Tag Archives: flashpackers

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Whale Watching at Hervey Bay

21st February 2016

 

One of my first memories as a child was walking into the National History Museum in London, looking up and seeing the giant statue of the blue whale that use to hang from the roof. When I looked up with my tiny eyes it was all that occupied my vision and I was enthralled. In fact, remember when Pinocchio  gets eaten by the whale? Most people were terrified of this as kids. I on the other hand thought it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. I use to sit cross legged in front of the TV thinking ‘lucky puppet’.

disney ocean whale pinocchio monstro

As i’ve got older and become enamored with all animals , whales have always been on the list of ‘things to see’. But as is the case with all animal experiences…there had to be strict rules:

. They have to be in the wild

. The company must be safe and environmentally friendly

Luckily in Australia it’s quite easy to find a whale watching company that fits the bill. We arrived in Brisbane with only three weeks left of the whale season (the whale season in Queensland is August to October) so we set off as soon as we could, crossed our fingers and hoped we’d spot the incredible creature that is the humpback whale.

The humpback whales stop off here for a few months before heading to colder climates, normally with lots of mini humpbacks in tow. In fact it’s thought up to 7,000 whales can be here at any one time during the season.

We decided on Hervey Bay since it is always listed as ‘the number one spot in Queensland to spot whales’ on every blog we searched. Hervey Bay is about 3 hours outside of Brisbane so we hired a car for the day and took the beautiful drive to the bay. whalewatching_13

whalewatching_12  Hervery Bay is beautiful ! The drive from Brisbane takes you past mountains, the bush and signs hinting that Koala’s are near. The bay itself has the bluest seas, a lovely harbor and as you are sailing you go past white sandy beach islands that look like every postcard you’ve ever been sent by boasting friends. All of this is before you even see a whale.

whalewatching_09 We used the Quick Cat 2 boat , which you can book here. The company was one of the first to set out on the high seas to see these animals and they were great. We left on time, there was plenty of room, they gave us facts about the animals and area and even provided lots of snacks and drinks.

whalewatching_11 If I’m honest I held no hope that we would even see a whale . There was 2 days left of the season when we stepped on the boat and our hopes had been lowered by the staff. If we hadn’t seen one on the trip we’d have been given a free trip by the company so I wasn’t too worried, but I was sending well wishes to all the Nordic gods that we’d see the fins of some creatures of the deep.

An hour into the journey we’d still not glimpsed a fin when suddenly as if from no where a large mother and her calf appeared along side the boat. We could just see the sheen of her back as she arched back into the ocean , but it was thrilling. We saw her little calf beside her and it was so strange to be that close to a creature that had chosen to come and see what this boat in the ocean was.  Lee and I lost our minds!

whalewatching_01 We only had a few minutes to stare in wonder before we noticed in the distance a huge cloud of water. We raced across the water and got lucky enough to see a male whale displaying his powerful skills. He jumped out doing barrel rolls and dives for about 15 minutes. Even our guide was in shock . Unfortunately I was so enthralled by the show that I didn’t have my camera out. I was a little too obsessed with seeing it with my own eyeballs.

whalewatching_04 whalewatching_05 whalewatching_03 We got to see another handful of whales showing off as the day went on, which meant I got to capture a few token shots (phew) and even got a surprise visit from an angry lethal sea snake that wanted us dead. Luckily the boat was very high so we didn’t have to actually meet the most deadliest snake on the planet (the olive sea snake – in-case you were wondering) . whalewatching_07

The day went so quickly and our faces hurt from smiling. I would recommend it to anyone. I think we will definitely be doing it again. Lee’s mission is to see a Blue Whale and I’d love to see Orca’s in the wild so once again ‘whale watching’ has not been knocked off the bucket list…it’s just been crossed off and added back to the bottom of the list. whalewatching_06 whalewatching_02 whalewatching_08

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Australia – A Re-Cap

16th January 2016

header Well you might have already guessed from our instagram feed, but we are no longer on our grand tour of Asia.

It took us 3 months and 17 days but a few months ago (quite a few months ago now) we arrived in the merry old land of Oz. We were ready to see some Kangaroo’s, put another shrimp on the barbie and many other stereotypical things that i’ve learnt from watching too much Neighbours and having a affinity with The Simpsons episode  where they go to Australia.

Here is a little glimpse of our last few months trekking on a new continent.

