Phuket & Koh Samui

Leaving Phi Phi was the sadest goodbye to a place for me so far, I was gutted! I have told myself I will definitely return one day very soon! After catching a 2 hour ferry to Phuket, and a crazy taxi drive later, we arrived at our hotel. It was pretty basic but had all you needed in a hotel, and the cutest fluffy Pomeranian I have ever seen!

We headed out that evening with the group of friends we had made on Thai Intro, and after grabbing a drink at a bar on the main strip of Phuket, we headed to a ladyboy show, as apparently when in Thailand it is a must see! I don’t even want to explain what we saw that night, but let’s put it this way, I will never be returning!

The weather for the rest of our time in Phuket ended up being pretty grim, with torrential rain and thunderstorms. We spent most of our time having movie days with the odd walk down to the beach, which we weren’t too worried about seeking we were all suffering from air con cold!

After 4 days in Phuket we decided that we wanted to explore Koh Samui as we had a few days spare before Holly started her diving on the 6th of May. We grabbed a taxi to the bus station who again drove like a lunatic but still could not manage to get us there on time so we had to wait in a layby for the bus to come past us! Do you even have to take a driving test out here? We were on the bus for around 5 hours, before waiting at another bus station for an hour, then another hour bus, then an hour wait at the ferry port, then an hour ferry. All in all it was a pretty grim day of travelling and we have never been so pleased to see an island before!

After arriving in Koh Samui we got our transfer to our hotel, which took around an hour. The owners of the hotel were so lovely and instantly made us feel at home with their jokes and smiles! That evening we headed straight to bed, and were asleep within minutes, it had been a long day.

For the next two days on Koh Samui we spent it on the beach around a 10 minute walk away, which was absolutely gorgeous! The sea was the picturesque turquoise blue and the white sand stretched all around the bay. We spent our days swimming, sunbathing and eating watermelon and coconut from a little Thai man under an unbrella by the shore – he liked us so much we even got a free banana each! We also had a few Thai men come sing to us which we thought was sweet, until they asked for 50 baht once they’d finished… Every evening we ate at the same restaurant because it was SO cheap! The food was gorgeous too and a lot of spaghetti bolognese and Thai green curry was consumed. It’s been pretty chilled and relaxing out here, but we can’t afford to do much else with only a week to go! There is not much culture on these islands either particularly, so we’re not feeling too guilty treating it like a holiday.

Phi Phi Islands

We arrived on Phi Phi on the 26th of April. After having a horrible day of a 2 hour boat, 3 hour bus journey, then another 2 hour boat we were absolutely exhausted and never has an island looked so beautiful. As we pulled up into the harbour, the island instantly felt like home! The tall mountainous surroundings, the long tail boats decorated in colourful offerings, and the palm trees dotted all along the shoreline.

We got off the boat and met our tour guide Whitney who we’d spend the next few days with, who took us to our hotel. As soon as I walked along the cobbled streets I fell in love with phi phi! There is no transport on the island other than by foot or by bike, and the only way to get there is by a boat. It’s a bit like a Thai version of Sark! The shops, restaurants and dive schools line the streets making the maze that the streets of phi phi are, its way too easy to get lost here! Our hotel room was small, with basic amenities but it had aircon which is what matters the most here! That evening we headed out to a western bar where I had fajitas – I was in heaven! There is only so much noodles and rice a girl can eat.

The next morning we headed out on a boat trip around the island, which turned out to be the most gorgeous boat we’ve been on yet! At the front of the top deck there were blue cushions which we quickly went and jumped on, and sunbathed there for the rest of the day, it was gorgeous! The sun was out in full force but the sea breeze made it much cooler. We first headed to monkey island – its what it says on the tin! We swam over to see the monkeys being poked, having selfies taken and bottles of water thrown at them to see if they would drink from it. It was all a bit sad and made me ashamed to be a tourist! One monkey got so pissed off with one man he bit him, not that you can blame him. The actual island was beautiful though and after an hour of snorkelling and admiring the scenery, we swam back to the boat.

