ISLA MUJERES TURTLE FARM

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Whilst tootling around the west side of Isla Mujeres on our hired golf cart, we noticed some signposts bearing illustrations of turtles, leading to a small island-size sea life centre tucked away from the main drag. A cheap 30 pesos (£1.50) allowed us to feed the turtles, learn the names of different varieties, and hold a range of sea creatures in the indoor aquarium section. Continue reading

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SNORKELLING THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

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Although our budget was tight, we decided we just couldn’t leave Queensland without swimming amongst the only living organism seen from space: the Great Barrier Reef. We went door to door along the numerous tour companies in Airlie Beach negotiating our hardest – and my yells of ‘just book us on any boat’ mixed with Charlotte’s cries of, ‘I just want to see Nemo!’ were fairly successful: we bagged a full day trip out to a snorkelling pontoon for $140 each (cheap by Australia’s standards).

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The voyage out to the pontoon was traumatic. The sea was incredibly choppy, and the boat persistently rocked for the best part of two hours. The waves lapping at the side of boat were nothing to the waves we felt internally. It was a scene of total devastation. Crew members were called back and forth to clean up various messes and the sick bags were passed out in towering bundles. We sipped our cups of tea quietly and tried to avoid looking at the poor blue-tinged children behind us. Continue reading

GUEST POST BY CATHERINE PICKLES: ELEPHANT NATURE PARK, CHIANG MAI

Charlotte’s mum came to visit us for a week in Bangkok – it was brilliant to see her and gave us a real boost as we were starting to become a bit homesick by that point. Whilst Catherine really enjoyed the madness of Bangkok, elephants have always been a passion of hers and so we headed to Chiang Mai for a couple of nights…

It was such a treat to visit Charlotte and Sarah in Thailand, so when Charlotte suggested we spend a day at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai I was ecstatic. We boarded the overnight train from Bangkok’s busy station around 6.00 pm on Sunday evening and arrived in Chiang Mai refreshed and happy around 10.00 am the next day. Before heading for our hotel we paid a visit to the official office of the Elephant Nature Park in the centre of Chaing Mai and booked the last two places for the next day.

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We were collected from our hotel at 8.00 am by the tour guide in a very smart mini bus and were introduced to the rest of our group (about 10 of us). The journey was just over an hour’s drive up into the hills and we were given an overview of the Park’s mission – to protect, nurture and rehabilitate rescued elephants in a natural, loving environment.

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The Park was founded in 1996 by a local woman named Sanguden Chailert (or Lek to everyone who knows her) and is the only one of its kind in Thailand. ‘Lek’ means ‘small’ in Thai so it’s ironic that she is so akin to these magnificent giants! The elephants under Lek’s care come mainly from private owners and she has had to negotiate fees to enable them to join her herd. Some had outlived their usefulness to loggers, whilst others were no longer of any use to trekking camp owners.

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THE DAMNOEN SADUAK FLOATING MARKET

We’ve been so lucky with visitors and as Tate checked in to head home, Lucy’s plane was landing. She was here for our last two weeks of officially living and working in Bangkok and so it was a chance to do loads of the touristy things we’d been meaning to do for ages. Top of the list was to visit a floating market. It wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, the dirty water not matching the postcards and being in a boat also meant that you couldn’t escape the hassling vendors. However, it was an experience and it was a definite novelty.

Here’s our ‘market rating’ below:

Bargains: 4/5
Refreshments: 5/5
Range of products: 2/5
Convenience: 1/5
Scenery: 3/5
Commercialisation (1 being very commericalised): 1/5
Overall opinion: 2/5

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BANGKOK AIRWAYS CINEMA

The Thais know how to do shopping malls and at the top of these skyscrapers, you’ll nearly always find a cinema to match the standard. You can see a film for just a couple of hundred baht, or alternatively go for for one of the more high-end options. Tate was visiting us from England, so we splashed out on two tickets to the fancy Bangkok Airways cinema, at the top of Siam Paragon.

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