Perth & Fremantle

australia11 australia10 Our first stop was Western Australia. Partly because it is the closest part of Australia to Asia and partly because we really wanted to see one of Lee’s best friends. Mo moved to Perth a few years ago and he, his beautiful girlfriend and their adorable dog , made the crazy mistake of letting us use their spare room for a while. Jobs were harder to find than expected but it didn’t take the shine away from our beautiful surroundings.

We were actually living in a small town connected to Perth called Fremantle – or in the traditional Australian way of adding an ‘O’ to the end of all words – Freo. We learnt (and Lee fell in love with ) AFL or the Aussie Rules Football League. I found a job in a craft beer bar and had a wail of a time serving pints and throwing together cocktails with a great bunch of people. They introduced me to a ‘Boilermaker’ and my liver will never be the same again*.  We saw fantastic sunsets and ate so much good food. Our last few days in WA (Western Australia) were spent in Margaret River, which is lovingly known as Wine Country to the locals. I managed to take a trip to wine country while I was suffering the mother of all hangovers . Not the way i’d recommend seeing the place but if it’s pretty when you are carrying a carrier bag ‘just in case’ around with you, then you know it’s got to be good.

australia9 australia13 There is a lot of things we didn’t get to do while we were in WA – mainly due to lack of funds so we will need to go back.   As if seeing Mo, Paula, Diego (the not so tea cup chiuaua) weren’t reason enough to go back , we didn’t get to make it to Rottnest island and see a Quokka (look at their lovely faces here) . But we aren’t too sad. It’s always good to have a reason to go back.

*I will explain what a ‘Boilermaker’ is in other posts but right now the memory is still too clear…urrrr my poor liver.

 

Melbourne

australia6 We didn’t think we would be able to see more of Australia so soon but  I luckily got a job offer at an animation company in Brisbane that was too good to pass up. We decided that instead of flying directly to Brisbane we would take the long route. Our next stop on our whistle stop tour of Australia became Melbourne.

How can you describe Melbourne? I read countless times that it was ‘liveable’ and had no idea what this meant…until we arrived there that was. It is a bustling, fun , delicious and just beautiful.

australia5 We scaled the Eureka building, ate till our bellies were bursting in China town and Lee got to fulfill a life long ambition and go to Melbourne Cricket Ground where we had a fantastic tour and learnt a lot. I’d recommend it to everyone, even if like me you are clueless about cricket.  For me the most important part of the trip was getting to see my favourite band ‘Post Modern Jukebox’ perform. You can see them here…I recommend watching allllll their videos. Seeing them perform was the only reason that our elaborate journey to Brisbane had such a long stop over in Melbourne. Boy are we glad we had the excuse. We can’t wait to go back.

It’s cheesy but i’d recommend the free tourist tram that travels around the centre of the city. Nice views, good information and you can rest your tootsies. australia4 australia8 australia7

Sydney and Manley Bay

australia18 Sydney is of course AMAZING! I felt like I was walking into every story I’d ever heard my mum tell of her childhood. My mum and her three sisters and two brothers moved to Australia when see was just five. It has been one of the reasons i’ve always wanted to see this country. It hasn’t disappointed yet.

We saw bustling Bondi,  the iconic Harbour Bridge , the even more iconic Sydney Opera House and enjoyed every moment of it. We stumbled upon a German beer house and had our fill of German beer. It wasn’t very Australian but we’ve managed to find a German spot in most cities so it felt almost rude not to. There is nothing quite as fun as watching Lee in a German beer bar. He’s like a kid in a candy store – but more drunk.

australia17 australia16 Our favourite part of our trip to Sydney was a day trip to Manly, We assumed that people had suggested this trip for the boat ride that takes you past all the major sights of Sydney so we were both a little taken aback when we arrived on Manly to discover a paradise hidden among the city. Beaches, harbors, blue seas and even a wild cockatoo. We spent the day fantasizing about living on this little piece of heaven. I finally, after years of Lee up-selling this country to me,  understood the pull of Australia and the hold it has on people. I never really thought that I’d be someone who would fall for this country but i’ve fallen hard.

