquito or fly, then we saw small grasshoppers then bigger praying mantis, then moths, then huge moths, and then huge spiders and cockroaches. It was hilarious! We got to a point when we weren’t even scared, just waiting for the bigger and more funny bug to greet us. The grand finale was when an fucking ENORMOUS (about the size of my hand) bug descended from the ceiling in a twirl like a dramatic ballerina towards our table. It had a cape on. It had muscles. It had huge wiggling antenna and about ten wings. We were so giddy and scared and jumpy I’m certain we woke up and scared away every single sleeping gibbon in the jungle. We decided that we should probably go to bed before Godzilla or something arrived for the party.

We lifted our mosquito net to discover the mattress was absolutely crawling with ants. We brushed as many off as possible and got in. After a few minutes something huge began to flap around the net. It was absolutely pitch black but we didn’t dare put the torch on to decide if it was in the net or outside. I think it’s best not to know sometimes. I put my earplugs in and fell asleep.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I woke up early to the sounds of the jungle and had another crazy shower. Our guides ziplined in with some coffee and rice for breakfast. It turns out the carbs would really come in handy!
The second day was just awesome. The uphill walks were incredibly hard for me. It’s a lot of very steep uphill climbs in 35 degree heat, so it felt like walking in a sauna. My chest was tightening and I very nearly cried at one point! I’m not the lithe fit hill walker I was post fruit picking (Ho Ho Ho!) we ziplined into treehouse seven (where the other group had stayed.) it was empty but we could hear the gibbons singing. It was an extremely loud, and almost mournful wailing sound that accelerated into sounding like a car alarm. There were about four or five we could hear, which helped to pinpoint the direction. We crept up to the very top of the treehouse and waited….. Then we saw them. Black and beige gibbons swinging around the trees with their long arms. They were also shaking the branches to defend their territory. It was magical.

image

(This extra big gibbon keeps following me around)

Our next stop on the zipline was the tallest tree house in the world. It was mental stepping into the air and hurtling above the trees watching the beautiful view across the canopy. The national park just seems to go on forever. The treehouse came into view and I just felt like I was in Avatar or a Harry Potter film. It doesn’t look real. The treehouse gave me some vertigo, as it was so high up! It was amazing!!

 

image
For the rest of the day we were hiking, jelly legged and zipping. It was ace. The guides were really kind. They made me giggle when I asked if the walking was easy for them. They were like “YES!”

That evening at our treehouse we experienced a massive thunder storm. It was awesome. At the same time I had to stop myself from thinking “a treehouse thirty metres above the ground with a metal roof is possibly the last place I want to be right now.”
There was a ridiculous moment when Dani said, “it’s fine! You can tell when a storm is serious when all the wildlife goes quiet!” And at that very moment silence descended across the jungle. It was like something off a film!
The next day we discovered that the other group had been evacuated from their treehouse due to safety. I’m glad it wasn’t us who had to zipline in pitch blackness!

image

(A photo of the toilet in the tallest tree house in the world!)

Anyway, we made it through the second night and in the morning I woke up and I could hear the gibbons singing. I shook Tom awake and we looked out from underneath our mosquito net. Mist had covered the whole jungle whilst we were sleeping and it was so spooky and atmospheric. We had very little visibility, so it wasn’t possible to see the gibbons again, which was sad. But I can’t think of a better wake up call. After a couple of hours our guides showed up with breakfast, and then pointed out the langur monkeys in the trees. They were small, grey in colour monkeys that looked a bit like lemurs but without the stripes tail. They started off quite far away but then got closer and closer, until we could watch them swinging from tree to tree and having their breakfast. Occasionally one would freeze and stare at us, then almost shrug and continue eating. There was about forty of them in total. Just magic.

The gibbon experience is a truly wonderful government run scheme. Poachers were damaging the wildlife and vegetation in the national park, so the government created the gibbon experience and trained the poachers to become guides. They’re incredibly knowledgable about the jungle, they showed us all sorts of herbal medicines, and they just fucking love the zip lines. Half the time they zip across upside down with a huge smile across their faces. Our guides had grown up in the village at the start of the trail, and it was fascinating for me to imagine growing up in somewhere so cool. The money from the gibbon experience pays the guides much more than their earnings as poachers, and ploughs money back into the local community and schools. Although it’s not cheap, I’d highly recommend the Gibbon Experience to anyone visiting Laos.

image

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

 

blogsignature

Chiang Mai

The following day we were headed to Chiang Mai. The bus took longer than expected and didn’t make a single toilet break in the six hour journey. It seems Thai people don’t have bladders or food intolerances but somehow I made it there without disasters. Once we got to Chiang Mai, we got a hair-raising Tuk Tuk to our hostel. The woman driving would go on the wrong side of the road to avoid traffic jams, she under took then cut up another tuk tuk driver whilst screaming at him. Then we came to a small traffic jam and she got out of the vehicle, stormed out to the driver behind us and started screaming at him and rocking his tuk tuk until it nearly fell over. I was convinced we were about to be involved in some kind of road rage incident but once again, we somehow survived.

