Category Archives: Thailand

Before Turning 30.

11th July 2016

dock One of my favourite things to do on this blog is to recap the year on my birthday and see what I’ve been up to. I am 30 now after all and my memory is not what it used to be. I started doing this on my old little blog Doodlezilla when I was turning 27. I find that it is a great way to look back and appreciate the time that has past and kick my buttocks into doing more things.So here are all the adventures I managed to squeeze into my year of being 29*:

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Worried about being old? Dye your hair purple!

Worried about being old? Dye your hair purple!

  • My sister got a tattoo and turned 18 (WHAT?!?)
  • My mum joined twitter
  • Lee got a great job in Brisbane
  • Lee’s brother came to visit us in Oz

 

It’s been an amazing year. But there were sad moments. We lost my Great Aunty Pat this year. She was an incredible lady that raised my mum. I thought of her more as my grandmother than an aunt and it was really hard to be away from home. I wanted to just run home but money wouldn’t allow it. It broke my heart because I had carried her last letter to me all around Asia and I’d sent her a postcard from every location we’d been to .It made me happy to know she’d read them but also …it hurt so much. Life is full of ups and downs. I know these lists make it sound like it’s perfect but it’s far from it. Most of the year is boring days and a lot of bad ones too, but when I look back I only see those happy moments….even losing my Aunty, which hurt so much, makes me think about how beautiful a person she was and all the things I would be telling her now about my year.

Every time I think I’ve met the best the world has to offer, seen the best things, tasted the most delicious foods, I’m struck down once more by all of the awe inspiring things this little blue dot has to offer.   I don’t know how it’s possible, but life always finds a way to be more pretty and the people I know become more spectacular.

Thank you 29 for being filled with beautiful, lovely and delicious moments xxx

*I would like to point out that I wrote ‘my 29th year’ in this post. Lee pointed out that I had just lived my 30th year. What a Bumface he is. Boo!!! He’s lucky he’s cute.

 

Let’s Go To Asia – Travel Video

27th September 2015

So as the astute among you may have noticed, we are already finished with our trip. We are in lovely Australia. I still have a few posts about our trip to come, but I recently finished editing this little video together and couldn’t wait to share it.

So here is just a few of the best parts of our trip:

Happy People at the Happy Elephant Home

27th July 2015

banner When I was young I use to have VHS tapes that I would watch over and over again (ask your parents what a VHS is kiddies). One of these was Dumbo. I loved the beginning when all the baby animals were brought by the stalks and would land in their little homes. But, like most children the thing I loved the most about the film was the elephants. I loved Dumbo. His big ears and his little trunk. I am not the only kid that was traumatised when he’s separated from him mum, and has to hug her through the bars. Even hearing the ‘baby mine’ song makes my eyes fill up. Since then I’ve always been fascinated by these huge, gentle creatures, and passionate that they shouldn’t be locked up. I learnt a lot about them as a kid and loved how smart they seemed. It was a huge item on the bucket list to see one.

When we went to Thailand two years ago we both knew that seeing elephants something we wanted to do. But once we started researching how horrible most Elephant excursions were we were heart broken. We didn’t want to give money to anyone who would treat these incredible animals badly. After a hell of a lot of research we found the incredible Elephant Hills in Surat Thani national park and the experience blew us away. As is the way with most travellers bucket lists we crossed off ‘seeing an elephant’ and replaced it with ‘see elephants again’.

elephants6 When we added Thailand to our itinerary this time around it was the perfect opportunity to have another heffa related experience. Unfortunately with us traveling constantly for 4 months our budget didn’t allow us to fly the length of Thailand to go back to ‘elephant hills’ so we crossed our fingers and hoped we’d find a place in Chiang Mai that we could catch a glimpse of the gentle grey giants.

elephants7 Our requirements for our elephant experiences:

. We do not want to ride them – they are not made to bare weight and their backs aren’t able to carry humans let alone a huge chair.

. We do not want them to be chained – enough said.

. We do not want them to do tricks – They have to be ‘broken’ when young to be trained and its impossible to achieve this without pain.

. If we can’t touch them but they are happy then we don’t mind – we’d rather see a happy dot in the distance than a sad animal up close.

I would honestly recommend that most people should stick to these rules when booking an elephant experience. Call the place, read reviews on trip advisor and ask around in your hostel or hotel. Just being the word ‘humane’ or ‘eco’ is on the leaflet doesn’t mean they are actually these things.

Our friend Kaleena , wrote a great piece about her time in an elephant home that you should all read. And as she points out, it’s incredible to be near these creatures but we are aware that it is only because of the past abuse they’ve experienced. If tomorrow there was no more elephant attractions but we could see them with binoculars in the wild, we would be happy. Anyway rant over…

 

elephants9 elephants14 We researched and researched, ignoring the many places in Chiang Mai. The only place that seemed reasonable was The Elephant Sanctuary. It was much more expensive than the others but we were happy to pay it. Unfortunately due to our awful planning (mine, not Lee’s. He is a jedi at planning) it was fully booked , but we were sent to another place they recommended , and it was also recommended by some friends of ours. We were pretty confident it would be humane and the elephants were actually being saved from horrible ‘eco-friendly’ excursions.

elephants12 Happy Elephant Home is where we went.

And we LOVED it.

We spent the entire day at the park. We prepped food and medicine for the animals (also dogs and cats), cleaned out their sheds, travelled to a local sugar cane farm and cut down the food for the elephants, watched them have a mud bath, got muddy ourselves, and watched them bathe in the river. It was a great day from start to finish. The elephants seemed happy and content. Playing with each other and enjoying their food and treats.

elephants16 elephants10 elephants8 elephants11 elephants5 elephants1 Being next to these creatures is very humbling. They tower above you and even though they aren’t aggressive in any way you are aware you are next to a wild animal and we were in awe of their intelligence. The only issue we had with the park was that they had a new baby who was tied to his mum with a rope. We asked about the rope and the onsite mahout who lives with the animals told us that the baby was a few months old (and he was adorable). Unlike most baby elephants who are taken from the mother straight away he was allowed to stay with his mum but since they only have 4 elephants it’s a lot smaller than the natural herd in the wild. The baby would normally be looked after by everyone. The elephants had acres and acres of space and the baby (when it wasn’t tied to mum) tried to see every inch of the grounds. This was upsetting the mum because she couldn’t keep up with him (due to her injuries after years of being abused) so they tied them together to keep the mum calm and to stop the baby getting into trouble or falling into the river when no one was looking. The relationship between the mum and baby was beautiful and it is a shame that they can’t both be free but it’s nice to see how happy they are in this new home. I hope that this place can keep growing and growing.

