Scottish Wedding Ceilidh


So after much anticipation our Scottish wedding ceilidh has been and gone allowing all of my family to celebrate with Andy and myself since the actual wedding is far away in Australia. While we might not have done it the traditional way, it meant I was able to get pictures with my nearest and dearest in my beautiful Vietnamese tailor-made wedding gown!

Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with us and we hope you had as much fun as Andy and I did! Also thanks to my parents for arranging the whole thing!! We had a blast!

Here are some of the snaps from the night.

Drift Triking in Thailand


Guest post- Andrew Batten.

Well we were once again back in the land of smiles in our old town of Phrae. Here we met up with many old friends and had some great reunions. After dinner and a few drinks my good friend Lee suggested we go drift triking. He had mentioned that he and his friends in the Phrae Drift Club were one of the first in Thailand to try this new extreme sport. He said it was fun and exciting but also FAST! We were intrigued and it was organized for a few days later.

10447799_10153631434908662_1188226918284183896_n

We got the call to be ready, put on our sturdiest clothes and thickest socks and jumped in the pickups. First stop was the club house which also doubled as a friend’s workshop for welding, bike building and engineering. Here we met the 10 strong crew and loaded up 8 trikes, a cooler full of drinks and some cameras.

Andy at the bottom of the hill

Andy at the bottom of the hill

We took off to a remote part of the hills nearby the city. Here only the occasional farmer on a scooter could be found using the roads. I think in the 5 hours we were there we only saw 10 scooters and 2 cars on the road, so it was pretty much our own personal race track. The road consisted of one medium sized twisty hill which leveled out to a small crest and then followed on to the main bigger twisty hill flattening out to the valley below. 2 kilometers in total.

We when reached the top everyone climbed out of the pickups, unloaded the gear and got ready. Due to the language barrier and the casualness of the group the safety briefing was done in less than 10 words, a few questions and lots of miming with laughs. E.g. Miming over turning the handle bars “Good!” followed by miming over turning the wheels and using the front brake “No good”  “Dead haha”. Followed by lots of smiles, laughs and worried looks by myself. Lee had mentioned before that these tarted up bicycles and the boys got up to 110km per hour! No pressure!

Before I tell you of my first ride let me first explain what the premise of drift triking is. Basically it

drifting in car vs trike

Drifting in a car vs a trike

involves the crossing of two sports. One being Japanese car drifting. Which is the art of a driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels while maintaining control from entry to exit of a corner. Basically a controlled skid around corners. This is then crossed with a modified bicycle where the front half of a bicycle is grafted onto a tricycle rear end. The wheels then have hard plastic PVC pipe sections put over them to  give them less grip, make them more slippery and stronger. Then you find a big hill and slip and slide your way down going crazy.

Simple in practice but you need balls of steel to pull it of in the real world because it goes against every driving skill you have every learnt. Basically you are trying to spin out on every corner but then control the spin smoothly around the corner. Every corner feels like you are coming in too hot and that when you go sideways you will flip and the roll the trike. The smooth hard plastic covers are there to stop this however.

triks

Trikes

Thailand isn’t a rich country and occupational health and safety hasn’t ruined fun yet here so my safety equipment consisted of a motocross helmet, soccer shin pads and boots with car tires graphed on to the bottom to be used as brakes again the road. Seriously. The pickup drives in front of the pack as they descend down the hills to film and check for traffic, while Jennie clung onto the back taking pictures. Most of the trikes didn’t have any breaking system at all apart from the shoes. Some boys didn’t even have these special shoes and just used ordinary sneakers. Crazy!

Drifting round a corner

Drifting round a corner

I think I was given the nicest bike because not only did it have a front brake but it also had a bike speedometer on it. That Speedo just scared me more to be honest. Now, I have experienced skidding cars, driving motorbikes and go-carts but this…. it’s a whole different thing. After the initial twists the hill straightened up to a main straight. Here you lift up your feet and bike really picks up speed! My first run the bike got up to 70km per hour! Scary stuff. Then you hit the next hill and do it all again. As I said over turning the handle bars into a corner and shoving your bum out to extent the drift is fun at 20km per hour but at 50 km it is downright scary.  One other new guy like me did crash into a gutter on the side of the road where he rolled but luckily he was totally unhurt apart from the hundreds of tiny thorn hairs in his skin.

At the start

At the start

Overall it was a challenging but amazing day. I defiantly worked up a sweat from exertion and fear but it was totally worth it. It was amazing and I would have defiantly paid money for this experience.  We had a great day and got some amazing photos.