We then headed to Bamboo island – or Chinese island as the locals call it! They weren’t kidding either, the whole island only had Chinese people on it, and they were literally taking selfies everywhere! We didn’t spend long there and it was getting dark so quickly headed back to the bay, with a quick stop off at shark point. Sadly we didn’t actually see any sharks, although we did see our first turtle and flying fish which we were all so pleased about – it was our mission to see a turtle before the end of the trip! Holly even cried

That evening we went and explored Phi Phi’s crazy nightlife, which didn’t really turn out to be too crazy. We did watch Thai boxing though which was so fun to watch and we all really got into it! Sadly we didn’t go on a night where any professionals were boxing though, and it was all just a load of drunk tourists trying to look cool. Was still very funny to watch though.

On our last day in Phi Phi we headed out on a Maya Bay tour, where we went to the location that the beach was filmed. We boarded the tiniest boat in the world, but with the nicest Thai crew we have met so far, they were definitely up for a laugh! On the way we stopped off at a cave where they collect birds nests for birds nest soup, id never realised how expensive it was to buy! Not sure I’ll be trying it anytime soon either. We were given a meal of yellow curry and fruit which was gorgeous, before heading off in a little boat to explore Maya Bay Beach. Sadly it was a bit of a grey day, so the scenery was not quite as picturesque as we had hoped for, however the views were still spectacular and we even found nemo! Behind the beach there were loads of trees with their roots high up above the ground, which was due to the Boxing Day tsunami dragging most of the coastline out to sea. Was quite sad to see, even with it being so many years ago, and it brought it home even more with signs to a tsunami evacuation site just in case it happened again. I felt a bit naive to think it only had affected Sri Lanka and Indonesia, this has definitely been an educational trip!

We were supposed to sleep aboard the boat that evening but a huge storm came in so we ended up having to go back to the hotel we had stayed at for the last few nights, before leaving early the next morning to head for Phuket. I was so gutted to leave as I have totally fallen in love, and have decided if I am to move away from the UK Phi Phi is where I am going to be!

ThaiIntro – Koh Phangan

After waking up to bright daylight on the wooden planks after a night of no sleep from stargazing, we packed our bags and headed for breakfast. We ended up being given insipid tuna sandwiches, so decided to wait to get to 7/11.  Aggies gluten free option turned out to be 2 slices of plain bread.. so she also gave it a miss!

After 2 boat trips and a 2 hour bus, we arrived at Koh Phangan ferry port. On the boat journey there we had 2 hours entertainment from a 3 year old Thai kid who danced and clapped for us all the way there! We got a tuk tuk to Sarana where we were staying, which was absolutely beautiful! There was a restaurant area and then little white and blue bungalows surrounding an infinity pool in the centre, looking straight over the beach. We then got given the keys to our rooms, and Louis definitely gave us the best room! It was the bungalow right on the beach, where you opened the curtains straight out onto the sea. Outside were two hammocks where you could lay and listen to the sea, and inside were 4 single beds and a bathroom 4 times the size of my one back home – you could’ve fit 10 people in the shower! Louis said he gave us it because we were his favourites, and that because we’d been travelling so long in dorks we deserved some luxury. There were also two resident dogs called Dave and Sandy, who both had little matching ties. Leaving them was so sad!

That evening we went and had a meal at a western bar where we covered ourself in neon paint and shortly after headed to a beach party, which had flame throwers and lots of alcohol. It ended up being a very fun night! We also met Cash, the gay man who owns our hotel, and he would have 100% won a dance competition with his moves. On the way home in the tuk tuk, we had all had a bit too much to drink and one of the girls shoved me over and I ended up smashing my head on the floor! So the following day, apart from a massage, I ended up doing nothing and recovering from hangover, headache, and sight loss in one eye! The chicken nuggets from the restaurant definitely made me feel better though, that and watching Moana with popcorn in the evening.

The following day we headed out on a boat around the island snorkelling. We saw so many different fish – from small striped ones, to larger ones which were all the colours of the rainbow! We spent the afternoon on Malibu beach where we played volleyball, frisbee in the sea and ate ice cream. That evening the hotel we were staying at set up a BBQ and bonfire on the beach where we all sat on little cushions around low tables, eating the most food we have eaten in ages! There was chicken, corn, potatoes, sausages, and pasta salad. Felt like a dream! That night we went swimming in the pool at midnight with the bartender called P-Tong who is the loveliest Thai guy I have met yet.