We felt extremely privileged to be near these incredible animals and as you can see from the photos, it was the happiest day of the holiday.

elephants15 elephants4 elephants3 elephants2 signature

Chiang Mai – A Town of Markets

12th July 2015

banner I was so stupidly excited for Chiang Mai. Every person we spoke to told us it was their favourite place on earth. After hearing similar things before arriving in Hoi An in Vietnam and falling deeply in love with the place , my expectation were sky high.

My first impression of Chiang Mai was that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I imagined small streets with lanterns hung on every corner, peaceful streets and quiet surroundings. This isn’t what we found, but it wasn’t nessesarily a bad thing.

chiangmai3 chiangmai6 The best way I can explain Chiang Mai to someone that hasn’t been there is , it’s town built to hold markets. Every single corner we walked around had a new set of canopied stalls selling all the clothing and trinkets a backpacker could ever need.

My disappointment that this little town was a lot more active and modern than first expected quickly dissipated when we were walking through the Saturday market. Locals playing instruments on our right , woman selling beautiful ornate jewellery on our left, and the delicious smells of Thai food all around us made me happy to have come to this little town.

I think the most surprising part of Chiang Mai was how modern it all felt . 7-11’s everywhere, modern trendy burger bars and fantastic health food shops are very common here. I suppose the fact that most travelers end up living here for a while has brought with it all the amenities from home. But I was expecting a little more. I was longing for the ‘old town’ as it’s named to have hidden secrets around every corner but everything looked very shiny and new.

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It seems that spirits love red fanta

That isn’t to say it’s not beautiful because it is. So much detail can be found on every building and even on the guard posts along the street. The temples, as always in Thailand, are a little bit bigger here, a little bit brighter and a whole lot more spectacular. We were extremely lucky to wander into the ‘City Pillar’ festival being held at Wat Chedi Luang Temple. Wat Chedi Luang is an incredible  temple on any day of the week but during this festival people from all over North Thailand come and leave flowers and donations at the temple . The town believe that all the souls of the past residents is housed in a central pillar contained inside the temple. People come and pray for rain and to thank the past residents for watching over them. Every inch of the temple was covered in about 4 foot of flowers  and people sang and danced through the night. The streets surrounding the temple also held a special week long market to celebrate the event (yes, another market). We were very lucky to experience the event. We’ll definitely remember it for a long time.

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Some fancy purple robes to help us get in the temple.

chiangmai2 chiangmai11 chiangmai12 The main problem I had with the markets was that we arrived on a Saturday so went straight to the Saturday market , which in our opinion is by FAR the best market.Unfortunately with no point of reference we didn’t realise this until the market was gone. I stupidly expected the Sunday market to be the same so I put off buying a lot of things and could I find the things again? Hell no. I will now sadly have to live life without a deathly hallows tank top…it’s a sad day.

The Sunday market was more food and craft based. I got to try my first mango sticky rice . It was amazing! I’d would cover everything in that coconut sauce they put on the dessert…I want to bathe in it ! chiangmai9 chiangmai14

chiangmai Apart from the Saturday market and the temples the only other thing you MUST do if you are in Chiang Mai is visit the lady boy show. It was cheap, you got a free drink and it was filled with a good two hours of fantastic entertainment. Those woman on stage were stunning and they were pulling dance moves that I dream of achieving. I even got a bit misty eyed when one of the ladies un-did her beauty routine to the song ‘My Way’.

chiangmai15 Chiang Mai is also the place we got to visit the ‘Happy Elephant Home’, which was so fantastic that I need to dedicate a whole post to it. I wish I could dedicate every post to it because I loved it so much but Lee feels that may be slightly excessive

Chiang Mai was definitely our days of activities. I think we did more excursions and trips than any other place. We also managed to squeeze in a cooking lesson on a rainy day and Lee learnt how to cook his favourite food..PAD THAI! I am excited to get him cooking all of these meals he’s learnt along the road, but he has already been checking what Australian Mc Donalds sells so that may not be for some time.

chiangmai7 chiangmai10 Overall we did like Chiang Mai. Would I say it was my favourite place in the world? Probably not but I did love the experiences I had there and I’d recommend a visit to anyone but just make sure you hit the weekend on your visit since the market was my favourite thing in the city. In fact after re-reading what i’ve written I’ve realised there was so much I loved about this place so the town probably just suffered from our expectations being unattainable. So maybe I should tell you all it’s awful so that when you arrive you all fall in love. Chiang Mai is a place you some how love more after you leave. chiangmai5 signature

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Our Own Personal Hell: The Thailand border

8th July 2015

we were told this was for 'no kidnap' ?!?

we were told this was for ‘no kidnap’ ?!?

Our time in Cambodia had come to an end. We wanted to save money so instead of taking a flight into Thailand from Siem Reap we decided to take the bus. We heard it wasn’t the best trip but, hey how bad could it be? If this was a 80’s movie you would now cut from two bright eyed and bushy tailed travellers stood in Siem Reap to two angry, tired, hot and sweaty people in a 4 hour queue at the Thai boarder.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ll start at the beginning.

Getting into Thailand by bus is a popular choice. We wanted to get to Bangkok, one of the closest cities to Siem Reap so it was the smart option. A bus would cost us from 7 – 14 dollars if we did it cheaply , where as a flight would cost almost 60 dollars. It was an easy decision.

We research and researched (and RESEARCHED) every company that does the trip and we established three things we needed to be aware of:

. Leave as early as possible. Arriving at the border after 11am will have you waiting in huge queues.

. Go with a company that uses a bus not a minivan since most people have horror stories of being left in service stations for hours until they bought expensive perfume or food and then also being packed so tightly into vans that they were sitting on their own luggage in the aisle.

. Don’t pay for the most expensive since its pretty much the same as the next cheapest.