The crew told me that they had just been featured on a Thai variety show showcasing their skills and that they had also won the Thai drift championship in 2014. So lastly a big thank you and shout out to Lee Suparsiri and the Phrae drift Club.

Phrae Drift Club

Phrae Drift Club

Happy Elephant Home


While in Chiang Mai we decided we would like to see the elephants. One of the most popular things to do in Thailand is elephant trekking (something both of us have done in the past) however what we didn’t realize at the time was just how cruel elephant trekking is. Only after leaving Thailand we discovered just how horrible elephant riding truly was, in the past we always thought the elephants looked really healthy and well cared for but underneath their seats hid the nasty truth.

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

Luckily there are few places where views are changing and much more effort is being taken to protect the elephants. We decided that we would visit an elephant camp that was focused on protecting these beautiful animals.

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

We booked in with ‘Happy Elephant Home’ where you could still get up close and personal with the elephants but in a much healthier way. Pulling into the camp there were a few major differences between this place and the trekking camps. Firstly the elephants were free to roam about the camp, secondly there were no chains around their feet or neck which is a common site at trekking camps. Finally, the elephants were guided using spoken language and not the bull hooks used by trekking camps where they stab the sharp point into the elephants neck.

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

The only elephant who was not free to roam was a mother and her 2 week old calf who were kept in a pen away from the other elephants in order to keep the calf safe from the other elephants. We were able to feed and pet both mother and baby however had to stay outside of the pen so the mother never felt threatened.

Our guide Omo, explained that all the elephants in the camp (7 in total with another baby expected soon) were rescued from the elephant trekking or circus. At the camp they were able to play,eat and roam freely. We got changed into the clothes that all mahouts (the people who look after the elephants) wear and started our day.

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

First on the agenda was feeding. We were given bananas and all split

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

off into groups to feed the different elephants. For the 2 younger elephants we had to peel the small bananas before they would eat them. We then led the elephants down to where pits had been dug out and turned into giant mud baths. The younger elephants were having a great time rolling around in the mud and climbing on top of one another. It was actually amazing to see the elephants have so much fun interacting with each other, anytime we have seen them in the past they have never even acknowledged each other. We all climbed into the mud with the elephants and helped rub the mud into their skin which helps keep them cool in the heat of the day.

Happy Elephant Home- collecting banana palm

Happy Elephant Home- collecting banana palm

As the elephants continued to play under the watchful eye of their mahouts, our group hiked down the hill in search of banana trees. We were given machetes and found trees with a thick bark and proceeded to chop a few trunks down. They were quite hard to cut down and quite heavy to carry back up the hill. Just as I was beginning to wonder how the elephants would eat the trunk of the tree the young one snatched it out of someones hand, placed it on the ground and broke it with the weight of his foot!

Some hungry elephants!

We spent a bit more time feeding them before jumping into the van

Happy Elephant Home- cutting down the sugar cane

Happy Elephant Home- cutting down the sugar cane

and driving to the camps sugarcane farm. We were given instructions on how to cut the sugar cane and were told we would need 3-4 canes each. What I didn’t realize was the importance of striping the cane before touching it as the cane is covered in hair-like thorns which I spent the next few hours trying to remove from my hands!!!! We cut the cane into 10 cm strips before loading them and us back into the van. Sugar cane is very sweet and the elephants love love LOVE sugarcane!!!

As soon as they saw we had sugar cane they came running over and even tried to go in our bags before we could get them out… we offered them some more bananas but they only had eyes for the sugar cane!

Happy Elephant Home- cutting down the cane

Happy Elephant Home- cutting down the cane

After feeding them their lunch it was our turn for some grub where

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

Omo explained more about the treatment of the elephants in the trekking. One elephant in particular we noticed had an extremely sore looking wound on its right side. Omo explained this elephant had just been rescued from an elephant trekking camp and had a horribly infected wound caused by the seat that would dig into its side. The owners of the trekking refused to spend money on the elephant and eventually when it couldn’t work any more was sold off for 800,000 baht. The camp then had to carry out surgery on the elephant and daily treatment to try and heal the wound. She also explained that the elephant had put on about 10 stone since arriving in the camp a few short weeks ago as it was starved in the trekking camps.

She explained how the spirit of the elephant would have to be broken before they allowed people to ride on them and they did this by beating and starving the elephant. The stories were horribly sad!

After lunch it was time to give the elephants some exercise so walked with them down to the river which was about a kilometer away. Reaching the river the young elephants ran straight into the water and began to play with each other. The older injured elephant needed a bit of coaxing into the river as it was more concerned with going through peoples bags to find sugarcane!!