On our last day in Koh Phangan with our group we made the most of the gorgeous setting and sunbathed on the beach outside our bungalow during the day, and then all had a fancy Thai buffet with lots of alcohol in the evening – we all drank way too much! I drank so much I ended up flat on my face in the gravel, so am now covered in cuts and a broken toe! Luckily the alcohol numbed the pain, but I’ve decided I should probably give alcohol a bit of a break for a little while. It’s been a booze filled 4 days!

We’re now off to Phi Phi Islands with half of the original group, so are dreading the 7hour ferry, bus, taxi, ferry we have to go through to get there!

ThaiIntro – Khao Sok

We arrived in Khao Sok at around 12pm. We got a long tail boat across the river, which gave the most breathtaking views I have ever seen! I almost think it bested Halong Bay, with the islets being much larger, greener and impressive. The lake had been artificially made though by a damn being installed many years ago to flood the valley, which did slightly ruin the beauty of it.

When we arrived, We got off our long tail boat onto a pontoon which had a restaurant in the centre and then two big wooden walkways going off either side with little floating bungalows. The whole structure was on floats so you literally felt like you were on a boat, and when a boat did come past the waves made our bungalows rock and bang so much I started to feel a little sea sick! It was the most surreal overnight stay, where we floated around the lake in little rubber rings, sunbathed on the pontoon and spent the whole evening with no wifi, with all 24 of us sat in a circle laughing at Kyle who was so drunk and has such a hilarious personality that he provided the whole evening entertainment! We all got very sunburnt though, and had sore bodies as well as heads in the morning. The skinny dipping in the lake definitely helped cool our sunburn off though!

We also saw a wild boar on the island next to us, and the people who lived on the floating bungalows and worked in the restaurant took us behind the kitchen to where they lived to let us have a closer look, as we did think it was a hippo at first! Their home was literally mattresses outside with fabric making a shelter just in case it rained, and boxes full of clothes, pots and pans. It is so sad to think that we thought staying there was luxury – waking up, looking our our windows over the lake and islets, when all they dream about is moving to England and away from Khao Sok. I wanted to just give them our bungalow, it was definitely more comfortable and homely than where they were staying!

Me and Chloe had the end bungalow which was super rocky, so when we were getting ready for bed we sat outside to brush our teeth. We looked up and saw the stars, and never have I seen so many stars in my life! Our tour leader Louis, and a few others came to watch the stars with us. We saw many shooting stars – two of which had a tail so long it spanned across the whole sky, it was truely magical! It was definitely my favourite place so far, so peaceful and isolated with no worries in the world. I will definitely have to go back one day! We ended up sleeping on the wooden planks of the pontoon overnight just so that we could watch the stars, which was uncomfortable but beautiful.

ThaiIntro – Bangkok

2 days before ThaiIntro was due to start we stayed at the Wild Orchid Villa, which was where our tour began. On the day everyone began to arrive we met two people due to start our tour – Abi and Kyle. At first, Kyle came across really shy, however as soon as he had a few drinks down him that evening he was partying the night away! We headed to a sky bar which was the tallest one in Bangkok. When we had finally gone up the 83 levels in the elevator, we walked up a few more steps to a revolving platform which circled the tower, giving 360 degree views of Bangkok. It was the most breathtaking skyline I had ever seen, with the lights from the buildings, cars and streetlights below reflected up onto the clouds. I don’t think I’ll ever see Bangkok look more beautiful than that!

On the first full day of ThaiIntro we headed to Songkran Temple, where we were handed a Lotus flower, incense sticks and a candle. We were taken to do an offering to the gods where we could make a wish; you first lit the candle and placed it on a metal bar, then lit the incense sticks and held them between your hands with the lotus flower while you prayed. After you had made your wish, you placed the lotus flower in some water, the incense sticks in some sand, and then stuck the gold leaf we wore on our foreheads into a elegantly decorated metal trough. We were then blessed by a monk – he basically hit us over the head with incense sticks covered in water, and pretty hard as well! He seemed to find it pretty funny watching us trying to recite his prayers, and ended up smirking the whole way through!