 

So armed with these rules we approached about 6 companies and struck up a deal to leave at 8am, be picked up from our hotel and get a coach all the way through the border to Bangkok. We paid more than the average since we really wanted a coach. Lee’s long legs don’t allow for minivans and we wanted to avoid the evil scams mentioned above. We paid about 17 dollars which was quite an expensive option (they do go all the way up to 40 dollars but PLEASE don’t pay that).

We felt we’d prepared as best as we could. We were ready and waiting at our hotel at 7:30 , which is when they were due to arrive. So we waited, and waited……and waited some more. Any one that’s done any travel in Asia knows this isn’t surprising . We assumed that we were just on their route and everything would be okay. At 8:15 we got the hotel to call them. Apparently they were on there way….45mins later we still had no bus. FINALLY after it was very apparent that there was no 8am bus , a man on a tiny Tuk Tuk pulled up shouting our names. This was even more confusing since we were expecting a bus. He loaded our bags precariously on the tiny car and told us not to worry, he only had two more people to fetch. Unless they were sitting on the roof I don’t know where they were meant to go. Luckily they’d given up and gone with another company (smart people) .

3 When we arrived at the bus company building we were frustrated but happy to almost be on our way. another half hour later we were pulling our knotted traveler hair out. The bus pulled up at 9:45 and I will tell you that it was lovely. A huge bus for about 9 people, lots of room and even some drinks and snacks. This did make up for the morning issues and we arrived at the boarder in comfort. Yet again we were lulled into a false sense of security. Somewhere the boarder gods were laughing at our relief.

We were told to get off the bus at what looked like a market that sold nothing but bad dreams and our bags were thrown at us. Since we were told our bags would be staying on the bus our entire trip this was not a pleasant surprise. We worked out as a group , since English signs or telling us would spoil the surprise, that we needed to join the throng of people in front of us.

5 They should be a a Twilight show episode about the disappearance of queues in Cambodia boarders because we sure as hell didn’t see one. It was like a scene in a disaster movie .People screaming and pushing, ladies holding their babies above their heads. I was half expecting a alien race to appear and start shooting .

We made our way through the Cambodian border and then walked under the bridge that separated the two countries. I was hoping for a enlightening travel moment as I walked through one country to the next. I though that feeling the earth beneath my feet would transform me into an enlightened traveler with a soundtrack playing in the background…something by an indie band that wear flower head bands. Instead I was accosted by Cambodian men trying to steal/carry my bag for me, woman screaming at me to buy their bracelets and one woman in a shell-suit circa 1989 shouting ‘give me the money!’ like a bad Jerry Maguire..but this is why we like travel, the unexpected moments.

This was the smallest queue of the day

This was the smallest queue of the day

We rounded the corner and joined the huge queue to get into the Thai broder control building. It was annoying to line up outside but at least it wasn’t raining….it started raining. After 40 minutes Lee and I were called forward and we ran up the stairs triumphantly, trying not to get to the top and re-create the famous Rocky moment. We turned, walked through the door and realised , to our horror, that THIS is where the queue actually began.

A great lightning storm in the sky's of Siem Reap

A great lightning storm in the sky’s of Siem Reap

I’m not going to tell you every detail of our 4 and a half hour queue but I will tell you that i’ve never been so close to punching a stranger. That air con not working in a tiny space with about 400 people in it would be how I imagine hell now . And that if I ever meet the Chinese lady that was queuing behind us again I will punch her in the spleen. The entire time that we queued she  refused to believe she wasn’t pushing past us, like adults we should have just given up and let her past but we aren’t adults so we had to create a human shield with our bags and bodies. She even tried to push past Lee once and got a face full of sweaty arm pit. I’d say that was quite a punishment in itself.

To explain to you the anger every person felt in that line let me tell you that when we could almost touch the customs desk and had just one more lady in front of us a man walked up in a fancy suit, got a wad of money out of his jacket and offered a line of poor travelers a load of cash to let him cut in line…the line screamed ‘NO!’ and called security to have him removed.

We got to the other side of customs, found our bus and danced a little dance of happiness. I can only imagine it’s how people feel when they find water in a desert…okay that may be a little dramatic but at that moment I think we would have kissed the Thai floor if it wasn’t covered in spit and gum.

To celebrate our victory (and while we waited another hour for all the other people on the bus to get through customs) we treated ourselves to a 7-11 binge , which if you know Thai 7-11’s you’ll know that this is a great country to do this in. It was the best toastie and Big Gulp we’ve ever had.

4 hours later we saw the lights of Bangkok appear outside with the skyline out in front of us. We were so excited to return to a city we’d loved so much the first time around, even if we it had been a bit of a disaster. With our eyes fixed on the lights far away the bus seemed to slow down, and it kept slowing until it stopped and the driver shouting in Thai what we can only imagine was ‘get the hell off my bus you filthy foreigners’ …but it was probably something much more polite.

We realised we’d been duped yet again once the bus pulled off and then paid another 15 dollars for a taxi to our hotel.

skyline1 Overall it wasn’t the best trip…in fact I now imagine hell to be that customs room but every time you get to the end you enter into the exact same customs room only a few degrees hotter and the people a tiny bit ruder (if that’s possible).

So would we advice getting the flight in Thailand from Cambodia? HELL YES! for the small mark up (when you add up all the extra hours, taxi’s, water to live in the hellish heat of those offices and our sanity). I’d take the one hour flight any day.

(sorry for the lack of photos but you weren’t allowed to use cameras inside the offices and I didn’t want to remove it from my bag in case I used it as a weapon to get to the front of the line). signature

 

 

Tokyo Arcade

2015 Travel Plans

19th February 2015

So I think I owe you all an apology. For the last few weeks i’ve become a little bit obsessed with my up coming plans to the point that I have kept mentioning it without giving any details.

So I thought that I’d share with you some of the things we’re hoping to achieve over the next year.

First, there are to-do lists…EVERYWHERE. My flat looks like a bombs dropped because there are about ten jobs going on at once but I’m hoping that it will all fall into place really soon and we will be ready to roll.

First I suppose it’s important to share with you what our plans actually are so here is our 2015 travel plans:

Tokyo Arcade Japan

Japan is somewhere magical to me. It’s a place mentioned in movies not a place that exists. When we went to Tokyo last year I was in my element and I fell in love with the place. Last night I was chatting to a friend who’s going to Tokyo soon and I couldn’t stop gushing about how much fun they were going to have. This time around we aren’t going to the bright lights of Tokyo, instead we are heading to Kyoto and Osaka. Kyoto has been high on my list for a long time and I feel guilty that one of the places i’m most looking forward to going over the next few months is our first stop but I just can’t wait to be surrounded by the history and beauty of this place….and the sushi!