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Brisbane

australia15 Last but definitely not least is our little corner of the continent. We have made Queensland our home for the last few months and boy are we glad that we made the move over here. We have loved each part of Australia, but Brisbane feels like home to us now. We fluked a great little house that has a SPARE bedroom . For two ex-Londoners who couldn’t stretch their arms without touching both sides of the wall , it is bliss. We also have a garage that the optimists in us have turned into a mini gym….or as it should aptly be named ‘the dust farm’.

I am a massive nerd and love animation so I keep pinching myself that the company took a chance on a backpacking weirdo. I’m working my tukas off but it’s the first time in years that I’m excited for my job and at the same time I can’t wait to come home. It’s a weird feeling. Lee is working in a dungeon at a hospital converting horrible case files but I think he secretly likes the organisation of it all (this is the man who’s hobby is Excel after all :D) australia14

Brisbane is much more laid back than Sydney and Melbourne , as pretty as Perth and sunny 362 days a year. We have explored the Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay where we saw humpback whales froliking in the surf but there is still so much more to see.  We did get treated to a visit from the incredible Kaleena , you may know here as the writer of this incredible blog. I know her as my ice cream partner in crime and America’s top sand castle builder.  It’s been a fun few months and although the idea of moving to a continent with no job and not a lot of money was a terrifying prospect. It has been worth every second. Everything’s coming up Millhouse! Fingers crossed 2016 holds a lot more in store.

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Gili Air – Who Knew Water Could Be That Blue?

18th October 2015

giliair_07 By the time we got to Gili Air we were 11 countries in. Before we even stepped onto our boat we felt ready to just get to Australia and start our next adventure. We couldn’t imagine prettier beaches that the Philippines or a more relaxing atmosphere than Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia. We were a bit exhausted from travel and ready to never pack a bag again. Luckily we stuck with the plan and arrived on the beautiful Gili Air.

Gili Air is one of the three Gili islands in Lombok. It is wedged between the tiny island of Gili Meno and the large , very popular island of Gili T. We decided right away to skip Gili T for the same reasons we skipped Kuta Bali. We heard it was filled with young teenagers on gap years eating magic mushrooms and partying into the wee hours. We looooooove a good party. In fact my liver’s future health was probably the main factor in needing to leave Korea , but after all these months we just wanted to do nothing. Not ‘tours of the island, climing mountains’ kind of nothing but actual ‘lay on the beach for a disgusting amount of time’ type of nothing.

Gili Air was exactly what we had hoped for. No cars, no fuss…just pure beautiful laziness on sand.

giliair_04 giliair_01 Our only major issue with Gili Air was that we were as poor as poor can be by this time. We were counting the pennies (or as I like to call them, cocktail tokens). There was only one atm that was almost always out of money, and we were hoping to pay by card as much as possible. This lead to a lot of walking around the island, which you can do easily in an hour or two. Each morning we would find a beautiful beach bar, ask if they took card and get a few lost looks. When we would eventually find a bar that took card, they would get the pleasure of our company until the sun had long thrown in the towel. In one bar they had sun lounges on the beach and our days were filled with reading, snorkelling and spring rolls. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in one bar was surprisingly liberating. They also obviously wou giliair_05 giliair_06 ld want to get rid of us and top up our cocktails with a little too much island liquor. We loved it.

We spent three days on our arses and I regret nothing. I did wonder how a holiday island would work that was mainly Muslim , but it was very respectful and surprisingly tolerant of Westerners skimpily clothed and drinking. This might sound naive to some people reading this, but after living in Saudi Arabia for a number of years it was a fantastic surprise. The call the prayer at 5am was actually quite soothing and reminded me of the early hours in Saudi where the songs would come floating through the house. If you are a light sleeper I’d make sure your hostel or hotel isn’t near the one main mosque on the island, but if like us you don’t check and are right next to it, it’s still easy to sleep. Coming from me this means a lot since the sound of an ant tickling its cousin could wake me.

giliair_08 giliair_09 giliair_10 After Gili Air we begrudgingly moved on to Gili Meno. We loved Gili Air so much that we couldn’t believe we were leaving it. Luckily we did because Gili Meno is just as lovely if not even quieter. ….but I’ll save that long winded tale for another time. Mainly because I want to throw more pictures of blue azure seas and random cocktails at your eye holes.

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Nusa Ceningan – Wrinkly Fingers and Scooters.

11th October 2015

banner After relaxing in the tiny town of Ubud we did what any smart person would do and instantly went somewhere to relax even more…oh it’s a hard life.