After that we got into a boat to take us to Wat Pho, one of the most famous temples in Bangkok. They have the Reclining Buddha – a monument which mean a lot to Thai Culture and people travel far and wide just to pray beneath it. Apparently if you are married and unable to conceive, and pray underneath the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho for children, you conceive straight away!

On the way to Wat Pho on the boat, we also spotted Komodo dragons swimming in the river, which are apparently eaten often by the people that live along the riverside – not sure it’s something I’d like to try soon… Our tour guide for the day was called Son Pon, he was a small, rounded Thai man who looked in his 50’s, wore an old cap back to front vet his long black pony tail and had a handlebar moustache. He may have looked crazy, but he was the funniest, sweetest Thai man we have met yet! He loved us all so much that he bought us all a little key ring which looked like him, and bought us some bread so we could feed the carp in the river underneath one of the temples. We also had ice cream from his family shop – so yummy!

That evening we headed for a night out in Bangkok, which consisted of eating scorpions, consuming many buckets of cocktails, and trying to teach our tour guide Louis how to dance. He’s 26 and from England and has been a tour guide for about 6 months now. He thinks he is very cool but his dance moves definitely let him down!

The morning after the night our we headed to Mays cooking class, where she taught us all how to make Pad Thai and Tom Yam soup, both of which were delicious and I cannot wait to make again as soon as we’re back. We then had a competition to see who could make the best curry, and we ended up coming second purely for presentation, it did end up a little burnt by the end! Aggie even got to make her own gluten free Thai dishes without Soy Sauce, which tasted just as good as ours!

That evening we got a night train to Khao Sok national park, which was identical to our one from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. We played cards on my little bunk bed with Louis, and Chloe did rollie pollies down the isle to get to the toilet once everyone had got to sleep. These train rides definitely make us a little bit delirious!

Songkran Festival

When we first planned to go to Bangkok, we had no idea that we had planned to go during Songkran festival! Songkran is New Year in Thailand, and they celebrate it by going to visit their families and having a massive water fight.  The water is supposed to symbolise washing away bad spirits, and therefore is supposed to be good luck. The streets are littered with stalls selling water guns, however big or small, waterproof phone cases and mud to put on your face. Many independent shops shut so the streets look empty, and Bangkok is not quite as busy as usual with most of the residents at their family homes. On the Saturday of Songkran, me and Holly decided we wanted to pop out for an iced coffee so got ready to go out forgetting it was Songkran. Just a few minutes into our journey we realised what day it was, as we became absolutely covered in mud, ice and water and were absolutely soaked to the skin! It was so much fun to be a part of it though, especially watching the little kids with their Spider-Man and Frozen waterguns having the time of their lives. Although, the iced water was freezing, I definitely appreciated the free cooling off!

Chiang mai – Bangkok Night Train

3.30pm – We hopped in a tuktuk to Chiang Mai train station – a pink one at that!

5:00pm – Boarded the night train which was much nicer than we expected! Although one of the toilets turned out to be a hole in the ground, which opened out onto the railway below you… you wouldn’t want to fall down there! We ended up with the beds right next to the carriage door, with noise and fumes from the railway flying through the latticework in the door. I was way to scared to attempt to go into another carriage – our carriage seemed to have a life of its own!

7:00pm – The train guard (accompanied by two train navy men, with guns) came and put together our bunk beds. Me and Aggie got the short straw and ended up in the top bunks, which were 2/3rds of the size of Chloe and Holly’s bottom bunks! The only safety to keep us in our bunk were two black seatbelts holding the bed up to the ceiling, but would have been no use at all if we were to sleep in the foetal position – we’d roll straight out! It did give us something to laugh about though, and we found the whole situation quite hilarious. The train guard was also very sweet though and smiled the whole way through, plumping up our pillows and putting together the stepladders.

8.00pm – Me and Aggie attempted to go to the other toilet in our carriage, which turned out to actually be a toilet! Although I did manage to stand on the leaver for the bday, resulting in me and Aggie jumping out of our skin, getting drenched, and giggling so much we woke up a man in the carriage next to us. Think we nearly wet ourselves in laughter!