 

El Nido Palawan Island, Phillippines Been here, truly magnificent and glorious!  http://www.lifebeyondthehorizon.com/philippinesparadise/The Philippines

Lee and I had never considered a trip to the Philippines but after seeing all of our friends fantastic pictures we quickly added it to the itinerary so we will be stopping in on Bohol, Boracay and El Nido. Here’s to sandy beaches and drinks with the locals.

 

Guilin, China. Globe Travel in Bristol, CT is standing by to make your vacation dreams come true!  Reach us at 860-584-0517 or by email at info@globetvl.com!

China

We went to China a few months ago but we can’t wait to go back. We wanted to see some impressive landscapes and the countryside of China is definitely the place to do this. We are heading to Guangzhou and Guilin …all the G’s. I’m not going to lie, I’m in it for the dumplings.

 

Hong Kong, China | 21 Most Colorful And Vibrant Places In The WorldHong Kong

I know listing Hong Kong as a separate country is debatable but I have a very good friend from Hong Kong who thinks of it as a different place and the British Visa application was different for Hong Kong compared to China so I think it’s fair to list them side by side. We are looking forward to climbing Victoria Peak and meeting up with my friend who happens to be visiting at the same time as us. Woohoo

Hoi An, Vietnam - Visit http://asiaexpatguides.com to make the most of your experience in Vietnam!

Vietnam

Vietnam is another place that’s been high on the list for a long time. We are starting in Hanoi  then going to Hue, Hoi an, Mui  Ne and Ho Chi Minh. We are looking forward to cooking classes, pho, and 12p beer… as well as all the culture/people/sights of course. We are going to the home of PHO!

Angkor Wat Cambodia / Watched the sunset here while drinking a horrid local wine and eating a crispy fried frog. A beautiful place & a wonderful adventure.

Cambodia

Next stop is a bus trip across the boarder into Phnom Penh. We don’t have long there before we are off to Sihanoukville. Before you all rush to tell us its not great we are only there for the night before we head to Koh Rong Samloem. A small island with about 5 hours of electricity a day. I’ll be celebrating my birthday here and I can’t wait. Sunsets and cocktails..woohoo. Lastly it wouldn’t be a trip to Cambodia without a sunrise trip to Angkor Wat in Seim Reap.

skyline2 Thailand

We are having a ‘do over’ in Bangkok since last time we had such a disaster (which you can read about here). People always think because of this we didn’t like Bangkok but I loved the place. I can’t wait to go back and see the place properly this time. Then it’s up north to the bloggers paradise that is Chiang Mai. Unfortunately , It’s rainy season when we go to this part of Asia . Our original plan didn’t have Thailand on it at all , instead we wanted to see Laos and Myanmar but the rain means we have to skip them this time, as well as the beaches of Thailand but I’m really excited to see Chang Mai after hearing so many great things. See you soon Pad Thai. You will be in our bellies.

Singapore's Supertrees at the "Gardens by the Bay". I see I'll have to go back to Singapore to see these by night.Singapore

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for this country. Is it for the history? slightly. Is it for the culture? marginally. Is it because one of my best friends is moving there a week before we arrive? HELL YES! This is a selfish stop for Lee and I to see one of our favourite humans…and maybe go to Sesame Street in Universal Studios, which for a Muppet fanatic is the holy grail.

Rice terraces close to Ubud. Bali, Indonesia To book go to www.notjusttravel.com/anglia

Indonesia

When we came to Asia this was high on my list of places to see. We are spending a lot of time here and seeing Yogyakarta, Ubud, Nusa Lembongan, Gili Air and Kuta Lombok. We can’t wait. Yoga, monkeys and beaches. We also may be dragging one of Lee’s best friends to meet us for a weekend so I can’t help but jump around a little bit when I think about journeying to this magic country.

The dolphins coming to shore at Monkey Mia, Western AustraliaAustralia

Lastly, but definitely not least is our new home for the year, Australia. This isn’t a country I ever wanted to live in , that was until Lee sold me on it because he is in love with the place. I am now fully on board and can’t wait to experience every inch of the place. We are starting in Perth but who knows where the year will take us.

Extra stops in 2015

Obviously we don’t know what will happen with the rest of the year but there are definitely some places we’d love to pop into:

Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia

When we are in Singapore we are very tempted to just run over the border and have some food there to say we did it. We are a little bit addicted to adding countries to our list but we will definitely be back to spend some proper time there soon.

Wow, just wow! Bridestowe Lavender Farm, Tasmania - by Tim Clark

Tasmania

I realise this is still Australia but I really want to pop over to this lavender filled paradise.

Fiji IslandsFiji, Tonga and Samoa

It would be rude to not visit these places while we are in Australia surely….let alone the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu…ect

New ZealandNew Zealand

Once again this country is so close to us when we are in Australia that we would love to go and see the place but maybe we will do it at the end of year in Oz.

Here’s to an exciting year ahead.

 

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me

26 Random Travel Facts

12th February 2015

me I recently read a fantastic post on Tea Was Here ‘s blog . It was 24 really interesting travel facts and it made me giggle so I thought i’d give it ago. I love finding out things about people and what better way to introduce myself to all of you than through travel facts. I wanted to make all 24 facts a list of foods I love from around the world but I resisted. I am also horribly indecisive so i’ve actually put 26 facts..sorry! So without further a do here is my (Tania) travel facts.

1. I come from Wales which I’ve realised through travel, is not a well known country but it’s a great place and I recommend for everyone to pop in… Mainly for the scenery and the Welsh cakes.

2. The first country I visited was Spain. When I was 3 my mum dropped my Aunty off at the airport for her vacation. She then spontaneously decided we were going too.

3. When I was 12 I lived in Saudi Arabia. It was a strange (and some times scary) experience but I’m extremely glad I did it.

4. In about 19 days I am setting out on the trip I’ve always dreamed of. 11 countries across Asia in 4 months.

5. I am trying to squeeze in as many working visas before I’m 30. Apart from my home in the UK I have lived in Korea, Saudi Arabia and will soon be in Australia and then Canada for over a year each.

