I think I found home

One day. One day, I’ll go there.

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Prague, Czech Republic
* August 2014 *

- stunning view from Charles bridge
- Strahov Monastery library (Strahovský klášter)
- the medieval Astrological clock in Prague’s Old Town
- brand new shoes ruined after one Prague night out I’ll never remember
- making a gargoyle face with a new American friend

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can I have please?

(Source:, via beardedluke)

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(Source: markdsikes, via jakewakeup)

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Climbed Mount Errigal yesterday and had tea at the top

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We Heart It.


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Had to give this part of the adventure it’s own post as it was such an amazing experience, and probably the thing I was most looking forward to during this Southeast Asia trip. So still in Chiang Mai at the time, we were recommended by the wonderful ladies at Diva Guesthouse to go to Ran-Tong save&rescue elephant centre. It’s a charity elephant camp that takes in elephants that have suffered abuse or that can no longer be cared for by their owners. They do amazing work and I’m so glad that we decided to go for this one rather than a camp that treats their elephants poorly.
When we arrived we were immediately greeted by the workers and encouraged to feed the elephants as they needed to get to know us. They were so funny grabbing the bananas and sugar canes from us with their trunks, it never lots it’s novelty. We thought we were feeding a well grown elephant but it turned out that it was just a few months old. After this we went to the centre base where we were told all about the elephants and how the mahouts (elephant handlers) communicate with them. This included a short lesson of the 7 main commands that we needed to communicate with our elephants. I don’t think we achieved fluency with these but the elephants followed the commands so we knew a little. We were then taught how to get on the elephant and the best way to sit on them for our comfort and the elephants comfort. At Ran-Tong they don’t use chairs or harnesses as this is very uncomfortable and unhealthy for the elephant. Instead there are two ropes tied loosely around the body for us to hold on to which was more than enough. The elephants were so gentle which seemed so strange for their size. Wasting no time, they paired us up and then put us with our elephants. As we were a three I was crafty and held back until the end which paid off as I got an elephant all to myself. Tactful.
My elephant was a teen boy elephant who’s name I never learned to spell but it’s something like “Satiene”. Pronounced something like “Sat-ee-en”. He was quite a funny elephant and kept huffing and making grunts when the mahout was telling him what to do. Much like a human teenager ;). It felt a little uncomfortable at first when we went walking through the hills of the bamboo forest but this was mainly because walking downhill was difficult. I kept feeling like I was going to get thrown off the front of my elephant but luckily we had the rope to hold on to. For being such big animals too, they move relatively smoothly. He was even sliding and slipping all over the mud but I barely felt any of it. It was just so surreal. I was riding on the back of an elephant. Like a for real elephant. This wasn’t even the best part yet.
So like us, the elephants can’t hack the best very well as they haven’t for pore in their skin. It’s so leathery and solid, and apparently about an inch thick. I can’t even begin to imagine the heat they must be feeling. I could barely manage in a vest and shorts. They gave us mahout uniform to wear too which was not one bit flattering. I had an almost crop-top,potato sack, deep-V vest and M.C.Hammer, baggy, denim trousers. Felt like a supermodel. Anyway, so as elephants can’t sweat to cool down they have other ways of keeping cool. They have an internal water storage system in their throats which can hold around 1-2 litres of water. This is were the trunk comes in handy. They can then stick their trunk into the water sack and take some water to spray on themselves. My elephant took a different approach though and started flinging mud from puddles up over himself and all over me. It was pretty funny though so I totally embraced it. The other way hey keep cool is by going for a swim in the river. Which we were lucky to get a chance to do with them after lunch. I wish I could remember the name of what they cooked for us because it was AMAZING! It was like noodles that were crispy on top and soft at the bottom in a mild spicy broth and a chicken leg. I could have had like 5 bowls of the stuff, it was incredible! After lunch we had a little q&a session with the workers, which provided some very interesting information.
Playtime in the river was next on the agenda. We could definitely tell that this was the elephants’ favourite part of the day because a few (including my elephant, Satiene) started running towards the river. I’m not gonna lie, I did get a little scared but after remembering to shout “HAO” (stop) a few times and with a little help from the mahouts we got back to a more comfortable pace. The bathing in the river was such a funny experience. The other elephants went up the proper route but mine was too keen and ploughed on through a little shortcut. He dove straight in and rolled me off. I was never more grateful to see cold water in my life too. I was boiled in my mahout clothes. Satiene was loving life and so was I. We were given little pans to help scoop water onto the elephants to wash and cool them off. At one point I was lodged in between two elephants both laying on their sides. I couldn’t move so I just embraced the double elephant hug until they shifted over. After a small photo-shoot we made out way back to the camp again. Satiene’s mahout jumped on the back and joined me for the ride home. He was really nice and was singing hill tribe songs the whole way back. The camp employs hill tribe people as they learn to work with the elephants from a very young age. Everything about Ran-Tong was so good. The mahout was chatting away to me in Thai and asked me if I spoke Thai too. I wish I could have because I would have had a lot of question to ask him and he seemed really nice. The whole day was just pretty magical. There’s so many pictures to choose from so I’ve had to be very selective.
Later in the evening, when we got back to Diva, we took advantage of our free massages as part of the elephant tour package. It felt amazing but the woman nearly threw herself off the table towards the end trying to crack my back. We both had a little giggle. Also tried my first proper Thai green curry which was absolutely delicious. I could have had it for every meal. At this point I’ve also tried Rad Na Noodles (gravy soup, soft thick noodles, crunchy vegetable and chicken) and the lunch at the elephant camp, and pad Thai in Bali. I’m doing pretty well on the Thai food front at least. And on that note, I found a set of scales in the pharmacy and had to have a little weigh-in to see how travelling has affected me. Apparently I’m down almost a stone and a half since we left. So there’s that haha. Couldn’t believe it. Let’s keep that going and no one will recognise me when I’m home.