10:00pm – We attempted to go to sleep. Which ended up in us getting no sleep at all, as the train was way too noisy and rocky. Managed to dose on and off a lot, but every time I checked the time only half an hour had passed!

5:00pm – Woke up to the train guard pulling back all of our curtains singing ‘good morning’ in as happier tone as he could, bless him. He must’ve been shattered! We got a tuk tuk straight to the hotel where we dumped our bags, and spend the rest of the day in Starbucks trying to keep ourselves awake!

 

 

My 19th Birthday!

Woke up on the last day of the Elephant Nature Park to Holly’s alarm at 6.19 on the 9th April – the exact time I was born! The girls jumped into my mosquito net, and gave me unexpected gifts of a feather necklace I had fallen in love with in Laos, a dream catcher and a beautiful handmade card. They’re so sneaky!

We spent the day walking two little Pomeranian puppies called Icicle and Snowflake, who we instantly fell in love with! They had been rescued from a puppy mill, where there were 3 dogs to a cage fit for one, and were being sold off at extortionate  prices! Aggie had a dog called Dollar, who kept starfishing in the middle of the road and refused to walk. She ended up having to run with him to make him walk, im surprised she didn’t get dragged away!

Our 4 volunteer leaders, Dan, Jan, Say and Wat sneakily had organised for a vegan cake to be made with my name on it, and after checking out Chloe popped round the corner with it and everyone started singing happy birthday. The tour leaders gave me a book of the Elephant Nature Park which they, and the rest of the friends we had made that week signed. I also got an elephant teddy which has a tshirt with the logo on the front, which all seemed like lovely gifts until I tried to fit them into my already packed bag!

After a birthday treat of a mayo chicken and chips at McDonald’s, we headed out with 5 of the friends we had made that week to explore Chiang Mai nightlife, which turned out to be so much fun! We started off at a bar/club called Zoe in Yellow which was mostly outdoors, played good music, and had cheapish drinks. We stayed there until it closed and then headed to Spicy – an even worse version of the Chapel! This I would not reccomend as much… but it is the only club open after 12, and beggars can’t be choosers! Here we met several lady boys who ended up being great fun.

The following morning we headed off for my birthday present from mum – Flight of the Gibbons! It is a huge zip line adventure, with abseiling included, high up in the treetops. I was slightly nervous as I have never been good with heights, but it was the most awesome adrenaline experience I have ever had! Some zip lines were huge, and seemed to never stop. The first few didn’t seem that high, as the tree canopy below was so close to where we were on the platform it made the ground seem closer. It wasn’t until we got to the last few zip lines you realised how high up you were – my knees started jittering all over the place! I filmed it all on my GoPro, even when we saw 3 of the 5 gibbons in that forest which we were very lucky to see, and I also filmed Aggie abseiling down the tree with a massive hole in her shorts – it was hilarious!

That evening ended up being a very early night, as we were all exhausted and knew there was a night train to Bangkok the day after, which turned out to be a very bittersweet journey.

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Do not ride elephants. They do not deserve to go through the pain and suffering they are put through, just for an hour of your paid fun.

After the most eye opening week at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, my whole view on sanctuaries and treatment of elephants has changed. Before I came out to Thailand I was determined to do some conservation – to help, as well as be a tourist. The Elephant Nature Park was an obvious choice seeming it was the Elephant sanctuary with the best care in Thailand, however shortly after arriving we realised it wasn’t quite what it had been made out to be.

In Thailand, elephants are sadly unable to live in the wild anymore – they are poached to be used for logging and tourism for shows and rides, and rarely ivory. To be domesticated enough to be able to be riden, they are captured as babies and go through the Phajann ceremony which is supposed to break their soul, so they are able to be used for these trades. They are chained up in the forest, with their trunks and ears clenched shut. The babies are separated from their families so that they forget about the love they felt and the feelings they had, so that they are ready to be submissive to a mahout. Elephants feel the same emotions as we do – anger, sadness, pain and anxiety, so know exactly what they are going through. They are beaten and burnt, stabbed and scratched for a few days, after which they become completely submissive to the mahouts and are then able to be trained.