At the hostel the owner warmly greeted us and sat us down for a good hour and half whilst she showed us maps and discussed trips etc. All the while I was just thinking “JUST LET ME GO TO THE SODDING TOILET” haha. We booked a trip for few days afterwards to go and see the elephants, which I was really excited about! That evening, the owner cooked us a meal along with two Germans who were also staying, which was really kind, and delicious!

The following day we had a lie in, missed breakfast, staggered out into the heat… Couldn’t figure out what to do or find a restaurant so had a pot noodle (they’re much better this side of the globe, honest) and then caught a small bus up to a temple on the top of a hill just outside of Chaing Mai. The bus, which is standard in Thailand, was basically a pick up truck with a roof and two benches inside, one against each window side. It hurtled in and out of the traffic and then up the mountain. Because I could only see out sideways, and had a dodgy tummy anyway, I began to feel horrifically travel sick. It got so bad that I thought I was about to be sick when the bus finally stopped 40 minutes later. I am not exaggerating when I say I was about two minutes away from vomiting. Tom said I was completely grey. I sat on the pavement with my head in my hands for a few minutes, waiting for it to pass, then the driver came out and smeared some peppermint oil onto my nostrils. This was quite alarming, as I didn’t really know what was going on but felt too ill to care. The peppermint helped a bit, and also made my eyes water so much it looked like I was crying. HA.

 

image

(The only photo I got of the temple as I felt too lousy.)

Eventually I dragged myself up the 200 or so steps up to the temple. This was in the midday heat and I just felt awful. Anyway, it was good to see the temple I guess. On the way back down the driver let me sit behind her front seat so I was facing forwards and didn’t feel so awful. I also was sat next to an American bloke who told me some horror stories about using a moped in Vietnam and Laos, so Ive decided bikes and mopeds are definitely off the agenda, and that we will just stock up on travel sickness tablets instead!
When we were back in Chiang Mai, we had a wander around the Saturday market. There’s lots of lovely things for sale. Tom wanted some food, but when we went to the food stalls there were lots of mussels and god knows what else covered in flies and strong smells so I found myself with my hat pressed to my mouth and clutching my belly and just had to go and chill at the hostel for a bit. A few hours later, we ventured out and had some eggy chilli soup which I managed to splash into my eye… Not a very good day for me really haha!!

The next day was Sunday, and a fairly lazy one for us. We just chilled out and in the evening went to the Sunday market, which was really nice and arty. Had an early night in preparation for the ELEPHANTS.

I barely slept that night because I was really excited and also really hot. We got up at 6.30 ready for our pick up and had some breakfast in the hostel. We were put in one of my favourite trucks, but as there was only me and Tom on it, I managed to hang my head out of the window and face forward, a bit like when you see a dog hanging out of a car on the motorway. Not feeling sick this time, yay!

We drove for an hour out of Chaing Mai and up into the jungly mountains. When we arrived we were greeted by our guide, and sat down for a briefing. We were delighted to discover it was only Tom and me, so we were eager for lots of elephant time! The Hug Elephant Sanctuary had a pet monkey called Chilli, who was kept chained up to a tree. This made me feel really apprehensive about how the elephants would be treated….

….But it ended up being fine!

We walked up a hill into the forest where we saw the two elephants just chilling. We each had a bag of bananas and we were shown how to feed the elephants. This was just an insane experience. The elephants are so huge! And they instantly recognised the banana bags so their trunk just came straight at you and into the bag. We held the bananas out and they took it in their trunks and popped them in their mouths. The trunk was like something off a Star Wars film! So flexible and snake-like and it was constantly making a sucking noise whilst grappling for a banana. The elephants were so quick, you’d hand them a banana and before you had time to reach for another, their trunk was already in the bag! So funny.

image

 

imageWe learnt how the elephant sanctuary was formed. A lot of elephants in Thailand are used for tourist rides, which aren’t good for the animals. It’s a tricky issue, because most of the time, a poor family will own the elephant, which is their only source of income. The solution made by the Hug Elephant Sanctuary is that the elephants and their human families move to the sanctuary, where they are much better looked after, and fed and bathed by the tourists, plus there’s still a source of income for the families.
So, the elephants are used to human company, but are much happier than when used for treks.