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Chiang Mai - ATV adventure & Tiger Kingdom

Deciding to fly to Chang Mai (Northern Thailand) from Bangkok rather than taking a 14 hour land journey was definitely a good shout. At this stage the travelling has begun to really take it’s toll on my energy levels. I can now completely agree with everyone that says travelling is not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but I guess you just need to roll with it. Our arrival in Chiang Mai was the first time we had no accommodation booked and we were going to land at a hostel expecting there to be a room. Unfortunately the hostel we’d been recommended was full and we made the initial decision to go next door and paid about £2 for a room there. I can’t eve begin to describe how woeful it was, and the smell just took the hand. Later we found another much nicer hostel called Diva Guesthouse, the name alone screams welcoming. So we packed up and moved across to a much better setup for the same price. Everything about Diva guesthouse was how a hostel/guesthouse should be. Quirky decor, information everywhere on local activities, and the staff were so on point. They organised all our little day trips, sorted out anything we’d needed help with and had such positive energy the entire time. 100% recommend anyone staying in Chiang Mai to stay at Diva. They also make an incredible Thai green curry! We didn’t really have energy to do much the first night but went for a wander around the night markets just to get out for a while. As with much of traveling they say, once you’ve seen one market you’ve seen them all. Which is totally true but it’s something that kinda has to be done when you’re there. Or to put it in a Thai phrase, “same same but different”.

Our second day was much more filled with activities. The night before we’d signed up for a half day of ATV (quad bikes) driving through the bamboo forests in the hills. It was literally the best craic ever. I haven’t driven a quad in years but I still haven’t lost the touch, apart from stalling only a few times but sure we’ve all been there. It really made me miss driving too. Along with the three of us there was a lovely Australian couple named Sue & Shane who were out with our group. They’d had some previous biking experience so were a lot more confident than us but we all managed to drive fine. Every time there was any kind of sharp(ish) bend in the trail I tried my best to skid around it, sliding the tail end around but I still need a bit more practice. The trail took us from the base, up a winding mountain road, in through bamboo forests and past hill tribes to the top of a mountain for a panoramic view of the area which was pretty amazing. Although we didn’t stay long to appreciate it as it was blisteringly hot. Our photographer for the day was loving our craic and got lots of fun photos of us jumping off the quad bikes. What a character she was. On the way back down from the mountain we stopped off at a massive cave which the guides took us well deep into. Claustrophobia started to kick in pretty early but we managed to make it into the central dome where we got to see literally HUNDREDS of bats flying, swooping and screeching everywhere. It was pretty amazing. Could have been doing with some oxygen though as it was very thin air and the sweat was pouring off us. We got some photos attempting to cross a rocky stream and that was us back to the base. Just when it all started to get very natural with the controls. Coasting down the windings roads like a pro. The whole day was ao much fun and we were really glad we’d met Sue, Shane. The company photographer (whose name I can’t remember) was really sweet too and said she had really enjoyed having us out for the day. She was studying chemical engineering while working at the ATV place as well. Busy life, but I can’t say I don’t miss working too. I like to keep busy, but embracing the relaxed life for the moment. The rest of the day was spent just chilling in and around the hostel, recovering from a long day in the sun. That night there was quite a storm which knocked out the electric throughout the hostel so we were stuck with an antisocial group of other travellers and no wifi. Not ideal but we managed.