We settled on the tiny island of Nusa Ceningan. While still officially Bali , this tiny island that is attached to Nusa Lembongan is a little off the coast of the main tourist area of Kuta. It is a forgotten island by most tourists so it is extremely untouched. No atms*, no real roads and beautiful untouched scenery are what you’ll find on this tiny island. There are some roads but they look like a blind giant got drunk and laid them.

nusacennigan17 The only problem with wanting to go to a tiny remote area is that getting there is a pain in the arse. There were quite a few boats but they basically wanted you to donate your kidneys to buy a seat. We decided to take the risk and take the local boat. After 3 months of travel we liked the word ‘local’. It normally translated to ‘cheap’. This local boat was A LOT cheaper, which should have been a sign. We soon discovered that we should have just paid through the nose for the other boat. At least there was a chance our nose would still be attached to our face after that trip…on this rickety, packed to the rafters boat…we would be lucky to be alive.

In the 5 foot waves we waded out with our bags to the floating shack. At one point a wave hit me that was so strong it took my feet from under me. We finally boarded the boat, soaking wet and ready to hit the (very) high seas. This is when we were told in broken English that some more cargo needed to arrive. We were already sitting on and among an array of boxes of all shapes and sizes so I dreaded to think what was on its way. What came aboard was two hundred ,ten foot planks of wood, a fridge freezer and of course, a motorcycle. Watching 4 men try to move a heavy bike onto a tiny boat while getting battered by waves was extremely entertaining and improved the trip immensely.

nusacennigan03 We were finally on our way and woozy from the petrol fumes. We pulled up to a beach covered in men screaming ‘TAXI’ at us. We knew we had a pick up from our hotel waiting so started looking for our people. They were nowhere to be found until finally one of the taxi men got excited and everyone started pointing at some people walking away from the beach. We ran up to these two and had to convince them that we were in fact the people staying at their hotel. They were having none of it. A recurring problem we’ve discovered while traveling on this trip is:

  1. Lee is an Asian name
  2. We booked our flights and hotels from Korea.

 

Everyone thought that Lee and I we would be Korean on arrival, most didn’t seem to mind but I could tell that some people had been brushing up on their ‘hangul’ for our arrival and were slightly disappointed in the pastie faced Westerners arriving on their doorstep .

 

nusacennigan02 nusacennigan01 We jumped on board their tiny scooters, covered in bags and started the ride to Nusa Ceningan and our hotel. About half way on our journey along the bumpiest roads I’ve ever experienced, I turned around slightly and couldn’t see Lee and his driver anywhere. I started to worry so shouted in the ear of the young girl driving that we’d lost them. I now knew her extremely well since I was clinging on to her for dear life. She paused for a while and waited but there was still no sign of them. She made the executive decision to carry on and hope they were just taking in the sights. What had actually happened was Lee’s guides bike couldn’t handle the weight of two grown men and three suitcases, so had given out. Lee had to get off and walk up any hill that lay ahead of their path. This is probably a good time to note that even mountain goats would come to Nusa Ceningan and think it was too ‘hilly.’

Finally Lee and his guide arrived at the hotel and we were given our beautiful room. It over looked our ‘private’ pool. It wasn’t meant to be private, but the two other villas were empty so for all intensive purposes we decided that it was our pool for the week.

nusacennigan05 nusacennigan06 nusacennigan11 We stayed at the ‘Da Fish’ Hotel and I’d recommend it to anyone. Great views, fantastic food brought straight to your balcony, lovely people and great location for seeing the blue lagoon.

We did nothing for the week apart from ride our scooter around the island and **prune our fingers. Hiring a scooter is something we never thought we’d do. Scooters are always part of peoples horrible travel stories. But without a scooter it’s impossible to get around Nusa Ceningan or Nusa Lembongan. We drove around, saw the island, ate at tiny restaurants and watched the sun set, but most 50% of the time was spent in the ‘private’ pool. We were definitely those smug annoying tourists for a few days.

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best part of travel? All the puppies and kittens

nusacennigan12 nusacennigan09 nusacennigan08 Nusa Ceningan is a tiny place but perfect for a couple. If you are travelling on your own or with your friends then I’d say Nusa Lembongan is better. More restaurants, music bars and even a local outdoor cinema. A bit more life to it and more places to drink, but for us Nusa Ceningan was where we belonged. Everyone needs to find a place they can pretend to be fancy tourists in once and a while. nusacennigan16

Lee throwing all the moves

Lee throwing all the moves

This is definitely the forgotten island and I’d recommend it.