6. I speak minimal Korean , German,French, Sign language and Welsh.. But I can order coffee in them all , which surely is the most important thing.

7. I LOVE Asian food but Italian is a close 2nd (yes I’ve squashed all of Asia into the number 1 spot because it’s too hard to pick)

newyork 8. I’d love to live in New York, San Fransisco, Germany and Italy once in my life. Even if it’s just for a month or two.

9. I prefer hot weather. I can’t wait for Australian weather.

10. My first trip without parents or teachers was a trip to London with Lee when we were 15. I fell in love with the place instantly.

11. The longest trip I’ve been on was a bus trip when I was 16 to Paris. It was just Lee, myself and about 50 old couples on a bus for almost 17 hours.

12. One of our biggest travel disasters was losing all our money in Bangkok. We took back ups and back ups of back ups but somehow fate was not on our side and they all failed. It was still funny though .

13. For my 21st birthday my mum saved every penny she had and sent me and Lee to New York. It’s still the best present I’ve ever been given.

tree 14. When we travel we always check for national holidays. We tend to win the national holiday bingo when we go on vacation. Unavoidable we are hitting 14 in our 4 month trek…opphs

15. As we get older we are probably more flash packers than backpackers but that’s ok… We still only drink the 12p beer.

16. I’ve spent more time researching scams than anything else for our up coming trip. I’m a loser.

airport 17. My mum was one of the only female airplane traffic controllers in the UK when she was in her early twenties. She always pointed out the tower to me when we were near the airport. I blame her for my wanderlust bug

18. The strangest travel fact I’ve ever discovered is that Saudi Arabian Mc Donald’s (& most other restaurants there) are split in two. On restaurant for woman and children and one restaurant for men.

19. Since I bought my camera two years ago it has become glued to me. Travel photography is a big passion of mine.

20. Since moving I’ve made friends from so many different countries including Canada, South Africa, America, Australia, Ireland,Korea….and many more. I can’t wait to spend the next few years visiting them all. Travel breeds travel.

22. My favourite holidays are too hard to pick but Rome, New York, Taiwan and Surat Thani in Thailand are all up there.

23. I LOVE animals. I will base holidays around what animals I can see.

elephant 24. When planning a vacation I only read travel blogs. They are addictive.

25. The places I’m most excited for on our up coming trip are Kyoto, El Nido and Indonesia.

26. As I was running through Heathrow to board my flight to Korea  I saw Danny Devitto. I almost considered missing the flight to hug him.

I’d love to hear all of your facts too so leave a link to your facts below. signature

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Things I need to Learn Before I Go Traveling

16th January 2015

rsz_dsc_0008 Since it is exactly 50 days until we head off on our 4 months travel (epppp) Lee and I have been in super planning mode. There seems to be a million things to get sorted but I have to admit i’m enjoying ever bit of it. It may be my nerdy planning side but an occasion that requires me to make ‘to-do’ lists and buy new notebooks makes it feel like Christmas…yes like I said, i’m a giant nerd.

This has made me start to think of some of the things I need to learn before we hit the road since it seems I may have missed out on some of the basic life skills required for backpacking. Lee , luckily has all of these skill already so he’s going to have to carry me around this holiday and make sure I’m not falling into any holes or chatting to weird looking strangers. What a lucky boy.

So here are the things I need to learn before I travel:

Learn to Ride a Bike

When traveling through Asia it seems that being able to ride a bike or a scooter is as important as bringing your passport. Scooters and travel go hand in hand so the fact I have missed out on this important life lesson may be a problem. In my mum’s defense I wanted to dance and draw instead of riding a bike when I was a kid but in the next 50 days I need to learn and learn quickly.

The logic behind riding a bike makes sense to me as an adult so i’m hoping it will come quite easily but that’s just a theory. I did in fact get on a bike a few years ago, it resulted in me crashing into the nearest wall seconds later in a style Jeremy Beadle would have been proud of.  The other worry is that there doesn’t seem to be one person who’s gone traveling that doesn’t have a horrific story about their scooter experience. If all else fails Lee will just have to have another passenger on the back of his scooter. Or we will walk…a lot. Tania066

Learn to Pack light

4 months and one carry on bag…ahhh! I use to be the person that carried everything anyone may need. My mum is the best for always having everything. There is a running joke in our family about the one time we all took a family trip to Spain. We were sat on the beach and my uncle ripped his shirt, he jokingly asked my mum if she had a needle and thread. She replied ‘do you want white thread or black thread’. So I’ve always followed in her footsteps and tried to have all the essentials (and a few extras)…then we had to move to Korea. We were given two bags and told to pack our lives into them. This seemed like an impossible task but after two years here I realise I could have traveled with half of what I had. Maybe it’s moving house 10 times in 10 years but I am finding it easier and easier to cull my items. Even so it seems the fates give me less and less to work with every time. 4 months on one tiny bag seems impossible but I’ve read a lot of great websites such as ‘Be My Travel Muse’ and ‘Adventurous Kate’ which means I’m hoping we will be able to do and I think it’s always important to remember that in Asia clothes are cheap and there isn’t anything that you will need in an emergency situation that you probably can’t get locally. Unless you are Lee who wants to pack Cadbury’s chocolate that is.

rsz_img_0451 Learn to Drive

This probably isn’t something I think i’ll be able to fix before I leave Korea but it’s something I really (REALLY) want to learn when we are living in Australia. A knock on the head at 17 left me falling down and blackout for quite a few years but now i’m back in business and ready to drive. Lee is a great drive but I don’t know if he’ll be able to teach me since it may be like teaching a monkey to write Shakespeare but it will happen. Get the silk scarf , sunglasses and Frank Sinatra driving CD ready Australia.

rsz_dsc_0012 Learn to go in the Ocean

Some people are scared of heights, some things are scared of the dark….I am afraid of deep water. The sea freaks me out no end. I love fish and turtles but sharks, jelly fish and all other creepy crawlies need to stay very far away. I would love to scuba dive and snorkel so i’m gonna get over this fear…maybe not in Australia (i.e shark country) but I WILL DO IT!