image

(That trunk is just saying “excuse me?? Banana please!)

image

The whole day felt like such a privilege, and I’m so glad that I got to hang out with the stunning creatures when it was just me and Tom and the trainers. In the afternoon, we were joined by four British lads and we took the elephants for a walk down to a big mud bath. The bath is really cooling for the elephants and they love it! We patted mud onto their skin, which feels like really rough old leather, with wirey hairs all over it. Then we headed to a big pool where the elephants kept lying down under the water and then sticking their trunks up to breath. So funny! It was hilarious when they trumpeted and squirted water everywhere.

All in all, it was a wonderful day!

image

image

image

image

 

 

image

image

 

image

 

(Exit stage left, pursued by an elephant)

blogsignature

Ayutthaya and Phitsanulok

Disclaimer : apologies about the rubbish photos in this post. I cleared my phone before I got a chance to upload the photos so I had to take them off Facebook and some have ended up miniature!!

In Kanchanuburi, the Songkram celebrations were just rounding up, so we got completely soaked whilst we had our lunch and didn’t manage to dry out before our minibus to Ayutthaya arrived. Cue bouncing around in very soggy clothes for a few hours, but thankfully the minivan had air conditioning so it wasn’t too killer.

Our hostel in Ayutthaya was awesome, and full of little quirks, like the fish pond full of koi that were bigger than Penny and Parker.

image

(The door to our room) can I just stop and say that it’s costing us 7 QUID a night for a double ensuite room. How mental is that?! We were paying 20 quid to stay on a campsite in New Zealand in a tent! Amazing. It seems we’ll make it home before we’re bankrupt after all!

The hostel was in a bizarre location though, on the side of a dual carriageway and quite far out of town. We went for a wander that evening, saw a temple and tried to find a restaurant as we were starving. Eventually we were ushered into a family run job alongside the river. It was stunning but we could barely afford the menu and resorted to counting out coins before we could leave. Slightly awkward because we were the only ones in there and shared some weird watery soup and a bottle of water… Not quite the rich westerners the host had in mind!

We set our alarms for 7am the next day as the travel guide suggested “rising early and cycling around the ruins of Ayutthaya” before it got too hot. Tom had been awake all night, so we didn’t manage to leave the hostel until gone 10am.

We cycled to Wat Chaiwatthanaram (mouthful) a beautiful ruined temple that reminded me instantly of the Jungle Book. It was extra special because there was hardly anyone there. Lovely. Loads of the Buddhas were missing their heads due to a raid by the Burmese in the 1700s. The statues were believed to have gold inside. It’s a shame really, but in a way it just made it more atmospheric.

image

 

image

image

We’d decided to cycle to the train station to pick up our tickets for travel the following day. On our way we saw a load of elephants waiting to be taken for rides by tourists. Their owners were sleeping on the chairs upon their backs in the building heat. I’ve read quite extensively about the way in which elephants are treated in order to train them to carry humans. It’s completely barbaric. We decided to watch instead, and I enjoyed watching the elephants squirting themselves with water to cool themselves down. They’re truly beautiful awe-inspiring creatures but watching them trudge down the dual carriageway carrying people was really quite depressing.

image

(Ride bikes not elephants)

It was getting hotter. And hotter. And hotter. We didn’t realise how far the train station was. The roads were terrible. It was around 40 degrees.- I’m not exaggerating. We found ourselves on a fucking Thai motorway at one point where I had a kind of out of body experience and screamed at Tom “If you smile at me again, I’m going to push you under a truck!!!” This is an example of how I was feeling. Somehow we made it to the station.

Tom went inside to get the tickets whilst I stood outside, taking my hat off so I had somewhere to be sick into. I wasn’t sick but I came very close. When Tom came back outside he said “bloody hell you are PURPLE.” And went to get me a Fanta with lots of ice. (Love him) We cooled down a bit, had some lunch, and then I accosted several tuk tuk drivers asking if they’d take us and the bikes back to the hostel. No amount of eyelash batting would work, as they were only doing sight-seeing tours. We had to cycle. It was absolutely horrendous and I think I came close to falling unconscious. At one point I screamed “WHERE THE FUCK IS THIS FUCKING BRIDGE????!!!!”