*there is one atm but it is rarely filled. I think that it probably empties before the money delivery guy is even back on his boat. You can get money out from the money exchanges for a fee in an emergency, such as a ‘we need more pina colada’s’ emergency like we had.

** Pruning fingers is when your fingers have been wet for a long time and they get wrinkly. Lee laughed a lot when I used this term and I discovered it wasn’t a universal or even a local phrase.

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:

We’re going to INDONESIA!

7th August 2015

banner INDONESIA!!!

Yes I am shouting that. I was so stupidly excited to visit this place. I realise that this is quite a normal location for travel bloggers but for me it’s really exciting and completely new.

I am going to confess something to you all now and please don’t judge me but I LOVE THE BOOK EAT, PRAY, LOVE! I read it at a hard time and it inspired me to:

  1. Run around the world
  2. Leave behind me a very toxic part of my life

It was a very important book to me and I will always be grateful for each and every page of it. For those of you that have lived in a cave, this is a biographical travel book about a woman who gives up everything to travel the world. 3 months in Italy, 3 months in India and 3 months in Bali – Indonesia.

The second I read about the beautiful Ubud I knew I had to go. I am a massive cliché but I’m not ashamed. Any reason that makes you travel has to be a good one.

indo7 indo6 indo4 Lee on the other hand was a little wary of Indonesia. He is a Historian and had only heard about the conflicts and darker side of Indonesia, he hadn’t seen the beautiful photos and heard the wonderful stories from friends that I had. There are many dangerous areas in Indonesia but it is a big place. If you are worried it is important to check on your embassies website to see what they advise. Even after my constant sales pitch he still was quite reluctant.

So I did the thing any sane person does when being confronted with someone who doesn’t want to visit a country; you make them go for 3 weeks.

indo3 indo2 indo We started in Yogyakarta for the temples, then to Ubud for food and yoga, Nusa Cenigan for a quiet isolated island without roads, Gili Air for deserted island paradise, Gili Meno for an even more deserted paradise and lastly Lombok for expensive looking hotels at stupidly cheap prices. indo5

Our last stop on this trip is going to be nothing but relaxing and food. A holiday from the holiday. That’s a thing right? signature

IT'S SO CUTE and FLUFFY ..I'M GONNA DIE!!!!!

Big Kids in Universal Stuidos – Singapore

2nd August 2015

banner My background is not as a writer (as you may have gathered from my awful grammar and spelling). I am by trade an Animator. I love animation and everything that goes with it, which is normally films and television. Luckily for me Lee is also a huge geek and we have lost hours if not days to our Netflix marathons. The only thing we love more than films is a good theme park so combine those two together and Universal Studios was the obvious place for us to visit during our Singapore stay.

universalstudios13 We were jumping around like kids before we even arrived at the park. We took the subway to Sentosa subway station that is linked to the VivoCity mall and tried to track down the monorail that takes you to the island. What we later discovered was that you can just walk over the new bridge for free which takes about 5 minutes and is a really pretty walk so I’d definitely recommend it. Seeing the island that the Universal Studios is based in, called Sentosa, made us wish we’d left time to explore more during our stay but it’s a definite must for next time.

We arrived at the gate and bought our tickets, which was a bit of a splurge on our budget but once we were inside and saw all of the park we weren’t disappointed.

I’m an advocate for the phrase ‘if somethings worth doing, it’s worth doing right’ so the second we were in those gates I was wearing my park swag and even more excited.

universalstudios17 universalstudios11 If I could have bought this teddy (which was also a bag!) I would have but our budget and carry-on bags wouldn’t allow.

IT'S SO CUTE and FLUFFY ..I'M GONNA DIE!!!!!

IT’S SO CUTE and FLUFFY ..I’M GONNA DIE!!!!!

We spent the rest of the day getting soaked on the Jurassic Park rafts, surprisingly loving the Transformers 3d ride and generally enjoying everything the park had to offer. I’d recommend trying to make the Water World show but be aware that the splash zone is in the middle, the SOAK zone is at the front. We arrived slightly late and I can tell you that the soak zone lives up to its name.

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Lee got to be surrounded by his childhood heroes.