 

rsz_1kohsam1 rsz_kohsam12 Learn to speak every language …quickly

A little self explanatory but we love to be able to try and say a few words in each country we go to. At the very least ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘hellos’. We are those lucky bloody travelers that speak English and we really are privileged that all countries have a basic understanding of our language but we don’t want to solely rely on that and be those stereotypical tourists shouting loudly at waiters so we have our print outs of all the countries languages and enough flights to hopefully try and get a basic grasp. Fingers crossed.

signs

So that’s the list for now. Just a few basic things that I think will be helpful on the road. I’m not sure i’ll be able to do them in just 50 days. At least if I don’t learnt them you guys might get some funny photos of me terrified on a boat and crashing into bushes on bikes . 

Are there any things you’d recommend I learn before traveling? Was there anything you wish you’d learnt before traveling the world? What was your favourite travel experience? 

 

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Elephants and Jungle Treks

1st August 2014

elephanthills A lot of people have things they love. One of mine is animals. Lee and I are a little animal mad. We have been going to zoos for years but as we’ve got older they seem crueller and crueller so now that we are travelling we are taking the opportunity to give back and visit some places that are helping animals.

One of these places was Elephant Hills in Thailand. I remember researching elephant experiences in Thailand and was extremely upset with the results. Most let you ride the elephants which isn’t something that should happen. Elephants have to be controlled when members of the public ride them and this normally requires bull hooks and violence. I don’t know if you’ve ever actually seen a bull hook but it’s not a pleasant piece of equipment. They also have to keep the elephants quite subdued to stop attacks as when you aren’t riding them they are chained up all day, so the elephants are normally on a restrictive diet that isn’t very good for them. Anyone I spoke to that had rode elephants wasn’t happy with the experience and felt they’d put money towards a bad organisation.

I was torn. There was no way we would go to a place that treated their animals badly but the selfish part of me really wanted to see them. That’s when I stumbled upon Elephant Hills. hills7

Elephant Hills is an organisation that was established after the Thai government decreed that elephants couldn’t be used for labour anymore. This sounds like a good thing but unfortunately they didn’t make a law to say that these logging companies and building companies that were using elephants couldn’t kill them once they didn’t need . The government’s good intentions were turned on their head as Thailand witnessed many elephants being killed for no good reason. Luckily organisations like Elephant hills stepped in and gave as many young elephants as possible homes.

elephant The difference between this company compared to most companies that deal with elephants is that you can’t ride them. In fact the only people that ride the elephants are the allocated rider that the elephant bonds with at birth. This rider is named a mahout and is bonded with their elephant for life. They communicate through a special language that they have established over many years and it was a joy to see unchained elephants run happily to their mahout for attention.The atmosphere here was so far from a zoo that it was a joy to be there.

hills2 The Elephant Hills experience is amazingly a lot more than just the elephants. We were picked up from Surat Thani airport and driven the 5 hours (Epppp) to Elephant Hills. During the long drive we did question our decision but as soon as you got close to the national park we were blown away. Everyone in the small mini bus was glued to their windows. The towering mountains around us had grey clouds floating at their peaks. Giant palm trees were everywhere and you felt you were really part of the jungle.

hills3 When we arrived at the site we were presented with a fizzy apple drink and given our free shirts and keys. The staff were noticeably kind and extremely knowledgeable. Many have been working there for a number of years and have a background in zoology.

hills6 We were a little bit worried about the out door camping but we shouldn’t have been. Our tent was nicer than most hotels we’ve stayed in. This luxury tent (or glamping as my younger sister informed me) had an indoor bathroom with running water and shower as well as plug points, lights and a kettle. There were many details and extras in the room such as fresh flowers on our arrival and elephant candle keepsakes to welcome us.

camp gift Outside our tent were the towering mountains and the sound of baboons echoing through the mist. We were in heaven.

hills4 Everyone was broken into groups and taken to different areas. We were lucky to be allocated to the elephants first.

The elephant park is a drive away from the tents and is a huge open area with a vast amount of space. The elephants towered around us, intrigued and excited to see the new arrivals. We were given a packed lunch and a safety lesson before we went to prepare the elephants lunch.

elephant2 Each person cut up the food they would be giving to the animals including sugar canes, bananas, courgettes and melons. The man in charge was attentive and excitable. It was easy to see he loved his job. He came around and told us a little about each elephant and it was easy to distinguish each one since their personalities shone through. The younger ones were fantastic to feed since they were so fussy. Give them something didn’t like and it would be thrown away. If you ran our of their favourite they weren’t above stealing it from another persons basket. The older ones would sigh (did you know elephants sigh!?) and eat the healthier left over’s or hold their trunk out until the younger ones gave them the tasty treats.

elephant4 elephant3 One of the best parts of the day was meeting Haha, a small extremely excited baby elephant with a mop of ginger hair. His mother was chained by the foot (only when outsiders came for the hour of the day). This is because guests were near her baby. I was a bit skeptical when I saw the chain but she didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact she seemed to be enjoying a bit of peace and quiet and kept shooing the baby towards the guide. It was such a different experience to a zoo to see this excited baby run towards our guide and almost dance to get his attention just so he’d play with him. Haha loved investigating the new visitors. I got a little hug of his trunk.

After introductions and the elephant’s lunch they were allowed to go for a swim. Just watching these huge beasts roll around in the mud, spraying each other and relaxing was incredible. Be warned that the younger elephants will try their best to spray you.

elephant7 Then it was our job to give them their baths. The elephants are chained here but more for your safety incase you get stepped on.

elephant6 elephant5 hills9 We washed them with coconut husks and cold water. It was a bizarre feeling to be almost having a conversation with an elephant. I’d be scrubbing her leg until she would lift the other one or use her trunk to show me where to clean. Looking in the eyes of an animal like that close up was something I’d waited to do my whole life. It was an experience I will never forget. By the end of the day it was safe to say that I was willing to move to that part of the jungle forever.