On Sunday we attempted to have a lie in but it didn’t really happen so we got up and had a chilled morning. Having massive Western food cravings I opted for a fry for breakfast which was a little disappointing but it did the job. Our chilled out morning was then followed by an afternoon at the tiger kingdom (with some helpful advise by Sue & Shane). I wasn’t really sure what we were expecting but we were all excited at the prospect of playing with the tigers, and maybe a little anxious. We’d taken the advise to see three different sizes; smallest, small & biggest. First we met the smallest, and it was literally the most adorable thing I’d ever seen. There wee two sets in the enclosure, one was for cubs a few months old that we’re about the size of a fully grown Labrador. They were so playful and well behaved which made me feel really comfortable around them. Not sure if the others felt the same though haha. After some posing for photos we moved into the second enclosure attached to this which had one moth old cubs. Words cannot describe how incredibly cute they were! At one month old and already they were the size of a large house cat. We could see that the animals were very well cared for and were well used to humans as they’d been bred in captivity. I wasn’t really sure on the ethics behind this but it makes a lot of sense. Typically a mother would have like 3/4 cubs but can only provide good for 2/3 so the weakest in the litter would be left to die or fend for itself. When they’re bred in captivity the carers can make sure that very cub is fed and well looked after. This made a lot of sense and I appreciated the experience a lot more. Moving on to the next two cages the tigers seemed to jump in size from Labrador to the same size as me and then the largest were like almost three of me. Luckily they were having a little siesta so it wasn’t too scary, apart from one grumpy tiger who kept making grunting noises but wasn’t too bothered by us otherwise. It was such a cool experience and I’m really glad we get to see these majestic big cats.

** Apologies for lack of posting. Travelling is tiring so less and less blogging but I’m doing my best to keep up to date. Next post - ELEPHANTS

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awkward that I’ve been spelling Khaosan Road wrong this entire time

Taking Khaosan Road

So back in Bangkok to collect our wee missus Zoe from the airport. There we were, sitting all proud with our handmade welcome bunting draped and ready at the gate but she sneaks up behind us missing her sign completely. But sure we didn’t care as she’s here now and safe.
First stop was back to the hotel we love to hate, and after some confusion of rooms we were so settled and ready for the day. Not wanting to tire out our new arrival we decided to get her adjusted to the heat with a trip to the shopping centres and then on to Khaosan Road for evening activities. What maybe was supposed to be a calm night of market bargaining and calm drinks turned into the exact opposite.

I’m not even sure what the bar was called but it was something like Central Khaosan or something. Our beverage of choice for the night was a jug of kamigaze which turned out to be a potent mixture of vodka, tequila, gin, blue curaçao and who knows what else. One jug soon turned into six (that we know of) and that’s all she wrote. Soon we were calling over different tables to come join in, creating an international mix including Swedes, Danes, Germans and so on. There were too many memorable dancing moments for me to even begin listing them, but there were definitely dutty wines, the worm and a lot of shoulder shimmys. We had to cut the night short as we couldn’t over do it on Zoe’s first night in BKK but this was not how the night ended. Ooh and so much for the 10pm curfew, I’m sure we didn’t get home until just before 2 (and that was early). We got a túktúk back to the hotel and on the way the driver managed to convince us to do 2 beer stops, and yes he also joined in. Chang beer isn’t the most awful of beers but it’s still pretty rank. As we got to the hotel we decided that we didn’t want to go in yet (screw curfew) so we’d gotten the notion that a pingpong show would be a good idea. “Unfortunately” it was closed because of the curfew. Maybe we saved ourselves an awful memory from that one.