During training they also endure pain – for example to be able to ride an elephant, they use a hook to pull back the ears and pierce the skin whenever they step out of line, until you are able to jump on their back without them flinching. They are taught through pain and aggression to roll onto their sides in bathing pools for tourists – an act which is unnatural for an elephant as usually if an elephant falls over, it is unable to get back up and ends up dying. They go through all this pain and suffering, just so that us tourists are able to have an hour of ‘fun’ on their back, or watching them dance in a circus. If it wasn’t for tourists, this trade would be unable to continue as the only reason it exists today is from the money that tourists will pay to participate.

Across the river from the Elephant Nature Park we are staying in, there are two different elephant camps. One is to ride elephants, and one is to bathe the elephants. On Wednesday when walking around the park, we stopped to watch. The elephants were being riden bare back up and down a steep hill – Lek, the founder of ENP had persuaded the camp to stop using the big metal cages for tourists to sit in so they now use nothing at all, which is a step in the right direction! One elephant had a baby elephant which looked about a year old, and every time it got in the way of one of the rides it was beaten by a mahout. The poor mother hadn’t even had a chance to recover from birth!

In the other camp elephants had a chain around their necks and were being bathed in a pool, after being taught to roll onto their sides for the tourists to wash them and lifting them up with their trunks for pictures. One elephant decided to rebel when a mahout sat on it, and after screaming and kicking, the mahout beat it with a hook and his feet until taking it away. Dan, our leader, told us that it was to be taken to be chained and beaten to be taught that it had missbehaved. Many people got emotional, including me and even the tour leader, as it doesn’t really sink in until you see it with your own eyes.

Please, do not ride or bathe elephants in these camps. Or even go to anywhere that endorses any of this behaviour. They go through so much pain and suffering for an hour of your paid fun.

Elephant Nature Park –

On the day we arrived at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, we were shown videos of the breaking of the soul ceremony, told that riding them put them through pain and suffering, and that the hooks were only used for abusive reasons. Shortly after, we were shown a video of the owner Lek and how she began her foundation. She said her love for elephants had bought her to save them from the lives they had before, which seemed pretty heroic, until shortly after on the video we watched her riding the elephant with a hook in her hand. After asking about why this was the case, I was told that it was an old video and that she has changed her views since then. But if that was the case, why would you show the video in the first place?

Since then us, and a few other of the 70 volunteers here have witnessed things that have made us feel uneasy. We have seen mahouts with small spikes in their hands trying to hide them away from us, when shortly after pulling an elephant away from us by its ear and very likely using the spike on it. A woman we met from Kent also witnessed a mahout get agitated with the elephant as it would not move away from the day tourists, and when all the tourists turned to move onto the next elephant he poked it in the eye, causing the elephant to recoil and do how it was told. These elephants were all from the same herd, and 2 nights ago another elephant from this herd flung open the gate to the park and tried to escape when it was trying to be put to bed. After being lured back into the park with food, it continued to batter its way into the tourist area and eat all of the well pruned plants.

The fact that the elephant had done this when being taken to bed did not surprise me – the elephants are locked up from 5pm until supposedly 7am the following morning, when that morning we had seen a mother and baby still in its cage at 10am shaking their heads and feet which is a sign of distress. After complaining they were released shortly after, and bounded into the fields with their mahouts sprinting behind them.

Being a volunteer here has been both rewarding, and embarrassing. Preparing the food has been rewarding; from cutting down banana trees & corn, to unloading watermelon trucks and making rice balls. All of this is stuff that is essential, as the elephants need to eat! However we have also bathed the elephants and been on elephants walks which is completely unnecessary. To bathe the elephants, they are lured down to the river with big buckets full of food and coaxed by the mahouts by their ear. If the elephants wanted a bath, they are perfectly capable of walking down to the river and using one trunk full to wash themselves instead of our 10 buckets! The elephant walks also consist of us walking up to the elephants and stroking them – something that is completely unnatural and also something I don’t wish to do again.

However, here they do have a dog and cat sanctuary. Two areas which make a huge difference! They have over 500 cats and 500 dogs, and they have been rescued from a variety of backgrounds such as puppy farming, dog meat, and dog fighting. They are all kept in huge cages where they can roam free – they are all healthy and happy, and up for adoption. I am so desperate to adopt this little black one called Zumba, she’s so cute!