We (very begrudgingly) said our goodbyes to the elephants and headed to camp. The rest of the night was filled with local school children dancing traditional dances (each local school is paid grants by the camp and takes turns coming to visit), an all you can eat buffet of Thai curries and pad thai and a cooking lesson where we learned the Thai secrets of a panang curry. We met some lovely people and stayed up till the wee hours listening to the jungle around us and talking about the day. The bar is open late but most people were so tired they headed to bed (there was only 4 of us left at 10pm). Considering you are in the middle of the jungle it’s surprisingly affordable. Our evening was interrupted by a few creatures such as a snake that had to be removed (even though it was harmless) and the largest toad I’ve ever seen. It was fantastic.

cookinglesson The next day was our jungle trek and cruise down the river. We were allocated a guide who became Lee’s hero. If there was ever a more manly man I’d be surprised. This guy would put Bear Grylls to shame. He carried a machete on his back and could steer our boat like it was second nature to him. As we sailed down the river the jungle surrounded us. He told us about his history and the creatures he’s seen. He swooped us around at one point to show us a large lake lizard as well as a snake up in the tree that no one else spotted. Once we reached our destination we trekked through the trees and exotic plants. It was muddier that anywhere I’ve ever been and it felt as though we were kids again, exploring the world around us. We saw how locals tapped the trees for rubber as well as found a spider that was only discovered to exist five years ago.

hills5 hills23 hills11 Once we reached our destination the heavens opened and we saw the incredible way the rain forest absorbs the weather. We could hear the rain above but only a spattering made its way through the canopy. In our little rest spot our guide used his machete skills to open a coconut and unpacked his backpack to reveal all the ingredients to cook us lunch. He made a fire and cooked the best curry I’ve ever tasted. All of which was served in coconut shells and banana leaves, you can see now why he was Lee’s hero. He did try to convince us that we were eating monkey meat. No one was convinced (apart from Lee who exclaimed ‘really?’ even though he will deny it)

dinner hills8 hills73 We headed back for another night and fell straight to sleep before our heads hit the pillow. Most guests were gone before we woke on the third day since we were only part of the 2 day package. Unfortunately the cost of this place is expensive but when you consider it includes travel, food, excursion and a luxury tent it is definitely worth it. We regretted not paying extra and staying longer.

pool We spent our last morning eating a huge breakfast and going for a swim in the on sight pool.

It was muddier than any place I’ve ever been, rainier than even Wales and in the middle of no where but somehow easily the best few days I’ve ever had.

If you want to experience the jungle, elephants and Thailand then this is the place to go.

http://www.elephant-hills.com/

hills hills66 (Sorry Lee but this picture had to be squeezed in :P)

 

One Night In Bangkok

23rd July 2014

skyline2 I recently read a story talking about the mistakes people make when they travel.

It was a fascinating read and it mentioned the weird phenomenon that is taking over the travel blog world. This phenomenon is ‘the perfect traveller’. Everything looks shiny, new and perfect on a lot of blogs. Each story is filled with wonder and beauty that far surpasses daily life. There are of course many that don’t do this (I would recommend the beautifully written blog by a teacher who recently left Korea www.couldIlivethere.wordpress.com) . If like me you actually enjoy hearing the bad along with the good then this can sometimes be annoying.

So I thought I would share with you one of our travel disasters and as far as disasters go it was quite monumental.

end5 This story takes place on the mysterious and lively streets of Bangkok, Thailand. As so many disaster stories seem to do. ‘=

Bangkok was somewhere I had always wanted to go ,mainly for the food. Lee had visited Thailand as a child and only had vague memories of the city so he was willing to give it another go. He was also in it for the food.

We set off from Korea and left behind us an oppressive summer heat. Daegu , the city we live in in Korea is known for being the hottest city in Korea and boy does it live up to its reputation. The mixture of five months teaching and the unforgiving humidity meant we were craving travel, airports and the possibility of exploring other lands.

Our first impressions of Bangkok was created by the scenery. It was so different to Korea. I had expected quite similar backdrops but instead I was faced with palm trees and tiny stilted houses in marsh land. It was the escape from Korea we’d hoped for. This was the outskirts of Bangkok and as the train took us closer and closer to Bangkok’s bustling center the world rose around us. Sky scraper after sky scraper passed us. Housing blocks and worn billboards were everywhere.

I have always been a fan of the dirt and grit of cities. I remember sitting down with my mum trying to explain to her why we wanted to travel instead of staying in our tiny Welsh town.

She kept reiterating that “It’s not going to be like you imagine. It’s not going to be perfect and clean, it’s going to be dirty hostels and busy streets.”

Every part of me hoped she was right.

Lee and I always talk about travel in these terms. We want realness; we want to see the packed streets, the down right dangerous driving and the rip off markets where you have to haggle for a price. I realise that sometimes this isn’t fun when it’s happening but it’s an experience and a real one at that. This doesn’t mean that we don’t love going to a beautiful resort or a 5 star hotel, but as long as it’s a real glimpse of that country, even a glimpse of the tourist part of that country, then I’m happy.

So Bangkok was not disappointing.

The trainline directly at the bottom of the stairs leading to our hotel

The trainline directly at the bottom of the stairs leading to our hotel

After throwing our bags down in our extremely minimal hotel we headed into the center of the city. Everywhere you looked there was colour and people. The streets are so busy that walk ways have been built above every road in the city to allow the pedestrians to keep moving. It’s a three tier system with cars (and crazy tuk tuks) on the bottom, people in the middle and trains above them.

The noise, smells and sheer amount of lights  blew our senses. The streets were paved with food stalls where we could grab a delicious snack and sit among the throng whilst being a few inches from traffic. It was chaotic. It was incredible.

Sometimes it’s hard to describe a place and sometimes there is a perfect explanation that sums an area up to a tee. Bangkok is easy to explain. Visiting Bangkok is exactly like walking into the movie ‘Blade Runner’.

We were downtown, we explored, we devoured every single thing we could in the biggest and best food court we’ve ever seen (as Yankaphiles we lose our minds when we can eat new American foods), then we decided to treat ourselves to some cocktails at the top of Bangkok’s famous sky bar ‘Red Sky’.

The popular sky bar ‘Red Sky’ can be found at the top of the Siam building in downtown Bangkok on the 55th floor. It provides breath taking 360 degree views of the city. If you want to go you must try to go earlier rather than later or on a week day. We happened to arrive on a Tuesday so we were in luck. There is also a rule that no backpacks, flip flops or sports tops are allowed in. We had a backpack and Lee had sandals  but we thought, why not try our luck. Even if you are turned away its worth travelling to the bar because you can still take in the amazing views in the restaurant lobby.

We drank expensive cocktails as a holiday treat, listened to the live jazz band, looked at the city laid out in front of us (and I wrestled with my camera settings for an hour to get a good photo. Lee is a patient man). The bill was more than we would normally pay since the drinks are London prices here. But you only live once and we weren’t too worried.