We joined them in the river giving them a good scrub and splash. It was great fun as the three of them clearly were loving being in the water with the two young ones were jumping on top of each other. (more impressive when you think just how large they are!!) when the older injured elephant had had enough it climbed out of the river and started trying to push the puss out of its wound on a branch. As it oozed out we asked if there was anything that could be done to help but were told that unfortunately thee wasn’t and antiseptic was put on every night.

We walked the elephants back up the kilometer track and gave them one last feed, pat and cuddle.

The whole experience was one of the most heart warming, fun, positive and insightful days we had in Thailand.

I have added this to my must see Thailand list and took off elephant

Happy Elephant Home- with Omo

Happy Elephant Home- with Omo

trekking. Although it might be much cheaper to get up close and personal with elephants by doing the trekking…. the elephant camps are worth the extra money and allows you to see elephants that are really well cared for, with no chains and genuinely happy. The camp have done amazing work and hopefully if more people go to camps like this the elephant trekking will have no option but to close.

Happy Elephant Home
Half day 1,800 baht
Full day 2,400 baht

Happy Elephant Home

Happy Elephant Home

Chiang Mai- Visiting Doi Suthep and the Erotic Gardens


After a week of gorgeous beaches and relaxation, we jumped on two planes and headed north to Chiang Mai… my favourite Thai city. when we lived in Thailand, Chiang Mai was always our go to place for a weekend away from Phrae on account of it being a four-hour bus ride. Pulling into the city was a strange feeling, it felt like home turf and we still remember our way about to every pub/place where we used to go.

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

 

The great thing about Chiang Mai is its close proximity to Phrae, meaning one of our close friends was able to come along and meet up with us for one of our days. We decided to head to Doi Suthep, Thailand’s most sacred temple located on top of Doi Suthep mountain in Chiang Mai.

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

The story behind the temple is quite interesting… the legend goes that a monk had a dream which led him to find a relic thought to be Buddhas shoulder bone. The bone displayed magical powers such as being able to glow and replicate itself. The relic was broken into two, one piece put into a shrine and the other placed by the king on the back of a white elephant which was then released into the jungle. The elephant climbed up Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times then dropped dead. The king considered this an omen and a temple was built-in its place.

 

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

The temple sits at the top of 309 stairs however for the less fit/people not wanting to climb in the heat of the day there is a small train that you can hop on for 20 baht. Entry to the temple is 30 baht and you must remember to have your shoulders and legs covered and take off your shoes.

The temple inside is beautiful and the views from the top are breathtaking. As you wonder about you can try the “shaking sticks” which is a small box with lots of sticks in it and you shake until one falls free and gives you a number. You get the paper that coordinates with the number to give you your fortune.

As we were with Lee, our Thai friend we visited the monk and received a blessing before paying our respects to the temple by walking around the stupa three times clockwise while chanting the prayer.

The temple was very interesting and while you might get ‘temple-d out’ while visiting Thailand this one is a must see.

We drove a short bit down the road to the Erotic Gardens, the only one of its kind in SE Asia. (We asked about Jeju in Korea but we were told that it is not classed as a ‘garden’) It was 300 baht to get in which is quite a high price to pay for such a small garden but it is very beautiful inside and the lady who owns it is very passionate about her ‘art’ and took us around all the sculptures and displays really making it a worthwhile trip. She explained the premise behind the gardens, and showed us some of the ‘erotic’ flowers and why they are erotic.. ranging from the looks to the feel and sensation of them on your skin. Booking is a must as only so many people per day can go into the gardens however you can make a booking here.

The garden has just opened and has been featured in many big publications such as the Huffington post.

It was defiantly something we had not seen in Thailand before and made for a very different Valentines day! ♥

Erotica Gardens

Erotica Gardens

 

Krabi- Four Island tour


With one day left in Krabi and the South Of Thailand, we decided to head out on the boat and see a couple more islands. We had found a super cheap tour which offered 4 islands of snorkelling, exploring and caves as well as lunch. we decided to head along as it was so cheap and would beat a day of staying on one beach.

Poda Island

Poda Island

We first stopped off at Koh Tup where three islands can walk between the three islands at low tide… it reminded me of Koh Nangyuan off the coast of Koh Tao however as it is only during low tide the place was PACKED as clearly this was a stop off for ever boat in the area, never the less it was quite a beautiful area and by the time you walked along the sand verge and back it was time to move on.