Don’t get me wrong, this elephant sanctuary is doing good work. Compared to how the elephants are treated in the sanctuary opposite, this is a whole lot better. They get the most amazing medical care; they have vets on site to treat every need, from bad feet after being hurt in the logging industry, to back problems from the metal cage to carry tourists. They get all the food they could possibly eat – the before and after pictures speak for themselves, they go from skin and bones to chubby little elephants!

Although I don’t agree with everything that I have witnessed in this sanctuary, they are most certainly in a better place, and certainly not treated half as badly as they were before! However I believe that these elephants should be able to roam free. They do not need all their own individual mahouts, they just need a vet and someone to feed them! They should not have the hundreds of day tourists that enter this park every single day standing within meters of them touching them, feeding them, having selfies with them, while their mahouts keep them there by calling, holding and food. They do not need to be taken for baths, they are perfectly capable of bathing themselves. They should not be locked up for the whole night seeming there is 24hour security, they should be able to roam free! This park does some good – but it has a long way to go until I can class it as a sanctuary. It has been the most amazing experience and taught me so many lessons and facts that I would not even have realised unless I had came here, and has spurred me on to make as much of a difference as I can. However sadly, I did not learn the way the park wanted me to, but a harsh reality that they were trying to hide.

A baby elephant born at this park – it will never have to go through the suffering it’s mum went through!

utopia & mount phousi

So today is our last day in Luang Prabang and we’re all slightly gutted. It’s definitely time to move on as we’ve explored every inch of this city, but we have loved the relaxed, rural vibes that it has to offer so much that we can’t help feel a little bit of sadness!

On Thursday we decided we were going to have a chilled out day as very soon we’ll be shovelling elephant poop and building schools for a week! However, after a coffee me and Aggie decided we had enough energy to climb Mount Phousi in 34 degree heat at 1pm in the afternoon. What a mistake that was! After paying 20,000 kip and climbing the hundreds of white zig zag steps to the top (with around 6 pit stops on the way) we finally made it to the top! The views from the top were absolutely breathtaking – there were 360 degree views of the whole of Luang Prabang surrounding a beautiful golden temple. We sat in the shade trying to recover and cool off for around 20 minutes taking in the scenery, although I could have sat there all day!

That evening we all fancied going out for drinks. Since being out here we have only had alcohol 3 evenings, so thought we’d splash a bit of cash and go for some cocktails! The evening before we had bumped into 3 friends we had made from the Halong Bay party cruise who recommended going to Utopia – the most popular bar for tourists in Luang Prabang. So around 8pm we headed down, and we’re pleasantly surprised! It was an outdoor bar with all the tables low to the ground with cushions and day beds surrounding them. The only light was by candles and lanterns hanging from trees, and we decided to sit in the games area with our cosmopolitans, bikini martini’s and pina coladas playing bullshit & go fish!

By the toilets we bumped into two English guys who turned out to be from Bournemouth and Salisbury! The guy from Salisbury, called Roy, turned out to work in a chip shop called Mani’s which is our go to location for food after a night out in chapel. Mani’s in Laos, it’s a small world! They came and joined us to play a few card games, along with two Austrian guys who spent the whole evening boasting about how they were having an 100$ elephant ride for free and a 400$ meal for free as they were the best cinematographers in Austria. You can be the best cinematographer with the most amount of money in the world, but riding an elephant which has been beaten and held in captivity just because it as free still makes you a douche!

In Laos the curfew for bars and clubs is 11.30pm due to the early morning starts for locals who get up at 7am to go and give offerings to monks on the street. As we all left promptly at the time the bar closed, we met a bunch of French and Australian guys who told us that there is one place that is allowed to be open and serve alcohol after 11.30 – the bowling! Turns out this is the go to place after drinking at a bar, as after hopping in a cheap tuk tuk with 5 others we had just bumped into we arrived to a packed hall. We split into teams – holly and chloe vs aggie & chrispian (an Australian) vs 2 French guys vs solo me. However I was not at a disadvantage, as after 1 strike and a spare I ended up coming second! Alcohol definitely improves my bowling technique, and we ended up having one of the funniest nights of the trip so far! Luang Prabang has got to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I am sure to come back here one day.

I am player one!