Day two in Bangkok was pretty much the same during the day but we were getting it a bit tight from the night before. We headed back to Khaosan Road for night two which was supposed to be a very tame night but ended up on a whole other level altogether. And sure didn’t it all start with a jug of kamigaze again. We bumped into our Danish friends again who joined us for drinks along with some new found Aussie friends. I’m sure the last thing Zoe expected was to be getting engaged in her second night in a Thailand, but sure enough she got just that. One thing I’d been dying to try was a cooked tarantula. I come across any but there was plenty of people offering scorpions I thought it’d give that a go. I managed to convince one of the Danish girls to have a go too. As intimidating as they look they actually tasted quite good. Crunchy, yet satisfying. The night before we were invited to their hotel for a rooftop pool party but as we’d left early we couldn’t go. This night we made it though and although we weren’t in for very long, the craic was good. Here we met two more travellers who’d just arrived on Bangkok and with then we headed back onto Khaosan which by this stage was packing up.

And here comes the street kids into the story. Having been warned about this occurrence we were initially weary but this soon passed and we ended up having the craic with a group of like 8-10 of the sassiest kids I’ve ever met. They could buy and sell you in a blink but they were such characters. And here, they love a good selfie too. Of course they were only interested in getting our money by selling roses for 20baht (35p). Soft-hearted Zoe fell for their charm and ended the night surrounded by roses (temporarily). At this stage we were obviously well on and I got the bright idea to get a dreadlock. I’d convinced Canada to get one too but he managed to escape before his turn. After I’d been dreaded we st to have some cocktail buckets with some guys on the street and made friends with these really nice Germans and a local woman who spoke no English but just wanted to hang out who us. So cute. At one point I was probably telling them my life story but sure by that stage anything was possible. Our two nights on Khaosan Road were incomparable as they were so different but both times they were such good nights out. I’m pretty sure we’ve had the complete Khaosan Road experience after that.

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Farewell Bali.

During our time in Bali, we ate at a restaurant called Bobby’s most nights. The combination of cheap western food and cheap but strong drinks was ideal and it was literally on the beach by the waterfront. There’s not really a story here but I think the guy that went table to table playing acoustic guitar requests deserves a mention. We didn’t know what to ask him to play so we got him to sing a Bali song, which was actually very catchy. In true fashion we followed through by asking for something Irish if he knew any. Awk and wait ‘til ye hear, what did he go and play but Danny Boy. Nice touch to hear a song from home and he hit the nail on the head with that one.

Saturday we’d dedicated to exploring Ubud, which is known to be the chilled out, yoga centre of the island. After very little research and a recommendation from a local friend, we decided to go to Yoga Barn for an introductory yoga class. Our intentions were to do a few but time constraints wouldn’t allow it. The class was great though. Our teacher had great energy and I was living for it! She was warm and smiley and radiated positivity. Exactly how I imagined it to be here. Initially she talked us through the 7 chakras and the mantras that go along with them. I wish I could remember them all to list then here but I can’t. After this we were taken trough the basic postures and transitions. Child’s pose, downward dog, warrior one and two, and one of my favourites, tree pose. Anyone that hasn’t tried yoga, or is a little sceptical, please give it a go. I love it and the energy I get from it. Thought I’d fully embrace the Yoga Barn vibe by having a raw good lunch. I thought it was going to be great too. I ordered garden pad thai which sounded really good on paper but it was so heavy I literally couldn’t eat half of it.

After lunch we headed to the eagerly anticipated Sacred Money Forest, just up the road from Yoga Barn. I knew what ideas expecting but I’m not sure Miceal was thinking the same thing. There are no words to describe the scene apart from there are monkeys EVERYWHERE! Running, jumping on people, taking bananas from tourists and anything else that they could get their paws on. I was okay with the situation but sure our Meeks was not one but impressed. I managed to get a photo of a cheeky little guy that climbed up my leg and tried to get into my bag (which I’d tied shut, just in case). Another monkey, which looked a bit older was staking Miceal for a bit and eventually approached and snatched his water bottle. Brass necked as anything, he opened it with ease and proceeded to drink away as casual as you’d like. As scary as they seem, they definitely have a lot of personality. On our way home we took a detour to Tegalalang rice fields to get a true feeling of rural Indonesian life. And maybe a little for the photo-op.
Sunday was a bit of a write off for activities, but I managed to squeeze in a very nice lunch with a friend in a beach cafe. Really gonna miss this guy but I know we’ll stay in touch.

Maybe I’ll even go back to Bali for a bit.
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what is the best part of your Bali experience?

The best part of my Bali experience…
I haven’t written about it yet, but when I do, you’ll know.