Next we went to Chicken island, named as it looks like a chicken! With crystal clear waters it was the perfect place for some snorkeling where some people on our tour saw a sea snake!

We got back on the boat and headed to Poda Island where we had lunch and an hour to explore and relax. It had some beautiful scenery with a single limestone cliff sticking out of the sea.

Finally our last stop was the back of Railey where we could walk to Phra Nang Cave filled with hundreds of phallic monuments it is believed that by offering phallic statues and worshiping the goddess of the cave you will have safe travel on the sea.

It was quite an uneventful trip (hence the small post) but completely worth the 400 baht just to be able to get off and explore the area around Krabi.

Finally our time in the south of Thailand had come to an end and it was time to head up to the north and explore places closer to our Thai home.

Phra Nang Cave

Phra Nang Cave

Rock Climbing on Railay Beach, Krabi


After our relaxing get-away in Lanta we headed back to the mainland to Krabi. On our previous tour of the islands almost three and a half years ago we stayed in Ao Nang which is a great area if you want the beach, pubs and every sort of restaurant you can think of. However as were only there for two days we decided to stay in the quieter area of Krabi Town. Feeling rested and relaxed we decided it was time for some activities and looked into rock climbing.

Sunset boat home

Sunset boat home

Rock climbing in Krabi is very well known and it also incorporates Railay Beach into the day, voted one of the beast beaches by National geographic. There are literally tons of tours on offer and you have to have a good look at what they all offer. It is also handy to check on trip advisor to find out what people have paid for certain tours. With many of the tours the prices vary between travel agents and even if it is written down it’s usually always negotiable. We found ‘King Climbers’ on trip advisor and after seeing that someone paid 800 baht for the half day we went in search for a likewise offer. The first place we went to sold the same tour for 1,350 baht! Most places were offering it for around the 1,000 mark until we came across one where we got the price down to 800.

We were picked up in the morning and taken to Ao Nang beach were we caught a long tailed boat to Railay, once there you could see the beauty of the beach despite there being loads of tourist there too. We walked to the climbing shop and got kitted up with climbing boots, a chalk bag and harness before making our way round to the other side of the island where we would be climbing. The area was busy but not to busy and we were told we would be climbing at about grade 5 (which means nothing to me!) but depending on how we went there were harder courses and easier ones too. The area seemed to have something to accommodate everyone with a group of children at one end and solo climbers doing climbs that seemed impossible at the other!

Our first climb started by pulling yourself up by you hands and getting you first foot hold near your hand… was quite a challenging start, I thought it would be easier!! The first climb took me a while but I got to the top and got an awesome view of the bay. Andy scooted up clearly having way more strength and longer arms than me and the two other girls on our trip!

Sunset boat home

Sunset boat home

Our next climb was higher and started off a bit easier but soon about 3/4 of the way up I became stuck, no matter how hard I tried I just could not get a grip on the rock and the left hand hold was just too far out for me to reach, not only that but with my back injury which runs down my right leg I just didn’t have the strength to push up. I struggled for 15/20 minutes refusing to give up (a bit of stubborn on my part) the problem I soon found out is the longer you hold on the quicker and sorer it becomes. When I finally had to admit defeat (something that I didn’t take so well) my fingers were cut and my arms were shaking from straining them so hard. Again Andy zipped up having no problems reaching the tricky grip I just couldn’t reach!

The final climb was the really big one and again up I went and half way up I got stuck again… for about 10 minutes I struggles to push myself up, with calls from the ground telling me it is ok if I had to come down. I refused to listen and kept pushing as hard as I could until finally I managed to get over the rock however my success was not long lived as I hit the 3/4mark and once again could not get good enough purchase on my holds to push up. No matter how hard I tried my right leg would not push up and my arms were now beyond painful! Another 15 or so minutes of intense struggle I had to give up.

Railay Beach

Railay Beach

Andy started his climb and after a vey small struggle at the two I found difficult he was only about 5meters from the top. However the last 5 meters was a sheer cliff with only 3 holds for both feel and your left hand. No matter how hard Andy tried he just could not get up the last 5 meters. He did really well considering how exposed the last climb was and how high he got, for someone who is not comfortable with heights this was amazing.

With the third climb over the climbing part of the day was over, and if I am really honest I couldn’t do

another one as my arms, legs and fingers were burning!! Unless you are a regular rock climber or super fit, a half day is more than enough!!!

The climbing shop we went through allowed you to take the boat back to Krabi at lunch time or stay on Railay until 5.30 we decided to stay and take advantage of being on Railay. We had lunch then went for a lie down in the shade.