Unfortunately we were unaware of the impending doom that was about to befall us. We soon realised that we had no way of paying for these lovely drinks. When Lee had been at the ATM it hadn’t given him back his card. This sounds like something you would find hard to miss but Thailand’s ATM’s are built differently and the card slot is a different place. Also the card comes out after the money and after the receipt. In the hectic pushing and shoving of the Bangkok streets he hadn’t realised he didn’t get it back.

Panic set in, what the hell do we do? !

Lee’s card with all of our travel money on it was now gone, but not to panic. We both spent money at our banks in Korea to have cards that work internationally. Oh no wait, they don’t work either. Unfortunately (and I’ll cover this in a different more terrifying story) Korean banks are a bit of a nightmare. Even though we had two cards with our Korean money on them neither of them were working . The last option was our credit cards which luckily we had prepared to use abroad too, we had told them we would be in Thailand on these dates but , and I’m sure you can guess what’s coming, the banks blocked them…both of them.

We had 3 cards, two back up cards and none of them were working.

In the end I had to drag out a card from my wallet that I hadn’t used for about 10 years and pray I remembered the pin. Luckily due to the height of the building and the storm that was rolling in, both metaphorically and literally, the internet system would only let me sign.

Luckily we could pay for the drinks . We escaped sheepishly and as quickly as possible.

We had just enough money to get back to our hotel and put our thinking caps on.

Once we were back in our hotel room that hadn’t yet been paid for with a flight to a deserted Thai island looming in one days time the fear really set in. We rang everyone. The phone bill came close to 200 pound by the time we were done. We rang the Korean banks who told us they didn’t know why it wasn’t working and hung up, repeatedly. We rang the British credit card companies who said it was too late to reactivate them since they’d canceled them thinking it was fraud who then apologised when they noticed the note on the account saying we were in Thailand. And of course we didn’t have our card with the money on it.

We were up all of the night trying to ring everyone possible. Jumping from time zone to time zone in an attempt to grab anyone we could. No joy. No one could do anything. We got a few hours’ sleep and hoped that in the morning the banks could help us or we could retrieve our card from the machine.

The next day was sunny but we weren’t. The only option, as is the way for many travellers was our families.

Lee’s brother does night shifts so his time difference luckily linked up with ours. He tried to send us money. Unfortunately since he has never done this before his bank blocked the transfer and refused to send it until he came to the bank. Since it was 4am this wasn’t an option. Time was running out and our two days in Bangkok was quickly coming to an end. The next day we would be on a plane to Surat Thani with no way to pay the hotel we were currently in and no way to live.

The next option was Lee’s parents. Lee’s mum and dad are British but his dad works for a company in Saudi Arabia where they both live. As soon as the time difference caught up with us we rang them and begged for help. We could access our money online from the card that was now sitting in a Bangkok ATM and give it straight back to them but there was no way to take it out in Bangkok. They sent a Western Union transfer and like Charlie with his golden ticket we ran to the nearest western union …it closed two minutes before we got there.

If we didn’t get this money now (which by this time was 5pm) we’d miss our early morning flight and have to do a midnight dash from our hotel. It wasn’t looking good. We couldn’t wait for it to open the next day. Dejected and upset we counted our pennies and found a tiny market that was selling pho for 50p. We hadn’t eaten for about 27 hours and were in need of an energy boost.

Sad Pho

Sad Pho

So we sat , with our pho and tried to think of what to do. The only viable option that kept rearing its head was to head to the embassy. This sounds extreme but Lee’s dad was still having trouble sending us money even if the Western Union had been open and my family wouldn’t be able to help. All our fellow teachers with funds were also on holiday and not contactable. Then by pure luck I happened to look at the photo I’d taken of the ATM that had our card. I am not in the habit of taking photos of ATM’s but I took one just in case we could get the card back out of it. In the background of the photo, like a shining beckon of hope I noticed a Western Union symbol , with some CSI style zooming and enhancing of the photo we could make out the words …..open until 7pm

We could do this! If Lee’s dad could keep battling with the bank to send the transfer, we could use our last pennies to grab a train to the center of town and get to the Western Union. WE COULD DO THIS. It was 5:30 already and 6pm by the time we arrived, we ran like bats out of hell through the crowds to get to this ATM. Just as we arrived at 6:30 we had a confirmation message from Lee’s dad saying that the money would be there waiting. I’m not lying when I say we danced in the street. Savingus1

The man at Western Union was a little taken aback when two westerners ran at his shop smiling and crying with happiness. We started the paper work and crossed our fingers. The only glitch in the road was when the confused man quoted back the transfer path…

“So this money is from someone in Saudi Arabia, to their British bank which has then been sent to Bangkok for two people who live in South Korea?”

“Yes”. We nodded enthusiastically.

With a raised eyebrow and the doubt that we were two international drug smugglers with a very shady bank transfer, he gave us our money, along with a very stylish Western Union towel. We could eat, we could travel and we could fly. The holiday was saved. padthai4

The rest of the evening was spent eating  and making the most of our one night in Bangkok. All the shrines were of course closed but we did manage to see the flower market, night markets and sit by the river. It was a fantastic evening. I swear every drink tasted a little bit sweeter after that. flowers2 flowers

Two Happy Foreigners

Two Happy Foreigners

The downside of course to this story is that we had to carry all of our holiday money with us for three weeks . This involved it being hid in shoes, sketch books and hotel rooms but it was worth it.

Our two days in Bangkok weren’t quite what we expected but they were definitely eventful. We ate delicious 50p pho we never would have tried, really got to appreciate the night markets and had a fantastic time the rest of the holiday because it all felt like a gift.  Murray Head was definitely right. One night in  Bangkok  makes the hard man humble.

It’s not the perfect travel story but it definitely something we will remember forever.

We will be heading back to Bangkok to experience it fully next year, but maybe this time we will take a lot of cash with us.

What we learnt:

  • Take a back up for your back up for your back up.
  • Cheap pho is good pho
  • A city is more than just its tourist attractions
  • Tuk Tuks are at exactly bus exhaust level.
  • Take cash
  • Hide said cash well
  • Don’t blame each other no matter how much you want to. They know what they did and don’t need you to angry at them. They are already angry at themselves and you will do something as equally stupid soon.
  • Carry snacks.

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