Anyway. Every hideous experience is an education. Lessons learnt:
1)Do not cycle in 25km in 40 degree heat.
2) If the locals are sat in the shade looking at you like you’ve got two heads, it’s for a reason.
3) When I return home the first thing I will do is find who suggested “a cycle in Ayutthaya” and personally shoot them.
4) If you find a man who doesn’t object to death threats and still loves you when you’re crying and your head is purple, marry him.

The rest of the day was an exhausted delirium.

The following day we got a pimp-my-ride style tuk tuk to the train station. No more cycling for me HO HO HO! We arrived half an hour early, which was good because the train was 45 minutes late… No one seemed to know which train was which. Train guards told us to get on the train and get off the train. Also to walk between the platforms you literally walk on the train track. A bit stressful to say the least. Meanwhile, a clean shaven man with a MOLE BEARD kept walking past. Let me explain, he had a large facial mole and he’d decided to grow out his mole hair so he had a big long tuft of mole hair about twenty centimetres long flapping around his face. Not helping my state of mind….

Finally our train arrived and we were delighted to find it had air conditioning and half an hour in, we were given a meal! Crazy! So different to our first Thai train journey.
We arrived in Phitsanulok – and joy of joys – none of the tuk tuk drivers knew our hostel, despite our showing them the map and offering to direct them, they refused to take us. So we had to walk to the hostel in the lovely 40 degree heat with our bags on. Plus there’s no pavements, weird stray dogs everywhere, and it’s fucking impossible to cross the road. I arrived in a similar state to the previous day. Tom checked us in whilst I lay on my bag on the pavement outside. I have no shame anymore.

After a few hours in our air conditioned bubble, we were hungry and decided to head out to a nearby temple and to grab some food. After a lot of waiting to cross the road, and being chased by a questionable looking dog we found the temple. Outside were a group of Thai girls, all aged around ten. They asked if they could show us around the temple and practice their English. After they assured us it was free, they found a big skirt for me to wear to cover my legs. It was like a big tube. I stepped inside and they kindly fastened it up for me…. Little did I know that this skirt would completely humiliate me in just under an hours time…

image

(Above we’re learning to fold lotus flowers as an offering to Buddha)

We enjoyed a tour of the temple. The girls encouraged us to join in with the wishes and prayers. We shook sticks out of a pot that corresponded with our numbered fortunes, which was lovely. Afterwards, they led us around the back of the temple, and we picked up two more bewildered Westerners.

image

(Above the girls are translating our fortunes. Tom was told he’d have a baby girl, and I was told I’d have a boy. One of each it is then!)
We were led outside where we saw a big row of monks sat on chairs, whilst people queued up to be blessed by them. I was hesitant to join in, convinced I’d do something wrong, but the girls insisted. I knew that women had to be careful around monks as we aren’t meant to touch them and should dress modestly. I thought I was all good covered in my scarf and skirt…..

image
I was handed a bottle of holy water and a small metal cup. I watched the girls ahead of me and followed suit. We had to crouch at the feet of each monk, pouring water into their hands which they would flick onto our heads in blessing.

At one point my knee hit the bench at their feet which was full of bottles of water and vases of flowers. It nearly toppled but I managed to stop it. I sighed a sigh of relief and then stood up. To my horror as I stood, my skirt dropped to my ankles. This was like some ridiculous Bridget Jones moment… A policeman ran up to me and pulled the skirt up whilst I just wanted to DIE. Tom told me afterward that he thought I was going to be arrested! I managed to pull the skirt back up and hold it in place for the rest of the monks. I was literally counting them down so I could escape and hide my red face. It was equally mortifying and hilarious in the end. Tom said that the other policemen were pissing themselves and taking photos.

WHY AM I LIKE THIS?!! Why does it always happen to me!!!!!!!!

We all piled into one of the girls’ dad’s cars. He’d invited us to join the family for dinner. We were taken to a on street restaurant where we were told that the traditional dish of “morning glory” (what?) was sold. Tom and the Canadian girl we were with were made to dress up in some kind of weird hula dress with fake boobs on the front and a sequinned hat. They then had to stand on the opposite side of the road from the restaurant with a big dustbin lid in their hand. The staff then stopped the traffic and the chef came out with a wok full of morning glory and threw it over his shoulder across the street and then Tom caught it in the dustbin lid.

image

https://www.facebook.com/tom.copley/posts/10154183796910159 (the link is Video evidence for those who have Facebook. If not I’ll show you when I’m home xx)

It was one of the many moments I’ve had travelling when I’ve been thinking “what the fuck is going on???!!!” But just had to laugh and roll with it. And so concluded one of the most mortifying and hilarious days of the trip.

image

image

blogsignature