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We were a little surprised by the prices of snack foods but the restaurants were well priced. We ate before we went in after our trip to a Theme park in Hong Kong left our pockets empty just after buying a bottle of water. universalstudios18

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universalstudios4 universalstudios3 universalstudios2 We loved the day and I really want to visit the rest of the Universal world’s studios now.

universalstudios17 universalstudios19 universalstudios15 universalstudios14 universalstudios9 universalstudios1 It’s great fun being big kids and I am so happy that my partner in crime is as childish silly as I am.

I made Lee pose by the star of Jimmy Stewart who is his second cousin. Can you see the likeness???

I made Lee pose by the star of Jimmy Stewart who is his second cousin. Can you see the likeness???

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Lee and I with the one and only Miss Monroe

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Serious faces for  these 3d glasses

Serious faces for these 3d glasses

Singapore – A City of Lights

30th July 2015

banner When we tell most people that we are heading to Singapore on our 4 month Grand Asia Tour they look at us like we are mad. Not because Singapore is a horrible place, but the opposite, because it is beautiful and VERY expensive.

We have to be honest that we probably wouldn’t have gone here, even though we really wanted to, if it wasn’t for our fantastic friend Miss Carly ‘mother of dragons’ Pearlman and her boyfriend the lovely Connor. Carly had just moved to Singapore (and by ‘just’ I mean 5 days ago) so it was extremely rude of us to just rock up at her new home but we love her and weren’t going to miss this opportunity to hug her face off.

We arrived in Singapore and were instantly excited as we walked passed the 7-11 to see every chocolate and drink we had missed during our two years in Korea but there isn’t many joys in life as exciting as seeing an old friend , especially at an airport. I may have cried!

singapore12 singapore6 We are slightly embarrassed to say that we spent our 5 days in Singapore mostly catching up instead of exploring. We did manage to see the incredible ‘Gardens by the Bay’. This was incredible and one of the highlights of the 4 month trip. The trees were pretty on their own but if you head down to these giant electric trees at night there is a huge light show to music. We lay on the floor with the trees up above us and listened to the movie soundtrack montage as the lights danced around us. It was beautiful. While we watched I thought about all the other beautiful moments on our trip and how lucky we have been to experience so much…once again I may have cried. Just when we thought our evening couldn’t get any better it was made even better with our trip to ‘Satay by the Bay’, which as you might guess is a fantastic ‘Hawkers centre’ specialising in satay.

singapore10 singapore4 ‘So what is a Hawkers Centre?’ Is the question I finally got the nerve up to ask since everyone in the world seemed to know what one was. I thought it was just one place in Singapore that you went for a meal but no. A Hawker Centre is the name for a food court full of deliciousness. They are really popular in Singapore and for an expensive city they are a really cheap and delicious place for travellers to head. Your mainly problem will be what the hell to choose.

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This is the famous Singapore ice cream sandwich, which is actually just ice cream in sweet bread. DELICIOUS!

This is the famous Singapore ice cream sandwich, which is actually just ice cream in sweet bread. DELICIOUS!

The other big bucket list item for me was to see a Singapore ‘Merlion’. The ‘Merlions’ are the iconic image of Singapore. These half lion, half fish statues stand all around Singapore Island and guard it from evil. I’m a sucker for stories like that so I was really happy to see them.

singapore9 singapore02 One of our days was spent being big kids in Universal Studios, but I’ll share that in another post.

The best way to sum up this city would be: A rich person’s playground. So much thought and detail has gone into every shopping mall and building. The light shows (Gardens by the Bay and on the river) were the best I’ve ever seen. We were extra impressed after looking forward to Hong Kong’s light show and being VERY disappointed. This city is just very polished and although I love a place with rougher edges like Hong Kong I did love visiting and I’d love to go back…but maybe for a long indulgent weekend.

singapore3 singapore1 The biggest regret of the trip was that I didn’t have a Singapore Sling. I KNOW!!!! For a cocktail lover like me it was almost painfully to not visit Raffles (where the drink was created) and have a tasty sip. I’d love to say it was the $24 price tag that stopped us but really it was the fact us scummy travellers had no shoes or trousers that were appropriate. Ahh well it’s the perfect excuse to go back and then I can give this lovely girl another hug.

Love you Miss P xxx

Love you Miss P xxx

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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.

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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