We both had a great time and I would defiantly recommend it and add it to my “must see Thailand” we went through King climbers and paid 800 baht for a half day of climbing with the optional late boat back to Krabi.

Sunset boat home

Sunset boat home

Koh Lanta


Our first stop of our Thailand tour would be down south to try get the pollution out our lungs and stress out our heads. We were heading for Koh Lanta, one of the islands in the South West which we missed last time.

Koh Lanta Sunsets

Koh Lanta Sunsets

Getting to Lanta is not a quick trip however what you get once there is worth every minute of travel. First, we got the plane from Bangkok down to Krabi, the bus to Krabi town, then the minibus and two car ferry’s onto Lanta the whole trip took around 6 hours although was easy to organize and cheap! (You can get the bus from Bangkok however this would add about another 12 hours onto the trip!) Unlike the the other islands, Lanta is not quite the same in levels of parties and is more laid back than some of the other islands, just what we needed.

Deserted beach

Deserted beach

We had booked into the Lanta Riveria Resort in a small, cheap fan room however once there they had lost the key and we got upgraded to a nice big bungalow with air con and 30 seconds to the beach! Not a bad way to start your trip!! The  point of Lanta was to relax so we spent plenty of time at the beach and chilling out.

We hired motorbikes and took a tour of the island on our own, we traveled around and found secret hidden beaches with crystal clear waters and sparkling white sand the food was every bit as good as I remembered!

Scooter crusing

Scooter crusing

Bats

Bats

Once we had caught up on our rest we decided to book onto a tour to explore some of the islands just off the coast of Koh Lanta. The tour took us to the old town of Koh Lanta where we caught a long tailed boat to our first island. The boat ride started off lovely… until we came out of the shelter of the islands and hit some BIG waves. The only way I can describe the next hours boat journey is to think of a comedy show in the rain where it pans out so you can see someone off screen throwing buckets of water in the actors face, with each wave came another big dump of water meaning we were drenched right through by the time we came to our first island. Before getting into the water we were told to look up…. right above us on the cliffs were hundred of bats roosting! As one spread its wings you could see that these were not your average small bats but  in fact massive creatures!

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

We jumped off the boat here and into the blue waters for some snorkeling surrounded by colourful fish, we spent about half an hour in the water checking out all the fish before jumping back onto the boat and heading to the next island. We jumped into the water and formed a line with me at the front and Andy behind me using me as float and making me do all the work (despite the fact he can swim!!) making our way through an opening in the rock we swam into a cave which had the greenest waters I have ever seen. (The name should have given it away as it was called the Emerald Cave) as we swam further into the cave we were plunged into pitch black with only the tiniest torch to led the way. It was quite amusing as we happened to get there just as a school group started going though who were all singing, shouting and just being kids. We kept swimming until we reached the end of the cave and where the light hit the water we were greeted by the beautiful green waters once again which opened up into a secret lagoon. The lagoon was beautiful (More so when the school group left and took the noise with them) and we  were told it used to be a smugglers cave as it was completely hidden! We spent a while swimming in the green waters and having some fun, Andy putting strategically placed large leafs over him so he looked naked

Hermet crab

Hermit crab

The third island was another snorkeling site  where you could go right into the base of the lime stone cliffs, the snorkeling here was not as good as some of the others I have done but the cool waters were lovely to get a break from the heat.

Our 4th and final island was Koh Mook which was our lunch stop. Lunch was included with the tour

and  was an amazing spicy chicken curry made by the tour guys wife. The island was beautiful and we had a couple of hours to explore, eat and relax on the white sands. Where we were sitting we noticed loads of moving objects around us which turned out to be tiny hermit crabs scurrying in sand.

With that the tour was over and we headed back over the water to the dock (We sat up the back to avoid the lashings of water from the waves!!) the tour only cost 800 baht and included all transport to and from the hotels as well as lunch and snorkeling gear. Although it is worth shopping around as all tour shops offer different rates and you can sometimes get discounts… some people on our tour paid 1,000 baht so its worth shopping around!

Deserted beach

Deserted beach

Nights on Koh Lanta are spectacular and if you get one of the BBQ meals on the beach you get first class seats to some magnificent sunsets. I am a sucker for a good sunset so this was right up our street as we ate and watched the sky turn from blue, to pink, to orange then purple.

Koh Lanta was definitely the little piece of relaxation we needed however 4 days was enough for us as we were moving on to Krabi for some more adventures.

Fisherman at sunset

Fisherman at sunset